100RC Challenge Question and Answer Session


Cities and Water: Too Much, Too Little, But Not Too Late

Cities across the world are grappling with water — either too much or too little. The 2015 World Economic Forum Global Risks Report identified water crises — droughts, floods, sea level rise and pollution — as the top risk with the largest expected global impact over the coming decade.

And of the more than 1000 applications received for membership in the 100 Resilient Cities network to date, 60% identified flooding as one of the top shocks they face, while 20% identified water shortage as their top stress.

Located squarely at the nexus of the compounding challenges of climate change, aging infrastructure, flood mitigation and community engagement, water management requires new approaches and innovative solutions that achieve multiple benefits for multiple stakeholder groups — especially in an increasingly resource-constrained environment.



While virtual convenings like webinars, online forums, and Skype can foster invaluable connection and peer learning, technology cannot replace the impact of face-to-face interaction.

The 100 Resilient Cities – Network Exchange Program offers Chief Resilience Officers and members of their cities’ resilience teams the opportunity to share knowledge, source innovation, and discover new solutions to the pressing resilience challenges they face.

In October 2015, the Chief Resilience Officers (CROs) and resilience team members of Bangkok (Thailand), Berkeley (USA), Mexico City (Mexico), New Orleans (USA), Norfolk (USA), Rome (Italy), Rotterdam (Netherlands), Surat (India), and Vejle (Denmark) convened in Rotterdam to share lessons learned and innovative approaches to water management, identify opportunities for collaboration, and learn from the living laboratory that is Rotterdam.

The “Rotterdam Exchange: Water Management & Multi-Benefit Solutions Handbook” highlights the learnings from this three-day Exchange and features tactical solutions and tools from both participating 100RC member cities and 100RC Platform partners.

The collective hope of Exchange participants is that Chief Resilience Officers from around the world, their team members, and other resilience practitioners will look to these lessons and tactics when confronting water management challenges in their cities.



Download the Full Handbook

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Credit: Frans Berkelaar, Flickr

The report is organized in five main sections (click the name of a section to jump to it within this digital report):

  • Section 1: Introduction lays out the key goals and components of the Rotterdam Exchange.

Download this section as a pdf.


  • Section 2: Rotterdam as a Resilience Lab describes key innovations explored by CROs and their teams in the classroom that is Rotterdam – from floating structures designed to respond dynamically to rising sea levels to ‘sponge zones’ for absorbing excess storm water.

Download this section as a pdf.


  • Section 3: Deep Dive Sessions describes the format and goals of the brainstorming sessions where Exchange participants addressed specific challenges through multidisciplinary peer review.

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  • Section 4: Lessons Learned articulates eight key lessons learned around project ideation, design, and implementation. Each lesson is supported by a number of practical tactics discussed at the Exchange, case studies showing how these approaches have been employed in other cities, and 100RC Platform tools that can be used for implementing them.

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  • Section 5: Conclusions gives examples of concrete actions taken by participating CROs as a result of the Exchange, lists what kind of tools and services need to be created or scaled to sustain the resilient water agenda, and provides recommendations to other CROs wanting to host a 100RC Network Exchange.

Download this section as a pdf.


Download this section as a pdf.

During the Rotterdam Exchance Floating Pavilion, a number of CROs and local water experts presented innovations and integrated approaches to water management.

Download their presentations here:




Credit: Roel Dijkstra Fotografie; caption: Ambassador CROs visiting the Benthempleain Water Square

As a delta city situated primarily below sea level, Rotterdam has always been in the vanguard of innovation in water management, with a long history of designing solutions that not only aim to reduce flooding in the city, but also connect water to economic opportunity, recreation, and beautification.

During the first day of the Network Exchange, CROs used Rotterdam as a living laboratory to experience how the Dutch live with water making it an integral part of their landscape, and to learn about key innovations in this space.




The Floating Pavilion at night.
Credit: Romar LED

To respond dynamically to the challenges of climate change and sea level rise, Rotterdam is planning to build floating sustainable districts. The solar-powered Floating Pavilion in the Rijnhaven is the first test of this concept. This structure consists of three connected hemispheres and serves as an exhibit space for the city’s climate change plans. An initiative of Rotterdam Climate Proof, the ‘bubbles’ were commissioned to a collaborative and local design team from Deltasync and PublicDomain Architects.




