IWA Climate Smart Water Utilities

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The Climate Smart Utilities Initiative

The Goal of the initiative is to assist water, wastewater, and urban drainage companies in improving their climate resilience by adapting to a changing climate while contributing to significant and sustainable reduction of carbon emissions.

The initiative aims to deliver value to utilities and inspire the wider water professional community.

The Initiative is structured around 3 pillars:

Communities of practice around adaptation and mitigation

– A web platform to support utilities sharing resources

– An IWA Climate Smart Utility Vision with an upcoming Recognition Programme. You can endorse the vision here.

Climate: Building resilience through adaptation and carbon neutrality

Climate variability and change is disrupting the water cycle. Changing weather and water patterns are driving global water scarcity, and increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, which has impacts across scales. Resilience is more than implementing the right technology or practice to assess and address risks of extreme events. It is an approach that should be part of a coherent and holistic strategy to ensure sustainable water resources and safe and secure water supply.

Resilience needs to be built and coordinated at the basin, city and utility level to ensure adaptation measures for water systems are effective and integrate with other urban services. With the aim of empowering professionals working at the utility, city or basin level to be at the forefront of climate smart water management, IWA offers the latest knowledge, resources and tools developed, co-designed and tested in collaboration with different end-users.

Climate mitigation in water and wastewater utilities

Carbon and greenhouse gas emissions are driving climate change. Changes in our climate are changes in water, as these greenhouse gases are directly impacting the availability and quality of both source and receiving waters. The water industry is a prime victim in bearing the impacts of climate change, but it is also a source of global carbon emissions from energy consumption, as well as process emissions from nitrous oxides and methane emissions in wastewater systems. The water sector can therefore contribute its share to meeting the internationally agreed target of below 2°C rise in global temperature.

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the International Water Association (IWA) have been working together with their partners from Mexico, Peru, Jordan and Thailand on the Water and Wastewater Companies for Climate Mitigation project (WaCCliM). The aim has been to use GHG emission-reducing technologies to improve the carbon balance of water and wastewater companies while maintaining or even improving service levels and improving these companies cost effectiveness.

Transitioning to a Low-Carbon Urban Water Utility

Low-carbon, low-energy solutions in the water sector make economic sense. Utilities can now be guided towards water and energy efficiency, as well as mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the Roadmap to a Low-Carbon Urban Water Utility and a website with all a utility needs to successfully transition to a low-carbon urban water utility.

The Roadmap guides utilities to:

  1. Motivate action – Identify drivers and actions to becoming a low-energy, low-carbon utility.
  2. Assess your system – An assessment tool and associated trainings – Energy Performance and Carbon Emissions Assessment and Monitoring (ECAM) – designed for assessing the carbon emissions that utilities can control within the urban water cycle and prepare these utilities for future reporting needs on climate mitigation. Consultants can support utilities in driving their assessment and identifying improvements.

A tool to transition towards carbon neutrality in the water sector from IWA on Vimeo (video also available in Spanish here).

  1. Opportunities – Explore opportunities to reduce GHG, Energy and Water footprints with various resources including guidelines, case studies and a network of professionals to support utilities
  2. Implement measures – After using the ECAM tool to assess a water system, areas of improvement and suitable solutions will emerge with good potential to reduce energy cost and/or greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

IWA members have established a group on Low Energy Low-Carbon Utilities. Join the group and participate in discussions on IWA-Connect.

Key publications

November 20, 2020
The International Water Association (IWA) Sustainable Development Goals Taskforce was formed in 2017 to identify a valuable role for IWA to play in attaining th...
January 18, 2019
Una guía internacional sobre el enfoque WaCCliM La Hoja de Ruta Hacia una Empresa de Agua y Saneamiento Urbano con Bajas Emisiones de Carbono ofrece a los gest...
January 18, 2019
An international guide to the WaCCliM approach The Roadmap to a Low-Carbon Urban Water Utility presents utility managers with an approach to address their most ...

Planning and adapting to climate change

Climate change is altering weather and water patterns around the world; causing more frequent and damaging floods and/or water shortages leading to droughts. With increasing climate variability and change, water users and practitioners striving to become more resilient in their practices, need to prepare for such water-related risks by integrating scientifically sound climate information and risk assessments to respond to changing demands and climatic conditions.

Water professionals need tools that allow them to integrate climate information and risks into planning. The Flood and Drought Management Tools (FDMT) project developed the Flood and Drought Portal which has technical applications to integrate better information on floods and droughts into planning from catchment to tap. DHI, a member of the International Water Association (IWA), has developed the portal as part of the project, which is in partnership with IWA. The portal and its tools are available to IWA members, including water resource organisations and water utilities. Find out more here.

Climate resilient water safety planning

Managing all aspects of the water supply system from water source to treatment to distribution,  even components where the utility has no control, can be through Water Safety Planning (WSP), a comprehensive risk assessment and risk management approach that encompasses all steps and stakeholders of the water supply system from catchment to consumer. WSPs are cited by WHO as an effective means of consistently ensuring the safety and acceptability of a drinking-water supply. WHO and IWA are working together to promote WSPs, learn more on the Water Safety Portal.

WSPs are an entry point to prompt utilities to consider climate information and the risks of floods and droughts in their planning procedures. Through support from the OPEC Fund for International Development, IWA is working on a project “Climate Resilient Water Safety Planning to Improve Water Supply and Public Health”. The project is addressing how utilities through WSP can better prepare and respond to extreme weather events; as well as undertaking strategic awareness approaches to involve key ministries in supporting the institutionalisation of WSP within countries.

Climate Smart Utilities Webinar Series

IWA and partners have been running a webinar series on climate smart utilities to showcase what utilities are doing to address climate change both from a mitigation and adaptation approach.

October 25, 2021
The webinar will give an overview on available microbial source tracking (MST) technologies and faecal indicators to support wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE)...
October 21, 2021
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by the United Nations (UN) in September 2015, have given a ...
October 12, 2021
IWA’s Climate Smart Utilities initiative is supporting utilities to strive towards achieving carbon neutrality while adapting to climate change. Adaptation to...
March 4, 2021
Getting to grips with meta-data As wastewater resource recovery facilities enter the era of big data, they are naturally confronted with the challenges of integ...
February 26, 2021
Availability of safe drinking water is at risk due to global challenges such as rapid urbanisation and changing weather patterns. Climatic projections indicate ...
February 1, 2021
Wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) consume large amounts of energy, estimated at between 1% and 3% of global energy output. State-of-the-art facilities consume ...
December 24, 2020
In this webinar, panellists representing service providers and regulators from Malaysia and Kenya will showcase and discuss how regulators can support service p...
October 21, 2020
The 2021 World Water Congress & Exhibition in Copenhagen, Denmark is designed to bring together water professionals from academia, utilities, industry, gove...
October 21, 2020
The 2021 World Water Congress & Exhibition in Copenhagen, Denmark is designed to bring together water professionals from academia, utilities, industry, gove...
September 14, 2020
This webinar will demonstrate how sustainable groundwater use can be an effective climate change adaptation strategy for urban water utilities, using case study...
June 20, 2019
This webinar will demonstrate through practical cases from Australia and Philippines, the way in which Yarra Water Valley and Metro Pacific Water are responding...
March 28, 2019
Resilience is more than implementing the right technology or practice to assess and address risks of extreme events. It is an approach that should be part of a ...