The IWA’s Principles for Water Wise Cities: Developing a Shared Water Vision

Posted on by Corinne Trommsdorff

Head and shoulders image of Corinne Trommsdorff from the International Water Association

The Cities of the Future agenda harnesses the power of the IWA network to co-create solutions, and join efforts to manage a city’s many waters in a sustainable and resilient manner. This approach is endorsed by the IWA Principles for Water Wise Cities’. The Principles document has been put together as an outcome of the action agenda of the 7th World Water Forum in order to spread widely the vision of what sustainable urban water management is, and to prepare discussion at the 8th World Water Forum to focus on how to get this vision implemented. The 8th World Water Forum is due to take place in Brazil in 2018. Corinne Trommsdorff, Programme Manager of Cities of the Future, part of the International Water Association (IWA), explains more…


Two years ago, humanity passed a critical threshold. For the first time in human history more people lived in cities and urban areas than in rural areas. That trend is accelerating, and by 2050 roughly 6.4 billion people will live in cities. The future of humanity is urban, but rapid and unplanned urban expansion, coupled with climate change, will have far-reaching and profound impacts on the future health and wellbeing of all of us, on the environment and the economy.

One of the most important issues facing us in this changing world, is how we manage water wisely to deliver sustainable, resilient and liveable cities for their growing populations. Good urban governance that enables institutions and citizens to fully engage in decision-making is an important part of the solutions that will enable cities to thrive. Water-wise cities are great places to live, where innovation, social cohesion, creativity and culture flourish. All stakeholders need to act to create sustainable water in cities.

The IWA Principles for Water Wise Cities

The principles document is aimed at urban stakeholders to help them to develop a shared vision and act towards sustainable urban water in resilient and liveable cities. The Principles underlie resilient planning and design in cities. The ultimate goal of these Principles is to encourage collaborative action, underpinned by a shared vision, so that local governments, urban professionals, and individuals actively engage in addressing and finding solutions for managing all waters of the city, driven by three paradigm shifts:

  • Resources are limited: we need to do more with less
  • City densification is both an opportunity for economic growth and a threat to liveability
  • An uncertain future underlies the planning of our cities

This is a huge task. As water professionals, we are determined to inspire a new, shared vision and implement the recently approved Sustainable Development Goals, which are a bold call for the promotion of sustainable urban water management for safer, more inclusive and resilient cities. To achieve this we need to harness the power of collaboration with adapted governance, engagement of stakeholders and active citizen involvement.

The Principles establish a framework for transitioning cities to address these paradigm shifts. The Principles are structured along four ‘levels of action’, accompanied by five ‘building blocks’ through which the urban stakeholders can deliver sustainable urban water, thereby becoming a water-wise community.

The ‘Four Levels of Action’ incorporate:

  1. Regenerative water services
  2. Water-sensitive urban design
  3. Basin-connected cities
  4. Water-wise communities

The five ‘building blocks’ to deliver sustainable urban water incorporate:

  1. Vision
  2. Governance
  3. Knowledge and capacities
  4. Planning tools
  5. Implementation tools

This ‘in a nutshell’ description of our Principles for Water Wise Cities gives a snap-shot view of our approach. For full details of how we propose to tackle each of the areas mentioned above, please visit


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