Nature Based Solutions - Implementation Models Database

Urban water management

Zorrotzaurre district

A short description of the NSB

Bilbao’s Zorrotzaurre district was a degraded, flood-prone industrial peninsula. Considering the increasing extreme precipitation predicted across the Basque country in the future due to climate change and the high demand of new housing and related infrastructure from Bilbao citizens, a major urban regeneration project is currently underway to redevelop Zorrotzaurre district into a new flood-proof residential quarter. In order to create a balanced urban development, 50% of new housing units are allocated as social housing and sold at a later stage. The new quarter is well-connected to the rest of the city, equipped with affordable housing, areas for environmentally-friendly industry and two thirds of Zorrotzaurre is reserved for public uses, including open green areas to be enjoyed by the local community and visitors alike and public facilities for educational, health, sport and cultural uses. The formation of this "mix" of residential (housing), public and economic activities aims to reduce mobility needs of the quarter’s inhabitants and stimulate space for artistic and creative innovation. Hence, Zorrotzaurre aims to grow into a ‘creative island’. To protect Zorrotzaurre from flooding, several measures are being taken: • Opening up the Deusto canal: the opening of the canal reduces the flood potential by creating increased water capacity and thereby decreasing the height of the water surface. With this adaptation measure in place, decreases of flood levels between 1m and 0.5m can be achieved. • Elevation of the ground level: during the first phase of the project the surface in the east and west of the Zorrotzaurre peninsula/island is elevated by 1.5m so that new buildings can be constructed on a higher level. This should protect the new buildings from T=500 rainfall events. • Construction of a flood protection wall: to protect the 47 existing buildings (including 352 apartments) on the peninsula (mostly located next to the river) a 1m high flood protection barrier is constructed. This barrier should ensure that existing buildings are protected from flooding from T=100 rainfall events. • Green, open spaces: the 7.5km long river bank is mostly (95%) 20m wide public space for pedestrians and bikers, partly at the current level and partly at the elevated level. Some of this area can be used as an overflow area for the river. The green open spaces are concentrated on both edges of the island and on the canal side, with major walkways on both banks of the canal, as well as a linear park of 40.000sqm in the central area of the island. The gardens of Botica Vieja on the opposite side of the canal will be extended and increased in size and connected by the new bridges to the open spaces on the Zorrotzaurre island. The network is complemented with “green fingers” of more than 5.000sqm extending across the island from the canal to the pathway located on the riverbank. • Provision of storm water tanks: 3 storm water tanks are provided to store excess water, one in San Ignacio (620mc) and two in Ribera de Duesto (2.100mc) (two neighbourhoods on the other side of the canal).

NBS Implementation context
Location Bilbao (Spain)
Status (from - to) Ongoing (since 2015)
NBS Scale Neighbourhood
NBS Impacts scale Object (building, etc.) Neighbourhood City
Urban density/ Soil consumption Medium
NBS Typology

NBS Uban Challenges
Climate Issues Climate mitigation
Climate adaptation
Other 0
Urban water management and quality Urban water management and quality
Flood management
Other 0
Air Quality Air quality at district/city scale
Air quality locally
Other 0
Urban Space and Biodiversity Biodiversity
Urban space design
Urban space management
Other 0
Urban Regeneration and Soil Air quality at district/city scale
Other 0
Resource efficiency Food, energy and water
Raw materials
Other 0
Public health and well-being Acustic
Quality of life
Other 0
Environmental justice and social cohesion Environmental Justice: Recognition
Environmental Justice: Procedural Justice
Environmental Justice: Distributional Justice
Environmental Justice: Capabilities
Environmental Justice: Responsibility
Social Cohesion
Other 0
Urban planning and governance Urban planning and form
Governance in planning
Other 0
People Security Control of crimes
Control of extraordinary events
Other 0
Green economy Circular economy
Bioeconomy activities
Direct economic value of NBS
Other 0
NBS Stakeholders & Governance

