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United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Know your water - action-oriented partnerships at the interface between science, politics and practice

Swiss Federal Institute for Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag) (

    This is joint contribution of Swiss actors from science, politics and practice to empower municipalities around the world to work towards reducing inequity and increasing resilience in urban water management.

    It is based on four commitments:

    1) We engage in action-oriented cooperation at the interface between science, politics, and practice.

    2) We promote easy-to-understand tools, such as the urban Water Flow Diagram, to understand challenges and opportunities in water management.

    3) We encourage solidarity-based city-to-city or utility-to-utility partnerships to build empower local actors and to build joint visions to reduce inequity and increase the resilience of cities.

    4) We work with private sector initiatives that provide innovations to implement local solutions.

    Urbanisation in a changing climate provides specific challenges, but also opportunities, to reach SDG6 and the human right to water and sanitation (HRWS). Key challenges are inequalities and conflicts of interest in water resource distribution, overexploitation, pollution, and water related hazards, such as droughts and floods. The opportunities are economies of scale, improved stormwater harvesting, and circular approaches, using synergies between different water users. To manage urban water, it is necessary to know its flows and stocks and the issues at stake. We engage in action-oriented partnerships at the interface between science, politics, society and the private sector to create a joint vision and to trigger action.

    Applied science: The Water Flow Diagram (WFD) is a visual tool that shows in one picture all the water resources and flows within a city and identifies the challenges and opportunities related to SDG6 and the HRWS. It connects information related to both Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) and assists in the creation of a joint vision to prioritise action.

    Local action by the civil society: The WFD was developed by scientists (Eawag) in collaboration with local actors, mostly in Rio Pardo de Minas, Brazil, and civil society support (Swiss NGOs - HEKS and Helvetas). This collaboration embedded the development of the WFD into a participatory process from data collection to multi-stakeholder dialogue and a joint vision for action.

    Political commitment: The development of the WFD was supported by the City of Bern, a Blue Community. While financially supporting the activities in Brazil, Bern developed its own WFD. The WFD is now also being applied as part of city-to-city and utility-to-utility partnerships supported by Solidarit’eau Suisse. The partnerships go beyond financial support and includ capacity building through harnessing skills and knowledge and visits by political leaders.

    Private sector innovation: The Swiss Water Partnership unifies Swiss actors from science, policy, NGOs and the private sector. By connecting the drops, it uses the power of the private sector and of youth to scale up innovations that can help make contributions towards SDG6 and the human right to water and sanitation (HRWS). We invite municipalities around the world to join us in this journey by making their own WFD and engage in partnerships to prioritise action towards SDG6 and the HRWS.

    Expected Impact

    Our approach demonstrates how joint action at the interface between science, politics and practice can trigger commitment and action among stakeholders along the entire urban water cycle. We invite municipalities around to make their own WFD and engage in partnerships that will activate local actors from academia, civil society and the private sector. The expect impact is a better urban water management where inequalities are reduced and resilience increased. This will be achieved through: evidence, dialogue, and commitment to action: Evidence: the urban water flow diagram provides a visual summary of issues at stakes. Partnerships: allow an empowered multi-stakeholder dialogue to solve conflict of interests and prioritise actions. Political commitment: results in an enabling environment to put actions into practice together with the private sector and civil society.


    Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC)

    Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH

    Swiss Church Aid (HEKS/EPER), Switzerland, Brazil, Senegal

    Blue Communities Switzerland

    Solidarit'EAU Suisse

    Swiss Water Partnership (SWP)

    Global Water Operators

    Partnership Municipalities: Rio Pardo de Minas, Bern, Dakar, Lausanne, Noukchott

    Additional information

    Subscribe to UN Water Conference Session recording and updates:


    The participatory process around in Rio Pardo de Minas:

    The water flow diagram from Rio Pardo de Minas:

    The water flow diagram from Bern:

