The Policy & Practice of Climate Change & Water

The IWA’s Principles for Water Wise Cities – Developing a Shared Water Vision

This guest blog was written by AGWA member Lisa Andrews (IWA Intern for Cities of the Future) with edits from Corinne Trommsdorff (IWA Programmes Manager for Water Climate & Energy / Cities of the Future)

Water — it sustains us and the planet, and it is increasingly becoming a central focus for planning across disciplines and in the face of climate change. Many organizations are now using water as their central focus for planning and adapting to climate change, and this is the backbone of the International Water Association’s (IWA) Cities of the Future Programme (CoF). The Cities of the Future agenda harnesses the power of the IWA network to co-create solutions and join efforts to manage a city’s many waters in a sustainable and resilient manner, an approach summarized by the IWA Principles for Water Wise Cities detailed below.

Coming from the ‘World’s Biggest Gathering on Water’, the 7th World Water Forum held in Korea, the IWA set out to develop what is now called the ‘IWA Principles for Water Wise Cities.’ This initiative was taken as an outcome of the theme ‘Water and Cities’ of the Forum. The driver for action was the statement that ‘vision underlies all collaborative action’ and there was a strong need identified for a document to support the development of a shared water vision between urban and water stakeholders, and in particular to inspire urban leaders on a progressive water vision.

The Principles for Water Wise Cities outlines a framework to assist urban leaders and professionals to develop and implement their vision for sustainable urban water and resilient planning and design in their cities. The ultimate goal of the Principles is to encourage collaborative action, underpinned by a shared vision, so that local governments, urban professionals and individuals actively engage in addressing and finding solutions on urban water management challenges. Many solutions require integration of water with other disciplines. The solutions are driven by three main paradigm shifts:

1. Resources are limited: we need to do more with less
2. City densification is both an economic opportunity and a threat to livability
3. An uncertain future underlies the planning of our cities

Addressing these paradigm shifts is vital if we are to plan our future cities to withstand shocks and slow changes — and thrive! We must focus on long-term risks such as floods, droughts, and pollution, and plan our cities accordingly. Through the Principles, urban leaders, water managers and other stakeholders are inspired to implement water wise management strategies through a shared vision which will enable the development of flexible and adaptable cities through common drivers.

The Principles are structured along four levels of action — each enabled by the next level — and five building blocks through which the urban stakeholders can deliver sustainable urban water. The building blocks begin with defining a vision for the city, followed by governance, knowledge and capacity, planning tools, and implementation. The four levels of action are regenerative water services for all, water sensitive urban design, basin connected cities, and water wise communities, empowering cities on a path to urban water resilience.

The Principles will therefore be used to bring people together for resilient city planning and to guide the urban water revolution needed in cities of the future. At the IWA’s World Water Congress and Exhibition (WWCE) in Brisbane later this year, the Principles will be launched and endorsed by water professionals and selected cities. CoF will host a City Leaders Forum at the WWCE, where city leaders will develop and reinforce their vision for sustainable urban water management. This Forum will enable cities to inspire and be inspired further into adopting a shared vision on urban water resilience.

Following the WWCE, the Principles will be brought to the UN Habitat III Conference in Quito, Ecuador, where CoF will push integrating water in city planning for sustainable development, resilience, and increased livability in the New Urban Agenda. In Quito, individuals and organizations will sign a pledge to ‘Collaborate for Water Wise Cities’ by cooperating across boundaries, scales and disciplines to implement sustainable urban water when implementing the New Urban Agenda. The Principles will be concretized further in 2017, as CoF and the IWA will host the conference Embrace the Water in Gothenburg, Sweden. At this conference, CoF will help to bridge the gap between water professionals and urban planners to learn about integrated solutions in a workshop approach. This will be the perfect venue to develop capacities in taking collaborative and cross-cutting actions for sustainable urban water.

The time to act is now. The Principles for Water Wise Cities serve to guide stakeholders across a range of disciplines in the water sector and beyond. Join the journey to water wise cities. The next stop: Brisbane!


Please click here to view the Principles for Water Wise Cities
Link to Embrace the Water, Gothenburg
Link to World Water Congress and Exhibition, Brisbane
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