Get water right to build a resilient future! Resilience Round-table at COP25

As part of his involvement with the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action, Martin Shouler participated at the Resilience Round-table: Accelerating action to build a resilient 1.5ºC world, one of five events he took part in at COP25.

Convened by SIWI, the session highlighted how actions on, and investment in, transformative change for the most affected by climate change must be accelerated. It focused on increased awareness of the needs for resilience building and how to translate these into action. Martin talked about how water is a key connector and enabler and how we need to get water right in order to build a resilient future, and how the City Water Resilience Approach provide a holistic, inclusive and collaborative way of doing so.

Martin Shouler is from Arup, the global engineering company, that hosts the Resilience Shift and supports its aim to inspire and empower a global community to make the world safer through resilient infrastructure

Representing the Resilience Shift at COP25, Martin explains how more people than ever depend on the critical infrastructure systems that provide essential energy, water, transport and communications services, and underpin food, healthcare and education. When this infrastructure fails the consequences can be catastrophic.

Martin explained why, when thinking about resilience. we need to do so in a holistic (system of systems) collaborative and inclusive manner.

Much of climate change impacts will be felt through water – too much, too little or too polluted. Water is the great connector, but it also poses a threat and an opportunity for cities and their catchments.

We are not designing for a ‘steady state system’. As well as climate change we need to consider the needs of an additional two billion citizens in our cities by 2050. So, we are designing and adapting for a future under deep uncertainty.

Currently a third of the world’s population live in water stressed areas. We see the effect of floods across the world on a near daily basis. Building resilience requires cooperation which is not easy, but it is absolutely essential.

There is an intimate relationship between cities and the basins in which they are situated.

We have developed the CWRA five-step approach – an open source framework, methodology and set of tools. It has been created through working collaboratively with eight cities across the globe, each with a seemingly different set of water challenges, and together with willing partners such as SIWI and the Global Resilient Cities Network (formerly 100RC).

The most important step is to understand the hydrology and to identify the key stakeholders responsible or impacted by water. This helps us to effectively base-line the urban water system.

We have developed and tested an online tool, OurWater, to provide an inclusive and transparent way to look the multitude of the stakeholders from the source to the city to the sea. It identities roles and responsibilities for those who manage and are impacted by water, as well as ‘overlaps’ and ‘underlaps’. This tool is open to all provides a means of convening stakeholders and building trust – an important ingredient in collaboration.

The next step is to diagnose urban water resilience – what are the key shocks and stresses that impact of the natural and manmade systems. Again, this is an inclusive process that allows for all voices to be heard.

Recently, working collaboratively with both Cape Town and Miami we have developed resilience actions which are being incorporated into their respective city resilience plans.

As part of this process, we are seeing city to city learning happening. In the case of Cape Town, the ways the city communicated with its citizens during Day Zero has provided Miami with a case study in good practice.

Water is a key connector and enabler and we need to get water right to build a resilient future. The City Water Resilience Approach provide a holistic, inclusive and collaborative way of doing so.

In the clip below (filmed when the Approach was first launched) Martin explains more about the development of the City Water Resilience Approach.

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