Global support group launched to ease water pressures related to urbanisation

The United Nations has convened a host of organisations including the World Water Council (WWC) and the Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) to create frameworks that enable cities to overcome political, financial, technological and behavioural barriers associated with water.

Three-quarters of the world’s mega cities are coastal, creating considerable risk and impact on water systems

Three-quarters of the world’s mega cities are coastal, creating considerable risk and impact on water systems

With 70% of the global population set to live in cities within a decade, the UN has selected the Innovative Governance, Open Cities theme to champion sustainable urban development. The WWC and four other organisations will partner to steer major city networks towards a “water-secure world”.

Currently, 54% of the world’s population resides in urban locations, with an extra two billion people expected to migrate to cities by 2030. This, according to the UN, places “unprecedented pressure” on infrastructure and resources, with a 50% increase in demand for water and energy expected in developing cities such as Karachi, Lagos and Dhaka – which are expected to surpass the population of cities like New York within 15 years.

“Flooding and droughts have increased globally, and the impact is devastating,” WWC’s president Benedito Braga said. “Cities across the world are already experiencing effects of climate change.

“Infrastructure and houses are destroyed, and we call on governments to be aware of the effects that adequate water infrastructure can have to improve or aid these situations.”

As much as 40% of the world’s population currently lives in river basins under severe water stress, while 20% will be exposed to flood risks by 2030. WWC will work with ICLEI, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), UN-Habitat and the Brazilian Confederation of Municipalities (CNM) to create a support network for these issues.

The support group notes that more than three-quarters of the world’s mega cities are coastal, creating considerable risk and impact on water systems, not just in relation to scarcity but also the health of nearby water sources.

Framing mechanisms 

Notably, the group is attempting to mobilise action from local authorities and the private sector to create financing solutions on water, energy and food demand. The group with use the Paris Climate Agreement, the New Urban Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to frame its actions.

The WWC reported that financial investment into water infrastructure needs to triple to €255bn annually to combat climate change and meet sanitation targets. However, ING's vice president for sustainable finance Ambika Jindal has warned that water risks remain “invisible” to the finance sector.

With 63% of cities predicting future risks relating to water supply, many of which will be exacerbated by climate change, the focus group will attempt to speak to Mayors to catalyse action.

Matt Mace


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