Third World Centre for Water Management


Volume 22, Issue 2

Special Issue: Water Management for Large Cities




Asit K. Biswas, Third World Centre for Water Management, Atizapán, Mexico


Abstract: The provision of clean drinking water, sanitation and storm water disposal has become a major challenge for the urban centres of the developing world. The number of cities with a population of more than 10 million has increased from one in 1950, to 16 in 2000, and is expected to increase to 21 by 2015. In 2000, 47.2% of the global population was urban, and this percentage is increasing steadily. The rapid rate of urbanization has far exceeded the management and financial capacities of all the levels of governments of all developing countries from about 1960. While more and more people have received access to water and sanitation in recent years, much more remains to be done. At the present rate, it is unlikely that the Millennium Development Goal of reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to drinking water by 2015, can be achieved universally. The problems faced by the major urban centres of the developing world are analysed, and the opportunities and constraints they face are assessed.


Olli Varis, Helsinki University of Technology, Water Resources Laboratory, Espoo, Finland


Abstract: The world’s population growth is dominated by urban growth particularly in Asia and Africa. Urbanization is seen most dramatically as the growth of large urban agglomerations, which are mushrooming in all developing regions of the world. This demographic change is bigger than any other change that human history has recorded. Whereas in 1975, only 190 million people lived in cities with more than 5 million people, the figure had gone up to 394 million by the year 2000. The UN forecast tells that in 2015, over 600 million people are expected to have their home in a megacity. This paper summarises global demographic trends and prospects and relates them to the water sector challenges of large urban agglomerations in developing countries. Nine case cities are under particular focus. They are Dhaka, Jakarta, Bangkok, Riyadh, Singapore, Johannesburg, Istanbul, São Paulo and Mexico City. Whereas the approach and level of success is different in each case, no city can escape massive technical investment, institutional development and strong political will in managing their water and related environmental challenges in a sustainable way.


Cecilia Tortajada, Third World Centre for Water Management, Atizapán, Mexico


Abstract: Water has become an issue of national security for most countries of the world, Singapore being one of them because of its dependence on imports of water from Malaysia. In order to reduce its dependence on external sources, this city-state has developed and implemented extremely efficient demand and supply management practices. In addition to imports of water and land reclamation, this strategy is a combination of rainfall storage, desalination and very sophisticated technology for recycling used water. As the paper analyses, Singapore has successfully managed to find the tight balances between water quantity and water quality considerations; water supply and water demand management; public sector and private sector participation; efficiency and equity considerations; strategic national interest and economic efficiency; and strengthening internal capacities and reliance on external sources.


Dogan Altinbilek, Department of Civil Engineering, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey


Abstract: This paper presents a study of water management in Istanbul, a megacity with a population of 11.5 million. The population of Istanbul grew at almost twice the overall rate of the whole of Turkey because of a large in-migration. The projected water demand was underestimated and Istanbul experienced severe water shortages in the early 1990s. During the last decade US$ 3.6 billion of investments were made to improve and expand water and wastewater systems. Several large-scale water transmission projects were started. The percentage of treated wastewater increased from 100/c to 95% within the same period. The unaccounted-for water rate has been reduced from 50% to 34%. Environmental protection measures have been put into effect to protect the watersheds of the water reservoirs. The 2002 Metropolis Award Winner Golden Horn Environment Protection Project is another example of environmental rehabilitation efforts undertaken in Istanbul.


Achmad Lanti, Regulatory Body of Jakarta Water Supply Provision, Jakarta, Indonesia


