Submitted by Emily on
PEAK Impacts
Forecasting urban growth and water consumption in Colombia and beyond

Developing new models for predicting urban growth

Understanding the changing footprint of urban areas is vital to those planning future infrastructure and services. It can be particularly challenging in low- and middle-income countries where resources are scarce, and change happens quickly and often in unexpected ways.

New easy-to-use models are enabling planners to predict changes in the size and density of urban areas and build this into decision making. The models run on open access information and can be used in any context, offering the potential to transform urban planning to help create the compact, sustainable cities of the future.


The RISE team developed 'Newton' - which predicts water need from urban growth forecasts using satellite images, and was featured in a national Colombia media article. The model gives a high degree of confidence about future demand (around 80%) and the infrastructure required to meet it.

"Now it is easy for us to predict future water demand in our existing markets or those we want to explore. We can download satellite images, feed them into the model, and quickly get a detailed report on how an urban area is growing and what this means for water consumption in 20, 30, or 40 years." 

Juan Camilo Hurtado, Planning Professional EPM


The PEAK Urban programme uses a framework with four inter-related components to guide its work.

  1. The sciences of Prediction are employed to understand how cities evolve using data from often unconventional sources.
  2. Emergence captures the essence of the outcome from the confluence of dynamics, peoples, interests and tools that characterise cities, which lead to change.
  3. Adoption signals to the choices made by states, citizens and companies, given the specificities of their places, their resources and the interplay of urban dynamics, resulting in changing local power and influencing dynamics.
  4. Finally, the Knowledge component accounts for the way in which knowledge is exchanged or shared and how it shapes the future of the city.
Forecasting urban growth and water consumption in Colombia and beyond