Ambassador CROs visiting
the Benthemplein Square.
Credit: Roel Dijkstra Fotografie

The Benthemplein Square is the world’s first large scale water square, designed by Rotterdam-based landscape architects De Urbanisten and completed in December 2013. When the weather is dry, the square offers a variety of places lingering, sports and events. During heavy rainfall, three basins retain storm water from the square and the surrounding rooftops, adding redundancy to the overall system. During the design phase, De Urbanisten and the Municipality consulted extensively with local residents, students, and other tenants, making it a truly inclusive process.”.




Ambassador CROs and resilience team
members visiting the Dakakkers Urban
Agricultural Rooftop. Credit: Roel
Dijkstra Fotografie

Dakakkers is Europe’s first large-scale urban agricultural rooftop. In 2012, Binder Groenprojecten and Zones Urbaines Sensibles reclaimed an old building in the center of the city and built the urban farm as a test site. Its green rooftops not only supply the city with sustainable vegetables and honey, but also aid in the collection and retention of excess rain water. More vegetation in the city also means lower carbon emissions, increased oxygen production and lower urban heat due to cooler roof temperatures.




Poster of the Museumpark carpark

Rotterdam’s Museum Park Garage not only accommodates 1,150 cars, but also houses one of the largest underground water reservoirs in the Netherlands. As soon as the sewer system threatens to overflow, the hatch of the underground water reservoir opens. Within 30 minutes, the reservoir fills up with 10 million liters of water. When the downpour is over, the rainwater is pumped into the sewer and discharged in the usual manner. Because of its success, this concept has been applied to other garages in the city.




The Dakpark. Credit: Arnoud Molenaar

To simultaneously offer a green space for residents and create growth opportunities for local businesses, the Municipality of Rotterdam created the Dakpark, Rotterdam’s largest ‘green’ roof. Located on a shopping boulevard, the Dakpark has a Mediterranean herbal garden, a playground, and a communal garden maintained by local residents. At the park it is also possible to attend yoga classes and other workshops.


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The innovations explored by visiting CROs during the Rotterdam Exchange are part of an integrated strategy for the entire city launched in 2013 by the Rotterdam Climate Initiative. Rotterdam’s Climate Change Adaptation Strategy aims to make Rotterdam’s residents fully resilient to climate change impacts by 2025 and to maintain Rotterdam’s status as one of the safest port cities in the world. In December 2015, the Plan, which is making full progress toward its near-term projects and broader goals, won the C40 Cities Award for Adaptation Planning & Assessment.

At the national level, government agencies, provinces, municipalities and water boards collaborate to implement innovative flood protection and water supply measures within the framework of the Delta Program.


Peter van Veelen from the Rotterdam Climate Initiative describes Rotterdam’s multi-benefit solutions to flood management



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Resilience Team members from Surat and New Orleans discussing their challenges with water experts and 100RC Platform Partners; Credit: Roel Dijkstra Fotografie

On day two of the Exchange, experts from the Rotterdam Centre for Resilient Delta Cities(RDC) hosted a facilitated discussion to help CROs creatively address specific challenges they brought for peer review.

Download the Full List of Participants


Each breakout group was intentionally diverse to provide multiple points of view and a cross-disciplinary perspective. The role of participating subject matter experts was to leverage their collective expertise and experience to help CROs refine their problem statements, clarify diagnostic questions, and brainstorm new ideas, approaches, and solutions.

These brainstorming conversations laid the foundation for putting forward non-traditional ideas and collaboratively designing solutions that were innovative and at the same time realistic for each city.

In some cases, the process revealed different challenges than initially identified or anticipated by CROs, who ultimately experienced a mind-shift on possible strategies and road maps to solutions.

Learn about individual city challenges from the reports cities brought to the exchange.


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CRO ambassadors participate to a debrief session during Day 3 of the Rotterdam Exchange; credit: Roel Dijkstra Fotografie

On day three, CROs met to debrief on key lessons learned and specific action points to take back to their cities. They also agreed on 8 key general takeaways to share with the rest of the 100RC Network.

For each lesson, CROs shared a number of tactics, tools and examples for applying it in other cities facing similar challenges.

1. Define Your Problem

Before jumping to solutions, it’s important to understand and articulate the water-related challenge you want to address.

Framing the problem is the toughest part of any ideation process. Often risks are framed too narrowly, and cities end up addressing only the symptoms of the problem without treating its underlying causes. On the other hand, questions that are framed too broadly can facilitate dialogue but risk not being actionable. For example, the question “How can my city’s water system become more resilient?” is too general, while “How do I strengthen my city’s seawalls?” is too narrow and may prevent the exploration of alternative solutions, such as replacing deteriorating seawalls with dunes or mangroves.

