Call for contributions: Climate action by utilities

Utilities, as large producers of GHG emissions, have a big role to play in the green transition and have an opportunity to act as trail blazers for other sectors.

The IWA Climate Smart Utilities Initiative is calling for contributions of actions in climate adaptation, mitigation and resilience, undertaken by water and wastewater utilities. To support this initiative, IWA invites interested participants to submit their utility adaptation or mitigation action through a short survey (8-10 mins) by 10 September 2021. Submissions can be from a utility or from organisations that work with a utility.

Submissions will be showcased on the Climate Smart Utilities Website as well as on IWA Connect. Further recognition of contributors will be through a social media postcard shared on IWA’s main social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn). The authors of the first 20 top utility actions will be eligible for a discount from IWA Publishing, including new titles on modelling GHG emissions in urban water systems and pathways to decarbonizing the water sector.

New community of practice

The call to action on utility adaptation and mitigation actions was developed through the recently launched IWA Climate Smart Utility community of practice (CoP). The community aims to provide value to those working in and with utilities, to support the transition towards climate resilient and carbon neutral urban water systems.

The CoP, initiated in late 2020, is the place to exchange views on common problems, share solutions, inspire innovation and create a store of knowledge that can lead to more informed decision processes and higher productivity. Two groups have been set-up:

1) Integrating climate adaptation in asset management and planning, which is focused on:

  • Supporting change and building capacity for adaptation measures
  • Linking with regulators on how best to incentivize and provide resources for climate adaptation
  • Improving access and application of tools to assess vulnerabilities and risks, through the effective use of data for adaptation of processes and access in view of climate change
  • Encouraging partnerships across different scales and sectors
  • Recognising the need for a catchment-wide approach which includes collaboration with stakeholders using planning tools, such as climate resilient water safety planning

2) Reducing the carbon footprint of assets to support utilities in their low-carbon transition, focusing on:

  • Connecting science and practice,
  • Supporting a change of mindset from treatment plants to resource plants,
  • Being able to assess GHG emissions (a specific sub-group has been created for this on IWA Connect and is accessible to IWA Members an utilities representatives),
  • Strengthening the ability to mature emerging technologies,
  • Financing policy and regulations to incentivize low carbon investments,
  • Developing partnerships and collaboration skills intra- and cross-sectors as well involving communities.

In addition, all participating utilities are being requested to share their own carbon assessment, or guided to assess their carbon footprint using the ECAM tool, with the aim to inspire each other, enable discussions based on comparable data, and develop a shared low-carbon culture.

Background on Climate Smart Utilities

Climate smart utilities are companies in the water and wastewater sectors that are improving their climate resilience while contributing to significant and sustainable reduction of carbon emissions. These utilities are public, private, and mixed companies.

Many water and wastewater utilities are exploring ways to reduce their carbon emissions. For example, the Águas de Portugal Group has set up the Zero Programme to reach energy neutrality within a period of ten years, based on a continued strategy of consumption reduction and production of 100% renewable energy. Denmark has set up climate partnerships, including with the water sector to reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 70% by 2030.

At the same time, utilities are also addressing climate resilience. For example, Yarra Valley Water has developed a Climate Resilience Plan to implement actions that can expand their capacity, reduce vulnerabilities and also support long term planning in an uncertain future. In Dakar, catastrophic flooding in 2012 prompted action on an extensive flood management and climate change adaptation programme to incorporate climate risks in urban planning and investments in drainage infrastructure. Denver Water in the United States has developed an Adaptive Strategy which includes a diversified water portfolio which considers all geographic locations and types of investment, scalable options to be prevent over-investing, and employs a continuous and iterative planning process.

To learn more about the Climate Smart Utility CoP visit –