Cape Town was the first major modern city in South Africa to prepare for a water crisis. However, in the next couple of years, capital cities all over the world will also face the threat of running out of clean water.

The notion that water is plentiful it covers 70% of the planet is false, as only 2.5% of all water is freshwater.

The notion that water is plentiful it covers 70% of the planet is false, as only 2.5% of all water is freshwater. This limited resource will need to support a projected population of 9.7 billion in 2050; and by that date, an estimated 3.9 billion or over 40% of the world’s population will live in severely water-stressed river basins. It is not just population that is pressuring water resources. Excessive use is also evident: the global population tripled in the 20th century, but the use of water increased six-fold. Between now and 2050, water demands are expected to increase by 400% from manufacturing, and by 130% from household use. As water availability decreases, competition for access to this limited resource will increase.

60% of all surface fresh water comes from the internationally shared river basins and there are an estimated 592 transboundary aquifers. Continuing cooperation and coordination between nations is crucial to ensuring water is available for human, economic and environmental needs. Although hundreds of international water agreements have been signed over time, how countries will cooperatively manage growing resource pressures so that they do not lead to more conflicts over water is not often clear.

– United Nations University/ Institute for Water, Environment and Health.

The situation is already dire as it is:

  • 844 million people lack access to clean water.
  • 1.8 billion people use a source of drinking water contaminated by faeces.
  • 80% of wastewater returns to the environment without adequate treatment.
  • By 2030 there will be a 40% gap between water availability and water demand.
  • Every day, more than 800 children under age 5 die from diarrhoea attributed to poor water and sanitation.

The less water for developed nations means more problems for the general well-fare of all humans, flora and fauna of the globe

There’s nothing more essential to life on Earth than water. Yet, from Cape Town to Flint, Michigan, and from rural, sub-Saharan Africa to Asias teeming mega-cities, there’s a global water crisis. People are struggling to access the quantity and quality of water they need for drinking, cooking, bathing, hand-washing, and growing their food.

– World Vision.

But it doesn’t stop there in the next decade these following capital cities are also at risk:

Sao Paulo

Just last year, the Brazilian financial capital reached a state of emergency, with only 20 days of water supply predicted. Today the city’s capacity does not seem sufficient enough to sustain its population’s needs. Sao Paulo is one of the most overpopulated cities in Brazil which means that water scarcity will have a very imminent effect on the already lacking infrastructure. And it’s already happening: At the height of the crisis, the city of over 21.7 million inhabitants had less than 20 days of water supply and police had to escort water trucks to stop looting.


This city is an example of rapid technological and economic growth against a plumbing and sewage system that isn’t able to keep up. Bangalore experiences one of the highest water waste and pollution problems in the Southern East. In response, many organisations have risen to the challenge, and just like in South Africa, are using experts and global resources to attend to this pressing emergency.

“The efforts of Biome, India Cares Foundation and Friends of Lakes combined with the local expertise of traditional well diggers have restored seven public wells within the city’s well-known Cubbon Park. Thanks to an approach that combines local knowledge and innovative problem solving, the wells now produce about 65,000 litres of water per day and help to meet the water demands of the park. Grand technological visions have proved incapable of meeting Bangalore’s needs since colonial times. But local, community-led measures to manage and replenish water have a good chance of creating a water-secure, resilient city: an object lesson for those planning cities for the future.” – The Independent.


China hosts a fifth of the world population alone, but has only 7% of the world’s fresh water.

“Heavy reliance on groundwater is depleting aquifers and causing land subsidence. An ambitious South-to-North water diversion project likely won’t provide enough water for Beijing long-term. In addition, nearly 40 percent of Beijing’s surface water is too polluted for use.”


Cairo’s water supply largely depends on the Nile. A river once held in high regards by the greatest civilisations on the planet, is now suffering because of pollution and waste to the point that the UN deemed Cairo’s crisis to hit in the next 6 years.


This coastal city faces the threat of rising sea levels. Rising sea levels are in grand part caused by thermal expansion caused by warming of the ocean (water expands when it’s warm) and secondly, by the non-stopping melting of ice lands, such as glaciers and ice sheets. So this city is also at risk, because there will be unmanageable amounts of the wrong kind of water.

In Jakarta, less than half of the city’s 10-million residents have access to piped water, and illegal digging of wells is rife. This practice is draining the underground aquifers, deflating them. As a result, about 40% of Jakarta now lies below sea level.


