United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

City Water Resilience Approach (CWRA)

Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) (

    City Water Resilience Approach (CWRA) enables cities, regions and water companies to take a holistic view of their water systems, inform decision-makers of a strategy to take forward and collaboratively build resilience to local water challenges. It provides a detailed step-wise methodology coupled with tools and resources that guide cities to bring a wide range of stakeholders together to share their perspectives; diagnosing what helps and hinders the water system to function when faced with shocks and stresses, and collaboratively develop and implement a water resilience action plan. CWRA and the associated tools are globally applicable.

    Implementation of the Project/Activity

    • Initial engagement with city partners: CWRA is co-created with the active contribution from eight partner cities. A total of ten workshops were conducted in five cities (Amman, Cape Town, Hull, Mexico City and Miami), 16 site visits, 38 structured interviews with city stakeholders (public, private and civil society) were conducted between February and June 2018. Three additional cities—Rotterdam, Thessaloniki, Greater Manchester were engaged remotely during this phase. • Partnership and contribution of global experts: CWRA has also helped build a partnership between different organizations in their effort to guide cities build water resilience towards achieving SDG 6, 11 and 13. It has been a public and private collaboration: Arup, SIWI, World Bank, 100 Resilience Network, The Resilience Shift, OECD, World Economic Forum, Alliance for Global Water Adaptation, WRI, along with partnership established with a number of cities. CWRA announced the Urban Water Resilience Community of Practice, with eight initial partners at the Stockholm World Water Week 2019. • Knowledge generation on water resilience and governance: A database of 1577 resilience factors have been created (from more than 50 sources reviewed and field research in different cities). Governance is found to be the main theme in water and city resilience literature - included in 390 of these 1577 ‘factors of resilience’. Several knowledge products have been developed illustrating the project findings and application of the tools. • Innovative tools developed: A digital tool ‘OurWater’ has been developed that can help cities share information between different stakeholders and visualize complex interactions in urban water systems. An assessment framework, CWRF, with a set of indicators that guides in assessing urban water resilience and inform resilience strategies and actions to take forward. • Piloting: CWRF was piloted in two cities-Cape Town and Miami (June-July 2020), through multi-stakeholder workshops. The team is currently coordinating and following-up with cities to monitor the progress of the action plans developed under the intervention.


    Advancing urban water strategies: CWRF assessment provides a comprehensive picture of a wide range of factors that impact water management and service provision in cities. In Cape Town explored the key themes first presented in its new Water Strategy, which makes a firm commitment to be a water sensitive city by 2040. Action developed through CWRF provides a pathway for the city stakeholders to achieve these goals. In Miami, it has helped strengthen its Resilient305 Strategy, particularly the water dimension. Influencing global initiatives: CWRA is included in the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) Water Action Track, which calls for a resilience approach to tackle climate disaster in cities. Under this initiative, CWRA will be applied in three African cities in 2021. These efforts are also part of the 1000 CAN initiative (Accelerating Climate Adaptation in Cities by GCA, WRI, R-Cities, and UN Habitat) announced at the Climate Adaptation Summit in January 2021. CWRA has been presented at several high level platforms, e.g., Stockholm World Water Week, UN Climate Summits, UNESCO Megacities Conference, IWA-IDB Innovation Conference on Sustainable Use of Water.

    Enabling factors and constraints

    • CWRA is developed by cities for cities, through a robust peer-reviewed approach with custom-designed tools designed to benefit those making decisions to assure water resilience for their city. This approach has helped to learn the complexities of developing a global and unified resilience framework, given the expectation for cities of different size, context, and capacities may vary. • CWRA’s innovative digital tool OurWater is designed as an easily understandable tool for non-technical users, guiding to understand the complex interactions of the urban water system through visual system diagrams and mapping the roles and links between different stakeholders. Although the tool is designed specifically with the first step of the CWRA process, it can also be applied independently in other context for mapping water systems and stakeholders.

    Sustainability and replicability

    • The CWRA five step process helps create the enabling condition among city stakeholders to reach a common vision by identifying and promoting a multi-stakeholder engagement ranging from municipal government, utility providers, business and civil society; it has helped influence and advocate behvious change among city leadership by promoting water resilience as an entry point to build inclusive, safe, resilient cities. One of the initial steps of CWRA is establishing a City Resilience Champion representing city stakeholder, that has promoting accountability among local stakeholders for leading and owning the process in their city, and for promoting its implementation through its convening power and influence. • The CWRA’s assessment framework could be applied in every five years’ time or as deemed necessary by the city, which will help monitor the progresses made in achieving the resilience goals. The assessment will also help inform in processes such as review of city’s water master plans, strategies and policies.

    COVID-19 Impact

    As cities stand at the frontline of addressing COVID-19 pandemic along with multitude of other challenges such as climate disasters, innovative approaches such as CWRA will provide opportunities for cities to improve its water governance and resilience to future uncertainties, health crisis, extreme weather or conflict. CWRA has also been adapted to the challenging context of the pandemic by designing a hybrid model of implementing the assessment tool, combining distance technical support by the CWRA team and real-time assessment workshop conducted in cities.

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    Arup and Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI)
    Other beneficiaries

    With core support from the Rockefeller Foundation, and The Resilience Shift, CWRA is a joint effort developed by Arup and SIWI, along with city partners in Amman, Cape Town, Greater Miami and the Beaches, Mexico City, Kingston Hull, Greater Manchester, Rotterdam and Thessaloniki, and contributions from 100 ResilientCities and OECD. To upscale CWRA across different geographies, the team has collaborated with WRI to align with the institute’s ongoing initiative on Urban Water Resilience in Africa and apply the tools in a number of African cities.

    More information
    Contact Information

    Alejandro , Programme Director, Water and Sanitation