WRI is working directly with cities as well as Arup, the Resilience Shift, the Resilient Cities Network and other local partners to develop a broad range water risk and needs assessments and urban water resilience action plans. These plans have been developed in close partnership with city stakeholders using the City Water Resilience Approach, which takes a comprehensive systems perspective of water management to inform an integrated source-to-tap strategy in water planning and management. The work is being implemented for each city in three distinct steps:

1. Understanding the System

The project team works with city resilience offices and other key city stakeholders to compile and process data to prepare a City Characterization Report. This report defines each city’s water basins, including key water assets, urban water systems and governance structures, and interdependencies with other systems. This step helps identify the factors contributing to the resilience and vulnerability of city water systems.

2. Assess Urban Water Resilience

The project team implements multi-stakeholder assessment workshops in close cooperation with resilience offices and local stakeholders. This step helps to assess each city’s existing practices and risks using the City Water Resilience Approach and the OurWater governance mapping tool. This provides a qualitative and quantitative assessment of the city’s key water resilience challenges and opportunities.

3. Develop an Action Plan

Each city develops city action plans that build off the assessments. WRI and partners guide city stakeholders through problem-framing and visioning workshops to create shared visions of urban water resilience pathways. Cities then identify and develop initiatives and interventions that have multi-stakeholder buy-in and address each urban water resilience challenge.

Learn more about our city-level work:


Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's fast-growing capital, has limited access to safe water and sanitation. Water shortages, flooding, pollution and rising demand for water affects residents and economic productivity. Together with partners, WRI worked with city stakeholders to map the challenges the city faces and identify nine vision areas that advance urban water resilience in Addis Ababa. Read Addis Ababa’s water resilience action plan, developed in partnership with the city, Arup, the Resilient Cities Network, The Resilience Shift and others, to learn how the city can address its biggest water risks.

WRI is also working with partners in Ethiopia to improve available information on the country’s water resources, analyze water risk, instill water-wise planning, and advance integrated water resources management toward a more sustainable and resilient development path.


Dire Dawa, Ethiopia

Dire Dawa, Ethiopia’s second largest city, faces a multitude of water-related risks. Although historically rich in groundwater resources, unsustainable extraction has left the city facing increasing water scarcity and insufficient sanitation services, while the degradation of the city’s surrounding catchment, an area of land where water is collected by the natural landscape, has contributed to frequent and destructive flash floods. Working with city stakeholders, WRI and partners have helped the city identify priority interventions that will guide the growing city to build climate and water resilience.


Kigali, Rwanda

Kigali, Rwanda's capital, faces rapid urbanization and increasing climate change impacts. The city's unique topography makes it prone to flooding and landslides. Flooding and extreme weather also threaten food production. To address these challenges, WRI worked with partners and city stakeholders to identify 10 vision areas that address community concerns and advance urban water resilience.


Musanze, Rwanda

Musanze, Rwanda, is a fast-growing urban center that faces a range of water related risks. A center for agriculture, business and tourism, its growth is outstripping its water supply. The city is also subject to extreme flashfloods resulting from heavy rainfall flowing downhill from the surrounding mountains. Together with city stakeholders, WRI and partners have helped Musanze City identify and prioritize strategic interventions that will help tackle its most pressing water challenges.


Johannesburg, South Africa

Johannesburg, the largest economic hub in South Africa, has limited water resources. Reliant on neighboring catchments for water, its rapid rate of urbanization requires that city leaders prioritize identifying alternative sources that can enable improved water and sanitation for its most vulnerable residents. Working with city stakeholders, WRI and partners are helping city leaders build on existing resilience policies to identify the most critical resilience actions.


Gqeberha, South Africa

Gqeberha, South Africa’s second largest metropolitan district, faces a severe water supply crisis. The city’s poor infrastructure and governance challenges, combined with the increasing impacts of climate change, have left the city at risk of a “Day Zero,” when supplies literally run dry. Along with partners, WRI is bringing together city leaders and stakeholders to advance strategic actions that will enable the city to secure investments and guarantee its residents access to a sustainable water supply.


Cover image by: Joshua de Klerk/Shutterstock