Christian Aid, a U.K. based charity, has released a report revealing the consequences of increasing water scarcity in major urban centres around the world.
The study reviewed the situation in 10 cities around the world, underlining urban population growth and climate change as two key factors which will increase pressure on urban water security. The report argues that the availability of water has historically shaped the prosperity of cities. However, currently, half a billion people already face severe water scarcity all year round, and by 2050, 685 million people in more than 570 cities will face an additional decline in freshwater availability due to climate change.
Some cities, such as Amman, Melbourne and Cape Town, could experience declines in water availability of between 30% and 49%, while a few cities, such as Santiago, could experience declines of more than 50%.
Amongst other things, the report points to the health consequences of limited access to water: poor urban dwellers can pay up to 50 times more for a litre of water than more affluent households and may be forced to take the risk of consuming untreated water. Poor water quality is associated with preventable diseases such as diarrhoea, which claims 2.2 million lives each year. Furthermore, the report notes that in assessments of loss and damage – or climate impacts which exceed the adaptive capacity of communities or ecosystems – there is a tendency to focus on loss and damage in the agricultural sector, positioning drought as a predominantly rural feature, whereas urban exposure to drought is growing rapidly.
The study also mentions the Water Conflict Chronology produced by the Pacific Institute, which has analysed links between water scarcity, conflict and migration, which has shown a rise in water-based conflicts over time.