2. Fall and rise of urban rivers and lakes

2.1              Importance of rivers and lakes in European cities

Almost all cities around the world were built along waterways, or along a coast of an ocean, sea or lake. The multifaceted relationships between urban planning and water have structured and influenced the development of metropolitan areas, cities, towns, rural areas, villages, and even neighbourhoods throughout history and will continue to do so (Brandeis et al. (2014)).

Over time, the settling of humans next to rivers and lakes has transformed the natural environment into the towns and cities we see today. Urbanisation has come at a cost to rivers and lakes, as they have been heavily degraded to enable development, carry waste, supply drinking water and facilitate transport and industry.

In Europe, almost all capital cities have at least one major river or lake crossing their urban landscape (see Table 2). The largest rivers of Europe such as the Danube, the Rhine and the Elbe are home to a number of cities on their main channels, their tributaries of the wider catchment and on their estuaries.

Table 2. Major rivers and lakes of the capitals of the 33 EEA member countries.

EEA member countries

Capitals

Rivers and lakes

Austria

Vienna

River Danube, River Wienfluss, River Liesing

Belgium

Brussels

River Senne

Bulgaria

Sofia

A number of rivers cross the city, including the   Vladayska and the Perlovska

Croatia

Zagreb

River Sava, Jarun Lake

Cyprus

Nicosia

River Pedieos

Czech Republic

Prague

River Vltava

Denmark

Copenhagen

Lakes Sortedam, Peblinge, and Sankt Jørgens Lake   (originally, there was one long stream which was dammed)

Estonia

Tallinn

Lake Ülemiste, Lake Harku,   River Pirita

Finland

Helsinki

River Vantaa

France

Paris

River Seine, Lake Daumesnil

Germany

Berlin

River Spree, River Havel, several lakes (Tegeler   See, Großer Wannsee, Großer Müggelsee)

Greece

Athens

Historical rivers are the Cephissus river, the   Ilisos and the Eridanos stream

Hungary

Budapest

River Danube

Iceland

Reykjavík

River Elliðaá

Ireland

Dublin

River Liffey, River Tolka, River Dodder

Italy

Rome

River Tiber

Latvia

Riga

River Daugava

Liechtenstein

Vaduz

-

Lithuania

Vilnius

River Vilnia, River Neris,   numerous lakes

Luxembourg

Luxembourg

River Alzette, River   Pétrusse

Malta

Valletta

-

The Netherlands

Amsterdam

River Amstel, River/Lake IJ

Norway

Oslo

River Alna, River   Akerselva, Lake Maridalsvannet, Lake Østensjøvannet   and many smaller lakes

Poland

Warsaw

River Vistula, several lakes   e.g. Czerniaków Lake, the lakes in the Łazienki or Wilanów Parks, Kamionek   Lake.

Portugal

Lisbon

River Tagus

Romania

Bucharest

River Dâmbovița, River   Colentina, numerous lakes e.g. Lake Herăstrău, Lake Floreasca, Lake Tei, and   Lake Colentina,

Slovakia

Bratislava

River Danube, River Morava,   several lakes

Slovenia

Ljubljana

Rivers Ljubljanica, Sava,   Gradaščica, Mali Graben, Iška and Iščica

Spain

Madrid

River Manzanares

Sweden

Stockholm

Lake Mälaren; River   Norrström

Switzerland

Bern

River Aare

Turkey

Ankara

River Ankara Çayı ran   through the center of the Roman town; it is now covered and diverted

United Kingdom

London

River Thames, St. James Park   Lake, Serpentine Lake

 

Some of the most popular tourist city destinations in Europe are built on and strongly defined by their rivers, among others Paris on the River Seine, Rome on the Tiber, Budapest and Vienna on the Danube, Prague on the Vltava and London on the Thames. Some European cities, such as Dublin, are characterised by a complex water landscape unknown to most visitors passing through (see box below).

  • thordtry (Tryggvi Thordarson) 09 Aug 2016 11:49:40

    Regarding lakes and rivers mentioned in Table 2 for Reykjavík, Iceland:

    The river already mentioned (Elliðaá) is usually called Elliðaár (in plural because of two channels).

    Additional Lakes that might be metioned are Elliðavatn and Langavatn but both are only partly inside the bounderies of the municipality of Reykjavík.

