Written by François Brikke - 29 May 2014

29/05/2014 - 29/05/2014
Guest blog: Towards water-wise cities in Africa

Water security is under threat in many urban centres. The very nature of urbanisation contributes to water stress: rapid population growth, poor or no waste water management and pollution, competing demands from various sectors of activity, and more frequent water related disasters induced by climate change. Urban growth in Africa is one of the highest in the world, and the urban population is expected to be around 60% by 2050. It poses not only a major challenge to existing and potentially future urban centres and existing planning and management of water systems has proven to be insufficient.

There is a need for a paradigm shift in the way we plan and manage water resources at urban level in order to reach water wise cities from the perspective of cost effectiveness, technical performance, social equity and environmental sustainability. The Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) approach provides a framework for interventions over the entire water cycle and a reconsideration of the way water is used (and reused). It is not a prescriptive model, it is a process that invites current cities and emerging ones to adjust their current planning and management practices, given their own priorities, hydrological and socio-economic contexts.

The IUWM approach is based on the following key principles:

  • Integrated Water Resources Management: considering the whole urban water cycle as one system within the watershed.
  • Participation of key stakeholders: considering the participation of key stakeholders coming from the public, private and social sectors representing different socio-economic activities that have an interest in water.
  • Optimum infrastructure design and investments: considering the choice of technologies from the perspective of cost effectiveness, technical performance, social equity and environmental sustainability.
  • Effective water governance: considering both centralised or decentralised systems, with options of involving communities at local level, as well as optimising public-private and social partnerships.