City Water Resilience Approach (CWRA)

Today’s new normal requires models of governance that mitigate risk and respond to evolving challenges.

The Challenge

The City Water Resilience Approach (CWRA) is designed to grow cities’ capacity to provide high quality water resources for all residents, to protect them from water-related hazards, and to connect them through water-based transportation networks (“provide, protect, connect”). The CWRA helps cities and their upstream/downstream catchments assess the resilience of their water system – by outlining a process for developing urban water resilience through a suite of tools that helps cities grow their capacity to survive and thrive in the face of water-related shocks and stresses. It supports taking a comprehensive systems perspective to urban water resilience to inform an integrated ‘one water’ approach that supports the health and well-being of the community and protects the natural water cycle.

The CWRA was developed over a 12-month extensive research and engagement process through the collaboration of R-Cities Member Cities (Amman, Cape Town, Mexico City, Miami, Hull, Rotterdam, Thessaloniki, and Greater Manchester) and partners (Arup, Stockholm International Water Institute, The Resilience Shift and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The CWRA details five steps to guide cities through initial stakeholder engagement and baseline assessment, through action planning, implementation and monitoring of new initiatives that build water resilience:


  1. Understand the system – in which the city’s unique context is appraised to understand potential shocks and stresses, identify important system interdependencies, convene key local stakeholders and map key infrastructural assets and governance processes.
  2. Assess urban water resilience – in which the city’s current practices are assessed according to the City Water Resilience Framework to identify areas of existing strength and weaknesses that will be addressed by future actions and establish a baseline against which progress is measured.
  3. Develop an action plan – where, based on the city assessment, a plan is developed for realizing interventions that build water resilience. The action plan is based on holistic evaluation of anticipated benefits and costs and prioritization of key projects.
  4. Implement the action plan – in which actions agreed upon during the previous step are implemented by relevant city actors. In this step, ongoing advice guides how actions are implemented and monitored according to best practices and international experience. In this step, the CWRA provides best practice guidance for how ongoing actions can be monitored to ensure objectives are met, and resources are used appropriately.
  5. Evaluate, learn and adapt – in which implementation of resilience measures is evaluated and changes in context and stakeholder involvement are analyzed to reassess objectives for the next period.

This step-by-step process is facilitated by two tools:

Our Water digital tool supports mapping the natural water system and stakeholders, and further improves governance and knowledge-sharing between stakeholders in the city water system.

The City Water Resilience Framework (CWRF) is a framework for globally applicable water resilience assessments, to comprehensively assess and plan for urban water resilience across sectors and stakeholders, as well as across city boundaries.

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