Suitability indices for assessing functional quality of urban surface water

E.S. van der Meulen*, P.R. van Oel, H.H.M. Rijnaarts, N.B. Sutton, F.H.M. van de Ven

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Urban surface waters are used in many different ways. With increasing demand for human use functions, improved insight is required into the functional quality of these waters. A method to assess this functional quality in a systematic way and for a wide variety of use functions is not available. We propose to use suitability indices (SIs) for assessing the suitability of urban water bodies for a variety of specific human uses. This study provides a new protocol for this, building on the water quality index and ecosystem services approaches in literature, by extending traditional water quality parameters with other characteristics of water bodies that determine suitability for a specific use function. By assessing suitability instead of traditional water quality, the functional quality of a water body for all kinds of uses can be determined in a consistent way. The protocol was demonstrated to be effective in developing SIs for three specific urban water use functions, namely: thermal energy extraction, transportation of goods and primary contact recreation. Application of the suitability indices in a case study in the city of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, resulted in spatially explicit information about suitability of surface waters for the three selected use functions. Sub-scores per parameter showed which characteristics of the urban water bodies should be changed to improve the suitability for these three functions. In this way, the SI approach for assessment of the functional quality of urban surface waters can be used to support function-oriented planning, design and maintenance of urban surface water systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100079
JournalCity and Environment Interactions
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


  • Primary contact recreation
  • Suitability index
  • Thermal energy extraction
  • Transportation
  • Urban water
  • Water quality


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