Benchmarking Greater Bogor using the Water Sensitive Cities Index

Project summary

As cities seek to adopt a water-sensitive approach, they often need a better understanding of their current system and how it compares to best practice. The Greater Bogor region of Indonesia has been benchmarked and profiled as part of the Australia-Indonesia Centre’s Urban Water Cluster using a new tool developed for this purpose – the Water Sensitive Cities (WSC) Index. 

The WSC framework recognises that the management of water systems has untapped potential to benefit a city’s liveability, sustainability, productivity and resilience. Water-sensitive cities strive to enhance biodiversity, encourage connected communities and foster cultural significance. They also protect the health of waterways, reduce flood risk and create multi-functional public green spaces. Ultimately, a water-sensitive city recognises how water can both meet the basic needs of society and contribute to the creation of connected, vibrant and liveable communities.


The WSC Index was developed by the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities. It takes a holistic and integrated approach to water system benchmarking, measuring performance against 34 indicators reflecting WSC attributes. These indicators are organised under seven thematic goals to help compartmentalise the scoring process. Scoring involves engagement with key sectoral stakeholders, expert judgement and evaluation of evidence to determine a score out of five for each indicator. 

The research is founded on the concept that a city moves through a range of water systems in its journey towards a WSC, and that it is possible to ‘leapfrog’ from early stages of urban water development to a WSC. 

As cities seek to adopt the WSC approach, they need to understand both its present status with regard to urban water management and define their short- and long-term sustainability goals. An analytical tool has been developed specifically for this purpose: the urban water transitions framework. The framework identifies six distinct developmental states that cities may move through on their path toward increased water sensitivity. The transition journey is not necessarily linear, as a city may show indicators of later developmental states while not fully satisfying earlier states; this is particularly evident when flooding remains a hazard to a city’s liveability although other attributes of waterway health and aesthetics are maintained. 

While a city’s local WSC vision may not emphasise all indicators of the WSC Index to the same degree, the tool enables diagnosis of key areas of strength and weakness. This insight can then inform the prioritisation of actions and provide a framework for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of a city’s water-sensitive performance.

Figure 1. Urban Water Transitions Framework (Brown et al., 2009)

A Water Sensitive City index assessment creates an opportunity to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of the city’s water system, to identify opportunities for improvement and areas of common concern with other cities. The results of the assessment indicate that except for ‘Quality open space’ (which scored two out of a possible five) the averaged performance of goals is relatively even. The average scores of the six other goals were in the range of 2.4-2.8. This suggests that ‘Quality open space’ is a clear area of concern. However, consistently low open space scores from the benchmarking of a number of Australian cities of varying sizes and geographies speaks to the difficulty of achieving scores closer to three than two in the goal’s indicators.

Index indicator scores in themselves do not necessarily correlate with areas for priority attention. This is largely because of the degree of integration of Index goals and indicators. For instance, the ‘Good water sensitive governance goal’, though it may have moderate scores, should still warrant attention to achieve flow-on benefits in other indicators. Generally, the index is most effective as a tool for planning and measuring progress. As the first attempt to apply the WSC Index to an Indonesia city, there are lessons that can be gleaned for similar cities as well as for the index itself.

Results and achievements

For stakeholders in Bogor, the WSC index has been beneficial in applying a system-oriented lens to water management. In a planning environment that has typically emphasised technical approaches, the balanced approach to social and ecological systems has opened up new possibilities for transformation. These are explored in richer detail in other outputs of this research program. In terms of performance benchmarking, it is recommended that this work form the basis for shaping an ongoing approach to system evaluation.



Technical reports