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Strategies for Water Security in Developing Country Cities: Building Resilience in the Urban Water Sector

Thousands of cities in the developing world face rising pressures on water provision due to population growth and urbanization, and climate change worsens these impacts. Coordinating the formal and informal water sectors, improving water storage and management, and bringing community voices into water planning are critical to sustainably providing water, especially for the urban poor who are most vulnerable to water scarcity. 

While in developed country cities, the government or formal sector often exclusively manage water supply services, in developing countries other informal 'water managers’ also become important. In these cities, thousands of people rely on self-supply, directly accessing the water source itself through private boreholes, or they obtain water through the private water market, where water vendors supply water through water tankers and treated drinking water. In Indore, like most developing country cities, the urban poor have limited access on all three fronts: the formal system is unavailable to them, private markets are unaffordable, and self-supply is not an option because they are landless.

“People in developing country cities like Indore manage water daily, wondering where they will get water from that day, how long they will wait for it, how much they will pay for it, what the quality of that water will be, and whether that water will be there tomorrow,” said Meena Palaniappan, director of the Pacific Institute International Water and Communities Initiative. “From our comprehensive look at Indore, we identified a set of climate and water resilience strategies that are relevant for people who are water managers at every level in developing country cities, from the household to the utility, and it’s a mix of both conventional and sustainable water management strategies.”

The Climate Change and Urbanisation report recommends policy and tool solutions to ensure that the systems and the infrastructure for the provision of basic services are managed in a more environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable manner:

  • diversify water supply (Indore, for example, relies on one primary and energy-intensive source: the Narmada River);
  • increase access to municipal supply/improve infrastructure;
  • increase water storage at all levels (municipal and household);
  • promote water-use efficiency and reuse;
  • implement equitable water rates;
  • improve water quality;
  • reduce energy dependence; and
  • improve connections among all stakeholders in the sector.

For further information on the report, please see Pacific Institute.