Water and innovation must go hand in hand for a resilient future

Innovation is the new mantra for building a sustainable and resilient water sector. Cities now recognise water resilience as the most appropriate paradigm for planning in the face of increasing climate related disasters.

Translating resilience goals into practical actions and then implementing them is a significant challenge. The innovative City Water Resilience Approach (CWRA) addresses such challenges as it helps cities build water resilience at the urban scale. Drawing from the CWRA Literature Review, it is found that such challenges are often associated with governance gaps.

Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI)’s Panchali Saikia reports from the IWA-IDB Innovation Conference on Sustainable Use of Water: Cities, Industry and Agriculture (Guayaquil, Ecuador, 30 September to 03 October 2019), where the City Water Resilience Approach was presented by Ricard Giné, Programme Manager, SIWI.

The International Water Association (IWA) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) hosted this conference whose objective was to discuss the advances, new and innovative concepts, analytical tools, and technologies, and their application towards enhancing resilience of the urban water system.

CWRA received a positive response from the audience. It was recognised as a unique and innovative approach, given its strong focus on water governance, and the way that it helps cities to operationalise and institutionalise water resilience by:

  • Taking a holistic approach and linking the city with the basin
  • Mapping the interdependencies in the urban water system with other systems
  • Engaging all relevant water stakeholders in the process
  • Aligning existing policies and strategies (opportunities) with the city’s needs
  • Mapping existing budgets to identify resources to implement the identified actions.

Innovation is often associated primarily with technology, so governance-based solutions are yet to be accepted and acknowledged widely as an innovative approach. However, governance-based solutions are equally as important as technological and infrastructure solutions. Deficiencies in governance result in failure of water interventions and programmes, further exacerbating the effects of water scarcity, water pollution or flooding.

The CWRA guides cities step-by-step to enhance their urban water resilience. It is supported by a suite of resources and tools including the OurWater digital tool, and the diagnostic City Water Resilience Framework) and governance is embedded as a core component. The approach emphasises that continued and structured collaboration among a wide variety of actors and stakeholders is needed to build urban water resilience and address water challenges.

This is achieved through:

  • Co-designing solutions to urban water challenges through a multi-stakeholder process
  • Adopting a holistic approach and embedding core governance functions and attributes into the tools
  • Providing guidance to address the gap between data and action to navigate.

The CWRA was supported by the Resilience Shift and the Rockefeller Foundation and is co-created by SIWI and Arup in partnership with 100 Resilient Cities, the World Bank, Global Commission on Adaptation, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and eight cities, Amman, Cape Town, Mexico City, Miami, Hull, Rotterdam, Thessaloniki, and Greater Manchester.

With thanks to Panchali Saikia and Ricard Giné, SIWI 

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