Volume 34, Issue 4

July 2018
Special Issue on Urban Resilience to Droughts and Floods: Policies and Governance

Editorial »
Cecilia Tortajada

Research Article

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals: improving water services in cities affected by extreme weather events

James Hornea, Cecilia Tortajadab and Larry Harringtonc
aCollege of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia; bInstitute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore; cSchool of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, USA

Contact: James Horne | Email: jameshorne@iinet.net.au


This article discusses how key risks from extreme weather events might affect progress towards meeting Sustainable Development Goals 6 and 11 in cities in developing countries. It outlines the magnitude of the existing shortfall in safe water and sanitation services, and how climate change will exacerbate existing problems. It argues that the performance of many governments thus far has lacked urgency and purpose. Unless governments in particular become more committed, with redoubled effort, the goals are unlikely to be achieved.

Pages: 475–489


Research Article

Using water management infrastructure to address both flood risk and the urban heat island

Daniel R. Richards and Peter J. Edwards
ET H Zurich, Future Cities Laboratory, Singapore-ET H Centre, Singapore

Contact: Daniel R. Richards | Email: richards@arch.ethz.ch


Two important environmental challenges for many cities are to prevent flooding after heavy rain, and to minimize warming due to the urban heat island effect. There is a close link between these two phenomena, as rainfall intensity increases with rising air temperature. The two problems of flood management and urban warming therefore need to be tackled together. In particular, management strategies that contribute to reducing urban temperatures should be recognized as a means of reducing flood risk, especially in regions prone to intense rainfall.

Pages: 490–498


Research Article

Antifragility and the development of urban water infrastructure

Filip Babovica, Vladan Babovicb and Ana Mijica
aDepartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London, London, UK; bDepartment of Civil and Environmental Engineering, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Contact: Filip Babovic | Email: filip.babovic13@imperial.ac.uk


Antifragility is a system property that results in systems becoming increasingly resistant to external shocks by being exposed to them. These systems have the counter-intuitive property of benefiting from uncertain conditions. This paper presents one of the first known applications of antifragility to water infrastructure systems and outlines the development of antifragility at the city scale through the use of local governance, data collection and a bimodal strategy for infrastructure development. The systems architecture presented results in a management paradigm that can deliver reliable water systems in the face of highly uncertain future conditions.

Pages: 499–509


Research Article

The impact of weather extremes on urban resilience to hydro-climate hazards: a Singapore case study

Winston T. L. Chowa,b
aDepartment of Geography, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore; bInstitute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore

Contact: Winston T. L. Chow | Email: winstonchow@nus.edu.sg


Changing frequencies and intensities of extreme weather events directly affect settlement vulnerability; when combined with rapid urbanization, these factors also influence urban resilience to climate-related hazards. This article documents how urban resilience can generally be maximized, before examining how it is impacted by extreme hydro-climatic events (i.e. droughts and floods), with a specific case examination for Singapore. In particular, analysis of Singapore’s climate from 1950 to 2015 indicates (1) a warmer environment, and (2) recent periods of more intense surface dryness. Lastly, this article suggests how specific climate information regarding extreme event attribution can aid municipal stakeholders involved in urban resilience policy.

Pages: 510–524

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2017.1335186 (Open Access)

Research Article

Environmental resilience and intergovernmental collaboration in the Pearl River Delta

Kris Hartley
Department of City and Regional Planning, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA

Contact: Kris Hartley | Email: hartley@u.nus.edu


Water resource management is a crucial issue in the rapidly urbanizing Pearl River Delta. Numerous studies have examined transboundary water management, but those focusing on Hong Kong are largely technical, with little consideration for political dynamics or collaboration. This study’s contribution is a systematic analysis of water governance in China’s ‘one country–two systems’ setting. Through interviews and historical analysis, the study applies Ostrom’s Institutional Analysis and Development framework to a setting with political complexity and environmental vulnerability. The principal finding is that cooperation on supply infrastructure reflects a regional interdependence that builds the multiparty trust needed for more strategic governance.

Pages: 525–546


Research Article

Exposure and resilience of China’s cities to floods and droughts: a double-edged sword

Jialiang Cai, Matti Kummu, Venla Niva, Joseph H. A. Guillaume and Olli Varis
Water & Development Research Group, Aalto University, Espoo, Finland

Contact: Olli Varis | Email: olli.varis@aalto.fi


China’s rapid urbanization in areas prone to flood or drought events can be seen as a double-edged sword. Urbanization enlarges the population exposed to these hazards, but the resulting socio-economic development also helps build resilience. This article quantifies flood occurrence, drought severity, and related resilience in 81 cities in Mainland China. The extent of flood exposure was notable, both in absolute terms as well as in relation to the drought-prone urban population. China needs to integrate urban flood/drought policy making with sustainable urbanization policy making to best contribute to minimizing flood and drought risks in its cities.

Pages: 547–565


Research Article

The political economy of flood management reform in China

Scott Moore
Independent Researcher, Bryn Mawr, PA, USA

Contact: Scott Moore | Email: scottm@alumni.princeton.edu


This article examines the political economy factors that are likely to shape China’s attempts to reform its approach to managing floods, particularly by implementing integrated flood risk management (IFRM). IFRM emphasizes the use of structural and non-structural measures to reduce flood risk, rather than simply seeking to control flooding. For China, reducing flood risk is increasingly important in light of urbanization and climate change. However, a number of political economy issues, especially the division of power between central and local levels of government, create considerable challenges for flood management reform. This article examines China’s approach to implementing IFRM in light of existing political economy constraints and the institutional framework for flood management. It argues that effective flood management reform requires addressing common challenges, including interjurisdictional and intersectoral coordination and stakeholder participation.

