The Water Sustainable City of the Near Future
January 2014

This is a story about what is possible in urban water sustainability. The Water Sustainable City of the Near Future (the City) is an idea that is emerging and well within reach for most communities. It is not a utopian fantasy. The elements that make the City exemplary are occurring in real places across Canada and around the world.

The City described herein combines these characteristics into a single, fictional location, and in so doing demonstrates an end state towards which real cities can aspire. It is what any place could look like if water really mattered.

This report is intended to help practitioners and decision makers build a business case for advanced and
integrated water management. The content is based on interviews with 17 subject matter experts and
thought leaders. Together, they defined a common vision, shared innovations in their unique and diverse disciplines, and suggested cross-cutting business case considerations. These three themes form the core sections of this report.

A Vision of the Water Sustainable City
Since the City is an amalgamation of various aspects of real cities, it is easy to imagine its physical attributes,
social relationships and cultural norms. Three components frame this vision:

  • Water is visible and valued.
  • A culture of conservation exists.
  • Responsibility is shared.

Digging Deeper: Essential Innovations in the Water Sustainable City
Based on innovations in their fields, the interviewees identified four broad areas where tangible progress
towards sustainability could be made.

  • Financial Responsibility
  • Progressive Regulation and Governance
  • Customer-Oriented Information
  • Cutting-Edge Technology

Pitching Change: Making the Business Case

To attain these outcomes and innovations, an argument for creating change must be made. Although each business case
inevitably will be unique, there are several cross-cutting considerations.

  • A successful business case is framed around the pain points the City is facing.
  • Each case clearly identifies the value created for customers and the City.
  • Long-term financial models are necessary for sustainable solutions.
  • The right choice is not only economically and environmentally logical, it also considers public opinion and political preference.

Creating processes that are inclusive of the diversity of opinions around water management is arguably the most challenging
part of building a water sustainable city. Our experts remind us that success will require effective change management,
including dedicated leadership, managing risk, and celebrating achievements.
With a shared vision, taking small, frequent steps towards creating the Water Sustainable City of the Near Future is
possible. Together, we can navigate diversity and complexity, and ultimately move a real city towards more sustainable
practices. The time to plan, to innovate and act is now.