Articulating the new urban water paradigm

Manuel Franco-Torres, Briony Rogers, Robin Harder

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Urban water systems in industrialized countries have underpinned unprecedented improvements in urban living standards through effective drinking water supply, sanitation and drainage. However, conventional urban water systems are increasingly regarded as too rigid and not sufficiently resilient to confront growing social, technological and environmental complexity and uncertainty, manifested, for example, in the maladaptation to climate change, depletion of nonrenewable resources, and degrading urban livability. In response, a new urban water paradigm has emerged in the last two decades within the context of a broader societal change that promotes a more organic worldview over the classical mechanistic and technocratic understanding of reality. This article develops and applies an analytical framework to coherently describe the new paradigm and contrast it with the old urban water paradigm. The framework includes a philosophical foundation and set of methodological principles that shape the new paradigm’s approach to governance, management, and infrastructure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2777-2823
Number of pages47
JournalCritical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • complexity
  • integrated urban water management
  • new water paradigm
  • Paradigm shift
  • sustainable urban water management
  • water sensitive urban design

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