Pages: 566–577


Research Article

Governance of the Sponge City Programme in China with Wuhan as a case study

Liping Daia,b, Helena F. M. W. van Rijswickb, Peter P. J. Driessenc and Andrea M. Keessenb
aSchool of Law, Hubei University of Economics, Wuhan, China; bFaculty of Law, Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law, Economics and Governance, Utrecht University, the Netherlands; cFaculty of Geosciences, Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, the Netherlands

Contact: Liping Dai | Email: l.dai@uu.nl


In 2015, China’s national government initiated a Sponge City Programme to address its urban flood issues. A sponge city is a city built around the concept of managing water in an ecologically sustainable way. The intention is to improve urban resilience through rainwater capture, storage and use. This article applies a four-mode governance framework to analyze the programme. It identifies the strengths and weaknesses of the programme implementation and provides recommendations.

Pages: 578–596

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2017.1373637 (Open Access)

Research Article

Towards adaptive governance for urban drought resilience: the case of Da Nang, Vietnam

Tien L. T. Dua, Duong D. Buib, Joost Buurmanc and Xuan T. Quacha
aDa Nang Institute for Socio-Economic Development, Da Nang, Vietnam; bNational Centre for Water Resources Planning and Investigation, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Hanoi, Vietnam; cInstitute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore

Contact: Duong D. Bui | Email: duongdubui@gmail.com


To address drought risks and risks of water shortages in cities it is essential to build resilience. Acknowledging that this is a process initiated by actors and institutions, this article presents a framework to analyze dynamics in the governance system for urban water services. The framework is applied to Da Nang, a drought-prone city in central Vietnam, to explore the elements and factors in the urban water sector that enhance or inhibit resilience to drought and find potential strategies to build resilience. The study finds that the framework has been helpful in identifying where changes and systematic interventions are needed to enhance resilience.

Pages: 597–615


Research Article

Policy narratives help maintain institutional traps in the governance of floods in Thailand

Louis Lebela,b and Phimphakan Lebela
aUnit for Social and Environmental Research, Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University, Thailand; bInstitute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore

Contact: Louis Lebel | Email: llebel@loxinfo.co.th


The governance of floods in urbanizing regions of Thailand is significantly constrained by institutional traps. Comparisons of the impacts and governance responses to major flood events in Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya and Bangkok in 2005–06 and 2011 suggests that there has been very little policy learning. Institutional traps remain as important now as they were more than a decade ago. Dominant policy narratives help maintain institutional traps by promoting solutions that reduce organizational risks, like the transfer of responsibilities to local communities, or reflect organizational interests and professional norms. Policy narratives will need to be challenged or transformed if progress in building urban resilience to floods is to be made.

Pages: 616–631


Research Article

Resilience in major Australian cities: assessing capacity and preparedness to respond to extreme weather events

James Horne
Australian National University

Contact: James Horne | Email: jameshorne@iinet.net.au


The article examines the resilience of major Australian cities to extreme weather events. It reviews how and how well six of the largest Australian cities have responded to some recent water-related crises, covering droughts, floods and extreme storm events. It discusses examples of the preparedness for specific events, the immediate reaction to the event, the policy responses, and some of the more important challenges that remain.

Pages: 632–651


Research Article

Rainproof cities in the Netherlands: approaches in Dutch water governance to climate-adaptive urban planning

Liping Daia,b, Rebecca Wörnerc and Helena F. M. W. van Rijswickb
aSchool of Law, Hubei University of Economics, Wuhan, China; bUtrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law, Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance, Utrecht University, The Netherlands; cUtrecht University School of Law, The Netherlands

Contact: Liping Dai | Email: l.dai@uu.nl


Due to increasingly frequent incidents of pluvial flooding of public spaces and private properties, climate-adaptive building and urban water management are gaining momentum in Dutch water governance. This study assesses the Dutch approach to urban water management by looking at the governance approaches of three of the largest Dutch municipalities: Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht. By analyzing the municipalities’ governance approaches in a holistic way, paying attention to knowledge, organization and implementation, the research provides good practices in terms of different aspects of resilience as well as lessons regarding setting performance indicators in service levels, clarifying responsibility division, applying binding rules instead of soft policies, and more.

Pages: 652–674

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2017.1372273 (Open Access)

Research Article

Devolving water governance in the Kenyan Arid Lands: from top-down drought and flood emergency response to locally driven water resource development planning

Caroline King-Okumua, Bashir Jillob, John Kinyanjuic and Ibrahim Jarsod
aInternational Institute for Environment and Development, Edinburgh, UK; bWater Resources Management Authority, Isiolo, Kenya; cIsiolo County Government, Kenya; dIsiolo County Adaptation Planning Committee, Isiolo Resource Advocacy Programme, University of Nairobi, Kenya

Contact: Caroline King-Okumu | Emails: Caroline.King-Okumu@iied.org, caroking@yahoo.com


The Kenyan Constitution calls for a devolved response to the stewardship of water and other natural resources. A case study based on planners’ experiences illustrates the shift towards governance approach that is inclusive, integrates available technologies to achieve resilience to both flood and drought, and works across scales from the settlement to the catchment. Devolution is a slow process, and the challenges are many. Recent observations show that increasing local agency in water resource development is helping alleviate drought and flood emergencies. Nevertheless, more concerted action is still needed from the centre.

Pages: 675–697