Many cities face strong population growth and need to cope with the emergent effects of climate change. This often leads to increasing water stress. In response, municipal policymakers often focus on adding new sources to increase the water supply. However, managing water demand has shown to be a cheaper and more sustainable approach to deal with water scarcity.
This research project has identified cities in Denmark, Estonia, Germany, and Spain that have significantly lowered their water consumption over the last 20 years. Assessments from local water utilities, policymakers and experts are compared to identify what policy tools have proven effective in reducing water demand: water pricing and tariff reform; individual water meters; reducing water losses; regulations at different levels; awareness campaigns; or other factors. The study explores the challenges in measuring urban water demand, and offers lessons learned for good urban water governance in different city contexts.