Assessing the Inclusion of Water Circularity Principles in Environment-Related City Concepts Using a Bibliometric Analysis
- Sustainable cities, working towards equity in access to basic services (e.g., water), more inclusive and sustainable urbanization, and the building of participatory capacity, as referred to in the 11th sustainable development goal (SDG) set by the United Nations: “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable” ;
- Resilient cities, anchoring its principles in reducing vulnerability and exposure to extreme events such as floods and droughts, increasing resistance, absorption and recovery capacity, and emergency preparedness [23,24]. The concept of resilience and climate change appears as a set of policy solutions, especially in urban contexts, to cope with increasing natural hazards. These go from preventing, absorbing, and recovering from shocks while maintaining their essential functions, structures, and identity;
- Smart cities, based on increasing and improving the digitalization of city information, are often designed through collaborative and multi-stakeholder processes. These cities have been considered a relevant aid to foster more sustainable and resilient practices and deliver more efficient and inclusive urban systems [20,25,26];
- Circular cities aim at the elimination of the concept of waste, keep assets at their highest value with the support of digital technologies, and decouple economic growth from the consumption of finite resources while increasing the resilience of cities [18,32,33,34]. The adoption of circular principles in cities has become part of many urban agendas to enhance governance and social innovation [35,36,37].
- Blue cities focus on the water, playing a prominent role in urban development and planning. Under this concept, blue infrastructures (e.g., natural or artificial water bodies, often associated with green infrastructures or other nature-based solutions) have important functions of temperature stabilization, CO2 absorption, and mitigation of urban heat island effects ;
- Water-sensitive cities focus on water-sensitive urban design to ensure environmental repair and protection, supply security, public health, economic sustainability, enlightened social and institutional capital, and diverse and sustainable technology choices ;
- Similarly, water-wise cities focus on developing strategies and solutions toward more sustainable urban water management by mobilizing leadership culture, governance arrangements, professional capacity, and innovative technology. All water within the city is managed holistically, recognizing the connection between services, urban design, and the resilience to unexpected social, economic, or bio-physical shocks while replenishing the environment .
2. Materials and Methods
- Co-authorship relations by country to study the distribution of the authors;
- Citation relations between authors, including the number of citations and their relation, to study potential influencing authors;
- Co-occurrence of authors’ keywords to study the focus through the dominant keywords.
3.1. Evolution of Articles
3.2. Bibliometric Features
3.2.1. Co-Authorship Relations by Country
3.2.2. Citation Relations
- For sustainable cities, Kennedy et al.  address urban metabolism associated with growth in metropolitan regions and how certain metabolic processes of water, energy, materials, and resource flows impact the sustainability of cities. This author forms clusters of citations with others exploring the paths of urban metabolism, urban ecosystem services, and urban political ecology in transitioning cities towards grey/green sustainability  and authors approaching integrated urban metabolism frameworks through bottom-up ecological footprint analysis in urban environments ;
- For green cities, the work of Thorne et al.  investigates the barriers to the implementation of blue-green infrastructures for urban flood risk management, which are mostly associated with biophysical and socio-political uncertainties;
- For the case of water-related city concepts (Figure 4e), it is visible a more aggregated community of authors sharing citations. Different citation relations are often represented in different colors (green, yellow, and red, for instance), which in this case represents, among others, a subject widely discussed in this small community of authors—the subject of water-sensitive cities.
3.2.3. Co-Occurrence of Authors’ Keywords
- All of the city concepts studied include “sustainability” or “sustainable development” as keywords.
- Smart cities are often associated with keywords such as “internet of things” and “climate change” (Figure 5b); green cities with green infrastructures, roofs, blue-green cities, and infrastructures (Figure 5c). Water-related keywords also appear associated with smart cities (“water scarcity”, “groundwater” and “greywater”) and with green cities (“flood risk management”).
- Resilient cities (Figure 5d) use “resilience” as the keyword with the most occurrences and connections, occupying a central place in the figure and showing a close relationship with “climate change”. It is also noteworthy that it has a relation with urban and water-related terms (mostly flood-related terms). Curiously, “water sensitive urban design” occurs with “resilient cities”, evincing a close relation between resilience and water.
- Articles on water-related cities (Figure 5e) refer to “water-sensitive cities” as a primary keyword, suggesting a more deficient use of terms such as “blue cities” and “water-wise cities” in literature. Other keywords such as “climate change”, “resilience” and “water governance” are also frequently used.
