Sustainable Urban Water Management

The Sustainable Urban Water Management (SUWM) specialization aims at fostering academic excellence relevant to the Sponge City program (initiation-preparation-implementation-evaluation). It draws upon modern insights on the urban water cycle and sustainable urbanization (such as IWA principles for Water Wise Cities, Water Sensitive Cities and Water Sensitive Urban Design, Sustainable Drainage Systems, etc.) from around the world. 

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    What is Delft based

    This programme will run entirely at UNESCO-IHE in Delft, the Netherlands

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Delft based, Delft (the Netherlands)starts in October

New set-up MSc Programmes

IHE Delft introduces a new set-up for its MSc Programmes. From 2022 onwards, the Institute offers the MSc Programme in Water and Sustainable Development (68EC/120EC).

For whom?

This specialisation has been developed for students originating from China only. Students with Chinese nationality with a BSc, preferably in civil or environmental engineering, but otherwise in geosciences, environmental sciences or natural resources can apply. 


Students who successfully completed this programme will be awarded with an MSc degree in Water Science and Engineering.


Start: 21 October 2021
Application deadline: 01 August 2021

Learning objectives

  • Describe Integrated urban water management frameworks, urban water cycle components, their interrelations.
  • Apply systems thinking and analysis to cities, with emphasis on water.
  • Identify the links between urban water cycle and urban planning and design processes.
  • Work with a range of tools and methodologies to effectively co-discover, co-learn and co-design with both professionals and broader stakeholders including non-specialists.
  • Develop fit-for-purpose solutions for urban problems, based on the principles of integrated urban water management.

Structure & contents

The essential feature of the SUWM-MP is its focus on the total urban water cycle requiring an integration of multiple disciplines of engineering and environmental sciences. Managing the urban water cycle involves managing water scarcity and water excess concurrently and in an integrated way including water quantity and quality and system resilience. It aims the provision of water services (water security and safety) including the protection of aquatic environments in urban areas. Strong emphasis will be set on integrative elements of the urban water cycle and sustainable interventions spanning across different sub-sectors (e.g. drinking water, wastewater and surface water) and creating synergy and co-benefits. This specialization consists of 12 modules covering a total of 12 months, this is followed by a 6-month research and thesis phase. Graduates of the programme will be awarded 106 ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) credits.

  • October - October

    IHE Delft, the Netherlands
    • Introduction to Water and Development Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. Familiarize with the educational environment and procedures of IHE Delft and collaborate in multidisciplinary and intercultural teams
      2. Recognize and distinguish different ways of knowing and framing water questions and problems in order to appraise water challenges from an interdisciplinary perspective
      3. Reflect critically on water related interventions, formulate own standpoint and engage constructively in debates
      4. Place the specialized knowledge on own discipline into a broader understanding of water related issues, challenges, debates and developments
    • Module 2 WSE Required

      M3780 - Introduction to water science and engineering

      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. Understand the field of water science and engineering, identify its different specialisations and understand the structure of the programme at IHE
      2. Apply mathematical, statistical and frequency analysis concepts and techniques relevant to water science and engineering
      3. Describe geologic, geomorphological and anthropogenic processes that generate landscapes and landforms at the surface of the Earth
      4. Describe the main principles of remote sensing and understand its potentials and limitations
      5. Explain how to use different types of literature in scientific work in an ethical manner 

