Urbanisation in Africa is occurring at a rapid rate. Planning is often unable to keep up with the pace of urban expansion, resulting in high population densities, pockets of acute poverty and inadequate provision of basic services, such as water and sanitation. Climate change is expected to further exacerbate the situation.
Water is central to the socio-economic well-being of cities, and the sound management of this resource is crucial to ensuring urban food security, potable water supply and sustainable sanitation services. The task is made challenging by the interconnected nature of water systems: it is often rural areas that supply urban communities with water. Moreover, water use is linked across various sectors. Domestic or industrial wastewater, for instance, can be recycled and reused in productive activities in other sectors, such as agriculture. Any attempt to strengthen existing urban water management practices, and make them more climate change resilient, must recognise these mutual dependencies.
Indeed, cross-scale and cross-sectoral linkages form the starting points for URAdapt. Changes in rural water availability will impact not only urban water and food supplies; they may also accelerate population displacement from rural to urban areas. Faced with possible water shortages, urban water-dependent livelihoods must turn towards alternative water sources, such as reclaimed water.
The project analyses different scenarios of urbanisation, water use and hydrological change related to the climate, in order to project possible water futures for the cities and their relationships to rural areas. URAdapt research consists of climate change downscaling, hydrological modelling, urban water allocation modelling, as well as socio-economic studies on vulnerabilities, and policy and institutional orientations for resilience. The research is conducted in participation with stakeholders in Accra and Addis Ababa, and the research outputs provide the basis for identifying adaptation responses to climate change. These may include various combinations of water supply and allocation options, demand management, water-saving sanitation solutions, as well as water reclamation and reuse for agriculture.
Social inclusion is an important aspect of the project. The URAdapt multi-stakeholder platforms in both Accra and Addis Ababa include representatives of local authorities, water resources and sanitation managers, climate change policy-makers, and affected and vulnerable groups and communities (including women’s groups). The platforms are supported by a core group of stakeholders, who provide strategic advice and direction to the project. They also include, or otherwise interact with, actors who are critical in putting ‘knowledge into use’ in policies, programmes and on-the-ground practice.
The diagram below illustrates the interactions between research and stakeholder engagement:
Project Objectives & Outputs
The overall objective of URAdapt is to reduce the vulnerability of cities to climate change through strategic actions for more integrated urban water management in Accra and Addis Ababa.
The specific objectives of the project are:
- To develop a shared understanding among multiple stakeholders of climate change and its effects on water management at the urban-rural interface.
- To use scenarios to generate new knowledge on the upstream and downstream implications of urban water demand, wastewater generation, and associated water investments needs.
- To prepare, in participation with city stakeholders and for the benefit of the most vulnerable groups, a strategic action plan for adapting to climate change through improved water resource management.
The project envisions the following key outputs:
- Hydrological scenarios of future water supply for, and wastewater generation in, cities; and their implications for urban-rural planning and agriculture under climate change and urbanization scenarios.
- An interactive multi-stakeholder platform with strengthened capacity to discuss the implications of, and adaptation strategies for, these scenarios.
- Decision support for selecting options, and related investments, for integrated urban development that accounts for urbanisation, climate change and socio-economic vulnerabilities, and the mutual dependencies between urban and rural areas.
- Policy and institutional orientations on how to build climate resilient cities.
At the outset, URAdapt stakeholders developed a common vision for the project, within the project context and project objectives.
Knowledge Sharing & Stakeholder Roles
By documenting and monitoring progress, URAdapt generates knowledge that can be scaled out to other cities. URAdapt actively seeks synergies with other networks and platforms in Africa to share its experiences and disseminate its findings. Further forms of interactions are developed where possible.
URAdapt has identified stakeholders in both Accra and Addis Ababa through stakeholder analyses and consultations with key individuals. Networking meetings with stakeholders serve to inform them of the project goal and process; discuss their needs and priorities; and build their interest and secure their commitment.
The project team continually reflects upon the membership of its platforms, in order to ensure that the stakeholder constellations reflect the evolving nature of the project. Members have jointly agreed upon the modus operandi of the platforms, and provide continual feedback on their effectiveness. They define the scenarios that are researched, and discuss their investment and governance implications. Ultimately, the platform will contribute to identifying the necessary adaptation responses for their cities.
In order to improve impact, individual members of the platform have been asked to explore their current networks and activities, and to identify processes within their organisations, that can support the achievement of the project goal. For additional impact, policy roundtables will be organised for local and national key decision-makers with a view to ensure integration of project outcomes into overall development plans.