Securing water for today and tomorrow in Lagos, Africa’s largest megacity

14 July 2023
Participants at the City Water Resilience Assessment workshop in Lagos on 11 July 2023
Image: WaterAid/Bukola Bayo-Philip

In the face of climate jeopardy, experts from WaterAid, Arup, and the Lagos State Technical Advisory Committee on Water, join forces to kickstart investment into Lagos water resources.

On 11 July 2023, experts and policymakers met in Lagos to bring much-needed focus to the growing threats to water security in the state. As one of Africa’s most prosperous cities, the residents of Lagos demand a safe city that is fit for the future, with access to reliable water services that are protected from flooding, and where the rivers and lagoon are clean.

This conference of key partners across the water sector and beyond addressed the need to make sure that the prosperity of the population in Lagos, is not held back by the impacts of climate change, and that water is available for all. This will not only require a new approach to water but also new thinking on investment.

International NGO, WaterAid, drawing on decades of experience, is working together with Arup, building on its City Water Resilience Approach (CWRA). Both organisations will support the Lagos water authorities and the government to forge a pathway towards a water-secure city. Critically, the team is engaging with a range of investors from multinationals to banks, pension funds, corporations and more.

Kate Hughes, CEO of the Resilient Water Accelerator said:

“Protecting water supplies for people and nature is the best way to secure Lagos against the impacts of climate change. These impacts are already with us, and the people and businesses of Lagos are already seeing challenges – including in the quality of water available, with salinity from sea level rise and pollution from waste, all made worse by flooding. We are working to build a shared vision for Lagos’ water system, identifying solutions to get money flowing at scale and speed to where it matters.”

Martin Shouler of Arup said:

“At present, the majority of Lagos’ 23 million citizens struggle to reliably secure water, and strategically-vital sectors such as fishing and energy also face immediate threats. Whilst climate resilience needs substantial investment, those costs are dwarfed by the costs of inaction. If we can ensure water resources are secured now, then we can not only avoid disaster but build a firm foundation for prosperity, even as global temperatures continue to rise.”

Speaking at the event, the Country Director of WaterAid Nigeria, Evelyn Mere, stated:

"The impact of climate change on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) - and its threat to water security - is becoming increasingly obvious. Strengthening the resilience of these vital services is a top priority for WaterAid Nigeria over the next five years, with Lagos as a focal state. To move towards sustainable urbanisation, the city needs to be resilient to hazards, especially those associated with climate change.”

Utilising CWRA, Arup is working directly with cities across Africa and other local partners, to develop a broad range of water risks and needs assessments and urban water resilience action plans. Developed in close partnership with city stakeholders, it takes a comprehensive systems perspective of water management to inform an integrated source-to-tap strategy in water planning and management. 

This week’s conference was a platform for the stakeholders to build up their knowledge and understanding of this complex megacity. It brought together over 60 participants from across local, national and international organisations – including some key government officials from the Lagos State Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, Lagos State Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget, and other members of the State Technical Advisory Committee on Water.

The Resilient Water Accelerator initiative, which will take forward the recommendations of this conference, has a mission to bring partners together to invest in the design and feasibility assessment of ambitious comprehensive climate-resilient water security programmes, unlocking new sources of transformational financing from a range of sources, and securing safe and sustainable water for all.