Prospects for Sustainability in Urban Water Management - The Need for a Geographical Transitions

Prof. Bernhard Truffer, Eawag-ESS (Switzerland) and Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University (The Netherlands)

Sustainability Transition Studies address conditions for fundamental restructurings of entire economic sectors. The corresponding literature has developed over the past two decades building on earlier contributions from evolutionary economics and science and technology studies. Its major focus is on analyzing conditions for new socio-technical configurations to emerge and mature and their potential contribution to more sustainable future economic sectors. Well researched examples are the contribution of renewable energy technologies to a sustainable provision of electricity or potential transformations of the automobile sector towards less environmentally damaging forms of personal mobility. The present talk will focus on sustainability challenges in the field of urban water management, a sector that has received substantially less attention in the literature, but which nevertheless is confronted with major sustainability challenges on a global scale. In the talk, we will first introduce recent developments in sustainability transitions research and in particular elaborate the need for a more geographically explicit analysis of emerging industry dynamics. Furthermore the seeming superiority of the current socio-technical regime in urban water management will be questioned and prospects for future potentially more sustainable alternatives will be presented. The talk will conclude by providing an outlook on promising research in the field of sustainability transitions.

Potential Readings/references in the context of the talk

Eggimann, S. Truffer, B., Maurer M. 2015. To connect or not to connect? Modelling the optimal degree of centralisation for wastewater infrastructures. Water Research 84, 218-231..

Harris-Lovett, S.R., Binz, C., Sedlak, D.L., Kiparsky, M., Truffer, B. 2015. Beyond user acceptance: a legitimacy framework for potable water reuse in California. Environmental Science and Technology 49, 7552−7561.

Fünfschilling, L., Truffer, B. 2014. The structuration of socio-technical regimes – Conceptual foundations from institutional theory. Research Policy 43, 772-791.

Kiparsky, M., Sedlak, D., Thompson, B. H., Truffer B. 2013. The innovation deficit in urban water: the need for an integrated perspective on institutions, organizations, and technology. Environmental Engineering Science 30 (8), 395-408.

Markard, J., Raven, R., Truffer, B., 2012. Sustainability Transitions: An emerging field of research and its prospects. Research Policy 41 (6), 968-979.

Truffer, B., Coenen, L. 2012 Environmental innovation and sustainability transitions in regional studies. Regional Studies. 46 (2), 1-22.

Dominguez, D., Truffer, B., Gujer, W. 2011. Tackling uncertainties in infrastructure sectors through strategic planning -- The contribution of discursive approaches in the urban water sector. Water Policy, 13, 299-316.

Truffer B, 2008. Society, technology, and region: contributions from the social study of technology to economic geography. Environment and Planning A, 40(4) 966 – 985



About the speaker
B. Truffer is holding the chair for “geography of transitions in urban infrastructures” at Utrecht University (20%). Besides he is head of the research department “Environmental Social Sciences” where he also leads the group on “environmental innovation and sustainability transitions” at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag) in Dübendorf near Zürich. Trained as an economic geographer, he has mostly worked in the field of Transition Studies over the past two decades. His main research interests are in global industry dynamics in clean-tech sectors and in sustainability oriented transformations of major sectors such as transport, energy and urban water management.  Besides, he has published on strategic planning, foresight and transdisciplinary research.  Projects have mainly been located in central Europe but also in China, Australia, California, South Africa and Kenya. 

Venue: Room C -1.09 (SBE / TS 43)

Date: 09 December 2015

Time: 12:00


UNU-MERIT