About this online course


The Image

Course video

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.

What You'll Learn:

After taking this course you will be able to:

  • Analyze and visualize different water systems and explain their cultural importance and relevance
  • Determine the social and cultural attributes and societal  value of water heritage over time and across space
  • Unpick the interdependencies and conflicting values and interests of the different stakeholders involved in creating water heritage systems
  • Navigate barriers caused by value conflicts among stakeholders in proposing solutions to the challenges water heritage and water systems are facing
  • Construct an SDG/HUL-based approach to decision-making in water systems for the benefit of all relevant stakeholders


Course Syllabus

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 learn about different tools of sustaining and protecting historical water systems (from UNESCO World Heritage to local heritage organizations). By classifying the water system of their choice, the learners apply this knowledge to their case study.

In week 3, learners recognize which stakeholders and groups are important in the creation of water systems. They learn how to identify dualities of water and culture, and to differentiate between values, needs and interests in water systems. They then apply this analysis to their own case study.

In week 4, learners discover the dynamics of water-related values at different points in time. In addition, they learn to distinguish conflicts of values among different stakeholders, across different cultures and institutional levels in contemporary society. They also discover how to mediate dualities in their selected case areas and identify possible barriers before proposing strategic solutions to tackle the challenges of water management.

In week 5, learners are introduced to adaptive strategies for sustainable management of water heritage, such as the HUL method, an integrated approach connecting global and local contexts. Learners will also outline the roles and interrelationship of multiple stakeholders involved in water system management, and identify the values prized by each group. Learners will establish shared-interest strategies based on the awareness of value dynamics and conflicts and apply them to the learner’s own local case to address water-related issues and contribute to more sustainable development.

Other instructor

Hilde Sennema
PhD candidate
Rotterdam University


Unless otherwise specified, the Course Materials of this course are Copyright Delft University of Technology and are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


This is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that runs on edX.



  • Starts: Nov 03, 2021
  • Free | Earn certificate for $149
  • Length: 5 weeks
  • Effort: 4 - 5 hours per week

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