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A global perspective on the local challenges of water in Bath, by Professor Kees van Leeuwen

Professor Kees van Leeuwen delivered his WIRC@Bath Global Chair and David Parkin lecture at the University of Bath on 5 February 2019.


Globally, more than half of the world’s population resides in urban areas, and this figure is projected to increase to 66% by 2050. Cities are important engines of innovation and wealth creation, as well as a sources for improved efficiencies for the use of materials and energy. On the other hand, primarily due to the concentration of people in a relatively small area, cities also act as centers of intense resource consumption and pollution.

Urbanization takes place at an unprecedented rate of almost 200,000 people per day and therefore, most of our global challenges, i.e. the Sustainable Development Goals can best be addressed at the level, where these problems will concentrate: in cities. Rapid urbanization along with effects of climate change, creates multiple challenges regarding water quality, water scarcity, and flooding resulting in high vulnerability and, sometimes, unforeseen consequences.

Research has shown how important it is to involve the civil society and private parties to create success. Governance is the main challenge. A sustainable city thus requires appropriate and efficient management and control of a large variety of issues, notably the availability of sufficient clean freshwater and the protection against flooding as a prerequisite for health, economic development and social well-being of their inhabitants.

Our research has been carried out in the context of EIP Water. Globally more than 70 cities have been assessed, including Bath. The presentation will focus on the general challenges in cities, water management and governance, the importance of developing co-benefits with other sectorial challenges in cities. Results of Bath will be presented too. Challenges can be met by developing and implementing further initiatives: (a) by creating awareness among potential partners (cities and regions), (b) by networking, and (c) by sharing best practices among cities to allow municipalities and regions to provide solutions to their urban water challenges.

Kees van Leeuwen is Principal Scientist at KWR Watercycle Research Institute and holds a Chair at the Copernicus Institute (University of Utrecht, the Netherlands) on water management and urban development. He currently coordinates the City Blueprint Action Group of EIP Water.

He is also Emeritus Professor in Risk Assessment of Chemicals and former Director of the Institute of Health and Consumer Protection at the European Commission (JRC Italy). Between 1980 and 2001 he worked at three different Dutch Ministries on water, health and the environment. His fields of expertise are ecology, toxicology, risk assessment, chemicals, pesticides, animal alternatives (intelligent testing strategies) and urban water management.

Professor Kees van Leeuwen is a University of Bath Global Chair and his appointment has been funded by the International Relations Office’s Global Chair scheme, a flagship programme designed to attract distinguished, globally renowned scholars to engage in high-profile research activities at Bath.

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