This was originally published on the International Coalition for Sustainable Infrastructure website. Read more about our partners.

Each year on March 22, we celebrate World Water Day to highlight the importance of fresh water and advocate for the sustainable management of our freshwater resources. This year’s theme is groundwater.

Groundwater is often considered an invisible resource because it is hidden beneath our feet, but its impact on our daily lives is anything but invisible. Nearly all fresh water in the world is groundwater and is essential for drinking, agriculture, sanitation systems, industry, and ecosystems, yet in many areas around the world we are polluting or failing to harness this critical resource. Like many water-related resources, groundwater and climate change are inseparable. We must act now to protect and sustainably utilize this resource, among others, to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Innovation Champions lead the way for climate resilience

The International Coalition for Sustainable Infrastructure (ICSI), with the support of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and Arcadis, has developed an innovation framework for the promotion of resilient and sustainable infrastructure from around the world. This framework is outlined in a new report, Pushing the Boundaries of Innovation in Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure, which highlights projects and cities that serve as examples of innovative solutions for climate adaptation, mitigation and development strategies.

“It’s not just about protecting your communities, it’s about enhancing your communities and creating more value, which is what this report aims to do.”

– Edgar Westerhof, National Director for Flood Risk and Resilience, Arcadis

We selected, evaluated and ranked these projects and programs, which we call ICSI Innovation Champions, based on a set of key criteria and values which were informed by ASCE’s future trends and forecasting analyses and input from a global expert panel. These values determine that an ICSI Innovation Champion must have a multi-functional and holistic approach to innovative solutions. Therefore, projects have been chosen that address both sustainability and resilience through their innovation.

For example, a mitigation project that is focused on resilience should also include sustainability values. It’s not just about protecting communities, but about addressing the current and future needs of communities in a holistic way that creates more value and enables communities to thrive. The projects showcased in this report serve as inspiring examples of how to approach this transformative change.

“The criteria and values we used determine that an ICSI Innovation Champion must have a multi-functional and holistic approach to innovative solutions.”

– Jerry Buckwalter, Chief Innovation Officer, ASCE

City of Rotterdam works to better manage groundwater

A great example for World Water Day’s theme is from the City of Rotterdam. Featured in our report, Rotterdam is highlighted for its ongoing innovation in climate resilience preparedness. Situated in the heart of the Dutch Delta, the city lies largely below sea level and the low-lying area around it is protected from the sea by a complex and extensive system of dikes, closure dams and storm surge barriers, which are part of the famous Dutch Delta Plan. For the city, it is critical to generate cutting-edge data for integrated water management and planning purposes. A specific application is through programs like COASTAR, developed through a collaboration between Arcadis and partners. The tool is applied to increase data insight and help Rotterdam with the complex groundwater monitoring process. Rotterdam aspires to increase the underground storage of rainwater through city-wide water buffering and infiltration. As such, drainage of rainwater through the sewer system can eventually be prevented, making infiltrated groundwater more widely available for multi-functional reuse. This can provide various community benefits, helping to address the natural water cycle and allowing for a more robust urban water system, which incorporates the key sustainability and resilience values in our research.

To read more about the City of Rotterdam and our other ICSI Innovation Champions, find the report here.

For inquiries about additional details or how to get involved with these studies, contact the contributing authors, Jerry Buckwalter at or Edgar Westerhof at, or contact

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