Simple, well-framed problem statements can help maximize the scope of possible solutions. This in turn can unlock funding streams that might not have been available beforehand, as well as solicit broader support among stakeholders.


“Working with private partners and other peers during the workshop was invaluable! Their expertise was incredibly helpful in reframing our discussions toward practical solution development.”

Jeff Hebert, CRO of New Orleans, United States of America


Tactics for applying this lesson in your city: 

A) Participate in multisector peer reviews.

Ideation workshops involving an interdisciplinary mix of experts and stakeholders can help frame (or in many cases reframe) questions from different angles and reveal new connections or otherwise unrecognized risks and opportunities.

The Resilience Garage. Roland Coopers Consult


The Resilience Garage

The Resilience Garage harnesses the collective wisdom of experts across a variety of fields and applies it to intractable problems faced by organizations in both the private and public sectors. The first day of the workshop is preparation and includes Nexus!, a resilience board game and a masterclass on resilience practice. The second day is the Garage itself, which is best held in an inspiring space, such as an industrial loft or indeed a garage. Two unique complex challenges are tackled simultaneously, a civic case from a 100RC member city and a corporate case from an organization sponsoring the event. The outcomes from the Garages have proven invaluable to problem definition, identifying linkages across disciplines, identifying unseen hurdles, and providing direction that leads to pragmatic approaches and solutions.

The first Resilience Garage was held in 2014 at a historic shipyard in Amsterdam, and was sponsored by Shell in the context of the “Resilience Action Initiative” involving a number of high-profile companies. In this Garage, resilience “mechanics” from the private industry, government, nonprofits and academia, addressed the dilemma that Christine Morris, CRO of Norfolk, Virginia, posed to them: “in the face of sea level rise that causes persistent flooding, how can you motivate people to invest collectively in strategies that result in better water management practices?”

Read Christine Morris’ blog here.

B) Use water modelling tools.

Innovative modelling of water systems can help provide data-based evidence to help validate initial hypotheses, explore root causes, and identify priority areas.


In contexts where local risk data is unavailable or of poor quality, the Deltares — Delft3D Coastal and River Systems Modeling Suite is a useful tool for producing risk profiles that, especially when integrated with additional city data, can help identify and better understand water-related challenges. Interactive animations also allow for better communicating identified risks and scenarios to relevant stakeholders.




2. Explore Integrated Solutions

When moving to solution design, try to rethink the conventional and explore comprehensive approaches that address multiple challenges simultaneously.

Whether your city is grappling with too much water, or trying to cope with too little, there is a great opportunity to shift to more integrated and cost effective solutions that can not only meet multiple current needs, but are also poised to better address unknown future challenges.

From the Rotterdam Network Exchange it emerged that it may not be obvious, or easy, to find the right solutions for your unique context. But, through multidisciplinary brainstorming with experts and cities that have walked the same path, you can maximize your exposure to innovative ideas and approaches in this space.

Screenshot of the Climate Adaptation app, available at www.climateapp.org.


The Climate Adaption App gives urban planners, engineers and other practitioners looking for climate adaptation measures a comprehensive snapshot of current innovations targeting coastal, fluvial and pluvial flooding, groundwater, droughts and heath waves. Users can filter solutions by climate adaption target and local conditions, such as soil type, land use, landscape conditions, and other user preferences. The App then ranks 120 different measures based on their total score and selected criteria. For each solution, the user can not only access more details about its primary function, but also learn about possible co-benefits.


“Engineering solutions are not sufficient. We have to live and work with nature, not against it. Planning processes have to be integrated.”

Kamlesh Yagnik, CRO of Surat, India



‘Green infrastructure’ investments are one approach that often yields multiple benefits and builds city resilience. The Urban Water Blueprint is a new water mapping tool developed for cities by 100RC Platform Partner The Nature Conservancy. It analyzes the state of water in more than 2,000 watersheds and 530 cities worldwide to provide science based recommendations for natural solutions that can be integrated alongside traditional infrastructure to improve water quality. Applied strategically to reduce nutrient flows and sedimentation in water sources, these methods could save hundreds of millions of dollars in operations costs for city water supply systems.



“The Exchange reinforced the need to take a systems approach to water management in complex watersheds. For example, by combining hard infrastructure with sponging green spaces.”

Christine Morris, CRO of Norfolk, United States of America




3. Incorporate Innovative Finance

Leverage innovative financial instruments and strategies to stimulate greater private and public investments in water-resilient solutions.

