Water resilience: improving the world’s water security

A new global report explores the water management risks experienced by cities and companies, and how future water resilience lies in taking collaborative action, writes sustainability specialist Christopher Pountney.

Almost two thirds of cities around the world believe that climate change will negatively affect their water resilience. And large numbers of companies are concerned about business risks related to water supplies. These are among the findings in the latest global survey compiled by AECOM with CDP, the international environmental reporting and data non-profit, and published to coincide with World Water Week (27 Aug – 1 September, 2017).

Titled ‘Who’s tackling urban water challenges?’ the survey is based on information gathered from 569 cities and 1,432 companies. Against the backdrop of growing global urbanization and climate change, the study focused on four big risks – water scarcity, flooding, declining water quality and untreated waste water – and how we can take steps to improve water resilience.

Some of the measures being taken on the way forward include investment in water supply infrastructure, education programs for conservation awareness, technology investment to improve water efficiency and better management of stormwater.

The report also proposes three key actions to increase water security –

Action 1 – Set ambitious water targets and goals: Some 54% of companies disclosing to CDP have set targets and goals to better manage water resources.

Action 2 – Capitalize opportunities to recycle and reuse water: 310 companies disclosed that they were working on reuse and recycling projects in 2016.

Action 3 – Invest in water management projects: In 80 U.S. cities alone, there were 89 water management projects worth a total of $9.5 billion, seeking investment of $8.2 billion.

Commenting on the report’s findings AECOM’s City Resilience Lead Claire Bonham-Carter said, “From our work with more than 30 cities in the 100 Resilient Cities network, water resilience has consistently come up as a key challenge that cities face. Many of them, regardless of size – from Mexico City, Mexico, to Berkeley, California – are addressing both long-term water supply issues as well as chronic urban flooding.”

Morgan Gillespy, head of CDP’s Water Program, said, “Our report shows just how crucial water management is becoming to our cities. Our vision is to achieve a secure and sustainable water supply by 2030, but to get here we need a sharp U-turn in how we manage our natural resources. Water must be recognised as a critical asset at city and board level.”

At a glance survey findings:

The cities most concerned about their water supply lie in Asia and Oceania (84%), with serious risks also identified in Africa (80%) and Latin America (75%).

Some 63% of North American cities deem climate change a risk to water supply, with fewer cities concerned in Europe (34%). 196 cities reported risks of water stress and scarcity; 132 a risk of declining water quality and 103 a risk of flooding.

Water investment opportunities are greatest in Latin America (US$6.7bn), where Quito, Ecuador, is looking for US$800 million to manage its water supply. The city aims to build three hydropower stations and address the contamination of 246km of Quito’s rivers and streams. Development in Latin America is followed by North America (US$2.7bn), Asia and Oceania (US$27.4m), Europe (US$22.3m) and Africa (US$6.19m).

The ‘Who’s tackling urban water challenges?’ infographic report was produced by CDP in partnership with AECOM and funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies. It is available in full here.

 Previous AECOM/CDP reports can be found here.

World Water Week – www.worldwaterweek.org