Water experts believe policy makers can promote a more sustainable and resilient future in cities by proactively implementing integrated urban water management (IUWM), a holistic approach to planning urban water systems, at the outset of urban infrastructure growth.
As Africa urbanizes at a faster rate than any other region in the world, a more integrated approach to urban water management is needed to solve complex water challenges in Africa’s teeming, thirsty cities to make them more sustainable and resilient.
A World Bank report presented at the AfriCities Summit in Dakar, Senegal collates lessons of experience from 31 cities in Africa and globally, and shows how such approaches are leading to home-grown innovative solutions that could help guide the design of plans elsewhere.
The pressing need for a new approach to water management
The World Bank report, The Future of Water in African Cities: Why Waste Water? aims to change the way policy makers think about urban water management, planning, and project design in Africa. It argues that by adopting integrated urban water management (IUWM) approaches, policy makers in African cities have a real chance to address diverse issues such as increased competition for water with upstream water users, improve urban planning by understanding water’s interaction with other sectors, and in the face of a changing climate, secure resilience in an uncertain future by relying on a diversity of water sources.
“Solving the challenge of urban water management is critical to unlocking the economic potential of Africa’s cities and improving the lives of city residents,” says Alexander Bakalian, World Bank Sector Manager for Urban Development and Services in the Africa Region.
“We need to understand how water is linked across sectors and innovate in the way we do project planning and implementation,” he adds. “It is noteworthy that some cities in Africa have started to consider integrated planning of water resources as part of their city development strategies.”
African cities are growing at 3.9 percent annually, the highest in the world, and existing water management systems cannot keep up with growing demand. Studies project that over the next 25 years, water demand will almost quadruple — a much faster growth rate than any other region in the world.
Currently, about 320 million Africans live in urban areas, a number projected to rise to 654 million by 2030. Population growth and growing water needs – for municipal, industrial, and ecological purposes – will all combine to put greater pressure on already scarce and dwindling water resources.