Water Sensitive Communities

In CATCH, partners worked with the Water Sensitive Cities theory to evolve from an engineered system into an adaptive and resilient system. One of the main principles of this theory is to work on the development of Water Sensitive Communities. These communities reunite citizens to provide them with the knowledge and desire to make wise choices about water.

Community engagement is difficult to obtain, but essential when tackling climate resilience. To this end, the CATCH project went beyond traditional communication strategies and piloted community building through Water Sensitive Communities. The focus of these communities is on tracing (emerging) initiatives or triggering, positioning and connecting stakeholders to take initiatives, in this case, towards the climate adaptive city.

Good example stories

In order to enhance community engagement in CATCH pilot areas, project partners have developed and demonstrated the creation of Water Sensitive Communities adapted to their pilots:

  • Vejle (Denmark): From soccer field to Tommy Troelsens climate and activity park.
  • Zwolle (Netherlands): The Garden Battle: serious gaming to inspire water sensitive behaviour.
  • Norwich (England): Reducing surface flooding involving upstream communities to slow the flow with water butts and rain water planters.
  • Enschede (Netherlands): Pinkeltjesplein (square): transformed into a climate adaptive city brook and biodiverse playground.
  • Zwolle (Netherlands): Mobile climate escape room: Adapt or BTrapped, a mobile climate escape room inspiring water sensitive behaviour through serious gaming.
  • Zwolle (Netherlands): Community building strategy: activating society and professionals towards climate resilience.

Guidelines and blueprints of good practices for use in the NSR

To replicate the piloted community building interventions, the following guidelines and blueprints were produced by the CATCH partners.

Zwolle (Netherlands) guidelines on its community building strategy:

Vejle (Denmark) blueprint on Water management in urban development projects:

Indications of effectiveness

To evaluate the project approach on community building, research on the effectiveness of the pilots has been conducted.

The University of Groningen evaluated two of the Zwolle interventions: the Escape Room and the Garden Battle. Both of these interventions were based on the strategy of ‘gamification’, i.e they promoted engagement and behavioural change via games. The report can be found here: Evaluating behavioural change interventions for climate change adaptation in the field: implementation, barriers, and opportunities. To be noted: the number of respondents to this research was too limited to draw final conclusions. 

The University of Twente also conducted research on the effectiveness of the community engagement pilot by the municipality of Enschede. Based on an adapation behaviour theoretical framework, the researchers created a survey targeting residents’ experience of the project, as well as the extent to which this influenced their attitudes towards implementing climate adaptation measures on their own properties. The results and analysis of the survey are available in the Citizen Participation and Climate Behaviour in the Stadsbeek Project report.

Lessons learned

As a result from the experiences from CATCH with community engagement, a folder with recommendations and key takeaways on Water Sensitive Communities was developed by the project partners.