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Webinar to explore the use of plants in city water management in a changing climate

‘Nature-based solutions for water management in cities’ is the second climate action topic in the series of City of London Green City Briefings by the International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH), in collaboration with the UK’s Worshipful Company of Gardeners.

Taking place on 11 May 2021, 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm BST, this next free-of-charge, one-hour online webinar explores this subject as part of a city’s greener future.

Cities have traditionally relied on grey, engineered infrastructure to manage their stormwater. While these systems have proved to be effective in collecting stormwater runoff and draining it from the city, they are often overwhelmed in extreme rainfall events and can impact water quantity and water quality, including increased downstream flooding risks, pollution of waterways, and degradation of aquatic habitats.

In response, leading cities are turning to nature-based solutions that utilise natural processes to manage both water quantity and quality by restoring the hydrologic function of the urban landscape. These solutions are commonly called Blue-Green Infrastructure (BGI) and include networks of natural and semi-natural systems that range in size from rain gardens to green streets.

Tour virtually around the world with Robert Brears, Founder of Our Future Water, and learn how leading cities, including Melbourne, New York, and Singapore, are using innovative policies to encourage the uptake of multifunctional BGI to mitigate urban flooding risks and improve water quality while providing multiple co-benefits, including enhancing resilience to climate change, creating green jobs, and providing a habitat for wildlife.

Robert believes: “Nature-based solutions enhance our resilience to climatic extremes while protecting biodiversity”. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Palgrave Handbook of Climate Resilient Societies and the Palgrave Encyclopedia of Urban and Regional Futures, and the author of a variety of books.

From a designed ecology perspective, James Hitchmough, Professor of Horticultural Ecology at the University of Sheffield, asks cities to pose the question: Where am I going to hold and store water, and how is this going to benefit people and biodiversity?

There is a growing need for cities to integrate water management by thinking on a bolder scale, rethinking how they see mown grass dominated urban areas and seeing them as potential “flood plains”. James’ ideas involve major changes around what cities could look like, such as having trees below road level, rethinking tree species and utilising wet woodlands. The transition has significant challenges and James will present examples of how other cities have met their own – for example, China’s ‘Sponge City Concept’, the long-term thinking of the Dutch, and Copenhagen’s city centre redesign project ‘Cloud Burst’.

Historically, James’ research interests have centred on herbaceous vegetation and over the past decade, particularly in China, his practice work has involved woody vegetation. He comments: “Water management is talked about, but in many cases is not really part of the big picture. As flooding becomes increasingly problematic at some point you have to start thinking in this way otherwise you are just window dressing. If you think of the volumes of water you have to hold and store until drainage can take place, then you’re talking about massive volumes and it cannot be done through a few tinkering interventions.” 

The series of City of London Green City Briefings encourages an open exchange of ideas and activities that enable global city resilience in response to the City Corporation’s ambitious Climate Action Strategy.

The first City of London Green City Briefing included an address from the Lord Mayor of the City of London, William Russell, and insights about green finance from Sir Roger Gifford, Senior Banker at SEB, and Chair of the Green Finance Institute. The recording of this session is available on-demand Watch the first session of the City of London Green City Briefings.

Register for the Nature-based solutions for water management in cities webinar.


Hannah Pinnells
Hannah Pinnells
Digital Marketing & Communications Executive
[email protected]