Global urban growth and the geography of water availability, quality, and delivery

Robert I. McDonald, Ian Douglas, Carmen Revenga, Rebecca Hale, Nancy Grimm, Jenny Grönwall, Balazs Fekete

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

60 Scopus citations

Abstract

Globally, urban growth will add 1.5 billion people to cities by 2030, making the difficult task of urban water provisions even more challenging. In this article, we develop a conceptual framework of urban water provision as composed of three axes: water availability, water quality, and water delivery. For each axis, we calculate quantitative proxy measures for all cities with more than 50,000 residents, and then briefly discuss the strategies cities are using in response if they are deficient on one of the axes. We show that 523 million people are in cities where water availability may be an issue, 890 million people are in cities where water quality may be an issue, and 1.3 billion people are in cities where water delivery may be an issue. Tapping into groundwater is a widespread response, regardless of the management challenge, with many cities unsustainably using this resource. The strategies used by cities deficient on the water delivery axis are different than for cities deficient on the water quantity or water quality axis, as lack of financial resources pushes cities toward a different and potentially less effective set of strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)437-446
Number of pages10
JournalAmbio
Volume40
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2011

Keywords

  • Aridity index
  • Global Rural/Urban Mapping Project
  • Gross-domestic product
  • Hydrosheds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology

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  • Cite this

    McDonald, R. I., Douglas, I., Revenga, C., Hale, R., Grimm, N., Grönwall, J., & Fekete, B. (2011). Global urban growth and the geography of water availability, quality, and delivery. Ambio, 40(5), 437-446. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-011-0152-6