Urban Water Accounting

At the intersection of disciplines is where innovative research happens. Developed as part of an inter-disciplinary collaboration, IHE Delft has started a suite of new research activities under the umbrella of Urban Water Accounting. This new interdisciplinary research area aims to address complex development challenges related to the New Urban Agenda and SDG 11: sustainable cities and communities.

Addressing urban water challenges

Urban Water Accounting (UWA) uses the water balance approach of water accounting to improve the understanding of the urban water cycle. This understanding is needed to quantify the amount of water entering and leaving a city, to assess the impact of green infrastructure on local rainfall patterns, to optimize urban rainfall harvesting techniques, and to address many more urban water challenges. In other words, UWA has a huge potential to deliver new insights that provide the necessary basis for creating efficient and sustainable urban water systems taking the multiple benefits across sectors into account.

Urban water management remains an acute challenge for local authorities and urban planners, with one in four cities worldwide currently experiencing water insecurity due to geographical and economic factors, which is exacerbated by increasing urbanization, demographic growth, water scarcity and climatic variability (UNEP, 2016). Local authorities often lack the information and capacity to act.

Making use of non-traditional data sources

Recent advances in remote sensing techniques and other information services such as citizen observatories, self-diagnosing infrastructure components, etc., provide a wealth of non-traditional data sources and drive the development of numerous new applications in urban water management. Urban Water Accounting has the potential to provide a new framework for designing and implementing options for urban water resource-efficiency and security. It pulls together information obtained from different sources such as hydrological modelling, field measurements and advanced remote sensing.

The urban landscape is highly complex (heterogeneous nature of urban surfaces) and dynamic (rapid growth). This calls for new, customized approaches to align and integrate the different data sources and to deliver water accounting data at high spatial and temporal resolution. UWA will not only quantify water budgets in urban areas, but also targets to express the benefits, services and risks from water in tangible terms. This could be related to assess the impacts of micro-cooling and water harvesting, but also to manage floods and vector borne diseases and thus to the overall liveability of cities.

Research activities

Anticipatory Flood Management (AFMA) in Alexandria

This is a new approach to prepare Alexandria for the effects of extreme rainfall. The project will develop and implement innovative infrastructure solutions to enhance the flood resilience of the city. Read more here, or contact Biswa Bhattachara for more information.


This project aims to increase the self-reliance and sustainability of cities in the global South with regard to water supply through the implementation of alternative water systems. For example, rainwater harvesting, wastewater reuse and desalination. Read more here or contact Janez Susnik.

NAture Insurance value

This project aims to operationalise the insurance value of ecosystems for water related risk mitigation of eight demo sites across Europe. Read more here or contact Assela Pathirana.

Urban Green Space Allocation for a Growing Megacity in the context of Climate Adaptation

Application takes place in Jakarta, Indonesia. For more information contact Assela Pathirana or Dikman Maheng.

Pilot studies

Pilot studies are currently taking place in Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia on Water Accounting, using the Water Accounting Plus (WA+) framework. This framework, jointly developed by IHE Delft, IWMI, FAO, and WWAP, provides a quick scan of water resources conditions in a river basin using such datasets. The framework evaluates water consumption, water productivity and goes beyond the classical water balance approach by linking land and water management. The WA+ reporting is based on sheets meant for decision makers, detailed tables for technical experts, and spatially-distributed maps.

This project aims at supporting the Asian Water Development Outlook by providing clear figures of water consumption and services in target river basins. For more information please visit www.wateraccounting.org and our Github software repository or contact Elga Salvadore.


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