water heritage

Water Values: Connecting Past, Present & Future

Mission Statement

Raise awareness of the spatial, social and cultural importance of water in the past, present and future, and of the value of historic water management for sustainable and inclusive design and decision-making.  

Water is at the heart of many urgent societal issues. People have actively shaped its course, form, and function for rural and urban settlements for millenia. Access to clean drinking water and sanitation is a focus of the UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 and a key element of sustainable development. Waterways have connected towns, cities and landscapes for centuries. Diverse global water challenges including flooding and drought, sea-level rise, salinization, and changing rain water patterns challenge human life in cities around the world. Historic cities, their water management, spaces and practices provide a unique lens for advanced learning from the past. 

These sites require protection and can inspire innovative interventions. The study of historic water sites and practices can support planners, policy-makers and citizens in understanding and addressing contemporary water challenges and support sustainable and socially just development in all parts of the world. 

In practice, however, water professionals and heritage experts are divided both disciplinarily and institutionally. Leading actors in the fields of water, heritage and design are eager to support comprehensive and resilient development, but their language, practices and actions are often disconnected. 

With this initiative, we aim to create a platform for a broad coalition of stakeholders and disciplines working at multiple scales to identify, analyze, discuss and negotiate water values, and integrate them in design, decision-making and development processes.

With the support of the Dutch Ministry for Infrastructure and Water Management, we - the LDE Centre for PortCityFutures, the Chair History of Architecture and Urban Planning at TU Delft, the Chair History and Theory of Architecture and Urbanism at the University of Groningen, the Dutch chapter of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS NL) - have initiated this platform to build coalitions with the objective of advancing comprehensive historic water values into the SDGs, and into local practices, planning processes and policies. 

Project team
Henk van Schaik (ICOMOS-NL)
Carola Hein (TU Delft)
Tino Mager (University of Groningen, ICOMOS ISC Water and Heritage)
Hilde Sennema (Erasmus University Rotterdam)