22. Nov. 2023
Today, C40 Cities announced the launch of the Water Safe Cities Accelerator, a groundbreaking initiative involving major cities from around the globe in a concerted effort to combat the escalating challenges of flooding and drought, bolster urban resilience and sustainability by 2030.

Today, 16 C40 cities signed a commitment to address flooding and drought, and improve resilience by 2030. Each city will also take steps to improve water access, flood protection or wastewater management.

Accelerator cities include Buenos Aires, Copenhagen, Freetown, Lisbon, Los Angeles, Milan, New Orleans, New York City, Oslo, Phoenix, Quezon City, Quito, Rio de Janeiro, Rotterdam, Tokyo and Tshwane.

Each participating city pledges to a fundamental commitment, to protect their most vulnerable communities from the severe risks of flooding and drought by 2027. This includes:

  • Establishing comprehensive early warning systems in all high-risk, low-income areas.
  • Developing robust emergency response plans to ensure safety and basic necessities for all during critical events.
Sierra Leone - Freetown

Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, will use the Accelerator to discover innovative solutions, establish robust infrastructure, and implement community engagement. Photo: Adobe Stock

Additionally, each city will choose to follow at least one of three dedicated pathways:

  • Universal Clean Water Access: Ensuring equitable access to clean water for all citizens.
  • Flood Protection Measures: Implementing strategies to protect against significant flood events.
  • Net-Zero Water and Wastewater Systems: Aiming for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in water and wastewater management.
"Our #TransformFreetown water target is for there to be a significant increase in access to safe, affordable, and sustainable water supply by 2028. The Water Safe Cities Accelerator will be instrumental in helping Freetown to achieve this target whilst building resilience and sustainability. In the face of increasing climate uncertainties and water-related challenges, the Water Safe Cities Accelerator initiative helps us to discover innovative solutions, establish robust infrastructure, and implement community engagement. By prioritising water safety, we aren't only ensuring the well-being of Freetonians but also fortifying our city against the unpredictable impacts of climate change. The Accelerator empowers us to build a future where Freetown not only survives but thrives, with water security at its core."
Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Mayor of Freetown and C40 Co-Chair,

Tailored support

C40’s team of technical experts will provide tailored support to each city, helping to identify and implement the most effective strategies based on local needs and opportunities.

"As a desert city, Phoenix knows the value of our water resources and has cultivated a culture of conservation. Still, our warming climate is accelerating aridification and we must continue to innovate to meet new challenges and empower residents to live sustainably. The Water Safe Cities Accelerator brings drought and flooding to the forefront of the climate conversation and will be crucial for cities in sharing best practices and uplifting success stories."
Kate Gallego, Mayor of Phoenix and C40 Vice Chair

The Water Safe Cities Accelerator encourages cities to work collaboratively. By partnering with public, private and civil society organisations, mayors and city leaders are taking decisive steps to protect their communities from the extremes of water-related threats, ensuring a safer, more sustainable future for urban residents worldwide.

"A water safe city is essential for the well-being of citizens and managing water extremes is more significant than ever. In Rotterdam, living with water is in our genes: eighty-five% of the city lies below sea level. Managing excess water was of top concern for ages, but now we are facing a new threat: longer periods of drought and a decline of surface water quality. These water issues have no boundaries, so it is crucial for all cities to take bold action. Rotterdam commitments for the accelerator include adaptation strategies for residential outer dikes and implementation of 50 climate-adaptive projects within public spaces, alongside the development of 15 climate-resilient squares. We will work in the C40 Water Safe Cities Accelerator with peer cities, partners and business to create a resilient city. Together we are stronger when it comes to fighting the challenges of climate change."
Ahmed Aboutaleb, Mayor of Rotterdam

Water-related climate hazards are responsible for 90% of global disasters. C40 cities in the Global South are ten times more likely to suffer from the impacts of flooding and drought compared to those in the Global North. This disparity underscores the need for immediate and targeted action.

Boy wading through flooded street.

Boy wading through flooded street. Photo: C40

"The historical urbanisation processes that neglected the hydrological cycle, combined with the hilly and low-lying topography of the city of Rio de Janeiro, makes Rio's urban area prone to flooding. The conflict between the natural and built environments often makes structural stormwater management solutions socioeconomically unfeasible. Thus, the implementation of a flood warning system appears as an alternative to increasing the resilience of cities. The requalification of water bodies provides a better relationship between the city and its rivers, bringing opportunities for co-benefits between the natural and built environments. In this context, the C40 Urban Water Security accelerator is a great opportunity to bring together experiences and tools from cities around the world to make Rio more resilient to these disasters. The accelerator corroborates the Sustainable Development and Climate Action Plan of the city of Rio de Janeiro, also in accordance with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)."
Eduardo Paes, Mayor of Rio de Janeiro

The Water Safe Cities Accelerator is supported financially by the Grundfos Foundation and informed by insights from Grundfos. It is the latest of C40’s High-Impact Accelerators.

"Quezon City’s evidence-based climate strategies prioritise water management as a foundational step towards ensuring water safety and security. With a focus on building retention ponds as catchment basins to mitigate floods and installing reuse systems for our parks and public spaces to avert water stress during droughts, we aim to strengthen our resilience, especially the city’s most vulnerable communities. Through the C40 Water Safe Cities Accelerator, our efforts are reinforced with expert support and learnings from cities’ best practices, thereby advancing our steps to safer and sustainable water sources."
Josefina “Joy” Belmonte, Mayor of Quezon City

About the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group

C40 is a network of nearly 100 mayors of the world’s leading cities working to deliver the urgent action needed right now to confront the climate crisis and create a future where everyone, everywhere, can thrive.

Mayors of C40 cities are committed to using a science-based and people-focused approach to help the world limit global heating to 1.5°C and build healthy, equitable and resilient communities.