Abstract: Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia, with a population of 9.9 millions in 2005, wants to improve its water supply, by increasing service coverage from 41% in 1996 to 100% in 2022 and reducing its non-revenue water (NRW) from 57% in 1996 to 26% in 2022. This target is set against the fact that wastewater service is very poor, with only 1.9% coverage in 2000. In 1995, in an effort to improve the Jakarta water supply system and in spite of being deficient in law and regulations as well as lacking experience with regard to Private Sector Participation (PSP), the Ministry of Public Works (MPW) invited two reputable international water operators, Lyonnaise des Eaux of France and Thames Water International of UK, to conduct feasibility studies for developing clean and potable water for Jakarta under a framework of 25-year concession contracts. Those pertinent contracts were signed in June 1997 and became effective in February 1998. However, the Asian monetary crisis that hit Indonesia and at the same time caused a change of government regime, had caused social unrest which created desire for reform and improvements of many facets of government. As a result, the contracts were renegotiated and, on 21 October 2001, the Restated Cooperation Agreements (RCA) were signed and concurrently led to the establishment of the Jakarta Water Supply Regulatory Body (JWSRB). The main challenge being encountered by JWSRR with regard to the regulatory approach is how to perform as an independent and impartial body to regulate contracts between the private operators and the local government, represented by PAM JAYA as a former operator of the Jakarta water supply. To this end, the JWSRB should be seen to have a clear legal mandate, accountability and independence, transparency and due process, expertise and credibility, and efficiency and fairness in order to achieve a reasonable balance of interest between the consumer and water provider. These five parameters could then be used to judge the efficacy of the system So far, the multiple issues being faced are technical, including concerns with technical challenges, and the establishment and operation of the regulator which involves balancing a range of interests. These are (i) technical matters (information, benchmarking, and competition); (ii) challenges in establishment and operation of the regulator; (iii) putting the consumer first; (iv) using the resource efficiently and effectively; and (v) building the capacity. A learning curve during the first four years following its establishment for gaining the trust from Jakarta water stakeholders is also discussed in the paper in reasonable depth.


Walid A. Abderrahman, Water Section, The Research Institute, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia


Abstract: ArRiyadh is a good example of rapid transformation of a small city with an area of less than 100km2 and a population of less than 400,000 in 1970, to a big city with an area of about 1600 km2 with a population of 4.26 million in 2004. The population of ArRiyadh is expected to be more than 10 million by 2020. The rapid development of the city has lead to a major rise in demands on water and sanitation services. During the late 1970s until the mid-1990s, supply management practices were used to satisfy the rapid growth in water demands. With the financial support of about US$20 billion from the government, the growing domestic demands of more than 500 million m3/year have been satisfied. About 47% of the water supplied is groundwater pumped from local aquifers, and the remaining 43% comes from costly desalinated sea water from the Jubail plant on the Arabian Gulf coast, 466 km from the city. Sanitation services cover no more than about 35% of the city due to the rapid expansion of its area and the related high costs of infrastructure construction. The leakage from water networks, excess irrigation water from landscaping and seepage from septic tanks have contributed to a rise in the groundwater table, resulting in several negative impacts. A more effective water management approach has been experienced in the city since the establishment of the new Ministry of Water and Electricity in 2001 whose focus has shifted to water demand management and conservation. The results of such new approaches have been positive and promising in meeting the water challenges and in achieving sustainable developments under severe arid conditions.


Khondaker Azharul Haq, Dhaka Water Supply and Sewage Authority, Dhaka, Bangladesh


Abstract: Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, has become a megacity with a population of nearly 12.5 million, which is increasing at an annual rate of over 5%. Industrial, domestic and commercial wastes are polluting surface water, and groundwater in certain areas of the city also shows signs of both organic and inorganic contamination. Laws to prevent environmental pollution are rarely enforced. Overall service delivery is considered to be poor due to an inadequate tariff structure, high non-revenue water, lack of authority and commitment, inadequate management capacity, lack of sector coordination, inadequate investment, absence of effective decentralization, etc. The situation can be improved by higher investment, effective private sector participation, improved billing and revenue collection, structural reforms, establishing a regulatory body and finally converting Dhaka Water Supply and Sewage Authority into a truly service oriented commercial organization. If steps are not taken immediately to improve performance of DWASA, the millennium development goals of reducing the population without access to water supply and sanitation services by 50% by the year 2015 will not be achieved.


