City Water Resilience Approach

How can cities and their water systems be resilient?

As part of the Arup’s City Water Resilience Approach (CWRA), SIWI has contributed towards development of its resources and tools, providing specific guidance on what steps to take, in what order and how, to support governance-based solutions to make cities and their water system more resilient.

CWRA is funded by Rockefeller Foundation and led by Arup, London.

The CWRA resources and tools can be accessed here.

The City Water Resilience Approach (CWRA) aims to enable cities to take a holistic view of their water systems, inform decision-makers of a strategy to take forwardand collaboratively build resilience to local water challenges. The objective is to create a model that can be applied nearly anywhere in the world.

CWRA will guide cities through a detailed process, coupled with a set of tools and resources, to understand its current water system and resilience capacity and be able to make better planning and investment decisions for their city’s water systems to be able to thrive and survive to water related shocks and stresses and improve water security for the city inhabitants.The tools developed are the OurWater digital tool that helps understand the city’s current water systems, and the City Water Resilience Approach (CWRA) to assess urban water resilience.

The City Water Resilience Framework (CWRF)

CWRA is a joint effort developed by Arup and the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), along with city partners in Amman, Cape Town, Greater Miami and the Beaches, Mexico City, Kingston Hull, Greater Manchester, Rotterdam and Thessaloniki, and with contributions from 100 ResilientCities and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).The development of CWRA leverages knowledge, data and lessons learnt from previous resilience work (such as the City Resilience Index100 Resilient Cities and Welsh Water Resilience Framework), fieldwork in cities conducted in 2018,and use them as a blueprint for defining what the characteristics of a resilient urban water system are.

The key objectives are:

  • Understand the shocks and stresses that may impact the city water basin
  • Assess the resilience of the city water basin
  • Generate and appraise interventions that yield greater resilience for the city water basin in question
How can cities become resilient by applying governance-based solutions in their water system?

As part of the CWRA fieldwork strategy (April-June 2018), SIWI lead governance workshops in the five partner cities. The governance workshops aimed to identify and co-create with key stakeholders (municipal, state and civil society actors, academia, representatives from international organizations etc.) an analysis framework to allow cities to identify governance gaps when looking at resilience challenges in their water systems.

The objective of the workshops was to highlight the concepts of governance by understanding the current scenario of water governance in the cities, mapping their water systems and stakeholders (‘who does what, at what level, how and why?’), major water related shocks and stresses, governance challenges around these shocks and stresses according to key governance functions. Then discussing main attributes for resilient water governance in the urban context.

Information gathered during the fieldwork has helped set the basis for the development of the CWRA wheel, its implementation methodology and the OurWater digitaltools. The second phase of CWRA is aimed towards piloting the CWRF in cities and progress from a ‘diagnosis’ step to the ‘prioritization’ stage towards developing an Urban Water Resilience Action Plan, to have a city water system better positioned to thrive and survive in the face of shocks and stresses.

Step wise approach to develop an urban water resilience action plan

As part of the CWRA fieldwork strategy (April-June 2018), SIWI lead governance workshops in the five partner cities. The governance workshops aimed to identify and co-create with key stakeholders (municipal, state and civil society actors, academia, representatives from international organizations etc.) an analysis framework to allow cities to identify governance gaps when looking at resilience challenges in their water systems.

The objective of the workshops was to highlight the concepts of governance by understanding the current scenario of water governance in the cities, mapping their water systems and stakeholders (‘who does what, at what level, how and why?’), major water related shocks and stresses, governance challenges around these shocks and stresses according to key governance functions. Then discussing main attributes for resilient water governance in the urban context.

Information gathered during the fieldwork has helped set the basis for the development of the CWRF wheel, its implementation methodology and the OurWater digitaltools. The second phase of CWRA is aimed towards piloting theCWRF in cities and progress from a ‘diagnosis’step to the ‘prioritization’ stagetowards developing an Urban Water Resilience Action Plan, to have a city water system better positioned to thrive and survive in the face of shocks and stresses.

Participants of CWRA governance workshop in Mexico City mapping the city water system and stakeholders | Source: Arup

Participants at the CWRF implementation workshop in Miami, assessing the city’s urban water resilience with CWRF indicators | Source: Arup

 

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Water and urban resilience

Water systems are the lifeblood of a city. They constitute a complex ecosystem whose health and balance are key to the resilience of cities and the communities that inhabit them.

An urban water system cannot be thought of in isolation from the hydrological context within which it sits. Industry, the environment and citizens present competing demands within the city and across the basin. For example, in the case of flooding, one cannot understand and mitigate risk without considering the upstream basins that contribute to flows through the city. In order to build the resilience of any city, one must understand and embrace the complexity of its urban water system. This means taking a holistic, water cycle approach.

A series of hypotheses, which are set out here, guides the development of the City Water Resilience Framework:

  • Urban resilience cannot be achieved and sustained without urban water resilience.
  • Urban water resilience cannot be achieved and sustained without (Basin-scale) freshwater resilience.
  • Freshwater resilience cannot be achieved and sustained without urban water resilience (esp. in Basins with major cities).
  • Addressing urban and Basin-level freshwater resilience jointly/compatibly yields a greater resilience dividend

Governance for urban water resilience

According to the working definition adopted by the CWRF, urban water resilience is “the capacity of the urban water system, including the human, social, political, economic, physical and natural assets, to anticipate and absorb, adapt and respond to, and learn from shocks and stresses, in order to protect public health & wellbeing and the natural environment and minimize economic disruption”.

The governance analysis is based on several assumptions that underpin the CWRA :

  • City Water systems cannot be thought of in isolation from the hydrological and its decision-making context within which it sits, including the basins, the built infrastructure and the national socio-political and economical context.
  • There are important interdependencies that exist between the city, the water system and other Systems (such as energy, food supply and communications), which affect the resilience of the city.

In simple terms, governance for urban water resilience means to understand who does what, at what level, how and why to make a city more resilient to the vulnerabilities affecting its water system.