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Arup warns world’s largest cities risk running out of water

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Consultant Arup has warned that the world’s 100 largest cities are at risk of running out of water.

In its report Cities alive: water for people, Arup claims that “increasing numbers of cities worldwide risk reaching Day Zero, with taps running dry […] unless they start actively managing and improving the resilience of their entire water basins”.

Citing the water shortage in Cape Town, South Africa in early 2018, Arup’s report suggest that most of the world’s largest cities risk experiencing similar water scarcity over the coming years.

“Cape Town’s recent water crisis has alerted major cities to threats to their water supply,” the report reads. “Cities need to expand what they might now consider ‘their’ water infrastructure to include the entire river basin on which they depend.”

The report highlights the fact that the world’s 100 largest cities occupy less than 1% of the planet’s land area, while the basins that provide their water resources cover over 12% and serve almost 1bn people.

The report calls for more ‘‘upstream thinking’’ about how cities approach water management, including greater collaboration, working with landowners, businesses and local authorities further upstream to consider the basin as a whole.

Arup global water leader Mark Fletcher said: “Recognising the importance of the entire water basin is essential as urban water resilience is not possible without rural water resilience. In simple terms, we must be more water-wise.

“With up to 4.3bn people expected to live in cities by 2050, this is something city leaders and water managers need to be looking at now. While this is a challenge, it also provides a significant opportunity to revolutionise how urban water systems are designed and retrofitted, and how they can deliver greater benefits for all.”

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