Remember its historical ally, China, having only 7% of fresh water for its 20% of the population Russia holds a quarter of the entire globe’s fresh water reserves. However, ex USSR is still suffering from the pollution brought about by the not-so-environmentally friendly industrial and governmental revolutions that happened throughout the Soviet era, prior 1989.


According to the government, the country is in a situation of a water distress, since the (per capita) supply fell below 1,700 cubic metres in 2016 water scarcity becomes official when people in a determined location receive less than 1,000 cubic metres of fresh water per person a year.

The city’s reservoir levels declined to less than 30 percent of capacity at the beginning of 2014.

Mexico City

Water shortages are nothing new for rural areas in most developing countries, such as Mexico and South Africa but inhabitants of Mexico City seemed to also be quite accustomed to water scarcity.

The city imports as much as 40% of its water from distant sources but has no large-scale operation for recycling wastewater. Water losses because of problems in the pipe network are also estimated at 40%.


Ironically enough, London isn’t as rainy as it is perceived to be rainfall rates for the city are less than Paris, and only about half of New York’s. Nonetheless, the UK officials are steadily moving towards strict and necessary plastic pollution policies.

According to authorities, the city is pushing close to capacity and is likely to have supply problems by 2025 and serious shortages by 2040.


Ranked as the second-most expensive city to live in credit where rainfall falls extremely well, for four, very concentrated months of the year.

That water needs to be collected, as a drier-than-expected rainy season could lead to a drought. At least 750 private and public buildings in Tokyo have rainwater collection and utilisation systems. Home to more than 30 million people, Tokyo has a water system that depends 70% on surface water (rivers, lakes, and melted snow). Recent investment in the pipeline infrastructure aims also to reduce waste by leakage to only 3% in the near future.


Some years ago a project set in place to drain nearby swamps, went pear-shaped, resulting the water from the Atlantic Ocean to contaminate the Biscayne Aquifer Miami’s largest source of fresh water. On top of that, Miami, being, just like Jakarta, a coastal city is facing the issue of raising sea levels.

One recent report estimated that Miami has the most to lose in terms of financial assets of any coastal city in the world, just above Guangzhou, China and New York City. This 120-mile (193km) corridor running up the coast from Homestead to Jupiter taking in major cities like Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach is the eighth most populous metropolitan area in the US. It’s also booming. In 2015, the US Census Bureau found that the population of all three counties here was growing along with the rest of Florida at around 8%, roughly twice the pace of the US average. Recent studies have shown that Florida has more residents at risk from climate change than any other US state.

Source -BBC, University of Arizona, UNESCO and SOSNPO

W12 Organizers

The Institute for Ecological Civilization

The Institute for Ecological Civilization works internationally to support systemic approaches to long-term sustainability by developing collaborations among government, business, and religious leaders and among scholars, activists, and policy makers. We build effective partnerships across social sectors through consultations, think-tank gatherings, and policy engagement.

The Institute carries out its mission in multiple ways:
• Conduct academic research that takes ecological civilization as its subject.
• Provide education through courses, conferences, and social media.
• Amplify voices with indispensable information and those who inspire social change.
• Support concrete projects in local settings based on the principles of an ecological civilization.


SOS NPO – Save our Schools’ mission is to improve water equity within communities, primarily focusing on sanitation and hygiene in schools, by providing sustainable water solutions through partnerships with businesses and other organisations.

Pancho Campo – Chrand Marketing & Events

Upon stepping off the tennis courts, Olympic Captain in Barcelona 92 and ATP tennis professional Pancho Campo opened his own events management company Chrand Marketing & Events.

This stage of his career had him working in events such as Davis Cup, the Pro Beach Soccer Tour and sports tournaments with fellow celebrities Andre Agassi, Stefan Edberg, Pat Cash and Eric Cantona. He later on expanded to music, promoting concerts with legendary music artists Sting, Enrique Iglesias and Pink Floyd.

Pancho has produced world-class conferences with leaders such as US President Barack Obama, Vice-President Al Gore, and United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. As the creator of several international conferences on Climate Change & Wine, and the new Climate Change Leadership summit, he was trained by Vice-President Gore and worked with him in several occasions.

Driven by his long time passion for wine, in 2004 he founded The Wine Academy of Spain, the Spanish Wine Experience and was a pioneer in the study of climate change and its impact on this industry.

His extensive experience in the fields of sports, music, wine and the environment, supported by his unparalleled charisma and communication skills make Pancho Campo a fantastic public speaker, specially in the fields of the orange economy, climate change and event management.

