The Framework Document for cities facing water shortages is announced in Cape Town today.  Cape Town managed, through world-class leadership, to avoid the feared Day Zero, gaining global recognition for decision making and effective communication in order to avert a serious water crisis.  Over 130 global experts from 15 different countries, met at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in Cape Town over the last two days to debate the best water solutions.  They have announced their first round of results for a framework towards creating a ‘Major Cities Best Practices Water Protocol’.  This follows extensive work undertaken by six task teams who have been working on the framework document since April 2019.  The key interventions outlined by the six task teams are simple:

  • To use and learn from the experiences of seriously water challenged cities, and especially Cape Town, in order to inform and guide future thinking;
  • To collaborate and, by this, they mean not just by talking to different stakeholders but by actively working together, as this will be essential in the ongoing challenge of sustaining water security.  Water management is complex and often carved up into silos; the experts from government, civil society, NGOs and business must now work together in solving the challenges of the future;
  • To change the way water is managed now; i.e. to change the political, economical, environmental, and social models of governance in order to mitigate the dangers of compromised water supply in the future;
  • To share water equitably with the environment because it belongs as much to the environment as it does to the people

One of the key results from the UWC conference was the commitment from UNESCO which has agreed to work closely with the W12 teams in integrating the work into the UNESCO worldwide platform – and this demonstrates that collaboration is already taking place on a global scale.

In bringing together academia, business W12 Congress aims to reduce the disconnect between three distinct yet interrelated challenges:

(1) There are funds available, but water projects are invariably very complicated as they involve multiple stakeholders and W12 needs to ensure that they are bankable (due to issues of lack of collateral, ineffective management, corruption, etc.)

(2) There is a distinct need for improvement in water provision and services, but the projects that are fundable are often not appropriate (exploitive, not wanted by local community, environmentally destructive, etc.), and

(3) Decision makers often do not have access to the newest information and best practices (which is often in the hands of businesses R&D and not those making decisions). 

Therefore, W12 focuses on increasing access to finance for water projects at the city level while improving the management capacity of water projects to make them more effective, largely by fostering peer-to-peer learning across cities globally. 

The framework outlines the proposed detail and scale of intervention required by international cities and governments in order to avoid water shortages over the next 30 years.  This framework will then be further developed between now and May 2020 and presented to international cities’ dignitaries and mayoral delegations from around the world when they visit Cape Town for the W12 Congress (CTICC, 18-19 May 2020).

National government

W12 met with the national water ministry ahead of the Conference to discuss how the W12 Congress stakeholders can work with the ministry in helping to secure funding via private-public-partnerships to implement the government’s National Water & Sanitation Master Plan.  International funding requires that this be managed by local banks and insurance companies.  Minister Lindiwe Susulu explains that a key objective of the Master Plan is “to structure the Department to make it fit for purpose, eliminate wastage and any loss due to corruption and mismanagement of resources.”

W12 sponsors, strategic partners and stakeholders have indicated that the international funding required to implement the Master Plan is available.


  1. The process

Phase I: Background research and preparatory work

Six Task Teams and international experts have worked together throughout 2019 to develop Task Team Position Papers and inform the W12 Framework development

Phase II: UWC Conference events, January 26 – 28, 2020

Summit meeting of city administrators with scientific, policy, and NPO leaders to develop the W12 Framework document ― a roadmap of what cities and their partners need to do to win the water battle.

Phase III: Framework Development, January 28 – May 17, 2020

Fleshing out the six task team papers in preparation for the W12 Congress in May

Phase IV: W12 Congress at CTICC2, presented by Grundfos, May 18 – 19, 2020

Global Congress at the Cape Town International Convention Centre when best practices, breakthrough technologies, guidelines for resiliency planning. Expo and VIP sessions will be presented. Interaction between the Task Teams and international city leaders, mayoral delegations, water experts, and industry participants from around the world.

Phase V: Framework Updates and Maintenance, May 20, 2020 +

The W12 Framework document will undergo continuing development to include findings and Interventions arising from the W12 Congress.  The document—together with a database of contacts, information, and media—will live online in order to be freely and openly accessible to city officials and those working on the ground in areas of increasing water scarcity.Two years on from the water crisis in Cape Town, the W12 Congress is also drawing upon the experience and learnings gained in order to provide a platform for the different roles, responsibilities, and responses to be analyzed in a way that helps citizens, businesses, and city governments better understand how complicated the process of urban water management and climate change adaptation is and how to adequately prepare for future water security.

  1. The W12 Framework Conference took place at the University of the Western Cape 27-28 January 2020.  This is a collaboration between W12, UWC, The Institute for Ecological Civilization, the City of Cape Town and other local stakeholders.  Task teams, made up of professionals from natural sciences, social sciences, politics, economics, technical sciences, and civil society, have been established to develop a guiding framework for cities facing escalating water shortages.  At the conference members of the task teams will discuss and develop their papers into a “Water Framework”.   The framework is intended to be the basis for a protocol for cities and governments to follow to ensure water security for the next 30 years.
  1. The framework document for the ‘Major Cities Best Practices Water Protocol’, released today, follows an intense process involving a contingent of leading professionals from global academia, global businesses, civil society, NGOs, and local and national government who have worked together with leading international water experts, including the International Water Bank and UNESCO.
  1. The aim of W12 Congress is to work with government, civil society, and stakeholders to create the framework for the first ‘Major Cities Best Practices Water Protocol’, which will be available online to all cities around the world to access and use.
  1. By 2050 almost two billion people living in cities will suffer water shortages, as the demand for water increases by up to 70% (Source:  World Bank). Extreme water stress can threaten national security. The urgent bilateral need to work together, locally and internationally, in order to ensure the future of the world’s water is evident. 
  1. The W12 Congress public-facing sessions will be held on 18th and 19th May 2020 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, Cape Town, South Africa and is presented by Grundfos. Ministers from several countries as well as mayoral delegations from global cities facing water challenges will attend, along with top international CEOs for the water industry and UNESCO Directors. Arnold Schwarzenegger will be a W12 Congress keynote speaker.  Other key role players include:
  • IDA – International Desalination Association (Global)
  • UNESCO (Global)
  • SIWI – Stockholm International Water Week (Sweden)
  • IWA – International Water Bank (Dubai)
  • WB – World Bank (Global)
  • AWS – Alliance for Water Stewardship (UK)