Critical Success Factors for Resilient Water Infrastructure

Critical Success Factors for Resilient Water Infrastructure

Water security underpins the achievement of development agendas across many sectors – including health, energy, agriculture, environment, mining, and other industries.

REPORT from Climate and Development Knowledge Network

Water infrastructure is vital for delivering water security. Water infrastructure is generally long-lived and with high upfront costs, making it vulnerable to future climate change uncertainties.

Ensuring that water infrastructure developments are resilient to climate variability and long term change is a key challenge to maintaining development progress and avoiding investment in infrastructure which underperforms, or fails due to climate risks. Resilience is more than engineering design and can be viewed from a number of perspectives, from strategic national or basin level planning, through the project identification process, down to the detail of the engineering design process.

Incorporating climate risk management into infrastructure planning and design is critical to building societal resilience and protecting economic growth. As pressures grow to build new infrastructure to cope with growing populations and to support expanding economic agendas, it is critical to ensure that policy makers and development practitioners are aware of and commit to improving the resilience of infrastructure investments in a cost-effective manner. This is a challenging task, owing not only to the uncertainties about the future but also to the complex economic-social-environmental systems in which infrastructure operates.

This working paper presents a set of five critical factors for increasing the climate resilience of water infrastructure. It is based on a review of six Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) funded projects. The review included interviews with project stakeholders supported by a desk review of project outputs. Its objective is to provide development practitioners with synthesised lessons from these projects to improve the resilience of future infrastructure projects and development programmes.

The five critical factors are as follows:

Simple and effective communication of climate risks and uncertainties : Effective communication of climate risks and uncertainties to decision makers is important to successfully inform project planning and subsequently design. Climate risks should be placed within the wider context of non-climate risks and vulnerabilities to ensure a complete picture of risk is available in the planning process.

Involving the right stakeholders at every stage : Stakeholder analysis at the outset of any intervention is crucial to informing stakeholder engagement. Making a clear plan for which stakeholders should be engaged at different stages and which could be ‘champions’ for and leaders of change is important. The purpose and the methods to be used will promote ownership of the intervention.

Capitalising on entry points : Gain a thorough understanding of the entry points into decision making and planning processes to maximise the opportunity for effective change. In order for the timing of interventions to be effective in delivering climate resilience, decision points must be identified that provide the necessary lead time before interventions are required.

Going beyond the project : Adjusting infrastructure design to improve resilience is important, but infrastructure should also support resilience within its broader environmental, social and institutional context. This means selecting, designing and operating infrastructure to minimise negative impacts and maximise co-benefits with other sectors and stakeholders.

Building institutional capacity for assessment, design and financing : Long-term prospects for increasing the climate resilience of infrastructure rely on investment to improve the capacity of national government agencies and river basin organisations to support action. Capacity development must be tailored to the specific gaps and needs of the beneficiary organisation, identified by working closely and collaboratively with development partners.

To download the report click here