Despite the growing interest in water efficiency projects, green infrastructure, coastal protection measures, and other initiatives, most investments are still directed towards traditional infrastructure. This is partly because the costs and benefits of integrated water solutions are not always easy to capture across systems.

To meet the increasing demand for resilient solutions in the water management space, consider approaches that realign incentives and monetize resilience dividends to send clearer messages to the market. As you move forward with the implementation of innovative projects and ideas, value-capturing and creative finance will be key to scale and overall implementation.

“Financing is always a challenge. Cities are falling behind on infrastructure maintenance, let alone capital improvements. We need scalable solutions that help us to start making a dent in deferred maintenance and capital improvement needs.”

Timothy Burroughs, CRO of Berkeley, United States of America


Tactics for applying this lesson in your city: 

A) Leverage value capture financing mechanisms.

Consider bond models to retrofit commercial and residential properties or create tax incentives for residents investing in water adaptive measures.

Home elevations and water permeable cement, seen here by CROs who visited New Orleans for the 2014 Summit, are examples of ways homeowners can invest in risk reduction. Credit: 100RC


Cities rarely have financial plans in place to protect critical assets against shocks before they occur, and in the aftermath of such events, cities must determine what is damaged, how it will be fixed, who can fix it and how to fund these repairs, which can take months or years.

Under a partnership agreement brokered by 100RC, Platform Partners Swiss Re and Veolia will work with cities to understand the risk exposure of critical assets under current and future climate scenarios. Based on these assessments, cities can implement resilience plans to lessen the risk of these assets being affected, and simultaneously reduce their risk exposure over time. By planning ahead for major shocks and stresses, cities not only strengthen the resistance of their vital infrastructure; they can also limit economic interruption; and begin to quickly repair damage without waiting for prolonged government reimbursements, complicated insurance assessments, payouts, and solicitations for repair proposals.

The initiative will first launch with a pilot in New Orleans. The pilot will focus on some of the city’s infrastructure, including critical water and wastewater systems.


B) Incorporate financing considerations and strategies into solution design.

The focus on finding innovative finance solutions as part of the design process can help you reduce internal concerns about resources and funding demands.



The MWH Global is an engineering, consulting and construction firm focused on water and natural resources. MWH Global provides 100RC cities with individualized assistance to assess and prioritize water and wastewater infrastructure-related challenges and enhance flood management systems. As a preliminary step to developing solutions that are tailored to meet cities’ unique needs, MWH consultants play a key role in helping CROs refine their problem statements and incorporate financing considerations and funding strategies into solution design early on in the process to avoid developing ideas that cannot be funded.



4. Promote Equitable Outcomes

Prioritize approaches that promote equitable outcomes lessening the burden on poor and vulnerable populations.

The localized impacts of climate change, ranging from extreme heat to rising sea levels, tend to disproportionately affect the poor and the vulnerable, such as the elderly, renters, low-income residents, people with pre-existing medical conditions, and those without health or home insurance. At the same time, underserved communities, where green infrastructure can both capture storm water and reduce asthma and heat-related illnesses and costs, offer the greatest opportunity for achieving multiple benefits.

Innovative Financing. Credit: New Orleans Resilience Strategy p. 41

Besides actively striving for solutions that benefit the poor and the vulnerable, it’s important to evaluate project ideas and possible trade-offs against this lens. For example, if you’re developing a storm water fee on residential properties in flood prone areas, you should also consider balancing any possible burden on poor populations living in these areas through subsidies and other “solidarity measures”.

“A major reminder that will serve to guide implementation moving forward is a focus on vulnerable populations. In New Orleans, like in many cities around the world, those facing the greatest flood risks are also the most socially and economically vulnerable. As the City considers new regulations and strategies to encourage private property adaptation to living with water, those most affected would be the most vulnerable, so it is imperative that their tax burden is mitigated through solidarity financial measures.”

Jeff Hebert, CRO of New Orleans, United States of America






5. Share Ownership

integrated water management design and implementation require the engagement of multiple stakeholders. Make sure to partner with them from the outset of your journey!

Internal and external champions with the power to act can turn an abstract idea into an implementable solution. Similarly, departmental heads with competing agendas or community members uncertain of the consequences of your project on their day-to-day life can become critical detractors able to turn the best plan into a theoretical exercise collecting dust on a shelf.

To make your vision a reality, identify stakeholders within and outside city government that can support your cause and engage other champions throughout the process.

Tactics for applying this lesson in your city: 

A) Connect agendas and opportunities across multiple disciplines and sectors.

