Design-Based Solutions for Water Challenges: The Value Case Approach


  • Matteo D’Agostino Delft University of Technology
  • Carola Hein Delft University of Technology




values, value case approach, water values, ecosystem thinking, long-term perspective


The concept of values has become increasingly important in many fields, including water management, heritage preservation and design. Politicians, economists, water managers, heritage specialists and designers often consider values as guiding principles for their interventions. While water management has traditionally focused on technological and economic values, in recent decades there has been growing recognition of the significance of socio-cultural aspects. This shift is evident in initiatives like the United Nation’s Valuing Water Initiative, which recognized five “Valuing Water Principles” as guidelines for incorporating the values associated with water in decision-making. However, how to define and implement these values in particular contexts has not yet been clearly established, with approaches varying across disciplines and fields. Understanding the complex interdependencies and values characterizing each water system can help develop a strategy for integrated management of water with the goal of sustainable development with a long-term perspective and a design focus.

How to Cite

D’Agostino, M., & Hein, C. (2024). Design-Based Solutions for Water Challenges: The Value Case Approach. Blue Papers, 3(1).





challenges, concepts and new approaches

Author Biographies

Matteo D’Agostino, Delft University of Technology

Matteo D’Agostino is a researcher at Delft University of Technology, a member of the PortCityFutures research group, and is affiliated with the UNESCO Chair for Water, Ports and Historic Cities. Matteo is a cultural anthropologist experienced in the analysis of differing perceptions and the relational dynamics between public and private actors. His research focuses on understanding multiple structural, spatial and socio-economic factors as the basis for spatial planning and social interventions. Other interests include how to implement policies designed to improve access to basic resources, such as water, and the strategic reinterpretation of heritage by institutional and activist organizations.

Carola Hein, Delft University of Technology

Carola Hein is Professor History of Architecture and Urban Planning at Delft University of Technology, Professor at Leiden and Erasmus University and UNESCO Chair Water, Ports and Historic Cities. She has published widely in the field of architectural, urban and planning history and has tied historical analysis to contemporary development. Among other major grants, she has received a Guggenheim and an Alexander von Humboldt fellowship. Her recent books include Port City Atlas (2023) Oil Spaces (2021), Urbanisation of the Sea (2020), Adaptive Strategies for Water Heritage (2020), The Routledge Planning History Handbook (2018) and Port Cities: Dynamic Landscapes and Global Networks (2011).


Britannica Dictionary. n.d. “Value.” Accessed 24 April, 2024.

Damayanti, Vera D., Hasti T. Dipowijoyo, Kemas R. Kurniawan, Jacqueline Rosbergen, Peter Timmer, and Punto Wijayanto. 2022. “Two Towns in Indonesia, One on the Coast, the Other ‘A City of One Thousand Rivers’: Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) Quick Scan Method Workshops and Publication of Handbook for Indonesian University Lecturers.” Blue Papers 1, no. 1: 119–27.

DuBois, Lindsay and Daniel Salas. 2021. “Value and politics: introduction to the special issue.” Dialect Anthropology 45: 3–7.

Eulisse, Eriberto. 2023. “Museums for the Past and Future Meaning of Water.” Blue Papers 2, no 1: 112–23.

Graeber, David, 2013. “It Is Value That Brings Universes into Being.” HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 3, no. 2: 219–43.

Hein, Carola M., Matteo D’Agostino, Carlien E. Donkor, Queenie Lin, Zuzanna Sliwinska, and Julia Korpacka. 2023. “Editorial Issue 2/2023: Living with Water: Bringing Back Human-Water Relationships.” Blue Papers 2, no. 2: 6–11.

Hein, Carola M., Ingrid Mulder and Hilde Sennema. 2021. “A Call for Value Literacy in Port City Transitions.” European Journal of Creative Practices in Cities and Landscapes (CPCL) 4, no. 2: 108–29.

Houngbo, Gilbert, F. 2023. “Take Time to Reflect on Water.” UN Chronicle (March 8) Accessed April 10, 2023.

IWRM Action Hub. n.d. “IWRM Explained.” Accessed 24 April, 2024.

Jansen, Maurice, and Carola Hein. 2023. “Port City Symbiosis: Introduction To The Special Issue.” Maritime Economics & Logistics 25: 211–29.

Kluckhohn, Clyde. 1951. “Values and Value-Orientations in the Theory of Action: An Exploration in Definition and Classification.” In Toward a General Theory of Action, edited by Talcott Parsons and Edward A. Shils, 388–433. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.

Larkin, Brian. 2013. “The Politics and Poetics of Infrastructure.” Annual Review of Anthropology 42: 327–43.

Manzione, Rodrigo L. 2024. “From Landmarks to Watermarks: Water Towers as Hidden Signs of Water through the Value Case of Ourinhos, Brazil.” Blue Papers 3, no. 1. (forthcoming).

Mosse, David. 2004. “Is Good Policy Unimplementable? Reflections on the Ethnography of Aid Policy and Practice.” Development and Change 35, no. 4: 639–71.

Pellegrom, Sandra. 2023. “The UN SDGs as Compass for Sustainable Water and Heritage Management.” Blue Papers 2, no. 1: 14–21.

Porta, E. Lynn, and Aaron T. Wolf. 2023. “Water, Culture and International Institutions.” Blue Papers 2, no. 2: 16–25.

Orlove, Ben, and Steve Canton. 2010. “Water Sustainability: Anthropological Approaches and Prospects.” Annual Review of Anthropology 39: 401–15.

Robbins, Joel and Sommerschuh, Julian. 2016. “Values.” In The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Anthropology, edited by Stein, Felix, Sian Lazar, Matei Candea Matei, Hildergard Diemberger, Joel Robbins, Andrew Sanchez and Rubert Stasch, Rupert. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sorensen, Andre. 2015. “Taking Path Dependence Seriously: An Historical Institutionalist Research Agenda in Planning History.” Planning Perspectives 30, no. 1:17–38. http://doi:10.1080/02665433.2013.874299.

Sorensen, Andre. 2017. “Planning History and Theory: Institutions, Comparison, and Temporal Processes.” In The Routledge Handbook of Planning History, edited by Carola Hein, 35–45. New York: Routledge.

Tulder, Rob, and Emilie van Mil. 2022. Principles of Sustainable Business: Frameworks for Corporate Action on the SDGs. Oxon, UK: Routledge.

UN-Water. 2021. The United Nations World Water Development Report 2021: Valuing Water. UNESCO, Paris.

UNEP. n.d. “Integrated Water Resource Management.” Accessed 24 April, 2024.

UNESCO. 1972. Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Paris: UNESCO

UNESCO. 2016. Changing minds not climate. Paris: UNESCO.

Van Dooren, Elise. 2020. Anchoring the Design Process: A framework to make the designerly way of thinking explicit in architectural design education. Delft University of Technology, A+BE | Architecture and the Built Environment.

Vereecke, Jean-François, and Sandrine Deveycx. 2022. “The ‘(Water) Canvas’ as a Tool For the Analysis, Interpretation and Planning of Water Territories and Heritage.” Blue Papers 1, no. 1: 99–105.

Von Schnitzler, Antina. 2008. “Citizenship Prepaid: Water, Calculability, and Techno-Politics in South Africa.” Journal of Southern African Studies 34, no. 4: 899–917.

World Bank. n.d. “Water.” Accessed 24 April, 2024.