Action Agenda for Basin-Connected Cities

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Basin-Connected Cities


Urban stakeholders of a water basin play a critical role in preserving the freshwater resources on which they╠řdepend. A disruption in the supply of freshwater resources to cities can have significant socio-economic,╠řenvironmental and health consequences. The challenges are expected to grow in the future, as global╠řprojections show a continued increase in urban populations thus improving water security and protecting water╠řresources on which cities rely must be an urgent priority.╠ř

The Action Agenda for Basins-Connected Cities outlines the╠řrationale for urban stakeholders to lead the way in realising╠řtheir role as water stewards and the different pathways and╠řactivities towards achieving integrated water resources╠řmanagement. The structure of the Agenda reflects the current╠řand potential issues between cities and their basins and how╠řto deal with them by identifying the drivers for action (e.g. what╠řare the risks?), and the possible solution pathways. It builds a╠řframework of best practice to ensure that the foundations to╠řimplement those solutions are in place.

The Action Agenda for Basin-Connected Cities builds on╠řIWAÔÇÖs Principles for Water-Wise Cities, which aim to╠řintegrate water in planning across scales. The Principles
support city leaders planning a future-proof access to safe╠řwater and sanitation for everyone in their cities, while delivering╠řenhanced liveability for people and nature. The Principles╠řinclude 4 levels of action:


╠ř ╠ř ╠ř ╠ř ╠ř1. Regenerative Water Services

╠ř ╠ř ╠ř ╠ř ╠ř2. Water Sensitive Urban Design

╠ř ╠ř ╠ř ╠ř ╠ř3. Basin Connected Cities

╠ř ╠ř ╠ř ╠ř ╠ř4. Water-wise Communities


The Action Agenda for Basin-Connected Cities acknowledges╠řthat the city is intrinsically╠řconnected to, and dependent╠řon, its surrounding basin(s).╠řProactive engagement in╠řmanaging water resources in╠řthe basin can help to secure water,╠řfood and energy resources,╠řreduce flood and drought risk and╠řenhance activities contributing to╠řthe economic and environmental health╠řof the basin. Based on a comprehensive╠řunderstanding of our water resources today,╠řand the level of uncertainty resulting from climate╠řchange impacting our future resources, we need to:

  • Secure the water resource
  • Protect water quality
  • Prepare for and respond to extreme events

Drivers for Action

The top three risks for cities are extreme events such as flooding, declining water quality, and challenges to╠řwater availability due to increasing water stress and scarcity. Solving the root problems risks can be supported by urban stakeholders. For each of the risks a set of impacts on the urban areas can be identified, which drive a need for action.

Extreme events
Economic activities and╠řsupply chain disruption
╠řDamage to infrastructure
Public health hazards
Declining water quality
High operating costs
Loss of credibility and trust
Environmental, cultural╠řand health impacts
Water availability
Water supply disruption
Constraints to growth
Declining quality of life


Pathways to Action

The Agenda is intended as a starting point for urban stakeholders to identify╠řthe actions that need to be taken to address the risks, how to ensure sustainable management of basins in the future and how to╠ř more actively╠řparticipate in water governance.╠řThe following pathways for action (assessment, planning and╠řimplementation) respond to the impacts outlined in the drivers for action to connect cities and their basins.


Assessment ╠ř Planning ╠ř Implementation
Invest in values that will motivate water decision-making within the basin


Investment in data, information systems, research and╠řexpertise within and beyond city limits


Linking traditional water management with science in a╠řway that builds and reflects on local knowledge and needs

╠ř Risk-based approach to planning linking urban stakeholders with their catchment


Water allocation mechanisms to share water resources╠řbetween different users


Aligning urban development with basin management


Stakeholder participation in planning and management

╠ř Application of economic and financing mechanisms


Integration of nature-based solutions to improve╠řcatchments


Building partnerships from catchment to tap to catalyse action in sustaining╠řand improving water quality and flows to and from cities


Using digital technologies to support availability and access╠řof information


Customisation of solutions as there is no one size fits all solution



Foundations for Action

The building blocks of the Principles for Water-Wise Cities are the foundations for the pathways to action to╠řdeliver sustainable urban water management ÔÇô including vision, governance, knowledge and capacity, planning╠řtools, and implementation tools.╠řThese have been adjusted to reflect connecting cities with their basins. Not all building blocks are applicable as cities and their stakeholders are at different stages.


A vision commonly shared with stakeholders provides an overall framework defining long-term╠řambitions, values and aspirations


Governance and institutions provide the framework for stakeholders to work together from catchment╠řto tap to achieve a joint vision

Knowledge and capacities

Building process starts with understanding what are the current competencies and capacities for urban╠řstakeholders to effectively contribute to basin management

Planning tools

Inclusion of planning tools such as decision support systems, integrated water resource management╠řplans, as well as risk-based and rights-based approaches that can support the alignment of urban╠řdevelopment with basin management

Implementation tools

Moving from concept to reality to put planning into action, which improves water quantity and quality,╠řas well as food and energy security. Tools for implementation include:

  • Regulations which create incentives
  • Financial tools and financing mechanisms
  • Use of innovative technologies
  • Approaches for integrated management

Who should take action?

The Action Agenda targets multiple stakeholders with different roles in taking action╠řin improving their water sources and watersheds including water and wastewater
utilities, city governments, industry, policy makers and regulators. These primary╠řstakeholders work with basin organisations, water resources agencies, civil society
and environmental groups to ensure equitable and effective water management. The╠řsecondary audience includes stakeholders that use water in basins which cities rely on╠řfor their water security such as agriculture, energy, natural resource extraction and other╠řbusiness interests. All parties need to actively work together to ensure water across╠řsectors from catchment to consumer.

Basin Stories

We are collecting stories from urban stakeholders that are leading the way in strengthening the connection with their catchments through different actions and pathways to contribute to the development and promotion of the Action Agenda for Basin-Connected Cities. Discover the Basin Stories!

which outlines the successes and challenges that urban stakeholders have experienced in becoming water stewards in the wider catchment.

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