Generating actions that cut across sectors and address multiple priorities can help different city departments see beyond their portfolios and support projects with clear gains for their agency or business within a larger set of benefits.

“Involve local industries, developers and other stakeholders in urban water planning processes, including potential detractors who might even become champions.”

Kamlesh Yagnik, CRO of Surat, India


Tactics to reduce internal competition for resources within municipalities include:

  • Celebrating other departments’ work at speaking events or meetings where you’re presenting your initiative.
  • Collaborating on grant applications or other joint efforts.
  • Inviting possible detractors to participate in steering committees, boards, or other governance bodies.
  • “Connecting the dots” between different agendas and programs (e.g. Smart Cities, Sustainability or Circularity agendas).

Integrated Water Governance – The Surat Climate Change Trust

As the most flood-prone city in the Indian state of Gujarat, Surat joined the Rockefeller Foundation’s Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN) in 2008 to learn best practices from cities facing similar challenges in the region.

Based on the lessons learned from ACCCRN, in 2012 the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) established the Surat Climate Change Trust, a multi-stakeholder body including representatives from the SMC, the Chamber of Commerce, the State Government, the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority, elected representatives, the Citizens’ Council, Technology and Medical Colleges, the Center for Social Studies, and more. The Surat Climate Change Trust is directly supported by the SMC both in terms of infrastructure and funding.

Through this integrated governance body, the  city of Surat was able to improve coordination across silos, foster wide-spread buy-in among diverse stakeholders, and sustain the implementation of innovative climate- and water-related projects. “Everyone decided to work together in this area,” said Kamlesh Yagnik, CRO of Surat. A major result was the inclusion of a budget line specifically for climate change in the Surat Municipality budget that signaled cross-departmental commitment and support for resilience-building actions.

As Surat’s CRO Office is situated in the same premise of the Trust, both offices will collaborate closely in the implementation of Surat’s resilience-related efforts, including the city’s first-ever Resilience Strategy.

B) Collaborate with local partners to build community awareness and ownership.

To engage local champions, you need to communicate concepts of resilience and water-related risks in a language that is understood and valued by community members.

Strategies to better connect with the community include:

  • Using design competitions or other creative methods to crowdsource ideas from the community.
  • Testing project ideas with surveys capturing people’s desires and concerns.
  • Creating ownership at the neighborhood level by leveraging existing local skills and experience for day-to-day management.
  • Partnering with “community ambassadors” to communicate the benefits of pilots you want to scale to other city neighborhoods.


“Find and use leadership in neighborhoods to connect, to identify skills, to create awareness and ownership. Link interventions with skills and jobs we need. For example, leverage local entrepreneurship skills to manage the maintenance of raingardens, rather than outsourcing.”

Arnoud Molenaar, CRO of Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Participatory workshops for the design of Rotterdam’s Water Square. Credit: De Urbanisten


A Participatory Approach to Design – The Benthemplein Water Square

The first attempt to develop a water plaza in Rotterdam — similar to the Benthemplein Square visited by CRO ambassadors during the Exchange —was not successful, as local communities actively resisted the implementation of the project in the area originally selected.

Based on this experience, Dutch architecture firm De Urbanisten decided to involve the community for the design of the Benthemplein Square right from the start to ensure buy-in early on in the process. This participatory approach involved three consecutive workshops with teachers, students, theater and gym representatives, church members, and local residents. Together they defined various functions of the square and devised the concept by using playing cards and other interactive methods.

“This image-based design process created ownership and helped to incorporate concrete ideas brought up by the community. Today, the Bethemplein water square is the symbol of the Rotterdam Approach ‘Urban Climate Resilience by Design’.” Arnoud Molenaar, Chief Resilience Officer of Rotterdam, the Netherlands.





6. Educate and Train

To sustain implementation of innovative approaches across time, help your city create a culture of awareness and competence among practitioners, citizens, and leaders of tomorrow.

The fact that resilient water management solutions exist doesn’t necessarily mean that those people who implement, manage, and benefit from these new approaches are aware of them or necessarily convinced of their applicability to unique city contexts. For example, often the very engineers that control the design and implementation of urban water infrastructure may be skeptical of new, more integrated solutions, in no small part because complex cross-sector projects have less clear lines of ownership and may challenge existing views or methods learned through years of training and experience.

By spurring, inspiring, and encouraging concepts of water resilience at all stages of life (from in-classroom education to professional trainings), you will develop a critical mass of people who are empowered to take active roles in implementing resilience initiatives instead of resisting them.

