Basin-Connected Cities

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A strategic agenda for connecting cities with their basins

The IWA ‘Basin-Connected Cities Action Agenda: A strategic agenda for connecting cities with their basins’ is being developed with input from cities, industries and water and sanitation services, as well as representatives from basin organisations, agricultural and mining sector to shape the strategic Agenda.

Through IWA’s wide network of water professionals, a series of workshops took place in 2017 in Skukoza (South Africa), Buenos Aires (Argentina) and Cape Town (South Africa) to explore how different urban sectors and organisations could become water stewards for healthy and sustainable basins. Find out more about the workshop series and webinar below.

In 2018, the focus will be on connecting cities with their basins for a water secure future.

Interested in contributing to the Basin-Connected Cities Action Agenda today? Contact Katharine Cross, Programme Manager, Basins of the Future.

What is the Basin-Connected Cities Action Agenda?

IWA is developing a Basin-Connected Cities Action Agenda which aims to influence and activate utilities, cities and their industries to become water stewards working with basin and catchment organisations, as well as other water management stakeholders (e.g. agriculture and mining). 




The natural water cycle connects cities to their wider basins, making cities dependent on the health of their water basins. Image courtesy of Conservation Ontario.

The Basin-Connected Cities Action Agenda is a call to action to support the Principles for Water Wise Cities which aim to integrate water in planning across scales; help city leaders ensure that everyone in their cities has access to safe water and sanitation.  There are 4 levels of action in the Principles:

         1. Regenerative Water Services

         2. Water Sensitive Urban Design

         3. Basin Connected Cities

         4. Water-wise Communities


The Agenda provides guidance pathways to enable Basin-Connected Cities including securing the water resource, protecting water quality and preparing for extreme events. The Agenda outlines the rationale for urban stakeholders to lead the way in realising their role as water stewards and the different pathways and activities towards achieving more integrated water resources management from catchment to consumer. Many of these actions are already happening and the Agenda provides a framework for showcasing best practices to inspire urban end users to be aware and respond to what is happening in their watershed.

Why should urban stakeholders take action in their watershed?

Urban stakeholders have a critical role to play in preserving the freshwater resources on which they depend. A disruption in supply of freshwater resources to cities can have significant economic, environmental and health consequences. Global projections show that urban populations will continue to rise, which means improving water security and protecting water resources across basins which cities rely on is a priority. The world’s freshwater resources are under mounting pressure.

There are numerous sources of pressure  mounting on the world’s freshwater resources:

  • Growing cities, often in areas with water scarcity
  • Increased water abstraction and use
  • Irregular patterns of water availability due to the effects of climate change
  • Competing demands for freshwater resources (drinking water, industry, agriculture, etc)

Who should take action?

Urban Stakeholders

  • City Planners
  • Water managers
  • Other city representatives
  • Industries
  • Water and wastewater utilities
  • Regulators

Basin Stakeholders

  • Basin Organisations
  • Mining Sector
  • Agricultural Sector

Pathways to become an urban agent of change

Develop a vision: This can be developing an overall framework defining long-term ambitions and aspirations;


Strengthen governance and institutions to provide the framework for stakeholders to work together from catchment to tap to achieve the proposed vision;

Assess knowledge and capacity and taking actions to increase knowledge exchange and learning;


Integrate planning tools such as decision support systems and use risk based approaches to water management and increase data and information available on the catchment;

Take action with various implementation tools: Economic instruments and financing mechanisms; regulations; innovative technologies; integration of nature-based solutions.


Collecting perspectives & experiences

We are looking to urban stakeholders that are leading the way in strengthening the connection with their catchments through different actions and pathways to contribute to the development and promotion of the Basin-Connected Cities Action Agenda:

  • Contribute a Basin Story which outlines the successes and challenges that urban stakeholders have experienced in becoming water stewards in the wider catchment;
  • Access the online webinar on demand, which provides a shared platform to learn more and contribute to the Basin-Connected Cities Action Agenda, while showcasing the authors of the Basin Stories which showcase urban water stewards taking action in their wider basins. Click here for more information on accessing the webinar on demand;
  • Participate in upcoming workshops focusing on the connections between cities and their basins and how stakeholders can work together for a water secure future.


The feedback from workshops, webinars, focused discussions is being integrated into the launch of the Basin-Connected Cities Action Agenda at the 2018 IWA World Water Congress in Tokyo. The next upcoming event will take place at the World Water Forum in Brasilia. The IWA will host a session to discuss the Basin Action Agenda, where international representatives working for governments, utilities, industries and watershed organisations will share their perspectives on how cities can become leaders in securing water from catchment to tap now and for the future. All upcoming events are listed below.

Upcoming events

There will be discussions at upcoming events which will be used to further develop the Agenda.

Past Events

The workshops focused on sharing experiences and identifying approaches to develop guidance for urban stakeholders to better manage water quantity and quality through actions at the catchment level.

  1. 14th International Water Association Specialist Conference on Watershed and River Basin Management | Skukoza, South Africa |Wednesday, October 11th, 2017,  13:00 – 14:30
  2. International Water Association Water and Development Conference & Exhibition 2017 | Buenos Aires, Argentina | Thursday, November 16th, 2017, 15:30 – 17:00, Room 3
  3. 8th International Young Water Professionals Conference | Cape Town, South Africa | Monday, December 11th, 2017,  13:30 – 14:45
  4. Basin Action Agenda Webinar On Demand | December 7th, 2017
  5. Session 4.a.2. Connecting cities with their basins for a water secure future @ the World Water Forum | Brasilia, Brazil | March 18th-23rd, 2018

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