The Water as Leverage Programme

The Water as Leverage Programme

Water as Leverage

The Water as Leverage programme was initiated in 2018 with a competition to generate innovative and integrated climate-adaptive concepts in three Asian cities.

The competition was modeled after the Rebuild by Design challenge launched in June 2013 by President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Task Force. The WaL programme builds upon the success of RBD and contributes to the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. The three cities where Water as Leverage piloted its programming - Semarang, Indonesia; Chennai, India; and Khulna, Bangladesh - are pioneering a transformative design approach with the goal of replicating these principles in Asia and across the rest of the world. The initiative involves a dedicated group of partners from governments, financial institutions, investment agencies, technical organizations together with community stakeholders who are committed to using Water as Leverage as a blueprint for other cities and regions facing water challenges.

In short, Water as Leverage:

  • ensures the active involvement of all stakeholders – local communities, the public, private and financial sectors – from the start;
  • promotes coalitions, creates ownership and enhances institutional and societal capacity in building climate-resilient cities;
  • develops design-driven, fundable infrastructural projects to address urban challenges and to create a better living environment in cities; and
  • inspires paradigm shifts as the programme contributes to changing the thinking and the perspective on different processes and the funding needed to deal with the complexity of urban challenges.

Water as Leverage is supported by MOUs between the Dutch government and the Governments of Bangladesh, India and Indonesia.

Facing Global Water Challenges

Water as Leverage

Water represents the most challenging and complex risk facing humankind in the coming century.

Climate change induced floods, droughts, pollution, starvation, diseases, and conflicts are all fundamentally related to water. When coupled with rapid and unplanned urbanization, these pervasive issues produce catastrophic events that threaten the resilience of life support mechanisms on earth. Cities around the world are feeling the effects of water-related challenges, growing population density, and urban expansion. In response, cities have the opportunity to become part of a solution in which water is a unifying force: a catalyst that can be leveraged for sustainable development.

This is the fundamental conviction of the Water as Leverage programme: that water is not only a major risk factor to people, property and future prosperity, but also an opportunity to address an all-encompassing challenge as a global community.

The challenge can be met by facilitating the development and implementation of resilient solutions by connecting:

  • long-term comprehensive urban planning with short term innovative transformations;
  • ambitious climate adaptation plans with bankable projects
  • development of more knowledge on water systems with the construction of more resilient cities; and
  • research, design and implementation practices with inclusive urban alliances

Bridging Transitions

Water as Leverage

Water as Leverage is designed to achieve three transitions:

  1. Breaking through the lock-in where, worldwide, there is still not enough funding for the pre- project-preparation phase (research, inclusive collaboration, coalition building, sparking the enabling environment, capacity building, design and innovation). This is done through public-private collaboration in a ‘challenge’ context ("pressure-cooker"). The model of the competition, or challenge, is adapted from the IABR methodology, the Rebuild by Design challenge (RBD) and a number of RBD follow-up projects (Bay Area Challenge Resilient by Design; Resilience by Design University RBD_U; Policy Initiatives; 12 City Initiatives);

  2. Breaking through fragmentation in the project development process/approach, which currently occurs frequently and extensively, by: a) instituting a “life-cycle by design and collaboration approach”; b) involving the financial sector from the beginning; c) promoting community partnerships; and d) increasing opportunities for blended finance, public-private partnerships and market opportunities; and

  3. Breaking away from a limited/narrow focus on projects by broadening the scope to include project, process, and the necessary enabling environment. It is about people, process and projects for sustainable impact.

All this is done through the truly integrated (design) approach, which supports the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement. Our values are inclusivity, integrality and innovation by design for sustainability and climate resilience.