Today, urban territories are under pressure to accommodate all the needs of growing cities. New designs and approaches are needed that build on historical developments and respond to the shifting and overlapping needs of water, cities and their territories. Due to these inexhaustible demands, it is often common to overlook sustainable development and heritage. However, diagrammatic analysis such as the canvas approach can help us understand how people have changed cities and institutions over time and allows us to consider complex economic, political, social and cultural interactions. This ecosystem approach opens a new path for territories and structures aimed at promoting dialogue between citizens and those who are key players in the sustainable development of cities. Together with mapping, the canvas helps build systemic and evolutionary resilience of water systems and resources, incorporating cultural and ecological values.