Is urban water management heading towards a deadlock?

23 February 2001 - Will water-related problems in cities become insurmountable this century or are there signs of hope? This question is being asked by an international symposium being convened in Marseille (France) this summer by UNESCO and the Académie de l’eau of France, with the support of the City of Marseille and World Water Council.

The question is particularly relevant with respect to rapidly expanding large cities in developing countries, where imported ‘solutions’ from cities in the developed world are unrealistic and where alternative approaches to water supply and sanitation need to be investigated.

Organized from 18 to 20 June 2001, Frontiers in Urban Water Management: deadlock or hope? falls within the broad objectives of UNESCO’s International Hydrological Programme (IHP) and those of the World Conference on Science. The symposium targets urban water planners and managers around the world, some 300 of whom are expected at the event.

‘Interdisciplinarity’ and ‘interaction’ are the catchwords key concepts of a symposium proposing an integrated approach to urban water management. Problems will be examined in their socio-economic context and solutions according to their applicability to cities in both industrialized and developing countries.

A succession of workshops have been designed to stimulate thinking on how cities should adapt in future if they are to withstand the pressures on water supply, sanitation services and other water-dependent systems.

Technologies for the cities of the future will be one focus, as will technology transfer both to and from the developing countries. Other workshop themes include reclamation of saline or brackish water, wastewater recyling, the consequences of water on health, demand management, conflict resolution and mitigation of urban flooding.

The symposium’s ambitions go beyond simply ensuring survival in the urban environment to making cities better places to live. Ultimately, the symposium is expected to produce guidelines for sustainable development and solutions to current problems.

After diagnosing the status of urban water today, the symposium will venture a prognosis. Are there signs for hope – or are we heading for a deadlock?

For further information, contact a.tejada-guibert J.A. Tejada-Guibert at