    Goal 6

    Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

    Goal 6


    By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all


    Proportion of population using safely managed drinking water services


    By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations


    Proportion of population using (a) safely managed sanitation services and (b) a hand-washing facility with soap and water


    By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally


    Proportion of domestic and industrial wastewater flows safely treated


    Proportion of bodies of water with good ambient water quality


    By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity

    Change in water-use efficiency over time


    Level of water stress: freshwater withdrawal as a proportion of available freshwater resources


    By 2030, implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate


    Degree of integrated water resources management 


    Proportion of transboundary basin area with an operational arrangement for water cooperation


    By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes

    Change in the extent of water-related ecosystems over time


    By 2030, expand international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water- and sanitation-related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies

    Amount of water- and sanitation-related official development assistance that is part of a government-coordinated spending plan


    Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management


    Proportion of local administrative units with established and operational policies and procedures for participation of local communities in water and sanitation management

    Goal 11

    Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

    Goal 11


    By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums


    Proportion of urban population living in slums, informal settlements or inadequate housing


    By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons

    Proportion of population that has convenient access to public transport, by sex, age and persons with disabilities


    By 2030, enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries

    Ratio of land consumption rate to population growth rate


    Proportion of cities with a direct participation structure of civil society in urban planning and management that operate regularly and democratically


    Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage


    Total per capita expenditure on the preservation, protection and conservation of all cultural and natural heritage, by source of funding (public, private), type of heritage (cultural, natural) and level of government (national, regional, and local/municipal)


    By 2030, significantly reduce the number of deaths and the number of people affected and substantially decrease the direct economic losses relative to global gross domestic product caused by disasters, including water-related disasters, with a focus on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situations


    Number of deaths, missing persons and directly affected persons attributed to disasters per 100,000 population


    Direct economic loss attributed to disasters in relation to global domestic product (GDP)


    (a) Damage to critical infrastructure and (b) number of disruptions to basic services, attributed to disasters


    By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management


    Proportion of municipal solid waste collected and managed in controlled facilities out of total municipal waste generated, by cities


    Annual mean levels of fine particulate matter (e.g. PM2.5 and PM10) in cities (population weighted)


    By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities

    Average share of the built-up area of cities that is open space for public use for all, by sex, age and persons with disabilities


    Proportion of persons victim of physical or sexual harassment, by sex, age, disability status and place of occurrence, in the previous 12 months


    Support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas by strengthening national and regional development planning


    Number of countries that have national urban policies or regional development plans that (a) respond to population dynamics; (b) ensure balanced territorial development; and (c) increase local fiscal space


    By 2020, substantially increase the number of cities and human settlements adopting and implementing integrated policies and plans towards inclusion, resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, resilience to disasters, and develop and implement, in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, holistic disaster risk management at all levels


    Number of countries that adopt and implement national disaster risk reduction strategies in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030


    Proportion of local governments that adopt and implement local disaster risk reduction strategies in line with national disaster risk reduction strategies


    Support least developed countries, including through financial and technical assistance, in building sustainable and resilient buildings utilizing local materials

    Name Description

    By the end of this year we will have created five more Water Flow Diagrams with cities around the World and established at least 2 new city-to-city partnerships.

    By the end of 2024 we will have developed a water flow diagrame promototion initiatiative ideally with a secretariat that can coordinate and backstop new applications and partnerships.

    By 2030 the Water Flow Diagram is used by cities around the world to decrease inequalities and increase resilience. Public-public partnernerships have been created among cities and municipalities connecting their local actors from science, civil society and private sector.

    Other, please specify
    This is a joint contribution where each partner provides according to its resources what is required: knowledge, tools, process facilitation, political and financial committment.
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    Action Network
    water logo
    10 September 2020 (start date)
    31 December 2030 (date of completion)
    Swiss Federal Institute for Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag)
    1. Africa
    2. Europe
    3. Asia and Pacific
    4. Latin America and the Caribbean
    Other beneficiaries

    Cities around the world

    Contact Information