“I’d like to manage storm water in Berkeley in a way that educates our community members about local ecosystems and how storm water affects them.”

Timothy Burroughs, CRO of Berkeley, United States of America


Tactics for applying this lesson in your city: 

A) Use your city as a laboratory to teach students about water-related risks and opportunities.

Long-lasting, generational change starts at a young age when children are exposed to the value and potential of water. To help new generations better understand their changing environment and lead efforts in this space, partner with educators to incorporate themes of water literacy into traditional curricula and leverage sites outside schools as spaces for water education and experience — from interactive museums to water parks.

Dutch school kids participating to the Battle of the Beach near Noordwijk, Netherlands. Credit: Dutch Water Sector


For the Dutch, learning how to coexist with water and adapting to their changing environment start at a young age. The beautiful canals that flow through Rotterdam constantly remind residents of the value and power of water. Children’s books illustrate lessons about canals, and students compete in public sand castle building competitions tutored by expert engineers to see whose structures can resist to the pressure of waves for the longest time.

Some schools incorporate rainwater basins that collect and store water, and at the same time constitute a natural area of the school, allowing for a number of outdoor educational activities. Environmental awareness and education is well-taught and ongoing — as important to Rotterdam’s water-resilience as dikes or water squares.

B) Develop exchange programs and other trainings to improve practitioners’ expertise in resilient water management approaches.

Bring in engineers, architects, urban planners and other practitioners at the outset of project ideation and implementation, and build their awareness and expertise in water resilience thinking and practice. This way, they will be better positioned to not only co-own any new visions for your city’s resilient water management future, but also take action upon it. In this space, exchange programs that involve a range of practitioners — from policy-makers to engineers to politicians — are an efficient way to inspire new thinking and best practice sharing.

“There is a need to change experts’ culture from focused on large infrastructural projects to a more integrated thinking — for example by encouraging exchanges among experts from different parts of the world.”

Arnoldo Matus Kramer, CRO of Mexico City, Mexico


The Dutch Dialogues workshops in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Credit: Christine Morris


The “Dutch Dialogues” are practitioner-focused exchanges where Dutch engineers, urban designers, landscape architects, urban planners, academics and government officials workshop with host city counterparts to explore creative solutions and holistic concepts to water management. These multidisciplinary workshops embrace an integrated approach to water management acquired by the Dutch over centuries of living in proximity with water and recognizing water as a central asset with growing value.

The Dutch Dialogues were initiated by Dale Morris from the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Washington DC and David Waggoner, a local New Orleans architect. In New Orleans, the Dutch Dialogues led to the development of the award-winning Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan, and in New York this approach informed the Rebuild by Design Competition. Drawing from ideas explored during the 2015 Virginia Dutch Dialogues, the City of Norfolk played a leadership role in developing a recent proposal submitted by the Commonwealth of Virginia to the Department of Housing and Urban Development for funds to build resilience to community threats, including flooding.




7. Articulate your Vision

Create a compelling vision to give a bigger picture of what a water-resilient city can look like.

Having a strong vision will help you motivate action, attract champions, and ensure continuity and consistency in the process to create wins along the way.

“It’s not enough and it’s not inspiring to community members to only talk about deferred maintenance and budget short falls. City leaders need to articulate a vision for what’s possible and how improved storm water management can create multiple benefits for the community.”

Timothy Burroughs, CRO of Berkeley, California


Tactics for applying this lesson in your city: 

A) Frame your city’s water-related challenges in asset-based rather than deficit-based terms.

Whether the problem is that there’s too much water — in the face of sea level rise or recurrent flooding — or too little water, your vision should emphasize the unique, abundant opportunities that a resilient approach to water management can bring to your city for economic, societal and cultural gain.

“Witnessing Rotterdam’s relationship with water really impacted us. They don’t see water as a problem. They are convinced that water itself is the source of their city’s value, and as such, they handle water as a positive resource.”

Jonas Kroustrup, CRO of Vejle, Denmark


B) Be both pragmatic and aspirational.

The best way to lead people into the future is to connect them to present opportunities. But innovation and adaptation are long-term activities, and maintaining a three-month horizon inhibits the creativity and investment needed to build a resilient water management system. Long-term scenarios can help you clarify and articulate ultimate objectives while giving purpose to shorter-term actions, such as small, site-specific green infrastructure projects.

“Design short, medium and long term solutions, without becoming dependent on immediate needs and short-term objectives.”

