Every city faces different water challenges. Some are dealing with increasing risk of flooding, driven by climate change. Others struggle to supply sufficient water for growing populations and economies.

Arup developed the City Water Resilience Approach (CWRA) to help leaders navigate these issues, bringing the most effective practices to always local issues.

Resilience takes time to build. It’s a complex outcome to produce, requiring investments in infrastructure, governance, communication and regulation. The CWRA has helped cities around the world to respond to profound water issues and produce long-term solutions that address each of these dimensions of the resilience puzzle.

One approach, many priorities

At its heart the CWRA provides clear insights on the most effective sequencing and prioritisation with a water programme, helping clients to engage with the complexity of the water system and prepare for changes in demand and use. It helps unlock investment and funding for much needed water infrastructure. It adopts a nature-first ethos, prioritising interventions that don’t rely on hard infrastructure where natural factors can play a role.

The five stages of developing water resilience

The CWRA brings method and insight to a city’s water resilience in 5 key stages:

  • Understand the system

    Explore shocks and stresses, identify system interdependencies, convene stakeholders, map assets and processes.

  • Assess urban water resilience

    Assess the city's approach according to the CWRA to identify existing strengths and weaknesses and establish baselines.

  • Develop an action plan

    The action plan is an holistic evaluation of anticipated benefits and costs and prioritization of key projects.

  • Implement the action plan

    Based on the city assessment, a plan is developed for realizing interventions that build water resilience.

  • Evaluate, learn and adapt

    Implementation of resilience measures is evaluated and changes in context and stakeholder involvement are analysed.

Beyond infrastructure

The CWRA highlights the social role of citizens and governance, ensuring the right incentive structure and communications are in place to drive culture change around water and sanitation. 

For corporates, the CWRA works hand in hand with business strategy and risk management, establishing how water plays a role in a business’s operations and future. 

Finally, the CWRA enables clients to develop solutions at the portfolio level, dovetailing many related projects at once, to achieve resilience at scale.

Featured project

Supporting Cape Town's water resilience

Cape Town has faced severe water shortages in recent years. Our work with them explored the connections between ageing infrastructure, new climate effects, governance issues and user behaviour. Using the framework, we have created both a 'city characterisation' report mapping the city's water resources and identifying elements impacting water resilience, and a 'water resilience profile', which details a series of actions that the city can take to address these.

Bringing resilience to the world

Since creating the CWRA we've worked with cities across the globe, using the framework to explore their individual needs and in many instances develop, and support the delivery of, action plans to improve the city's water resilience. 

Exploring the map

The map below provides an interactive overview of cities that have have used the CWRA. The coloured icons represent each city - clicking an icon will reveal more information and allow you download relevant reports. To zoom on the map, either use the controls or simply double click or 'drag' the map around. Click 'home' to restore the map to its original focus.

  • Cities where work is currently underway
  • Cities where a characterisation report has been developed
  • Cities where both a characterisation report and resilience profile have been created