    Additional river is the river Korpa and the river Leirvogsá. Leirvogsá lies for the most part on the boundery of the municipality of Reykjavík and the neighbouring municipality.

    b.r. Tryggvi

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Dublin – A city of   three rivers

Dublin is situated at the mouth of the River Liffey, which   divides the city in two between the Northside and the Southside. Each of   these is further divided by two lesser rivers – the River Tolka running   southeast into Dublin Bay, and the River Dodder running northeast to the   mouth of the Liffey. Two further water bodies – the Grand Canal on the   southside and the Royal Canal on the northside – ring the inner city (Dublin,   n.d.).

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In addition to the larger better known urban rivers, there are many small rivers and streams which have shaped the landscape of European cities and are frequently subject to recent urban restoration schemes. Several of these smaller rivers and streams feature as case studies in the Annex to this report.

Lakes are not as frequent a feature as rivers in large European cities. However, there are a number of cities, which have partly developed on lake shores, coasts and estuaries, that serve as popular recreational areas and/or sources of drinking freshwater for the city. Some examples of cities with major lakes are Tallinn (Lake Ülemiste), Berlin (lakes Wannsee, Müggelsee, Tegeler), Stockholm (lake Mälaren), Zürich (Lake Zürich) and London (Serpentine Lake). Several other European capitals such as Oslo, Vilnius and Bucharest are connected to a number of smaller and middle-sized lakes.

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2.2              Key impacts of urbanisation

In industrialised and developing countries in the 19th and 20th century, most urban rivers were channelled into canals, buried or otherwise confined. Eden and Tunstall (2006) summarise the traditional European approach to urban river management as “…bury them, turn them into canals, line them with concrete and build upon the (now protected) floodplains”. This approach was designed both to improve urban hygiene and to protect cities from flooding. In the 1950s, the growing use of cars in cities led to river banks being transformed into high-speed traffic lanes (e.g. the case of the River Manzanares in Madrid and the Seine in Paris). Due to pollution from wastewater and the fact that river banks became increasingly difficult to access, traditional uses of urban rivers (bathing, boating, fishing) disappeared. Cities gradually turned their backs on the rivers that they once relied upon for their prosperity. Only major water shortages and flooding reminded local authorities and residents of the presence (or absence) of water in the city (Bruhn, 2015).

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Madrid:   Prioritizing people over cars

After a massive   highway was built on both sides of the Manzanares River in Madrid in the   1970s, nearby neighbourhoods declined and most city inhabitants avoided the   region entirely. In 2003, Mayor Alberto Ruíz-Gallardón implemented his vision   to bury the highways and move traffic through tunnels instead. Ultimately,   the river banks were freed for pedestrians and more than nine km of the   Madrid Río Park were designed with playgrounds, ball fields, bike paths, and   a wading pool known fondly as “the beach” (World Watch Institute Blog, 2016).

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The negative impact of urbanisation on river and lake systems in European cities is wide-ranging and multi-faceted. The impacts go beyond the historical issue of water pollution and extend to structural changes of the once-more natural rivers and lakes. The ways urbanisation has affected urban rivers and lakes include (based on ECRR, 2015):

  • Water quantity impacts: Decreased flow and reduced groundwater levels through abstraction as well as increased flow from surface run-off, increased frequency of floods and reduced infiltration affect the quantitative status of rivers and lakes in cities.
  • Water quality impacts: Wastewater discharges and increased run-off from impervious surfaces such as roads, roofs and gardens, and contamination from household and industrial stormwater overflows degrade water quality.
  • Physical structure impacts: Artificial walls replace natural river banks, barriers disrupt connectivity or in many cases the river is hidden underground (covered rivers).
  • Geomorphological impacts: Urban rivers lack the space to erode their banks and deposit sediment or connect to their floodplain, which leads to altered morphology. Bridges, pipes and other infrastructure alter the width and depth of rivers, and their courses are changed by straightening and bypassing.
  • Impacts on the ability to support wildlife: Natural corridors, riparian zones and in-channel habitats are lost.
  • Removal of riparian vegetation: This reduces organic input, habitat complexity, increases river temperature and reduces bank stability.
  • Invasive species: Urban areas often suffer from introduced non-native species that become dominant and cause damage to the environment.

