By 2050, 70 percent of the world’s population, some 6.4 billion people, are expected to live in towns and cities, almost doubling the current urban population.
Under such pressures, conventional urban water management is unsustainable in terms of cost effectiveness, technical performance, social equity, and environmental sustainability. Cities of the future will experience difficulties in managing scarce and unreliable supplies. New solutions are needed that increase the efficiency of urban water systems, and develop new ideas. Future water systems will shift from being highly centralised to being local and selfcontained. They will maximise opportunities for water reuse and recycling, generate energy and nutrients from wastewater, and use natural systems for water and wastewater treatment.
Water utilities in both developing and industrialised countries face major problems with conflicting social priorities. We need water utilities to be financially selfsufficient, but it is also vital that poor households have access to services, even though they cannot afford the full costs of piped water. Social equity, environmental sustainability, and economic efficiency are important objectives that often compete with one another in an urban context. Optimising their outcomes and ensuring transparency and cost recovery are vital for providing reliable services and viable urban growth.
An integrated approach to urban water management, which yields mutually beneficial improvements in water resources and improved management of extreme weather events, could provide an important model for addressing the challenges facing cities. It would also address trade-offs among urban water users, food and energy producers, and the need to protect ecosystems. Our focus on advocating integration requires that we now set our sights on preparing the cities of the future.
We will continue to promote an integrated approach to urban water management. We will support the development of Urban Water Partnerships that bring together professionals and representatives of civil society. We will encourage them to reach a common vision and produce urban water development plans that benefit everyone, and that take a gender-sensitive approach. We will develop frameworks to explore urban water cycle linkages, including sanitation and urban drainage, and develop and implement approaches that recognise the relationships among different water users.