      M3781 - Hydrology and hydraulics

      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. Describe the main concepts of steady/unsteady and uniform/non-uniform flow.
      2. Describe the principles and basic equations of water flow and to apply them to various practical situations.
      3. Describe procedures of basic measurements in the wave and current flumes at the hydraulic laboratory and interpret results.
      4. Describe and apply the concepts of hydrology needed for their specialisation.
      5. Explain the concepts of Geographical Information Systems and apply them in practical examples relevant to their specialization.
    • Urban System Analysis, Planning and Management: An Introduction Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. Recognise systems thinking and analysis in relation to cities
      2. Identify a range of tools and methodologies that are useful to effectively discover, learn and design urban water systems
      3. Describe Integrated urban water management frameworks, urban water cycle components and their interrelations
      4. Relate the links between urban water cycle, urban planning, design and implementation processes
      5. Explain the lack of integration and constraints in the environment which hinders systems approach in cities
      6. Compare the various planning and management aspects that are prevalent in their cities
    • Urban Drainage and Sewerage Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. Describe the chemical and biological processes that take place within sewer systems, and evaluate their implications for the design and operate of urban drainage systems
      2. Be able to judge different design options and alternative scenarios
      3. Explain the standard practice in designing urban drainage systems. Prepare drainage system designs by integrating information on hydrological, hydraulic, economic and practical engineering concerns.
      4. Critically assess and analyse quantity and quality characteristics of stormwater and wastewaters originating from urban environments as a basis for the design, operation and maintenances of urban drainage system facilities.
    • Asset Management Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. o Define asset management in your own words. List and describe the essential steps of an asset management plan and provide example problems from one’s own experience which asset management approach would be/would have been able to solve;
      2. Explain Risk-based asset management decision making. Apply hydraulic modelling to establish significance of asset components of water distribution/drainage systems;
      3. Describe asset condition modelling approaches. Recommend suitable modelling approaches for practical problems and appraise the recent developments in the field of Asset Management of water infrastructure.
      4. Explain the historical processes that made asset management approach important for urban infrastructure engineers and managers and describe the drivers that make asset management crucial for sustainable provision of water related infrastructure services
      5. Describe the concept of asset life-cycle costing. Perform LCC calculations using spreadsheet; o Describe the role of optimization in asset management. Apply optimization techniques for solving simple urban water problems.
      6. Describe the techniques used in asset inventories (e.g. condition rating) and describe the importance of data for asset management process.
    • Module 6 WSE SUWM (elective) Elective
      • M3429 - Computational intelligence and operational water management
      • M3546 - Water resources assessment and modelling
      • M3529 - Resource oriented wastewater treatment and sanitation
      • M3399 - Environmental systems analysis
    • Module 7 WSE SUWM (elective) Elective
      • M3635 - Water transport and distribution
      • M3625 - Water quality assessment and monitoring
      • M3232 - River basin modelling
      • M3519 - Water and environmental policy analysis
    • Module 8 WSE (elective) Elective
      • ONLY HWR: M3096 - Groundwater in adaptation to global change impacts
      • All: M3009 - Dams and hydropower
      • All: M3578 - Food security, health and environment
      • All: M3404 - Urban flood management and disaster risk mitigation
      • All: M3439 - Climate change impacts and adaptation in deltas
      • All: M3644 - River flood analysis and modelling
      • NOT HI: M1309 - Integrated hydrological and river modelling
    • Fieldtrip and Fieldwork WSE Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. Integrate quantitative measurements with qualitative terrain observations and prior information to evaluate and analyse the relevant predominant processes in a study area.
      2. Critically analyse field results, and identify/recognise possible areas of error or uncertainty.
      3. Apply this assimilation of data to engineering cases.
      4. Select and apply different, appropriate field instrumentation and measurement methods in practice and organise the measurements.
      5. Demonstrate a multidisciplinary overview of actual technical, research and organizational activities in the field of water management, hydraulic engineering and hydrology.
      6. Report detailed technical information received.
    • Module 10 WSE (elective) Elective
      • ONLY HWR: M3353 - Applied groundwater modeling
      • All: M3243 - Flood risk management
      • All: M3036 - Drought management and reservoir operations
      • All: M2214 - Geotechnical engineering and dredging
      • All: M3581 - Innovative water systems for agriculture
    • Water Sensitive Cities Required
      Upon completion, the participant should be able to:
      1. Argue that considering multiple aspects of the water systems could provide opportunities to add extra value and create substantial additional benefits related to water management projects. Estimate such benefits using toolkits. (ILO4:MultipleValues)
      2. Illustrate the importance of 'mainstreaming' water sensitive elements to general urban development process. Describe concrete examples (real-world and hypothetical) of such mainstreaming. (ILO5: Mainstreaming)
      3. Argue that the three main components of the urban water cycle (UWC) management are interdependent. Describe the interactions with other important aspects of UWC like groundwater, urban atmosphere, etc., and how they affect each. (ILO2:Integration)
      4. Analyse the stakeholder involvement in the management of water in city. Argue that for effective embedding of water-sensitive features to urban development, stakeholders should also include traditionally 'non-water' domains. (ILO6:Stakeholders)
      5. Reflect on the relationship of WSC principals and practice to existing cities and their sub-components (e.g. neighbourhoods). Propose (conceptual) next steps in moving towards a more water-sensitive state for a given concrete case-study. (ILO7:Vision)
      6. Describe the historical transition of cities from the viewpoint of water management. List salient features of that transition (both positive and negative). (ILO1:History)
      7. Identify interactions between water system components, while following 'thematic' topics (e.g. urban hydrology, water transport and distribution). Describe how to exploit such interactions to enhance livability, sustainability and resilience of cities.
    • Summer course Elective

      Five-day summer course. Elective topics include Sustainable Development Goals, nature based solutions, leadership, gender issues and serious gaming, all related to water science/engineering/management.

Application & Admission

Admission requirements

Academic admission to IHE Delft MSc Programmes may be granted to applicants who provide evidence of having:

  • A Bachelor degree at level B/B+ (US system) or 2nd upper (British system) in an appropriate field which has been awarded by a university of recognised standing, comparable in level with a Bachelor degree from a research university in the Netherlands. Exceptions can be made if a candidate is below this level, but has a substantial experience in the field of the programme and/or has a strong motivation to join the programme.
  • A good command of the English language, if this is not the first language. All non-native English-speaking applicants must satisfy the English language requirements for IHE Delft's educational programmes.
  • A strong motivation to successfully complete the programme.

More information

Further questions about the application procedure can be addressed to:

Ms. Marlies Baburek, Fellowship and Admission Officer


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