Five steps to improve water security for city populations

A changing climate coupled with rapid urbanisation has resulted in unpredictable rainfall, flooding, droughts and other water-related shocks and stresses on cities. Cities increasingly recognise the need for better understanding of their water-related risks, and for tools that help prioritise their action and investments to promote water resilience.

The City Water Resilience Approach is a five-step approach and suite of resources to collaboratively build resilience to local water challenges into how we plan, design, implement and maintain water programmes and projects. It will help cities to improve outcomes for urban populations who rely safe water systems for their health and wellbeing. With over 2 billion new urban citizens anticipated by 2050, improving city water resilience is of critical importance.

Launched to coincide with World Water Day 2019 (22 March), (see fact sheet) whose theme is ‘Leaving no one behind’, this new approach to city water resilience will help to make sure that everyone has access to clean water and sanitation, as set out in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 6.

Around 4 billion people – nearly two-thirds of the world’s population – experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year and 700 million people worldwide could be displaced by intense water scarcity by 2030.

The City Water Resilience Approach has been developed in response to cities’ needs for tools and approaches to help them and their stakeholders navigate the process of building resilience. It can be used by public and private organisations, representatives from national and regional government, cities, utilities, catchment and basin authorities, the private sector and civil society groups.

Louise Ellis, Resilience Shift Project Lead, says, “The City Water Resilience Framework is designed to bring together diverse stakeholders to develop and implement a city water resilience action plan for their city, ensuring buy-in for the plan through its development, and improving outcomes through partnership working.

It includes an approach to guide a multi-stakeholder group to formulate a clear vision of what urban water resilience means in the context of their water system; uses a globally applicable water resilience framework to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their urban water system; and provides a detailed plan for developing and prioritizing key actions in cities”.

Supported by The Resilience Shift and the Rockefeller Foundation, this new Approach was developed by Arup and the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI). It includes resources that will help the cities carry out each step of the process.

These tools include the City Water Resilience Framework, which is a globally applicable water resilience framework to assess the strengths and weakness of the urban water system and Our Water, an online tool to improve water governance through coordination and knowledge-sharing between actors working in the water system.

Working with 100 Resilient Cities, the project team collaborated with eight cities globally to understand their urban water system, governance, interdependencies between water and other systems, and the factors contributing to resilience.

Hardeep Anand, Deputy Director, Miami-Dade Water and Sewer Department, said, “We’re excited about continuing to forge the path to a more resilient water supply and management approach in the spirit and recognition of our unique interconnected and interdependent ‘one water’ system.

The City Water Resilience Approach fosters collaboration, a priority echoed by stakeholders during the fieldwork engagement process”, Hardeep said.

The City Water Resilience Approach and conclusions of the literature review and fieldwork are now published along with individual City Characterisation Reports for Amman, Cape Town, Hull, Manchester, Mexico City, Miami, Rotterdam and Thessaloniki.

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