Bridging the floods - The role of social learning for resilience building in urban water services

Abstract: The development of cities is increasingly threatened by a worldwide water crisis. Urban water services (including drinking water, sanitation and drainage) are facing complex and multiple pressures, which are becoming increasingly frequent and severe. These pressures include floods, and the depletion, pollution and degradation of water resources and their associated ecosystems. These diverse pressures fall mainly within the domains of flood risk and water resources management: two working fields that are divided by different institutional structures, approaches and practices. Social learning is becoming increasingly popular as an approach that has the potential to “bridge” these silos, and ultimately, contribute to building resilience in urban water services. However, empirical analyses on this issue are rare and fragmented. Against this background, this thesis investigates the role of social learning for resilience building in urban water services. It is based on single and multiple case studies from the urban areas of Cali (Colombia), Cebu (The Philippines), Durban (South Africa), Gorakhpur (India) and Kristianstad (Sweden). The results identify challenges to the integration of the identified silos, what resilience means for urban water services, and the key elements of social learning that can support or inhibit urban water resilience. The results provide important input for new theory, policy and practice related to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and national policies on sustainable water management, risk reduction and climate change adaptation.