Urban rainwater harvesting from niche to mainstream: challenges and opportunities for planning

Past Project

Rainwater harvesting has long been part of the standard repertoire of the aspiring sustainable city. Its multiple benefits have been illustrated with a plethora of successful pilot projects in industrialised cities across the globe. The leap from niche to mainstream has, however, proved largely elusive. The UrbanRain project analysed experiences in applying nature-based solutions to urban rainwater problems in three cities: Stockholm, Barcelona and Berlin (Suleiman et al. 2019).
At IRI THESys we studied the sociotechnical pathways of rainwater harvesting in Berlin over the past 25 years. We conducted an analysis of the policy and planning contexts in the city and produced a database of over 100 rainwater harvesting projects begun since the early 1980s (García Soler et al. 2018). We subsequently conducted three case studies of emblematic projects representing public, grassroots and commercial initiatives in the city (Papasozomenou et al. 2019). Primarily through interviews with planners, engineers, architects, residents and other users we explored diverse visions of, and experiences with, rainwater harvesting in Berlin.
UrbanRain was funded for three years (2014-2017) by the Swedish research foundation Formas and involved partners at KTH in Stockholm, Sweden, and UAB in Barcelona, Spain.

For further project information click here.


García Soler, N.; Moss, T.; Papasozomenou, O. (2018): Rain and the city: Pathways to mainstreaming rainwater harvesting in Berlin. Geoforum 89, pp.96-106.

Papasozomenou, O.; Moss, T.; García Soler, N. (2019): Raindrops keep falling on my roof: imaginaries, infrastructures and institutions shaping rainwater harvesting in Berlin. Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, DOI: 10.1080/1523908X.2019.1623658.

Suleiman, L.; Olofsson, B.; Saurí, D.; Palau-Rof, L.; García Soler, N.; Papasozomenou, O.; Moss, T. (2019): Diverse pathways – common phenomena: comparing transitions of urban rainwater harvesting systems in Stockholm, Berlin and Barcelona. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management. DOI: 10.1080/09640568.2019.1589432.

Project Team

PIs: Dr. Lina Suleiman (KTH, Stockholm, Sweden – Coordinator), Prof. Dr. Timothy Moss (IRI THESys), Dr. David Saurí (UAB)

Research Associates: Dr. Ourania Papasozomenou (IRI THESys), Laura Palau (UAB)

Project Partners

Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm (KTH) – Urban and Regional Studies

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) – Department of Geography

WaterInfrastructure & Energy