RESTORE THE BALANCE IN THE WATER BALANCE: Could ‘Sponge Cities’ Help Us Prepare For Our Flooded Future?

Note to Reader:

sponge city is a new urban construction model for flood management, strengthening ecological infrastructure and drainage systems, proposed by Chinese researchers in 2014. It can alleviate the city’s waterlogging, water resources shortage, and urban heat island effect and improve the ecological environment and biodiversity by absorbing and capturing rain water and utilizing it to reduce floods. Rain water harvested can be repurposed for irrigation and for home use. It is a form of a sustainable drainage system on an urban scale.

China has been noted for its effort in adopting the Sponge City initiative. In 2015, China was reported to have initiated a pilot initiative in 16 districts. This initiative presents an alternative to solve Asia’s flood problems. China seeks to curb its flood with the initiative. The country plans for 80 percent of its urban cities to harvest and reuse 70 percent of rainwater.

Could ‘Sponge Cities’ Help Us Prepare For Our Flooded Future?

Extreme weather, a changing climate, and impervious streets and roads have combined to create an urban disaster.

“While many of these news-making events have been driven by extreme weather events, the form and fabric of cities contribute significantly to their impact. The first thing to consider is that the overwhelming majority of cities sit on or near water,” wrote Laurie Winkless in an article published in Forbes Magazine (July 2021).

“All of this has seen cities begin to re-imagine their relationship with water – a growing number are, in particular, investing in new ways to manage stormwater. Rather than just designing systems that allow the water to drain away slowly and stably, they want to harvest and reuse it. This approach to urban design – where water is held in place to be called-upon when needed – is known as the ‘sponge city’, and it is rapidly growing in popularity.”

About Laurie Winkless

Laurie Winkless is a physicist and science writer. A contributor to Forbes Magazine, she has worked with schools and universities, the Royal Society, and The Naked Scientists, Winkless’ first book, Science and the City: The Mechanics Behind the Metropolis, explains the science behind aspects of urban living, including skyscrapers and subways.

Winkless refers to Science and the City as her “scientific love-letter to the great cities of the world”,

To Learn More:

To read the complete article by Laurie Winkles, download Could ‘Sponge Cities’ Help Us Prepare For Our Flooded Future?

“Sponge Cities” – a catchy way to describe the goal in restoring the capacity of the urban landscape to absorb water and release it naturally

“The mottos of the sponge city are: Retain, adapt, slow down and reuse,” stated Kongjian Yu, the landscape architect who has transformed some of China’s most industrialized cities into standard bearers of green architecture

Urban Nature Declaration

By signing the Urban Nature Declaration, mayors commit to establish ambitious nature targets to achieve climate resilience and create an agenda for people and nature to support one another. The Declaration commitments provide a set of quantifiable pathways to achieve these targets and build upon established motivations and aspirations to further preserve and foster both nature and biodiversity.

Laurie Winkles reports that 31 cities have signed up to the Urban Nature Declaration. “Signatories have committed to take one of two ‘pathways’. By 2030, they’ll have transformed 30-40 % of their “total built-up city surface area” to green or permeable surfaces, or they’ll have ensured that 70 % of the city population “has access to a fit-for-purpose green or blue space within 15 minutes [on foot].”

To Learn More:

Download a copy of the Urban Nature Declaration.


Sponge Cities: A Water-Resilient Future Despite Floods and Droughts?

At the Nanaimo Water Stewardship Symposium in April 2018, Kim Stephens, Executive Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia, asked the audience to reflect on this question when he delivered the keynote presentation:

How will communities ‘get it right’ through collaboration as land develops and redevelops?

The Symposium provided a platform for a call for action because adapting to climate change requires transformation in how we value nature and service land.

To Learn More:

YOUTUBE VIDEO: “Sponge Communities is a catchy way to describe the goal in restoring the capacity of the urban landscape to absorb water and release it naturally,” stated Kim Stephens, keynote speaker, when he set the context for a call to action to adapt to a changing climate