 

Urbanisation also has a notable impact on channel ecology, made obvious in terms of decrease in biotic richness and increased dominance of pollution- and flow-tolerant species. As urban centres have expanded in size and number, negative impacts on freshwater ecosystems have become more severe and widespread (summarised by Everard & Moggridge (2011)).

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The illustrations below show some examples of degraded urban water bodies:

See photos's in pdf version

    

    

    

Photos: @E.Kampa (upper left), @Flemish Environment Agency (upper right), @ Syndicat d'Aménagement et de Gestion de l'Yzeron, du Ratier et du Charbonnières (lower left), @ Wasserwirtschaftsamt München (lower right).

  • Annelies Haesevoets (invited by Peter Kristensen) 31 Aug 2016 13:48:19

    Flemish Environment Agency should be Flanders Environment Agency

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2.3              Re-discovering rivers and lakes in our cities

Historically, rivers and lakes offered a popular setting for urban development due to the fact that they could provide food, water, power generation, flat land for development, trade routes and transport. Furthermore, urban rivers and lakes have functioned for centuries as receivers and transporters of household and industrial wastewater, which gradually led to their degradation, making them a source of nuisance to city inhabitants. During the 20th century, many European rivers and lakes were polluted, deteriorated, and they lost their significant roles.

Since the 1970s, substantial investments have been made in sewers, wastewater treatment and stormwater management and led to water quality improvements across Europe. As a result, European rivers and lakes have gained a more positive image in cities and towns. It is now recognised that urban rivers and lakes are called upon to fulfil more roles such as providing space for recreation and an aesthetically pleasing environment for urban regeneration. More and more cities and communities re-discover their rivers, streams and lakes as open spaces in the urban environment, and as meeting points for social and cultural activities.

As cities are changing the way they view their water bodies, there are more opportunities for restoring urban rivers and lakes. Cities rediscover the value of rivers and lakes around which they were originally organised and developed and, in this context, many municipalities launch restoration projects. Especially urban rivers are becoming an important focus for restoration, and this is likely to expand further as urban development continues and demands for a sustainable and enhanced quality of life increase.

Restoration projects offer the chance for a future oriented city planning and development. In recent years more and more people have been recognizing this as an asset for their quality of life. In practice, many restoration projects for urban rivers are initiated not so much with the view to improving aquatic biotic ecosystems but as part of urban (regeneration) projects closely associated with the rivers running through the cities (Bruhn, 2015). Indeed, much of the impetus for urban restoration efforts has been the recognition of the range of public benefits that river restoration provides (Petts et al. 2002).

  • vanneru (Rudy Vannevel) 16 Aug 2016 11:00:01

    Pollution was already substantial in the 19th C. in many large cities that developed because of the Industrial revolution. Emerging from the Industrial revolution in England, the sanitary revolution boosted technological developments of drinking water supply and waste water treatment since mid 19th C., in particular in London. The city of Prague has an UWWTP in place since 1906 (Wanner, 2015).

    Ref. Wanner, 2015. See: IWA, 2015. 12th IWA Specialised Conference on Design, Operation and Economics of Large Waste Water Treatment Plants, held in Prague (Czech Republic), September 6-9 2015. www.lwwtp2015.org.

  • vanneru (Rudy Vannevel) 16 Aug 2016 11:12:37

    In medieval times, water was frequently used for all kinds of events, including fire works, jousts, and ceremonies. The water front was enjoyed as much as today, and until the 19th C. the river banks in Ghent  consisted of large parcels with small tea houses (called gloriettes) near the border.

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The type of benefits which can be delivered by improving urban water environments include:

i)                    reducing flood risk and helping to deliver flood risk management planning,

ii)                  creating opportunities to access the natural environment, providing new open spaces for amenity and recreation, and green networks for wildlife and people;

iii)                reducing the heat island effect;

iv)                reducing urban water pollution by incorporating sustainable drainage schemes and remediating contaminated land and

v)                  improving fish passage and in-stream and riparian habitats.

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Delivering these benefits can have wider socio-economic consequences as restored urban water bodies create an attractive environment which encourages recreation, boost physical and mental health, encourage business investment and tourism and enhance property values. This contributes to green infrastructure, local biodiversity action plans, wellbeing and regeneration goals (Natural Scotland – Scottish Government (2015)). In addition, defining benefits more accurately (both direct and indirect benefits in terms of ecosystem services) often supports decision-making for restoration projects in cities.

