Innovation: Water Against Climate Change. Sustainable Water Management In Urban Areas

Last update: 15.07.2013
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environmental awareness‚ water saving‚ energy saving‚ urban area‚ urban planning‚ water resources management‚ financial instrument‚
Sustainable water consumption patterns remain important for growth and prosperity in Europe. Climate change continues to threaten the availability of water and effective tools are required to ensure that society as a whole can best respond to concerns regarding the quality and quantity of water supplies.

Many water management bodies have specialised in technical aspects of maintaining water supplies. The remit of these bodies now needs to extend and encompass appropriate communication capacities that are capable of informing customers about options and actions to safeguard sustainable water consumption patterns. This includes providing information about lifestyle changes as well as technical and financial mechanisms for managing water supplies.

The excessive use of water is damaging European groundwaters and rivers: their environmental conditions are often below the “good status” that – according to Water Framework Directive 2000/60 – should be reached by 2015. The already critical situation tends to get worse because of climate change. Even in water rich countries, such as those in Northern Europe, urban wastewater is still one of the main sources of water pollution: wastewater treatment performance would benefit highly from a reduction in domestic water use. In the meantime, urban soil sealing and “conventional” rainwater management, planned to quickly move rainwater away from roofs and streets, is increasing flood risk.

“Green” technologies and approaches would allow a reduction of water abstraction and wastewater production while improving urban hydrological response to heavy rains: WATACLIC project contributed to disseminate them in Italy.


Sustainable water management practices and approaches concern not only technicians who operate in water services, but also other stakeholders including public administrators, NGOs, households, and plumbers.

The objective of the WATACLIC project is to promote the culture and technologies for sustainable water management through specific dissemination campaigns directed at different target audiences: bodies in charge of water planning and management, urban planners, local authorities, the toilet and sanitation manufacture industry and the building sector.
The main objective for this project is to achieve reductions in water and energy consumption within Italian urban areas via a combination of new fiscal and communication tools. A wide range of stakeholders have been involved in the process comprising the following technical actions:

1. Introduction of new rules on urban planning to encourage greater use of technologies/strategies such as rainwater harvesting, grey water recycling and other techniques that will enable more sustainable urban water use; and
2. Adoption of tariff schemes aimed at discouraging unwise water use.Accompanying information efforts will aim to achieve the following:

1. Improve knowledge and awareness among professional plumbing organisations about water saving techniques; and
2. Ensure effective awareness-raising campaigns are directed at the general public about issues such as sustainable water consumption and associated links with energy consumption.
38 dissemination events has been organized involving several partner (public administrations, universities, NGOs)

Compared to other environmental issues, water saving and sustainable urban water management raises much lower interest amongst the general public and even among specific audiences, such as public administrations and the relevant industrial sectors.

The domestic and urban water issue is perceived as a problem only in case of poor distribution service. Even among experts, there is scant awareness about important logical links related to water, such as:
Water abstraction ? decrease water flow of rivers and groundwater ? increase of pollution risk
Water use ? increase and dilution of wastewater ? higher costs and lower treatment efficiency
Urban design ? rainwater management ? water pollution and flood risk

Economic issue is a key factor: a correct tariffing system integrated by economic/fiscal incentive to promote innovation, is crucial to raise interest on the water matter. Once the interest grows, then other policy tools will follow, such as urban planning and building regulations, communication and information campaigns for the general public, training of the relevant industrial sectors, opening the way to new approaches and technological innovation.

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This innovation is the result of the project

Title: Water Against Climate Change. Sustainable Water Management In Urban Areas


01.01.2010 to 31.12.2012

completed project

Organisations and people involved in this eco-innovation.

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Role in project: Project Coordination

Contact person: CONTE Giulio