Anthony Turton, Craig Schultz, Hannes Buckle, Mapule Kgomongoe, Tinyko Malungani and Mikael Drackner

Contact: Anthony Turton, e-mail:

Abstract: Johannesburg is an unusual city because it is one of the few major cities of the world that does not lie on a river, a lake or a seafront. Since the discovery of gold in 1886, Johannesburg has grown from a dusty mining town to a major urban and industrial conurbation that houses and sustains a quarter of the total population of South Africa, accounting for 10% of the economic activity on the entire African continent. Water supply to Johannesburg is done by Rand Water, which is credited with sustaining the largest human concentration in the southern hemisphere that is not located on a river. This poses major challenges to engineers because the geology associated with the gold-bearing reefs also associated with the watershed between two major international river basins in Southern Africa, the Orange and the Limpopo. Having been classified as pivotal basins in the Southern African Hydropolitical Complex, these two river basins form the strategic backbone to the economies of the four most economically developed countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region –South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe. In order to sustain the urban and industrial complex in what is best describes as the Greater Johannesburg Conurbation, massive Inter-Basin Transfers (IBTS) are necessary, posing a challenge to the notion of a river basin as a fundamental unit of management within the framework of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM), because in essence every river basin in South Africa is now hydraulically connected to every other river basin, with this pattern starting to cross international borders in an increasingly complex web of transfer schemes. This supports the notion that the management of water in transboundary river basins is now starting to impact on the political relations between states, which is the essence of the rationale behind the emerging Southern African Hydropolitical Complex.


B.P.F. Bragaa, M.F.A. Portob, R.T. Silvac

aUniversity of São Paulo and Director of the National Water Agency of Brazil, São Paulo, Brazil; bDepartment of Hydraulic and Sanitary Engineering, Polytechnic School at the University of São Paulo (USP),São Paulo, Brazil; cDepartment of Technology of the School of Architecture and Urbanism at the University of São Paulo (USP), Sao Paulo, Brazil

Contact: B.P.F. Braga, e-mail:

Abstract: Densely urbanized basins face a challenge to implement the concept of integrated water resources management at the river basin level. In these basins there is the interaction of different sectors of human activity, including transportation and housing that need to be incorporated in the management system. Moreover, the frequently used interbasin transfer schemes impose a more encompassing management method. This paper proposes a new concept: the total urban water management. Under this new concept, integration is applied indistinctly to sectorial vectors (combining different water uses) and to the territorial vectors, in the sense of horizontally cutting across different jurisdictions on the territory. This new approach is applied to the case of the metropolitan region of São Paulo. As a result of the federative political system in Brazil, this region presents a complex institutional arrangement. Union and Stales are in charge of the administration of rivers and the municipalities are in charge of land use management. Hence, it is not enough to establish a water management system because the management of land used in the river basin impacts the water use in the rivers. A metropolitan management system, which includes municipalities and the State, is proposed to take into account all the aspects of an integrated management system.


Cecilia Tortajada, Third World Centre for Water Management, Atizapán, México


Abstract: Mexico City Metropolitan Area has 20 million inhabitants, with population densities in some areas exceeding 13,500 persons/km2. The provision of water supply and sanitation services in an efficient, equitable and timely manner presents a formidable management and investment challenges, which simply cannot be met under the existing conditions. The current approach has been almost exclusively on supply management: demand management practices have received inadequate attention. Unless the current management practices change radically, future solutions will require higher investment costs to transport more water from increasingly distant and expensive sources, with serious adverse economic, social and environmental impacts on the exporting regions and higher land subsidence rates in ZMCM due to ever-increasing groundwater withdrawals, among many others. It is essential to formulate a long-term integrated management plan, which does not exist at present, and which considers linkages to policies on urban development (an issue basically ignored thus far), migration, industry, energy, public health and environment. It is not an easy task, but, nevertheless, it is an essential task.


Olli Varisa, Asit K. Biswasb, Cecilia Tortajadab and  Jan Lundqvistc

aHelsinki University of Technology, Water Resources Laboratory, Finland; bThird World Centre for Water Management, Atizapán, México; cUniversity of Linköping, Sweden

Contact: O. Varis, e-mail:

Abstract: Efficient and equitable water, wastewater and stormwater management for the megacities is becoming an increasingly complex task. When accelerating water scarcities and pollution in and around urban centres are superimposed on issues like continuing urbanization, lack of investment funds for constructing and maintaining water infrastructures, high public debts, inefficient resources allocation processes, inadequate management capacities, poor governance, inappropriate institutional frameworks and inadequate legal and regulatory regimes, water management in the megacities poses a daunting task in the future. This paper will focus on water management in its totality in megacities, including their technical, social, economic, legal, institutional and environmental dimensions through a series of case studies from different megacities of the world.

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