Many restoration measures taken (e.g. reopening covered rivers, water quality improvements that enable bathing) have resulted in significant changes in the way citizens and visitors experience the blue elements of cities (rivers and lakes). Waterfront amenities are more and more highly appreciated and urban river and lake restorations can be a good way for improving accessibility to water.

The case studies reviewed in the Annex to this report provide evidence of how restoration of rivers and lakes in European cities can contribute to better quality of life and urban regeneration.

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2.4              European policy impetus

In the European Union, a number of legislative and policy processes have provided further impetus to manage urban rivers and lakes in a more integrated way, by means of linking water quality improvements with ecosystem protection, climate change adaptation and recently with urban development.

The Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive (UWWTD) adopted already in 1991 aims at protecting the environment from the adverse effects of urban wastewater discharges and discharges from certain industrial sectors. Progress has been made in combating water pollution, especially in terms of wastewater effluents.

The Nitrates Directive also adopted in 1991 aims to prevent pollution of ground and surface waters from nitrates coming from agricultural sources. Although the Nitrates Directive is mainly relevant to agricultural activities outside urban areas, pollution from agricultural sources greatly impacts water quality in urban areas.

As public policies which exclusively focus on the fight against water pollution soon revealed their limitations, the EU adopted in 2000 the Water Framework Directive (WFD). This is the main piece of EU water legislation which reflects a turn from viewing water as a resource to viewing it as part of the environment. The WFD requires the achievement of good ecological and chemical status for all European surface waters including urban rivers and lakes. The 1st River Basin Management Plans implementing the WFD were adopted in 2009 and updated versions of these plans are to be drawn up on the basis of a 6-year cycle (2015, 2021). Despite improved water quality in cities, there is still room for improvement in the ecological status of their rivers and lakes. Many urban rivers are still encased in concrete structures, and along with degraded habitats make environmental objectives on the basis of the WFD challenging to achieve.

Due to changes to their physical structure, urban rivers and lakes are often defined as heavily modified water bodies (HMWB), according to Art. 4 (3) of the WFD, meaning that the important human uses which they serve (e.g. flood protection and transport) should not be undermined by measures taken to improve their status. In the same time, the WFD spells out minimum requirements for the restoration and ecological quality enhancement of HMWB, including those in an urban setting.

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Examples of WFD acting   as driver for restoration of urban water bodies

In several case studies reviewed for this report, the   implementation of the WFD and its strong focus on restoring water bodies to   achieve good status have acted as a key driver for urban restoration.

In Oslo, the WFD and its strong drive for restoring water   bodies have added to the political will to allocate resources to a de-culverting   strategy for urban streams. In   particular, for the major streams, defined as water bodies according   to the WFD, the de-culverting strategy is considered as a solid city   contribution to ensuring good ecological and chemical status in river water   bodies. The strategy is included as a measure in the WFD programme of measure   for the water area of Oslo.

In Vienna, the   projects of the City Administration for restoration of urban water bodies aim   at reaching the goals of the WFD, following the national WFD implementation   strategy. Restoration projects related to the urban River Liesing, River Wien   and the Old Danube are designed to be in line with the WFD requirements and   aim to improve “ecological potential”.

In Stockholm, the trigger and initial driver for the city   Water Programme and Action Plan for good water status has been the WFD and   its strong focus upon achieving good ecological and chemical status.

  • Thomas Ofenböck (invited by Peter Kristensen) 24 Aug 2016 10:45:54

    Vienna: ...aim to improve the ecological status or the 'ecological potential'

    (the Old Danube is not a heavily water body, therefore ecological potential is not applicable in this case))

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The Floods Directive adopted in 2007 gives European countries a common framework to identify, evaluate and address flood risk. The Directive requires developing an integrated approach to managing flood risk using approaches based on the scale of the river basin and working more closely with nature. The 1st Flood Risk Management Plans focused on prevention, protection and preparedness were to be drawn up by 2015. For cities, the Floods Directive points to the development of urban areas which are resilient to changes that would otherwise cause an increasing likelihood of flooding.

The Birds and the Habitats Directives are also relevant to urban restoration as specific restoration measures may be taken to achieve biodiversity protection objectives in urban nature reserves including freshwater habitats.

