The Water Sensitive City theory provides three principles or pillars that help cities to evolve from an engineered urban water system to an integrated adaptive and climate resilient water system (see Water Sensitive City framework). These principles are to capture measures, approaches and perspectives:

1. Cities as catchments (planning) - The urban water system is often part of a larger catchment area. The intensive exploitation of the urban landscape resulted in the progressive decrease of the natural water system to the detriment of the surrounding region. The goal is to restore the water balance within these regions.

2. Ecological services (financing) - The same water that poses the biggest threat to society also brings life and energy to the cities. Ecological services are the benefits that people derive from ecosystems. A river area for instance can be used multifunctional for flood protection, groundwater recharge, recreation and for the improvement of the quality of live.

3. Water sensitive communities and networks (connecting) - The implementation of integrated solutions requires improved perception of the benefits from decision makers, businesses and the public across multiple constituencies and levels of governance. Therefore collaboration is key.