- For circular cities (Figure 5f), the dominant keywords form three clusters. The first one where the “circular economy” is a keyword associated with cities, resources, infrastructure, policy, and the environment. The second one is centered on “urban heat island” and other pollution-related terms, and the third cluster on “climate change adaptation” and “hydrosocial territories”.
- The keyword circular economy is only considered in sustainable cities and circular cities, while water-related keywords occur in all sets of city concepts’ articles.
3.3. City Concepts, Water, and CE—Definitions
- The sustainable city concept refers to water as a part of the sustainable goals and objectives through a systems approach (SC1, SC2);
- The smart city concept approaches water as a target for information production and management (SM2);
- The green city concept approaches water through ecosystem lenses and the associated functions to urban nature and its vulnerability (GC1, GC2);
- The resilient city concept approaches water through the vulnerabilities of urban areas to water risks, especially flooding (RC2);
- The circular city concept considers water as a target of an overall approach to circularity (CC1, CC2).
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Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Research Components||1st Phase||2nd Phase||3rd Phase|
|Objectives||To display how these city concepts have emerged in literature through time.||To highlight major characteristics of the scientific community working on these city concepts and how water and circularity appear represented in this context.||To assess the inclusion of water circularity principles on these city concepts|
|Approaches used||Creation of a database of articles divided in different groups according to each city concept||Crossing the articles of phase 1 with “water” and “circular economy”.|
Aggregation of the articles on blue city, water-sensitive city, and water-wise city into a designated water-related city concept.
|Selection of definitions out of the 10 most cited articles from each group of articles found in phase 2.|
Analysis of definitions that include water circularity principles.
|Sustainable city||+water||Co-authorship by country|
Co-authorship by author
Citation between authors
Co-occurrence of keywords.
|Water sensitive city||+circular economy|
|Water wise city||+circular economy|
|Sustainable city (SC)||(1) one that “(…) requires strategies that promote: green buildings; integrated water systems; cycling, pedestrian, and transit friendly design; urban forestry; local energy production; and neighbourhood waste management.” ( in , 1).|
|(2) where a “trans-disciplinary approach to design with active community engagement and participation is an essential process in contextualising global principles of sustainability in urban design to accommodate local opportunities and constraints from both a physical and socio-economic perspectives. A water sensitive city is a fundamental building block towards a sustainable city.” (, 8)|
|(1) one “that monitors and integrates conditions of all of its critical infrastructures, including roads, bridges, tunnels, rails, subways, airports, seaports, communications, water, power, even major buildings, can better optimize its resources, plan its preventive maintenance activities, and monitor security aspects while maximizing services to its citizens” ( in , 3)|
|(2) one that “utilizes ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) in a way that could help citizens in daily life using limited resources. (…) The key concept of the smart city is to obtain the right information at the right place and on the right device to make a city-related decision with ease and to aid citizens more quickly. (…) Weather and water information also increases the efficiency of the smart city by providing weather-related data such as temperature, rain, humidity, pressure, wind speed and water levels at rivers, lakes, dams, and other reservoirs. All of this information is collected by placing the sensors in water reservoirs and other open places.” (, 65–66)|
|Green city (GC)||(1) one that is “designed to restore the environmental and ecological damage. Green cities utilize low impact development (LID) and analogous initiatives to mimic pre-development hydrologic and ecological characteristics. (…) In response to the need to address urban water reuse, water quality, and stormwater issues while considering not only water quality deterioration but also inland flooding and water depletion, LID can be used to develop a city with environmentally sustainable stormwater management.” (, 1)|
|(2) one that integrates “green infrastructure (…) (as an approach to wet weather management that uses soils and vegetation to utilise, enhance and/or mimic the natural hydrological cycle processes of infiltration, evapotranspiration and reuse’ (US EPA, 2008)), which embraces the Blue-Green ideals of reconfiguring the urban water cycle to more closely resemble the natural water cycle and using urban green spaces to help manage stormwater.” (US EPA, 2008 in , 3)|