The 2013 Commission Communication on green infrastructure (European Commission, 2013b) called upon planners to use natural measures or a combination of engineered structures and natural solutions more proactively to achieve the objectives of water and adaptation policy (see EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change of 2013 (European Commission, 2013c)). River restoration in and close to urban areas is particularly relevant to green infrastructures for reducing flood risk, especially in terms of floodplain restoration measures aiming to increase natural water retention.

Further, in 2015, the Commission published the “Towards an EU Research and Innovation” policy agenda for Nature-Based Solutions & Re-Naturing Cities[1]. This agenda has provided strong impetus for a strengthened research and innovation focus and deployment of many city water-related nature-based solutions such as de-culverting of previously piped streams and the re-creation or restoration of small city lakes and ponds. These activities aim to serve a diversity of purposes of which climate adaptation is one important aspect.  

Last but not least, an Urban Agenda for the EU is now in place as a joint effort of the European Commission, Member States and European Cities Networks to strengthen the recognition of the urban dimension by European and national policy actors. The European Urban Agenda recognises that to fully exploit the potential of urban areas the urban dimension should be stronger embedded within the EU policies. To this aim, a better working method, focused on cooperation between the EU, Member States and cities is needed. Part of this new approach includes the development of a range of European partnerships (Urban Agenda for the EU, Pact of Amsterdam, 2016).

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At the time of writing this report, a draft Urban Water Agenda 2030 was prepared by European cities which convened at the Cities & Water Conference (February 2016, Leeuwarden) to discuss urban priorities in relation to water. There is growing understanding among decision-makers in European cities and regions that water is as important for cities as energy or climate, and there are risks and opportunities related to water that will affect the economic development and prosperity of European cities in the future. The Urban Water Agenda 2030 calls for city leadership and coordination to address water challenges and exploit opportunities for smart and sustainable urban water management. The agenda identifies important water issues for cities, sets objectives for 2030 and proposes concrete actions to achieve these objectives around five core areas (Urban Water Agenda 2030):

-          Water efficiency – to reduce water abstraction to the level of sustainable use and good ecological status of water bodies

-          Energy and resource efficiency of urban water systems

-          Water quality – to ensure the quality of water for urban use, prevent pollution of water by cities thereby reaching good ecological status of water bodies

-          Sustainability of urban water infrastructure

-          Flood prevention and nature based solutions

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2.5              City visions and strategies for water

Upscaling the new perspective on the urban water environment to enhance results

The multiplicity of aspects in which urban planning and water come together shapes the evolution of the city and its surrounding areas. While this relationship has led to the deterioration and neglect of urban water bodies in the past, more recent examples from around Europe show that the adoption of new vantage points towards city planning has the capability of changing the dynamic. In many cases this change in perspective has either arisen from or been developed into a city’s strategic vision. This can allow local officials and city planners to identify synergies across sectors and increase the level of ambition of the measures being considered. Furthermore, such city visions can help optimize actions on short term goals while keeping mid- and long term objectives in focus.

Many European cities have developed broad visions and strategies to promote a more integrated management of their water bodies, especially in terms of restoration of their rivers and lakes. Such strategies provide a broad framework for carrying out a number of restoration projects over a longer planning period. There are also important links between restoration and local/city authority strategies for open space, green infrastructure or green networks. These strategies often require a proportion of open space in developments. If well designed, this open space can create green networks for morphological restoration, wildlife and people (Natural Scotland – Scottish Government, 2015). In this context, there are opportunities to give more priority to space for the river in urban areas.

Some examples of such city strategies are the London Rivers Action Plan,  the river de-culverting strategy for the City of Oslo and the Stockholm City Water Programme(see the case studies in the Annex to this report).

  • vanneru (Rudy Vannevel) 16 Aug 2016 10:24:03

    Additional examples: Suggestion to add reference to the EU Interreg IIIb project Water in Historic City Centres (WiHCC) with participation of 6 cities in 4 countries. http://3b.nweurope.eu/page/projet.php?p=31&id=520

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London Rivers   Action Plan

The London Rivers Action Plan was adopted in 2009 (Thames   River Trust, 2016). The main aim of this Plan is to provide a forum for   identifying stretches of river that can be brought back to life, by improving   river channel or riparian habitats, by removing or modifying flood defence   structures, or by reclaiming 'lost' rivers currently buried under the surface   (LRAP Partnership, 2009). In 2011, the broader city strategy “Securing London’s   Water Future” was adopted, which is the first water strategy for London to   provide a complete picture of the city’s water needs. The strategy promotes   increasing water efficiency and reducing water wastage to balance supply and   demand for water, safeguard the environment and help tackle water   affordability problems. It also sets out how London’s Mayor will help   communities at risk of flooding to increase their resilience to flooding   (Greater London Authority, 2011).

