Resilience primer: Potable water

Tracy Hatton, Ellie Kay, Nader Naderpajouh, Daniel Aldrich

Published by the Resilience Shift in collaboration with Resilient Organisations, March 2019.  DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.19102.36167

Executive Summary

Are you working in, or responsible for a water network? What legacy would you like to leave? A strong robust water network able to serve the needs of current and future generations, or a series of near-misses or incidents that leave communities and economies weaker? Achieving a resilient water network is not easy. But it is vital that we all look to the multitude of small acts that together can improve resilience, persisting even when significant barriers may appear. Water is an integral part of our lives, both in its requirement for life, but also in its ability to create healthy communities. Building a resilient water network helps to enable current and future generations not only to recover from shocks and stressors but also to thrive. Building a resilient water network needs to be balanced with the needs for a resilient eco-system that also supports communities to thrive. There is a need for a holistic approach to resilience to satisfy and sometimes compromise conflicting needs.

For the water industry, a resilient network is one that can continuously supply the quantity of water desired (or accepted) by customers, at a quality that meets health standards. The value chain, from source to our pouring a glass of drinkable water from a tap, is a large and complex system. To truly build resilient systems, attention needs to be paid to all parts of the system – from source to tap, and beyond, in our interdependent ecological systems.

Consideration of resilience in water networks is nothing new, but as described by one urban water operator, “the floodgates have opened for resilience efforts as society more broadly embraces the concept”. There is no one solution to the barriers that reduce resilience improvement efforts. This primer presents 17 recommendations to give resilience adoption a boost. These suggestions were inspired by 19 interviews with water sector operators and stakeholders and consideration of policy frameworks, advocacy bodies and academic reports. Some suggestions will be applicable to many contexts, others not. We hope that these suggestions inspire you to begin, or continue, your resilience journey so that we can ensure that our potable water networks continue to assist communities to thrive.

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