Research & Initiatives

Integrated Urban Water Management


The global challenges of rapid urbanization and climate change adaptation in the midst of growing water scarcity is driving the need for a paradigm shift to Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM).

IUWM is an approach that includes: interventions over the entire urban water cycle; reconsideration of the way water is used (and reused); and greater application of natural systems for water and wastewater treatment. It provides an alternative to the conventional approach for an effective and efficient management of scarce water resources.

IUWM is an adaptive approach in which decisions— reached by consultation with all stakeholders—are part of a long-term vision. It seeks to provide sustainable solutions that can respond to the increasing uncertainty about future conditions created by climate change and rapid population growth. The rapidly expanding cities in developing countries are particularly suited to IUWM solutions because new infrastructure and management frameworks can be designed from scratch using IUWM principles that include:

    • Consider the entire water cycle as one system
    • Provide water fit for purposes
    • Diversify water sources
    • Consider innovation in urban water technologies in planning and development
    • Maximize the benefits from waste water
    • Consider the urban water cycle is closely linked to the watershed
    • Recognize the importance and impacts of urban planning
    • Involve all the players
    • Strive for conductive institutional environment

While IUWM provides a good framework for identifying strategies and interventions to meet current and future challenges, there is a lack of effective tools to assess and evaluate the performance of urban water management. The Patel College of Global Sustainability (PCGS) and the Global Water Partnership (GWP) have jointly developed the necessary tools to help decision makers, managers and practitioners in their decisions to address urban water challenges.


Focus Area

Title: Integrated Urban Water Management Toolkit (IUWM Toolkit)

Funder: Global Water Partnership (GWP)

Goal: The main goal of this project is to enhance awareness of decision makers, senior managers and practitioners on the concept and approach of IUWM and at the same time to provide the necessary tools and guidance in developing strategies and implementing IUWM on the ground.


Project Description

Population growth and urbanization have increased water demand in cities; thus, creating a growing challenge to water management. There is a need to cope with scarcer water resources, increase risk of water contamination from land-use changes, aging infrastructure, and climate change impacts. Further, as lesser developed cities in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are rapidly urbanizing, the time is apposite for a new way to design urban water systems. Hence the need for a new paradigm- Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM).

Several critical barriers have prevented the rapid uptake of the IUWM strategic approach including: the lack of information on IUWM among decision-makers; an incomplete understanding of water cycle interactions; a lack of tested methodologies to identify potential for IUWM; lack of tools for identifying innovative, appropriate technologies tailored to the local conditions; institutional barriers due to fragmented distribution of responsibilities; and a lack of stakeholder engagement. In response to these barriers, key stakeholders from around the world have voiced a strong interest in having a set of tools that would help overcome the challenges for the implementation of IUWM strategies. In order to address this interest, an IUWM Toolkit has been developed to fill the void between the philosophical paradigm shift to IUWM and the hands-on tools required to implement an IUWM strategy. The main objective of the IUWM Toolkit is to enhance awareness of decision-makers on the approach of IUWM and to provide the necessary tools for developing strategies and implementing IUWM on the ground.

The toolkit provides a 'one-stop-shop' required to promote IUWM and can be tailored towards local conditions. The IUWM Toolkit contains six modules that create an integrated, systems approach platform for addressing the needs of IUWM assessment and implementation. The modules include: a rapid assessment tool called IUWM Diagnostics; an urban water balance modeling tool termed Water Balance; a Technology Selection Tool; an Institutional Analysis Mapping Tool for institutional assessment; a set of guidelines for Stakeholder Engagement; and an IUWM Training platform providing the materials necessary to conduct workshops for decision-makers and water professionals.


IUWM Training Module

Figure 3

The training module is designed to include a series of lectures accompanied by best practice examples, case studies and workshop sessions that allow participants to openly discuss challenges, opportunities and practical aspects of IUWM. This will fill the gap in education systems and training programs on IUWM. In addition to introducing decision-makers and key stakeholders to the principles and approach of IUWM, the tools will provide an operational framework that will assist the implementation of this new approach.

The toolkit, which includes a training module has 5 tools that can be used by decision makers, managers and practitioners. It includes a diagnostic tool, water balance model, technology selection tool, stakeholder engagement guidelines and an institutional arrangement tool.

Diagnostic Tool


The diagnostic tool aims to analyze existing urban water management situation in cities and identifies challenges that affect performance of the system. Based on key indicators, the diagnostic tool first assess the water management conditions in a city to determine the status such as water resources, water supply, wastewater and stormwater water management, socio economic conditions, institutional and regulatory aspects and environmental considerations. The output of the diagnostic tool will be an aggregated index of the status of urban water management of a city that will describe performance in each category. The tool also allows comparison with a benchmarks of best practices.

Water Balance Tool

water balance

The water balance tool aims to model and asses water flows based on multiple and alternative service delivery strategies. The tool enables water professional and decision makers to look on the urban water system in an integrated way and provides the capacity to predict the impacts of interventions throughout the urban water system. The tool allows modelling the different streams of the urban water cycle of stormwater, waste water, water supply, rainwater harvesting and re-use/ recycle options. The tool is designed to evaluate system performance at a household, neighborhood and city scales. The water balance tool is designed such that it will allow modelling and analysis of various water and sanitation practices in developing countries.

Technology Selection Tool

tech selection

The technology selection tool consists of i) comprehensive catalogue of technologies for the entire urban water cycle and ii) decision-support tool to select potential technologies suitable for a local condition. The catalogue is imbedded in the technology selection tool as a database, where users can search specific technology and its related information such as description, design criteria, cost, and operating principles. The tool allows for offline search, save and change options for the specific search during the search process.

Stakeholder Engagement Guidelines

stakeholder engagement

This is a useful guide for coordinators of stakeholder engagement process, particularly for local agencies responsible for strategic planning in urban water management. The manual is structured to reflect the different phases of the stakeholder process. The core of the manual is a description of the individual process steps with their objectives, tasks, outcomes and instruments. It is complemented by practical check lists as well as a list of the "do's and don'ts" for coordinators. It also includes a collection of templates and sample supporting documents for the different process steps.

Institutional Mapping Tool


The tool provides a methodology on how to map out the landscape of water institutions in a given urban context. It is based on stakeholder analysis, but will also examine the official mandates of water sector institutions. The tool includes a guidance on how to compare the existing system of water governance with the hypothetical institutional structure as required for an integrated approach. The tool helps users to analyze the institutional arrangements and their performances to identify gaps and/or overlaps in the institutional set-up and spot where changes could be made to improve their cities' water governance system.