The restoration of the River Quaggy and the River   Mayesbrook reviewed for this report are part of the London Rivers Action   Plan.

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A changing paradigm   for the rivers and streams in Oslo

One of the key water management issues dealt with in the   city of Oslo is the set of negative consequences caused by culverted streams   passing through the city. The de-culverting strategy for the City of Oslo, Water in the City, addresses all the   streams and rivers that originate in the surrounding forests and eventually   cross through the city down to the Oslo Fjord. Water in the City became part of a more comprehensive Strategy   for Urban Storm Water Management, whose objectives include meeting the   challenges posed by climate change, enhancing water quality and using   stormwater as a resource in cityscapes. Within this strategy, the   de-culverting programme works as an inter-agency programme coordinated by the   Agency for Water and Sewerage Works, but with involvement of three other city   agencies. Focus is placed on the major streams, but the strategy also covers   the smaller tributaries (Oslo Kommune, 2015). The stream de-culverting initiative is   also linked to two major strategic city policy programs, namely the City   Ecological Program approved by the City Council in 2009, and the new   Municipal Master Plan 2015 - Oslo 2030 “Smart - safe and green” adopted in 2015.  

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Beyond developing action plans for restoring urban water bodies, several European cities (e.g. Copenhagen and Rotterdam) are developing a more water-centric overall urban design and are transiting towards a Blue-Green city model. This entails integrating water management with urban green space provision to garner the added value associated with the connection and interaction between the blue and green assets of a city (see table below). Blue-Green Cities may be key to future resilience and sustainability of urban environments and processes (Blue-Green Cities Research Project, n.d.). They aim to recreate a naturally oriented water cycle while contributing to the amenity of the city by bringing water management and green infrastructure together.

Table 3. Blue and green assets and features in the urban realm

Urban Blue

Urban Green

Wastewater reuse and recycling

Rain water harvesting and recycling

Stormwater management as a new resource

Green Roofs

Green parks, streets, squares, parking lots, etc.

Living Walls Systems

Urban Agriculture

Source: Based on Blue Green Dream, 2012.

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There are also initiatives to establish so-called urban green and blue networks. The goal of urban green networks is to link natural habitats together, enabling animals and plants to move along ecological corridors connected to the city's surroundings. Urban blue networks, consisting of rivers, streams and other bodies of water in the city, can complete the green networks. The Brussels Capital Region, for instance, is strengthening the ecological corridor in the region through the development of such an urban green and blue network. To ensure a more even distribution of green nature areas and to strengthen the ecological corridor between these areas, a Regional Development Plan was drawn to gradually develop a green and blue network around Brussels. The green network connects the green areas as a ring around the urban area, and the blue network aims to improve the ecological conditions of the rivers and associated wetlands (Bruxelles Environnement – IBGE/Leefmilieu Brussel BIM, 2006). The Green and Blue Network programme was laid out in 1995 and taken up in the Brussels Regional Development Plan. New green spaces were created with “new” objectives for the urban area: preservation of natural vegetation, restoration of pond banks, recuperation of water and improvement of soil quality. Simultaneously, efforts have been made to reconnect green spaces by reopening formerly covered rivers (Chevalier, 2013).

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What drives the move towards more integrated city strategies for water?

As the citizens' perception of urban rivers and lakes returns to one that acknowledges them as key historic elements of local identity and associates them with accessible refuge from the high pace of modern life in urban centres, the political narrative around urban water bodies is necessarily following course. The recognition of the multiple benefits that revitalising our urban water environments and reconnecting with them can bring to society has in numerous cases fuelled the political will necessary to transit from small scale, isolated actions to more integrated strategies based on long-term visions of better organized, more resilient cities. For instance, in the aforementioned case of Oslo, the political determination to back the city’s de-culverting strategy emerged as public and political awareness of the value of natural streams in the cityscape arose. This perception of value that was increasingly associated with the urban water ecosystems stemmed not only from recognizing that they could be used for recreational purposes, but, in the face of climate change, they also provided an increased sense of safety and resilience related to stormwater retention and cleansing capacity.