|Circular city (CC)||(1) one that foresees the implementation of looping actions, such as reuse, recycling, and energy recovery in resource flows. “Looping actions could help to address water and energy scarcity in cities, for example through the reuse of grey-water (Andersson et al. (2016); Campisano et al. (2017) (…) The implementation of circular, and/or integrated systems (nexus solutions), requires the development of new cultural values and social practices amongst citizens to support them.” (, 10)|
|(2) one that reuse “wastes, water, energy, products, and in the spatial dimension even entire buildings, sites, and landscapes that lay in a state of abandonment. In fact, the action of “reusing things” and sites implies not only a technical knowledge and capacity, but also a high level of governance and social and technological innovation to identify new value chains and new use values for objects/buildings/sites or parts of them, and to enable their effective reutilization from a technical point of view.” (, 3)|
|Resilient city (RS)||(1) that “would rely on the management of its ecological footprint (Rees and Wackernagel, 1996), in the sense of using geographically connected lands (Luck et al., 2001) to reduce long distance hazard connexions and greenhouse gas emissions, and by developing the internal recycling of its waste, including water (Grimm et al., 2008a,b; Novotny, 2010).” (, 2)|
|(2) one that is anchored on the concept of urban resilience, which “leads to projects and strategies that better integrate water and flood risk into city planning and disaster preparedness (Serre 2011). The concept of resilience is presented as one means for urban systems to cope with unexpected shocks and to achieve sustainability over time.” (, 1)|
|Blue city (BC)||one that “uses best management practices to understand and govern its water footprint within the bounds of its economic system. Open data and sharing of information are important initiatives to better understand and manage urban water resources to facilitate urban water transitions.” (, 2)|
|Water-sensitive city (WSC)||(1) that is “is a conceptual representation of this alternative paradigm for urban water systems, building on sustainable urban water planning and management practices and prioritizing liveability, sustainability and resilience in the design of its institutions and infrastructure. (…) cities as water supply catchments, cities providing ecosystem services and cities comprising water sensitive communities. (…) its innovative aspirations include: (a) harmony between water planning and urban planning; (b) adaptive and multi-functional infrastructure; and (c) productive and ongoing collaborations between science, policy, practice and community (Brown, Keath, & Wong, 2009; Wong & Brown, 2009).” (, 2)|
|(2) that is “the outcome of WSUD (water sensitive urban design) processes, and is considered to be adaptive and resilient to broadscale change (i.e., demographic change, climate change and extreme weather conditions) and values water, promotes conservation and aims to improve liveability (Wong and Brown, 2009). Such a city would achieve this through planning for diverse and flexible water sources (e.g., dams, desalination, water grids and stormwater harvesting), incorporating WSUD for drought and flood mitigation, environmental protection and low carbon urban water services in the planning system, and enabling social and institutional capacity for sustainable water management (see also Wong and Brown, 2009).” (, 2)|
|Water-wise city (WWC)||that applies “resource and energy recovery in their WWT and solid waste treatment, fully integrate water into urban planning, have multi-functional and adaptive infrastructures and local communities promote sustainable integrated decision making and behavior. Cities are largely water self-sufficient, attractive, innovative and circular by applying multiple (de)centralized solutions.” (, 4640)|
|City Concept Definition/|
Principles of Water Circularity
|P1—Avoid Use, Rethink Products and Services, and Eliminate Ineffective Actions||P2—Reduce Use, Improve Water Use Efficiency, and Perform Better Resource Allocation and Management||P3—Reuse Water within an Operation (Closed Loop) and for External Applications||P4—Recycle within Internal Operations or External Applications||P5—Replenish by Returning Water to the River Basin|
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Miranda, A.C.; Fidélis, T.; Roebeling, P.; Meireles, I. Assessing the Inclusion of Water Circularity Principles in Environment-Related City Concepts Using a Bibliometric Analysis. Water 2022, 14, 1703. https://doi.org/10.3390/w14111703
Miranda AC, Fidélis T, Roebeling P, Meireles I. Assessing the Inclusion of Water Circularity Principles in Environment-Related City Concepts Using a Bibliometric Analysis. Water. 2022; 14(11):1703. https://doi.org/10.3390/w14111703Chicago/Turabian Style
Miranda, Ana Catarina, Teresa Fidélis, Peter Roebeling, and Inês Meireles. 2022. "Assessing the Inclusion of Water Circularity Principles in Environment-Related City Concepts Using a Bibliometric Analysis" Water 14, no. 11: 1703. https://doi.org/10.3390/w14111703