National Adaptation Plans in the urban water sector

Can water integrity be a competence measure?

Urbanization has been a defining factor in shaping the global economy. As per the World Urbanization Prospects Revision Report (2018) by the United Nations, the global urban population is expected to grow 68% by the year 2050. It’s a predictable scenario that a supply and demand gap in providing for the fundamental needs of the expanding cities, such as water supply, will grow. Water stress in cities has increased exponentially due to demand, corruption, and mismanagement[1]. In addition, climate change effects can exacerbate the stress further and pose risks for people, assets, economies, and ecosystems in urban areas. The strategic management of cities’ water sources incorporating resilience and water integrity measures is therefore vital for the future of the global economy. The United Nations SDG6 Synthesis Report on Water and Sanitation (2018) discusses tackling water issues by unlocking finance, governance, and capacity development.

Unlocking finance with caution

The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC)’s definition of adaptation of the urban climate is the process of adjustment in human systems to the actual or expected climate and its effects to moderate harm or exploit opportunities.

Adaptation measures must be interlinked with the water sector at urban planning levels, creating sustainable urban water management systems that can bounce back from the impacts of climate change[2]. Adaptation measures can include coastal flood protection to tackle water shortages. For example, in Lima (Peru), to tackle water shortages in the event of climate change, GIZ, as a part of adaptation measures, established a watershed management plan to increase efficiency in water use[3]. As such, in order for plans to translate into projects, they need financing measures. In a promising way, under the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) five multilateral climate finance baskets have been established to help developing countries in mitigation and adaptation measures.

Climate finance in terms of adaptation measures provides enormous opportunity for a resilient water sector to ensure its sustainability. However, corruption is one of the major setbacks faced by the water sector that can occur anywhere and everywhere, from the policy level to end user payment services[4]. It is estimated that every 10 per cent of investment that is lost to corruption implies annual losses to the water sector in excess of US$ 75 billion; some guesstimates put potential losses many times higher as per Water Integrity Global Outlook Report (2016). It is crucial for climate adaptation finance to be directed into resilient water sector projects, as the impacts of climate change could be immediate and devastating to the sector. The eradication of corruption is urgent, and emphasis must be placed on the implementation of water integrity measures to strengthen good water governance.

The need for good water governance and capacity building

The National Adaptation Plan (NAP) process was established under the Cancun Adaptation Framework (2010). It enables parties to formulate and implement national adaptation plans (NAPs) as a means of identifying medium- and long-term adaptation needs, and developing and implementing strategies and programmes to address those needs. It is a continuous, progressive, and iterative process which follows a country-driven, gender-sensitive, participatory and fully transparent approach[5].

As water in urban areas overlaps with other sectors, water governance becomes a complex issue in terms of the monitoring of finances, and the allocation of responsibilities. It is recommended by the author to incorporate water integrity practices such as Transparency, Accountability, Participation, and Anticorruption (TAP-A) as a competence measure under capacity building strategies in NAP. It can pave a way for climate adaptation finance to be properly utilized. This, in turn, can create a climate of trust between sectors, increasing accountability, and ensuring benefits reach the most vulnerable groups.


[1] Transparency International, 2008. Global Corruption Report 2008 Corruption in the Water Sector

[2] Hurlimann, A; Wilson, E, 2018. Sustainable Urban Water Management under a Changing Climate: The Role of Spatial Planning. Water Vol 10, Issue 5:546.

[3]GIZ, 2018. Adapting urban water resources management to climate change with private sector participation

[4] The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank, 2009.Improving Transparency, Integrity, and Accountability in Water Supply and Sanitation Action, Learning, Experiences. pp.29-30.

[5]UNFCCC Website, 2018. Retrieved on 05 November 2018. Available at https://unfccc.int/topics/adaptation-and-resilience/workstreams/national-adaptation-plans