Tackling the challenges of water stressed cities in Africa

The Resilience Shift is delighted to announce next steps for its support of the City Water Resilience Approach (CWRA) to build urban water resilience, in partnership with the Resilient Cities Network and Arup, with a further rollout to 3 city-regions in Africa as part of the World Resources Institute (WRI)’s Urban Water Resilience in Africa Initiative. This WRI webinar Building Urban Water Resilience in Africa, recorded on 02/12/2020 at Adaptation Week 2020, explains more about the program.

The CWRA was developed and tested with eight cities around the globe – Amman, Thessaloniki, Hull, Greater Manchester, Rotterdam, Mexico City, and subsequently implemented into local strategies in Greater Miami and the Beaches, and in Cape Town. It will soon be adopted fully by Hull and now comes news of next steps in the adoption of this innovative collaborative methodology.

Building water resilience for Africa

The World Resources Institute (WRI) has received a grant from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to develop a programme ‘Towards a Water Resilient Africa’. The initiative aims to support cities in improving the resilience of their water systems while meeting their urban development goals. The programme will be implemented in 6 cities in 3 countries in Africa by 2022. The 3 components of the program include:

  • Partnerships with cities to enhance capacity and demonstrate action | WRI and partners will work with a cohort of six cities and their regional and national governments to provide support toward advancing city water resilience agendas. Partners will facilitate a structured multi-stakeholder planning process using the CWRA methodology to identify and design priority actions. The programme will provide technical assistance and facilitate knowledge exchange and capacity building with the cohort of city partners.
  • Collective action to improve the enabling environment I WRI along with partners and cities will mobilise collective action through engagement with key actors influencing the enabling environment, such as national governments, regional governments, research centers, financial institutions and urban water experts in the region. The pan-African alliance will support enhanced policy alignment and investment/finance to advance implementation of urban water resilience interventions and design by local and sub-national entities.

This plan has the potential to develop into a much larger urban water resilience programme for Africa.

The Resilience Shift and Arup, along with the Resilient Cities Network (R-Cities) are sub-grantees on this project collaborating to support component 2 of the program working in close partnership with city leaders and stakeholder to develop urban water resilience action plans in 3 cities. The objective is to help city stakeholders to better design specific interventions to address their water risks and vulnerabilities. Partners will provide the research and data to assess context specific risks and work closely with the city stakeholders to jointly identify potential implementation pathways.

Continuing the rollout of the City Water Resilience Approach

The Resilience Shift and Arup will work closely with the Resilient Cities Network on one of the three activity areas of the Programme that includes the rollout of stages 1-3 of the City Water Resilience Approach to the Addis Ababa city region, in Ethiopia, and to the Kigali city region, in Rwanda. They will also continue working with the City of Cape Town to follow on from its implementation of the Approach in 2019, with completion of the final stages 4-5 to complete the methodology in full including a review and feedback cycle.

The work will involve creating City Characterisation Reports with Addis and Kigali, together with completing a multi-stakeholder assessment and visioning workshops. From this each City will prepare its City Water Resilience Profile and Action Plan. You can see such documentation online for previous cities that have applied the CWRA at various stages, and the aim is to share all materials to build a knowledge base for further cities to access for comparison and insight.

This work will use the CWRA methodology and assessment framework as well as the OurWater governance mapping tool. It will also incorporate other spatial planning tools and frameworks developed by WRI that allow city-regions to identify, quantify and locate urban water risks (e.g. the Aqueduct database). This approach supports taking a comprehensive systems perspective to urban water resilience to inform an integrated ‘one water’ approach that supports the health and wellbeing of the community and protects the natural water cycle. The CWRA at its core helps assess the resilience of the water system a city depends on and includes upstream and downstream catchment issues.

Bringing together a team of specialists

This work will reunite some of the team of water resilience specialists who worked on the first stages of the CWRA’s development in 2018/2019.

Louise Ellis and Martin Shouler, from Arup’s water team, are leading this work for The Resilience Shift, in partnership with Katrin Bruebach from Resilient Cities Network. They will together implement the resilience assessments and the roadmap for action with city engagement and strategy provided by R-Cities.

They will join forces with specialists from the WRI including Smita Rawoot, Urban Resilience Lead, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, Elleni Ashebir, Program Manager, Cities and Urban Mobility, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, WRI Africa, and Eliza Swedenborg, Manager, Strategy and Performance, WRI Water Program, who will bring their expertise in water analytics and global data sets to contribute to the development of the relevant City Characteristics Reports. WRI has an office in Addis Ababa and will work closely with local stakeholders there in partnership with R-Cities whose global network of relationships and City Resilience Officers brings a particular expertise in managing community resilience initiatives.

Collaboration across communities

The Urban Water Resilience in Africa Initiative is one of a number of initiatives that is contributing to the Global Commission on Adaptation’s Cities Action Track.  The overarching goal of the Action Track is to develop a defragmented offer by bringing together key city networks and institutions in the urban adaptation space to leverage their overlapping geographies, complementary skills, city-national-global relationships & partnerships, data analysis capacities to accelerate action on urban adaptation. To achieve this goal, the Cities Action Track is forging a strategic alliance, led by World Resources Institute, the Global Centre for Adaptation, the Resilient Cities Network (R-Cities), C40, and UN-Habitat with support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment of the Netherlands. The Urban Water Resilience in Africa Initiative forms an important component of this work.

The need to tackle water-stressed cities globally

The initial development of the City Water Resilience Approach by Arup, Siwi and 100 Resilient Cities, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and The Resilience Shift, was also supported by World Bank Water and the OECD and it is a globally recognised tool for tackling the challenges of urban water resilience.

With an estimated 45 cities of over 3 million residents facing extremely high water stress by 2030 according to the WRI, and representing nearly 470 million people, the CWRA is one in an armoury of tools and approaches that city leaders can benefit from to help them build water resilience across their catchment in collaboration with all stakeholders.

For all those who worked on the development of the CWRA, it is a great opportunity to scale up the CWRA adoption, and adapt it to more challenging contexts – both in the context of ongoing crises such as the pandemic, extreme weather and conflicts, but also to understand differences in its application for low and middle income or developing countries.

As climate risks continue to increase, access to water has become the defining challenge of our times. Whether challenged by too much, too little or poor-quality water, City leaders in Africa face converging challenges of extending water and sanitation services for growing and urbanising populations, managing watershed risks often largely outside city jurisdictions, and designing for climate resilience.

The Urban Water Resilience in Africa Initiative offers a unique opportunity to advance work beyond holistic planning to support implementation of priority actions in cities through discrete technical assistance programs, city-to-city learning exchanges and knowledge & capacity building initiatives.

More about the City Water Resilience Approach

More about the Resilient Cities Action Track

More about the Resilient Cities Network

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