(C) Joakim Honkasalo / Unsplash
Urban Nexus

Special Issue // Systems Thinking and Urban Water Cycle Management

Equitable social, economic and environmental management of water resources and ecosystem services is central to planning for a world challenged by population growth and an increasingly variable climate. The evolution of urban areas to accommodate growing populations and in response to economic development results in profound changes to the natural water cycle and creates a modified urban water cycle. Among these, the Urban Nexus can be one answer to sustainable, future-proof water management.

These changes to water cycle behaviour are driven from the local scale where water is demanded, sewerage is generated and impervious surfaces increase the rate and volume of stormwater runoff. The increasing area and density of cities drives higher costs for water cycle services, and increasing cumulative risk of water shortages, flooding and degradation of waterways. Although the impacts of local changes are experienced at multiple scales and accumulate across linked systems, approaches to governance, management and solutions for water cycle management are often applied as separate centralised processes.

The development of a robust understanding of the nonlinear interactions of all water streams with our urban settings and ecosystems is vital to realising our visions and plans to build sustainable and resilient cities into the future. These human and linked earth systems generate trade-offs in response to proposed interventions that may only be revealed using systems thinking and models of system dynamics. Systems thinkers such as Forrester and Meadows demonstrated that small changes in a system’s components, such as human behaviour, urban form, climate or government policy, can generate unforeseen and substantial changes across an entire system. Solutions derived from a simple deterministic analysis that only consider part of a system or that employ global average assumptions can lead to unexpected and adverse outcomes across society. Conversely, innovative and small scale policy or structural interventions can create substantial beneficial outcomes that are not apparent using linear average engineering and economic analysis. This Special Issue seeks to foster discussions about systems thinking and urban water cycle management.

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Water is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1500 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • Systems thinking
  • Urban water cycle managment
  • Water security
  • Stormwater management
  • Dynamic economics
  • Ecosystem services
  • Infrastructure
  • Government policy
  • Pollution control
  • Climate change
  • Urban footprint
  • Water-sensitive urban design
  • Sustainable urban drainage
  • Low impact development
  • Integrated water management
  • Multiple objective planning
  • Optimisation

Further information

MDPI website

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