Kamlesh Yagnik, CRO of Surat, India






8. Tell a Great Story to Your Stakeholders

Use creative approaches to tell an effective story about the benefits of resilient water management solutions.

Unlike some traditional infrastructure projects, such as seawalls, which have clearly visible functions and benefits, the multifaceted advantages of resilient projects are not always visible or immediate. For example, the efficacy of coastal green infrastructure alternatives (as well as their added ecological, economic and social benefits) might be less self-evident, especially in the short-term.

Creative and evidence-based storytelling will help you celebrate successes and convey long-term objectives to decision makers, local communities and implementers, ultimately creating a virtuous cycle for developing and investing in resilient water solutions in your city.

Tactics for applying this lesson in your city: 

A) Capture the value of existing or future resilient water management solutions.

Whether you’re monitoring existing projects or creating future scenarios, use data to quantify the added value of resilient water management approaches (e.g. the added value to real estate created by greening the neighborhood for sponge function). At the same time, try to quantify indirectly-created benefits, such as savings from water efficiencies and avoided losses from storm or flood damages. And when possible, use proxies to determine the added value of non-financial outcomes, such as the social, health or ecological returns to green infrastructure solutions for coastal protection.

Screenshot of Sandia National Laboratories webpage on 100RC and water. Credit: Sandia National Laboratories


The City of Norfolk, Virginia, partnered with Sandia National Laboratories, a 100RC platform partner, to assess the potential economic impact of a storm on Norfolk’s key assets and the resultant economic impact on the city and the nation as a whole. The analysis will help understand the interdependencies between critical infrastructures that lead to increased sea level rise/flood risk and economic assets, and make a case for regional and national partnerships for more investment in resilient protective measures.


“We need tools that help us quantify the value of resilient water management approaches to support our visions and narratives for the future of our cities.”

Arnoldo Matus Kramer, CRO of Mexico City, Mexico


B) Use advanced technologies to tell stories about risks and opportunities.

Modeling, simulation and visualization technologies can enhance understanding of your city’s water-related challenges and identify the best solutions to address them, but also support your storytelling efforts — whether you want to convey a story about the imminence and urgency of a problem, or a story about a better, water-resilient future.

For example, interactive simulations allowing citizens to view scientific data and explore climate change projections at any scale in their own neighborhood, can help them understand these often abstract phenomena at a local scale. The visualization of alternative long-term scenarios can connect different stakeholders to mutual problems, enhancing awareness and collaborative problem-solving at all scales of society and government.

“We need to shift the narrative from risks to opportunities and involve people in “playing with water” through modelling, simulations and other tools.”

Alessandro Coppola, CRO of Rome, Italy


Screenshot of The Nature Conservancy’s Climate Wizard Tool. Credit: The Nature Conservancy


The Nature Conservancy’s Climate Wizard Tool represents the first time ever the full range of climate history and impacts for a landscape have been brought together in a user-friendly format. This web-based program allows the user to choose a state or country and both assess how climate has changed over time and to project what future changes are predicted to occur in a given area.

C) Use pilots and demonstrations.

Smaller-scale projects can not only help you test cutting-edge water technologies at a relatively lower risk, but also allow you to collect useful data on performance to foster future investments and scaling. Complementing these efforts with demonstration sites and museum-like exhibits can help you engage residents and cultivate a well-informed, supportive public for the implementation of your broader vision. Because smaller-scale projects are not an end in itself but a means to scale solutions and achieve broader goals, it’s important to integrate them with larger plans and ongoing efforts — always keeping the bigger picture in mind.


The New Orleans Redevelopment Authority and Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans are building a series of green infrastructure demonstration projects to show the public how underutilized spaces can be developed to detain storm water and designed to make neighborhoods more attractive. These projects are part of the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan, a new approach that focuses on ways to detain and store water within city limits to show subsidence and alleviate some of the stress on New Orleans drainage network.

“In some circumstances, it is more practical to start with small-scale projects to prove the success of the solution before moving to big scale.”

Dr. Tantikom Supachai, CRO of Bangkok, Thailand


D) Monitor and communicate progress on a regular basis to keep your story alive.

To keep your vision in the mind and heart of your community requires constant communication. Use data collection, monitoring, and evaluation to track progress along the way and communicate it in a way that is user-friendly and well understood by the community. Whether you share this data through regular news releases or more creative channels, such as websites, social media and Apps, the key is to ensure that a reliable and digestible stream of information on your progress is communicated to the public.