In addition to changes in local public and political awareness, policy and regulation at higher administrative scales can also be responsible for the transition towards more integrated urban development strategies, as outlined in the previous section in terms of European policy impetus (section 2.4). At the European level there is an explicit agreement on the principles upon which an ideal European city should be based as part of an EU Urban Agenda (Urban Agenda for the EU, Pact of Amsterdam, 2016). One of the characteristics put forward for the European city of tomorrow is to be “a place of green, ecological or environmental regeneration”. At EU level, it is also argued that urban territorial development should “enjoy a high level of environmental protection and quality in and around cities” (European Commission, 2011).

Finally, the environmental objectives and requirements set in place by pieces of legislation like the EU Water Framework Directive have locked in further support for integrated action, both in terms of funding and acceptability. In this specific case, the WFD’s aim for incorporating externalities by reconnecting the urban water cycle to the natural water cycle has a strong influence on policy- and decision-making at the local level. Furthermore, the Directive has provided a strategic frame that allows linking individual restoration efforts within River Basin Management Plans, facilitating communication and buy-in of stakeholders. The case of the Stockholm City Water Programme is a good portrayal of how the intrinsic relationship of a city with its water environment can converge with policy frameworks at higher scales to result in enduring commitment to water protection.

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Stockholm City Water Programme and the   Action Plan for good water status

In   Stockholm, ‘the Venice of The North’, ten per cent of the city’s area is   covered by water, and the many lakes are highly valued for recreational   purposes. The city’s affinity and intrinsic aquatic character resonated with   the EU Water Framework Directive and its strong focus upon achieving good   ecological and chemical status, leading to the adoption in 2006 of an   ambitious Water Protection Programme (2006 -2015) which set objectives for   cleaner water and outlined methods to achieve this. The objective of   improving water quality in the city was to be achieved in a way that   preserved the recreational value of the lakes and streams. Until the end of   the programme progress has been made both concerning water quality and   increasing recreational value of many water bodies.

Ongoing   political ambition to reinforce local efforts towards improved water quality   led to the adoption in 2015 of an Action Plan for good water status as a   follow up of the late Water Protection Programme (Stockholms stad, 2015).   Within this new plan separate local programmes of measures (PoM) are planned   for each water body.

The   Stockholm City Water Programme and the Action Plan for good water status are   considered good practice examples of what can be achieved if there is strong   political will to allocate funding for a major and long term water   improvement program benefiting both aquatic ecosystems and the urban   population in enjoying the water bodies and their ecosystems.

 

Lastly, increased pressures on urban water ecosystems are expected to result from climate change and its interaction with socio-economic factors like geopolitics, economic trends, demographic change, further urbanisation and urban sprawl, among others (EEA, 2016a). This also calls for the preparation of appropriate water management strategies in the urban context to cope with impacts and increase resilience. Such strategies should take careful consideration of the state of the environment, society and the economy at the local level (Anthonj et al., 2014) to ensure their objectives can be efficiently achieved. Furthermore, the actions planned within these strategies should go beyond addressing the direct impacts of climate change to consider the broader knock-on effects that could follow (EEA, 2016a). A good example of a city strategy taking several of these factors carefully into account is the case of the Water Plan for Rotterdam.

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A Water Plan for   Rotterdam

Rotterdam is Europe’s largest port and also a bustling   city with a strong economy and an intrinsic water character. The connection   with the rivers Maas, Schie and Rotte, and the multitude of canals and lakes   gives Rotterdam its identity as a water city.

On the other hand, such a close and intertwined relationship   with the water environment sets Rotterdam directly against the challenges of   climate change, as are rising water levels, increased rainfall and increasing   pressures on water quality. To confront these future challenges, Rotterdam   has developed Waterplan 2 Rotterdam, a plan for a sustainable development   towards 2030 based on an adaptive approach that aims for multiple objectives,   among which the following can be highlighted: to cope with the increasing   amounts of water that will be reaching the city and putting its   infrastructure to the test, and to ensure the attractiveness of the city   through carefully thought and versatile urban design. Waterplan 2 Rotterdam is   understood as the framework to achieve the city’s long-term vision, and a   forum for consultation and discussion between the multiple actors that will   allow for future ideas and solutions to emerge and develop (Municipality of   Rotterdam et al. 2007).

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