A Methodological Framework for Sustainability Risks Identification in the Urban Water Sector

A Methodological Framework for Sustainability Risks Identification in the Urban Water Sector

M. Hedrich M. Eller A. Sonnenburg 

Chair of Environmental Technology, Institute of Infrastructure and Resources Management, University of Leipzig

Chair of Water Supply and Groundwater Protection, Institute IWAR, Darmstadt University of Technology

30 June 2016
| Citation



The urban water sector is facing increasing risks associated with climate change, shifting social and economic patterns and regulatory circumstances. The collaborative project ‘Sustainability Controlling for Urban Water Systems’ (NaCoSi) introduces an innovative approach, which addresses urban water service providers and decision-makers. Various sustainability risks can be identified and controlled to achieve a sustainable urban water management. The starting point is a system of sustainability objectives, which was developed in cooperation with practice partners from the urban water sector. These objectives serve for the operationalization of sustainability within urban water management. A methodological framework for multidimensional risk identification was developed to identify and analyse various sustainability risks. Complex networks of cause–effect relationships are taken apart into unbranched linear causal chains, which are managed as records in a risk database. This paper focuses on the developed methodological framework for sustainability risk identification. In order to understand and handle complex and dynamic cause–effect relationships in urban water systems, diverse sustainability risks were identified and systemized using a causal chain approach. Based on these causal chains, different tools for subsequent risk assessment, monitoring, trend analysis and scenario based simulation games were developed and successfully tested by 12 practice partners.


causal chain concept, risk assessment, risk identification, sustainability controlling, sustain- ability objectives, urban water management.


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