At the same time, you should keep the lines of dialogue open and encourage ongoing input and comments from the public. This will allow you to maximize opportunities for iterative feedback and refinement within the process, as well as increase overall transparency and engagement.

Screenshot of the Delta City Rotterdam App,  available for download here.


Rotterdam launched the Delta City Rotterdam App, providing its community members and visitors with an innovative tool to explore the city and learn about the actions it has taken to protect itself against flooding — a key climate adaptation risk. “Hotspots” on the App allow users to discover the broad network of solutions the city has implemented, such as multifunctional dykes, smart spatial design, water plazas and the Maeslant Barrier. At each point, the App offers insight on how and why these measures work and how they are part of an integrated strategy for the entire city.

“To keep your plan alive, you should publicize progress and successes along the way. For example, in Berkeley we collect monitoring data on the performance of the City’s Climate Action Plan, we develop stories and infographics, and we share them to keep the people aware and involved.”

Timothy Burroughs, CRO of Berkeley, United States of America


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CROs participating to a Deep Dive Session. Credit: Roel Dijkstra Fotografie

This first-ever 100RC Network Exchange offered a critical learning and network-building moment for participating CROs and resilience practitioners. By engaging in an intensive learning experience around a common resilience challenge, participants had the opportunity to go deep and share the type of knowledge, insights and lessons that they can bring back to their resilience-building work in their own cities.

The Exchange also paved the way for future inter-city cooperation around resilient water management. Member cities Norfolk, New Orleans and Rotterdam are already collaborating around ideas for enhancing port resilience, while Mexico City and Rotterdam are dialoging on the implementation of water plazas in the Mexican capital. And as more participating cities advance through their resilience strategy process and into implementation, they will continue to translate the lessons learned through the Exchange into real action in their cities, whether that’s through Vejle’s reconceptualization of a sluice project with a water-resilient lens or other programs, policies and projects.

As important as these lessons for participants are, it is the collective insights and practices shared through this handbook that will ensure that the impact of these three days reverberates throughout the 100RC Network and beyond.

CROs visiting Rotterdam’s Water Square. Roel Dijkstra Fotografie

In addition to the tactical solutions and tools from both participating 100RC member cities and 100RC Platform partners put forward in this report, the Rotterdam Network Exchange offers valuable insights for the broader 100RC Network and offers a road map for those considering future Exchange proposals to 100 Resilient Cities:

  • Value of multi-sectoral participation: Among the key insights gleaned was the importance of collaborating not only with fellow CROs and city officials from participating member cities, but with members of private, non-profit and academic sectors. The breadth of perspectives brought by this diverse group of participants led to a rich exchange of valuable information.


  • Depth of city participation: The Exchange also offered host city of Rotterdam the chance to galvanize their important resilience stakeholders from the public sector in support of the convening, giving the CRO and his team the opportunity to elevate the resilience work and the power of the 100RC Network and at the same time provide ambassador CROs and officials with the chance to talk in depth with project managers and leaders of a variety of initiatives and perspectives.


  • Balance of sharing both successes and struggles: Exchange participants expressed the importance of learning not only from successes of their respective cities, but also the real challenges they have experienced. Learning from what has not worked in the past or what is not working presently can be as valuable as what might be considered a best practice.


  • Diversity of member city participation: While the participation of nine member cities certainly made coordination more challenging, the diversity of cities engaged in the Exchange enriched the experience and brought a range of perspectives that opened new lines of inquiry among participants. Future Network Exchange proposals should consider diverse composition of participants — from a geographic, city-size and other perspectives.


  • Creation of space for ‘mind-shift’ moments: Across all participating CROs and resilience practitioners, a constant refrain following their participation in the Exchange was the mind shift or change in perspective that came as a result of the three-day immersive experience. The Exchange made all member city participants re-evaluate their approaches to long-standing challenges in their cities and brought a greater appreciation for the power of peer collaboration in getting to solutions.


What kind of tools and services need to be created or scaled to sustain the resilient water agenda? CRO Ambassadors address the collective of practitioners interested in building resilience globally – from fellow CROs and member cities facing water-related challenges, to international organizations, private sector providers, and other external stakeholders innovating in this space.

The power of the Rotterdam Network Exchange and future proposed Exchanges lies in the potential for lessons learned, insights gained and solutions shared through these intensive learning moments to be taken up and applied to the long-term resilience-building efforts of both participating member cities and all member cities of the 100RC Network. The dialogue initiated in Rotterdam will enrichen the Network-wide conversation on resilient water management and multi-benefit solutions and help shape the future of the 100RC Network water agenda.


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