IWA Climate Smart Utilities

Climate Smart Website

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 four components:

  1. A community of practice around adaptation and mitigation to climate change to support bridging science and practice and trigger the necessary cultural shifts and actions;
  2. A web platform an online space to share resources and contribute to the wider dissemination of the change agenda;
  3. A utility leaders peer-to-peer exchange programme to drive decision making towards Climate Smart; and
  4. Recognition Programme to inspire utilities on their journey to become Climate Smarter. This programme is built on Climate Smart Vision to increase awareness and encourage utilities to include climate change in their agendas.

The Climate Smart Utilities Vision

With urgent action needed on mitigation and adaptation, the International Water Association is calling on utilities around the world, regardless of their size or location, to endorse a shared vision to build momentum for greater progress.

Urban water management is one of the urban services most affected by the impacts of climate change, which threatens the capacity of service providers to deliver safe water, protect rivers and oceans, as well as protect people and assets from flooding, in alignment with the SDGs. Utilities need to increase their resilience to the impacts of climate change to improve or maintain service levels. While water, sanitation and urban drainage utilities are the cornerstone of cities’ climate adaptation strategies, they can also contribute up to 15% to their cities’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Utilities can take action towards global decarbonisation.

IWA invites you, as a Utility Leader, to endorse its vision of the transition towards Climate Smart Utilities, as a means to build a community of leaders who inspire all utilities, their governance structures, their regulators and urban planners to become increasingly Climate Smart, and as a means to guide innovation, tools and knowledge exchange to support this transition. By endorsing this vision, you act as a champion, providing inspiration and momentum for all utilities to achieve the cultural shift needed on three interconnected pillars:

  1. Adaptation: planning for resilient adaptive infrastructure that combines centralized and decentralised approaches, as well as natural and built infrastructure,
  2. Mitigation: reducing their GHG emissions, by, among other things, transitioning to being resource producers and
  3. Leadership: engaging citizens, industries, and planning stakeholders to embrace the change needed for resilient and low-carbon water and wastewater utilities; engaging regulators and inspiring other utilities at national and international level.

Recognition Programme

In April 2022, IWA launched a dedicated recognition programme for water, wastewater, and urban drainage utilities willing to improve their climate resilience and showcase their actions.

The IWA Climate Smart Utilities Recognition Programme aims to inspire utilities to be increasingly Climate Smart and to embrace the cultural shift on three interconnected pillars for action: adaptationmitigation, and leadership.

The IWA Climate Smart Utilities initiative invites utilities who are already taking any kind of climate smart action to apply to the IWA Climate Smart Recognition Programme, as part of the three iterative steps of the Climate Smart journey:

  1. Increasing Awareness, which IWA currently supports through inviting utilities and IWA members at wide to endorse the Climate Smart Utilities Vision.
  2. Taking Action, which IWA inspires through the description of an ideal Climate Smart utility, as presented in the Application Guidance IWA also offers a peer-to-peer exchange through the Community of Practice meetings and web platform.
  3. Celebrating and sharing the work in progress. This contributes to increase awareness of key stakeholders of the transition, and to inspire action in utilities, looping back to steps 1 and 2 of the journey.

This first edition was brought to the water community thanks to the support of Xylem. Submissions have been assessed by an independent panel.

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

May 10, 2022
With increased commitment from the international community to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from all sectors in accordance with the Paris Agreement, the...
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...

Climate Smart Resources

For a comprehensive and up to date list of Climate Smart Resources, head to the climatesmartwater.org website and check out the library!

Climate Smart Utilities Webinar Series

April 14, 2023
This climate smart utilities webinar series will focus on the Road to a Climate Neutral water sector featuring the recent collaborative Nordic Principles docum...
February 27, 2023
This session will present a triple helix of water communication to support the effective acceleration and innovation within the sector, for maximum policy and a...
February 17, 2023
Climate change has emerged as one of the challenges facing urban sanitation. Extreme weather conditions like floods and droughts impacts water, but in the growi...
February 6, 2023
Discover some of the key challenges and lessons learned from the practical application of WSPs globally to strengthen WSP application.
May 26, 2022
This masterclass series will bring participants up to speed with process emissions of nitrous oxide and methane from wastewater treatment through presenting the...
April 22, 2022
This masterclass series will bring participants up to speed with process emissions of nitrous oxide and methane from wastewater treatment through presenting the...