Water is at the heart of the sustainable economy.
But climate change – combined with population growth, urbanization and industrialization – is putting pressure on water supplies.
Water needs to be understood as a vital asset at the highest levels of city and corporate governance.
Our vision is to achieve a secure and sustainable urban water supply by 2030.
Based on 569 cities and 1432 companies reporting to CDP, our latest infographic report ‘Who’s tackling urban water challenges?’ shows that cities and companies are also waking up to the need for a secure and sustainable water supply.
Take London, UK for example. The capital city is facing a looming water scarcity crisis. With the population set to grow by three million people by 2050, without effective action it could face a daily water deficit of 520 million litres. In a citywide water security strategy, London is working to combat this risk, by identifying new sources of supply, reducing demand and improving efficiency.
Declining water quality and flooding also pose major risks. In 2016 alone, companies reported water-related impacts of US$14 billion from lost production.
The most pressing threats are being seen in Asia and Africa. The devastating floods in the Indian city of Chennai in 2015 are just one example. Hundreds of people were killed, millions left without clean water and business operations ground to a halt.
By 2050, the UN predicts there will be 9.8 billion people on the planet. That’s an extra 2.5 billion living in cities - 90% of which will be in Asia and Africa.
Meanwhile, climate change is already leading to the increased frequency and severity of droughts, and the UN predicts a 40% shortfall in global water supply by 2030.
Just as we need more water, we will be able to access less.
Securing water supply in cities will need innovation and investment
Faced with these growing threats, cities and companies are already taking action, and reaping the benefits.
Singapore has been able to turn itself into a ‘hydrohub’ as it leads the way with seawater desalination and water recycling, while Cape Town is building resilience against climate-induced drought as it looks to similar technologies.
Of those who disclosed to CDP, some 100 cities are upgrading and repairing their existing water infrastructure; 141 have water conservation awareness programs; 123 companies are investing in making their production processes more water efficient and over 100 have site-specific water targets, acknowledging that global water challenges play out locally.
To scale up these actions, collaboration is essential.
A water-secure world can only be achieved by cities, states, regions, communities, companies and investors working together, and over 200 companies and 350 cities reporting to CDP say they are already working with each other and other stakeholders.
California provides an example of successful collaboration. In response to the devastating 2014 drought, cities and companies across the state worked together to creatively address the challenge.
With a greater understanding of water, we are seeing unprecedented action. But we still need more.
There are three key actions that cities and companies can take to build water security; setting ambitious water efficiency targets; ramping up water recycling; and investing in water management projects.
Our cities are already open for investment, with 80 cities seeking private sector investment for 89 water projects, worth US$9.5 billion. This vast investment opportunity can unlock transformative change in urban water security, with cities, companies and investors leading the way. Together, we can create a water-secure world.