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Case Study | Chinas Sponge Cities February 2016

Transforming Chinese cities into sustainable, resilient

and liveable towns

Floods, droughts and water environment

degradation: Australian expertise is
solving urban water management issues
and creating liveable cities in China.

More than 100 cities across China suffer from flooding

each year.1 At the same time, many cities in China are
increasingly vulnerable to depleting water supplies.
Chinas rapid expansion of urbanised areas has
resulted in major water management issues, including
environmental degradation that is now affecting the
wellbeing of citizens and liveability of Chinese cities.
Chinas Ministry of Housing and Urban Rural
Development, and Ministries of Finance and Water
created the sponge city initiative to rectify these issues.
Image courtesy of CRCWSC.
A sponge city is capable of storing and purifying
rainwater and stormwater for use during the dry season.
It can also help prevent flash-flooding in the wet season.
We have received great exposure and
In April 2015, the Chinese Government announced the
first 16 pilot sponge cities. Each is responsible for recognition of water-sensitive cities
implementing its own systems over the next three years across many stakeholder public
to resolve water management issues and become a agencies that cross over water issues in
sponge city. The Government will allocate each sponge
city between 400 and 600 million RMB (approximately China. This sets the CRCWSC and
A$85 million to A$128 million) to develop ponds, indeed the Australian industry as a
filtration pools and wetlands; and build permeable roads whole on a solid foundation for future
and public spaces that enable stormwater to be
absorbed and reused. Austrade anticipates the Chinese engagement.
Government will announce further pilot cities in coming Tony Wong, CEO, CRCWSC
The Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Kunshan City in Jiangsu Province to help resolve its
Cities (CRCWSC), an Australian research body, has water management issues.
taken a pre-emptive approach to working with local
CRCWSC brings together inter-disciplinary research
governments in Chinese cities. In 2014, it partnered with
expertise by collaborating with over 80 research,
industry and government partners. It delivers socio-
1 technical urban water management solutions, education
and training programs, as well as industry engagement Chinas sponge city market is centred on developing
services to make towns and cities water sensitive. publicprivate partnerships (PPPs) to leverage public
CRCWSCs goal is to revolutionise water management. funding. These PPPs harness private equity to
encourage new investment in landscape ecology and
Chinese cities are progressively embracing the idea of
green infrastructure during the next 10 to 15 years of
liveability as a means of attracting talent and
urbanisation and urban renewal.
investment for long-term economic growth, says Tony
Wong, CEO, CRCWSC. One of the factors We will see the progressive forming of more flagship
underpinning liveability in Australian cities is our multi-disciplinary enterprises or consortia to implement
integrated water cycle management. Local governments sponge cities encompassing planning, design,
achieve this by commissioning ongoing, innovative and construction, monitoring and maintenance, says Wong.
water-sensitive urban design, and maintaining a goal of
As a first step to entering Chinas sponge city market,
continuous improvement.
CRCWSC recommends Australian organisations in the
As such, Australias urban design and water urban design and water management sectors explore
management sectors have quite a wide spectrum of opportunities around Chinas coastal regions,
expertise to offer including planning, design, particularly the Yangtze and Pearl Deltas. These
technologies and products underpinned by excellence in regions have strong financial capacity and government
interdisciplinary research in urban water management. backing for sustainable enterprises, coupled with rich
experience working with foreign entities.
In 2014, CRCWSC, Kunshan City Construction
Investment and Development Company and the
Planning Bureau of the City of Kunshan signed a Contact Austrade for more information
Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
The MoU represents a combined commitment by the
Sandy Deng, Business Development Manager, Shanghai
two Kunshan agencies for city planning and city
construction to extensively use their future projects as
T: +86 137 0183 2379
incubators of new planning, design concepts and new
technologies generated by CRCWSC, providing the
opportunity to test research concepts and findings on a
Leonie Smith, Senior Trade Adviser Water, Melbourne
city-wide scale.
As a result of CRCWSCs involvement and cutting-edge T: +61 3 9648 3179
research, in January 2016 Kunshan was named one of
Chinas Ecological Garden Cities. The award follows a
comprehensive assessment by a national expert judging About Austrade
The Australian Trade Commission Austrade
Austrade advisers in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou contributes to Australia's economic prosperity by helping
helped CRCWSC establish a number of key contacts in Australian businesses, education institutions, tourism
local government and facilitated important visits to operators, governments and citizens as they:
CRCWSC by high-level government delegations from
Chinese cities. Austrade also helped CRCWSC secure develop international markets
speaking opportunities at high-profile seminars and win productive foreign direct investment
events in China to promote CRCWSCs research and promote international education
practice. strengthen Australia's tourism industry
We have received great exposure and recognition of seek consular and passport services.
water-sensitive cities across many stakeholder public
agencies that cross over water issues in China, says Disclaimer
Whereas every effort has been made to ensure the information
Wong. This sets the CRCWSC and indeed the given in this document is accurate, the Australian Trade
Australian industry as a whole on a solid foundation Commission does not provide warranty or accept liability for any
for future engagement. loss arising from reliance on such information.
Commonwealth of Australia 2016
To form collaborations with Chinese clients, Wong
advises Australian exporters to take meaningful small
steps to set a firm foundation for enduring partnerships
with the public and private sectors.

For more information email or visit