Call for Contributors to Forthcoming IWA Publishing Book:

Water Resilience in Practice: Experiences from the front line


Outline for Potential Contributors: 

The aim of this IWA book is to examine and provide insights into how water service providers apply resilience in practice.* Many water sector institutions work in challenging contexts with many risks and constraints. Climate change is a major threat exacerbating already existing trends that challenge the water sector; including population growth, increasing demand for water and unsustainable patterns of water use. Often water supply and water resource management infrastructure are inadequate to cope with challenges and contend with limited human, material and financial resources to provide permanent and lasting services.  Water sector practitioners and policy-makers are increasingly being required to develop plans that embrace uncertainty and incorporate risk management as a means of adapting to the uncertainties in the water sector, particularly due to climate change. Increased incidence and severity of shocks and stresses from natural disasters including drought, in turn threatens the availability of water, which creates a host of challenges in planning for the best use of resources.  The growing threat of urban water shortages, gives more reason to understand how water resilience works in practice.

As a result of the challenges described above, water supply institutions are increasingly working with alternative methods which aim to strengthen resilience through adaptive approaches, so that vulnerabilities are reduced in service provision.  Adaptive management (AM) has been promoted as an alternative approach to dealing with water supply problems and managing water and land resources in a more resilient way. In its simplest form AM is a conceptual approach for solving problems, experimenting (or innovating) and strengthening organisational learning. The concept of AM has been discussed widely in ecosystem management and is based on the principle that water management practices must be flexible and dynamic with the ability to evolve and improve (see Holling, 1978; Walters, 1986). But for a system to be able to adapt or respond to future uncertain change, two important components are required. First, new information, (such as hydrological or environmental monitoring data), must be available to the system and the system must be able to process this information. The second factor is that the system must have the ability to change, at multiple levels, based on information received. Thus at its core, AM includes an assessment and learning cycle of action, monitoring and adaptation (Pahl-Wostl et al, 2007). Thus it requires the ability to learn from previous experiences and to apply the lessons learnt. In other words, adaptation will only occur in a system that is able to adjust its own characteristics and behaviour.

However, for resilience approaches (including adaptive management) to be applied successfully also depend on a number of other factors. Three in particular stand out. First, institutional arrangements need to be reasonably accountable, responsive and efficient so practitioners can collect and analyse information and take corrective action.  The challenge for institutions (particularly in fragile states) is that they often lack ability to perform essential functions routinely and have limited ability to respond to shocks (Corendea et al, 2012). Thus adaptation is most urgently needed where it is most difficult to implement (Houghton, 2012). Second, the project conditions or enabling environment may not adequately enable managers to innovate and take risks. Thus they are constrained by the system in which they work. Third, there may not always be general recognition (or willingness) that fundamental change is required. The reasons for this are multiple, but often water supply agencies may be preoccupied with applying the same approach - such as focussing on supply augmentation strategies in the absence of complementing approaches, such as managing growing demand. In other words implementing agencies (be they Government, water utilities or NGOs) need to solve problems on a daily basis and bring about systematic changes. However, they may not work in a conducive environment, and they may not necessarily refer to water resilience principles or apply a systematic approach – for good reasons.

This book will present a collection of case studies on how institutions apply resilience in practice, despite the multiple challenges they face. Although institutions may not actively refer to resilience, they may be nevertheless required to adapt, innovate and learn on an ongoing basis. Experiences of how institutions in low and middle-income countries apply resilience in practice are rarely captured but they would form some important real world learning to compliment the theory and principles relating to water resilience.  Experiences from upper-income countries also offer key insights into how resilience has been built into water supply, and incorporating a longer-term vision for sustainable water management.  The topics that will be covered by this book include:

  • Transforming the performance of water utilities
  • Adaptive Management in emergency and post emergency contexts
  • The role of resilience approaches in planning for improved water resources management
  • The role of resilience approaches in strengthening the wider water system
  • Water resilience and its application in practice, including options which encompass demand management, supply augmentation and other sustainable approaches

Contributors will include professionals working in local authorities (municipalities), utility management institutions, water catchment (or basin level) management institutions and other government intuitions; as well as from non-governmental organizations (NGOs), private sector supporting entities and academia. The emphasis of the book will be on learning from practitioners’ experiences of building resilience strategies and approaches, and case studies represented would include all economic contexts – from low-income and fragile to upper income countries.    

We are calling for abstracts (no more than 1000 words) that should briefly present the case/ approach or experience to be demonstrated, the methodology used, and the main lessons put forth in the paper.  The process of finding contributors will be concluded by 30th September 2019. Submissions should be original and not under consideration elsewhere. Authors are asked to avoid technical or academic jargon and spell out Acronyms in full when used for the first time.  It is also encouraged that authors have their abstracts checked by a native speaker of English prior to submission, this will help ensure that peer abstracts are judged on merit.

For more information, please contact co-editors:

Leslie Morris-Iveson, Chartered Water and Environment Consultant

leslie [at] environmentalrecoveryconsult [dot] com

St. John Day, Chartered Consultant in Water Resources Management and Water Supply in low-income and fragile states

singe [dot] day [at] gmail [dot] com

IWA contact:

Mark Hammond, Books Commissioning Editor

mhammond [at] iwap [dot] co [dot] uk

Note on Access to the Book:  It the co-editors’ intention that the book will be available online, as an open-access resource.  We are looking into various models that would allow open-access, which may include sponsorship or funding through organizations such as Knowledge Unlatched.  It is possible that the book would be available for profit for a short period (i.e. 1-2 years) and then have restrictions removed to ensure that it is freely available online.

*For the purposes of this book, we define resilience according to Ofwat’s definition in their report “Resilience in the Round” (2017): “Resilience is the ability to cope with, and recover from, disruption and anticipate trends and variability in order to maintain services for people and protect the natural environment now and in the future”.


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