Main stakeholders of the redevelopment project, the land owners of Zorrotzaurre, created the public-private partnership, the ’Comisión Gestora de Zorrotzaurre’ (the Management Commission of Zorrotzaurre) as a necessary element to advance the project. The private sector initiated the partnership, and, due to the importance of the project and the amount of land owned by public authorities (Port, City and Province), the public sector joined the ‘Comisión Gestora’. The ‘Comisión Gestora’ is a union of owners with no special legal status. The ‘Junta de Concertación’, the organization that was created to develop the first phase of the project, is an organisation defined in the Basque law for urbanism. Both are not-for-profit, since the final objective is to balance the costs with investments made by the owners. The current members of the ’Comisión Gestora de Zorrotzaurre’ own 65% of the land in Zorrotzaurre; these are: The Regional Basque Government (through the Department of Employment and Social Affairs and the publicly-owned company Visesa), Bilbao City Council, the Port Authority of Bilbao, and private entities ‘Sociedad Promotora Inmobiliaria Margen Derecha S.A.’ and ‘Vicinay Cadenas S.A.’. The ’Comisión Gestora de Zorrotzaurre’ supervises the redevelopment plan of Zorrotzaurre (the ‘Master Plan Zorrotzaurre’) and the members pay for all the expenses of the project and contribute financially relative to the share of land they own (51% public, 49% private). The residents of Zorrotzaurre are excluded from membership as they are not supposed to pay for any costs of the project. However, they, together with the neighbourhood association, have been involved in the design and development of the plans for which various interactions with the project managers have taken place. Among the results of these discussion has been a programme established by the ‘Society for Municipal Restoration’, or Surbisa, with a ring-fenced budget (donated 50% by developers of the general project and 50% by the municipality) to support and help existing owners and tenants to restore their buildings with special attention to improve accessibility and energy saving. Surbisa is a municipal company, owned 100% by the City. The Boards consists of all parties that have an elected member in the City. In addition, the redevelopment plan has had two periods of public exposure where 38 and 10 claims respectively were received from citizens of Bilbao. As a result of the claims, a number of modifications were introduced into the initial planning approach, some of a minor nature and others more fundamental, like the decision to maintain the former industrial building known as the ‘Papelera’, which is located on the Deusto riverbank. Citizens wanted to maintain this historic building and it will now be converted into a cultural centre.

Initial actors (Leaders) Market Private sector (main entities: Sociedad Promotora Inmobiliaria Margen Derecha S.L., Vicinay Cadenas S.A.)
Involved actors Governments Regional government (the Regional Basque Government) Local government/municipality (the Bilbao City Council, the Port Authority of Bilbao),Community Interest groups (The land owners of Zorrotzaurre), Market Private sector (main entities: Sociedad Promotora Inmobiliaria Margen Derecha S.L., Vicinay Cadenas S.A.)
Ecological scale Local scale green area
Governance model CLUSTER 2: New Public Management Public_private partnership (PPP)
NBS Financial aspects

The Comisión Gestora de Zorrotzaurre supervises the redevelopment plan and members contribute financially in proportion to the share of the land they own. The costs for opening the Deusto canal are budgeted at €20.9 million and will be taken up by the City Council while the Basque government will finance the costs of one of the new bridges. The municipality will also pay for the flood protection barrier (€5.1 million, including the structural rehabilitation of the river bank) and the storm water tanks (costs estimated at €4.74 million). The costs for the ground level elevation and public, green spaces (as well as the other redevelopment costs) are paid by the Comisión Gestora de Zorrotzaurre. The residents of Zorrotzaurre are excluded from membership as they are not supposed to pay for any costs of the project. However, together with the neighbourhood association, they are involved in the design and development of the plans for which various interactions with the project managers have taken place.

Global (estimated) cost of the project more than 5M€
Financing mechanism CLUSTER 4: PUBLIC-PRIVATE Private Finance Iniative PFI
NBS Business Models Archetype
Technological Non applicable
Social Non applicable
Organisational Re-purpose the business for society/environment Develop scale-up solutions (collaborative approaches)
NBS Success and limiting factors
Process enablers
Knowledge Generation of evidence Research on benefits, Awareness Climate Change
Governance Self- governance Emerging partnerships, Co-creation and participation Cross sectorial spaces and partnerships Tools to build a common vision
Economy Government support Public-private partnerships
Process inibitors
Knowledge -
Governance Complexity of governance structure Apathy Role ambiguity
Economy -
IM Keywords
  • Public–private partnership (PPP)

  • Local scale green area

  • Private Finance Iniative PFI

  • Re-purpose the business for society/environment

  • Develop scale-up solutions