Climate Resilient Urban Sanitation – Accelerating the Convergence of Sanitation and Climate Action

Written by Resilient Cities Network
Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Click here to download Climate Resilient Urban Sanitation Report (PDF)


This report has been commissioned by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, in collaboration with Resilient Cities Network (R-Cities) to better understand how climate change impacts will affect urban sanitation systems, and what needs to be done to address this. It does so by collating and reflecting on existing knowledge and highlighting how some cities have approached adaptation. It intends to engage with and propose to a diverse set of sector leaders an outline of the next steps needed to support cities in building the climate resilience of their sanitation services and infrastructure.

The report was prepared at a time when, according to the directors of UNICEF and the WHO “progress against sanitation targets in the Sustainable Development Goal 6 has been too slow… And this challenge comes amid the trials of a global [COVID-19] pandemic, an economic recession, and an on-going climate crisis”

While the world is evidently facing multiple global challenges negatively impacting local communities, this can also present us with an opportunity to ‘build back better’, more efficiently and effectively. A vast array of stakeholders across sanitation systems are likely to be able to capitalise on this report, including:

  1. local government and local structures;
  2. utility and sanitation engineers responsible for designing, operating and maintaining systems;
  3. city planners and decision-makers (e.g., councillors);
  4. national government and their often-fragmented sanitation ministries;
  5. policy makers and regulators influencing sanitation systems; and
  6. development partners and international financing institutions keen to support and accelerate change, including but not limited to Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and its implementing organisations GIZ, Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB), and Bundesanstalt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe (BGR).

In line with the detailed objectives of this study, the report is divided into the following seven chapters:

Chapter 1: This introduction, which outlines the project background, introducing urban sanitation in a changing climate, framing the international climate change discourse, and introducing key definitions.

Chapter 2: An overview of the impacts of climate change on urban sanitation, considering the following climate change impacts: extreme heat, water scarcity and drought, increased precipitation, flooding and extreme weather, and rising sea levels.

Chapter 3: A selection of case studies from four cities presenting their sanitation-related climate change adaptation responses: Cape Town, Chennai, Lusaka, and Santa Cruz de la Sierra (hereafter referred to as Santa Cruz).

Chapter 4: An overview of the key gaps and opportunities for climate resilient urban sanitation.

Chapter 5: The proposal of a framework for climate resilient urban sanitation

Chapter 6: A strawman proposal for the future development of a tool to assess the resilience of urban sanitation systems.

Chapter 7: The conclusion, providing a summary of key takeaways from the report

“Resilience is not an end state;
it’s a journey

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