Conceptualization of the SDGs through the lens of water and culture (Source: Carola Hein, 2022).
Water, Culture and the SDGs as Living History





At a time of climate change, sea level rise, flooding, drought, and changing groundwater and rainwater patterns, water managers need to adjust their current practices and develop new approaches. Technological innovation remains a key element in adaptation and mitigation; but technological innovation is not enough. Changing water patterns will affect everyone and every structure. How we manage water depends on local conditions, spatial and social developments and cultures as well as decisions of the past. That is why water management needs to go hand in hand with sustainable practices that are connected to the context of specific places, social systems and cultures and their changes over time.

Sustainable development also requires recognizing the long-term impact of buildings and human-made structures. They may have been erected in the past for specific purposes and functions that have disappeared or are no longer welcome, yet the buildings and landscapes still exist. Sometimes they are valued cultural heritage; sometimes they are considered a nuisance, standing in the way of future development. Finally, water managers and other decision-makers may need new tools and methodologies for a holistic approach to sustainable development, which accounts for local particularities, achieves buy-in from society at large, and acknowledges historic path dependencies. As a first step toward such an approach, this chapter reflects on the UN Sustainable Development Goals through the lens of water and culture.

How to Cite

Hein, C. (2022). Water, Culture and the SDGs as Living History. Blue Papers, 1(1), 13–23.


2022-09-01 — Updated on 2022-09-01



challenges, concepts and new approaches

Author Biography

Carola Hein, Delft University of Technology

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 Oil Spaces (2021), Urbanization 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).


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