City of Kunshan is a Sponge City demonstration site

August 9, 2022
In 2016, the City of Kunshan in China was selected as a provincial pilot city for the national Sponge City program, actively exploring new ways of promoting citywide implementation of innovative water sensitive (or sponge city) approaches to urban water management. This year, it has been selected as one of 25 demonstration cities to further promote sponge city practices throughout China.

Over the next 3 years, the city will receive 700 million Yuan in funding from the National Public Finance Sector. It will use this funding to deliver 93 projects covering various aspects of urban development, including residential communities, roads and squares, parks and green spaces, water system management, rainwater storage and network pumping systems. Via these projects, the city will continue to:

  • coordinate integrated flood management at both the river basin and regional level
  • establish a citywide urban drainage system for stormwater harvesting and flood mitigation
  • build a safe and resilient ecological infrastructure
  • create a beautiful and liveable sponge community.
An artist impression of the Western Parkland City centred around South Creek Wianamatta, where integrated planning delivers a city which reimagines liveability

Innovation Park in Kunshan, China

We have been working in Kunshan since 2012, first as the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities and now as Water Sensitive Cities Australia. Over that period, we have helped make sponge city practices ‘business as usual’ in Kunshan’s complex and challenging urban environment. We led the strategy and concept design for over 30 projects including the following built projects:

  • embedding nature-based technology into the landscape architecture of the Opera House and Cultural Plaza to improve water quality
  • integrating constructed wetlands into precinct parklands at the Kunshan Forest Park Ecological Wetland
  • creating a multidimensional and multifunctional green–blue–grey corridor as part of the elevated Kunshan Ring Road
  • designing the Jiangsu–Victoria Sponge City Innovation Park, which exhibits cutting edge water sensitive infrastructure and technology, with facilities for validating emerging sponge city technologies and products.

These projects delivered to city government the evidence to transform what was once perceived as innovative but risky into standard practice, which in turn authorised the next wave of innovation and collaboration. This evidence underpinned subsequent policy development, helping to overcome the regulations, community perceptions and institutional risk aversion that can get in the way of innovation, practical action and mainstreaming.

Dr Jianbin Wang (Chief Innovation Officer, Water Sensitive Cities Australia) reflected on Kunshan’s transformation:

“Innovation plays a key role in Kunshan’s journey so far, demonstrating the sponge city approach and nature-based solutions across all spatial scales – from buildings, to precincts through to city scale. It’s broadening the underpinning strategy from integrated urban water management to urban metabolism. This approach gives Kunshan an edge to continue to lead at the forefront of China’s Sponge City Initiatives.”

An artist impression of the Western Parkland City centred around South Creek Wianamatta, where integrated planning delivers a city which reimagines liveability

Sponge City demonstration site in Kunshan, China

We congratulate the City of Kunshan on receiving this prestigious recognition of its work so far, and look forward to seeing it continue its transformation to a Sponge City.