Water and the New Urban Agenda

habitat3What is Habitat III?

Just about four weeks ago (October 17-20) 30,000 mayors, government ministers, policymakers and urbanists from 193 member states gathered at Habitat III in Quito, Ecuador to put the final touches on and approve the New Urban Agenda. As its name suggests, Habitat III was the third UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development – an event that takes place every 20 years. The first Habitat took place in Vancouver Canada in 1976 and the second in Istanbul in 1996.

The Habitat conferences were conceived in response to the dramatic challenges faced by cities around the globe to provide adequate basic services to the millions of people pouring into their jurisdictions during this era of accelerated urbanization. Although the draft outcomes of these conferences are not legally binding, they provide a hotly debated set of guidelines and priorities for governmental bodies and NGOs for the coming two decades. Between conferences the UN Commission on Human Settlements that was established at Habitat I (and reorganized in 2002 as the Human Settlements Programme, or UN-Habitat), works to create synergies and establish programs that will facilitate implementation of the guidelines.

Infrastructure and water: integral components of the Habitat III agenda

One of the key topics at Habitat III was infrastructure. About 60% of the area predicted to turn urban by 2030 is currently undeveloped and will require a staggering $57 trillion in global investment in infrastructure for existing and future communities. Among the infrastructure needs to be met are safe drinking water and effective waste management that will be resilient to growing water scarcity as well as to the drought and flooding scenarios associated with climate change.[1]

It is not surprising, therefore, that safe and affordable drinking water was one of the key issues included in the vision statement of the New Urban Agenda adopted in Quito[2]: “We envisage cities and human settlements that: (a) Fulfil their social function…with a view to progressively achieving the full realization of the right to adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, without discrimination, universal access to safe and affordable drinking water and sanitation, as well as equal access for all to public goods and quality services in areas such as food security and nutrition, health, education, infrastructure, mobility and transportation, energy, air quality and livelihoods;…” (our emphasis)

The body of the document then goes on to make specific commitments to promote the conservation and sustainable use of water; to minimize water losses; and to develop and equip public water utilities that can provide universal and equitable access to drinking water.

No sustainable cities without smart water management

Water is an integral component of the urban landscape. For cities to provide their residents with a sustainable and dignified quality of life, they must carefully nurture the water resources under their stewardship. In a networking session at Habitat III that was dedicated to rethinking water management in cities (“Beyond Basic Services”), the organizers wrote: “Depending on how it is managed in cities, water can be a threat or a salvation, an eyesore or an asset, unwanted waste or a valuable resource, a transmitter of sickness or a source of good health.”[3]

In this spirit, Arad will be participating in Pollutec 2016 being held in Lyon, France on November 27-December 2, where one of the key themes is the sustainable city. We look forward to showing how our cutting-edge smart water meters and management solutions have been helping cities around the globe achieve their sustainability goals. Come visit us at Hall 5, Alley F, Booth 168.


[1] John Metcalfe and Linda Poon, Everything You Need to Know About the Momentous Habitat III, The Atlantic CityLab, Oct 15, 2016
[2] Draft outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), September 29, 2016
[3] Habitat III: Beyond Basic Services: Rethinking the values, functions, and management of waters in our cities, October 6, 2016


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