Class Central is learner-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Delft University of Technology

Water Works: Activating Heritage for Sustainable Development

Delft University of Technology via edX


Water has served and sustained societies throughout history. Understanding the complex and diverse water systems of the past is key to devising sustainable development for the future with regard to socioeconomic structures, policies, and cultures. Today, past systems form the framework for preservation and reuse as well as for new proposals.

In this course, you will learn how to identify the spatial, social and cultural aspects of water heritage in your environment. You will investigate real situations, assess specific issues and evaluate the impact of potential measures, following existing expertise on water heritage and water management traditions as a model for your own practice.

By examining examples of water heritage from around the world, and by interacting with fellow learners, you will learn to implement globally sustainable approaches and tools such as the UNESCO Historic Urban Landscape (HUL) and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Completing this course would be of great benefit to:

  • professionals working in water management (such as water boards, water districts or port authorities etc.), heritage, or planning processes that include water related issues;
  • master students of urban planning, architecture, heritage, or landscape;
  • anyone living in a city or rural area where water management issues occur and with an interest in improving their living environment.


In week 1, learners discover the complexities of water culture in daily life. By identifying different water systems in their own environment, learners will become aware that water is not only a basic need, but also a spatial network and a carrier of meaning, social values, and memories. By recalling their own experiences and memories with water, they will learn how waterscapes influence space, society, and culture.

In week 2, through exploring different historical water systems, learners will assess how societies in the past and present have valued water. They will learn about the spatial imprint of historic water systems, their change over time and their relation to institutional and cultural practices. Learners will be asked to research the history of their own case study waterwork, and its functional and spatial development over time.

In week 3, learners recognize which stakeholders and groups are important in the creation of water systems in the past and in the present. They learn how these stakeholders relate to each other and what shared or conflicting interests they have, then apply this analysis to their own case study.

In week 4, learners discover the challenges that waterworks are facing, as they identify dualities of water and culture, and differentiate between values, needs and interests in water systems. In addition, they learn to distinguish conflicts of values among different stakeholders, across different cultures and institutional levels in contemporary society.

In week 5, learners analyze sustainable solutions and strategies for water systems. They are introduced tothe UNESCO HUL method, as an integrated approach connecting global and local contexts. Learners will also engage with water heritage in line with sustainable developments through examples that implement this approach. Having been inspired by the solutions and approaches, learners will be asked to look into their own local cases for local initiatives.

Taught by

Carola Hein, Hilde Sennema and Gül Aktürk


Start your review of Water Works: Activating Heritage for Sustainable Development

Never Stop Learning.

Get personalized course recommendations, track subjects and courses with reminders, and more.

Someone learning on their laptop while sitting on the floor.