Pancho is an inspiring motivational speaker who also speaks of stress management learned from his incredible personal story, and on from his experience working with the previously mentioned celebrities. His work on motivation and stress management for the corporate world and sports people gave rise to his book Inspírate.

Pancho has been a speaker and consulted for multinationals, governments, corporations and NGOs in more than 20 countries from the US to China, and is fluent both in English and Spanish.

The W12 Congress will begin with two days of meetings at the University of the Western Cape whereby six “task teams,” each made up of local and international academics and water experts as well as city delegates, will consider thematic areas related to the escalating water crisis. Those areas are Politics, Economics, Natural Science, Technical Science, Civil Society, and Social Sciences.

Throughout the Congress, each task team will not only consider its own area extensively, but will also integrate with the other task teams in an intersectional and comprehensive approach designed to produce a coordinated, long term plan for preserving access to water. The program is uniquely structured to target tensions between the different task teams, while bringing in city perspectives and ultimately creating a Major City Best Practice Water Protocol. Each task team will be led by a convener (or co-conveners), who will invite participating members and coordinate the work of the whole team.  

Task teams are at the core of the congress. They bring specialized expertise from six critical sectors and provide the opportunity for cross-sector collaboration among multiple stakeholders.Task teams will develop systemic responses to the escalating water crisis and will imagine different structures and systems for the cities of the future. The unique structure of the W12 Congress provides long-term, informed perspectives that can lead to genuine progress for cities affected by escalating water shortages.

For more information on task teams, click here.


Economic factors are central to analyzing the escalating water crisis. In most of the cities represented at the conference, there is no question about the desirability of providing water to its citizens. If cost were no object, water could be provided, at least in most cases. Already in the present, however, sufficient funds are not available at the city, provincial, or national levels to build and sustain the infrastructure needed. Combining climate models, economic projections, and calculations of social need make it clear that the economic crisis of water scarcity will grow rapidly over the coming years in major cities around the world.

The taskforces will explore the potential of a variety of different economic models, considering the roles of private sector, public sector, and NGOs. Forecasting the economic effects of climate disruption is highly contentious, since many of the core assumptions are disputed. An inexpensive way to sequester massive amounts of carbon back into the earth, for example — if such a technology could ever be developed — would massively change the economic projections.

Still, it is at least fair to say that, given current technologies and economic structures, climate change is likely to cripple the economies of many major cities over the coming three decades, at least in the forms in which these economies exist today.

The task team will look in particular at the prospects for developing collaborative governance frameworks to deal with water security issues. Water is often viewed as a commons issue. The challenge is for the institutional barriers and inward focusing governance approaches to extend into this commons space, given the likely resistance from state government agencies and/or industry. Still, a non-competitive commons space could provide a means for governments and industry to engage meaningfully and proactively with multi-stakeholders across sectors, for example in public-private-research interactions. We will explore to what extent collaborative governance networks, whether local, national, or international, could serve as the basis for broad water management programs in different regions of the world.


Large cities are increasingly becoming international actors. Many cities have a higher profile than many countries in terms of population, influence, economy, vulnerability to climate change, etc.  We expect to see the direct representation of large cities in global decision-making processes over the

coming decades, as they are going to be most directly affected by climate change.  Around the world this shift is raising important questions about the relative political roles of cities, provinces, and national governments.

Technical Science

This task team deals with water resource management, i.e. the bulk provision and individual distribution of water within cities.  The challenge is how to do this in an increasingly uncertain climate and in times of crisis and extreme events (whether floods, fires or droughts) that can disrupt the provision of water to cities. The bulk water divisions within cities are the most important in that respect: how do they best bring water into cities? What about diversified supply and reusing water? The group will consider the different levels of water resource management, including water supply and demand management, groundwater abstraction for aquifer recharge, or desalination. 

Given the predicted climate changes, water resource managers now have to build redundancy and resilience into their systems to allow for unpredictability. This calls for a broader planning process than in the past.  We need data on trends (how usage correlates with population and the systems in place to meet those needs), as well as predictive data of projected changes going forward (e.g., decrease in net precipitation and increase in population).

Most cities have either a resilience strategy or a water strategy, and many are working toward a sustainability development strategy. Many city resiliency strategies are linked to the broader sustainability goals of the nation, which are linked to the SDGs for the United Nations. Each country would be able to articulate a set of learnings about strategies they have developed and how well they are working. 

The time frame for this kind of water strategy plan is often 20-30 years, much longer than the political cycle, given the time required to plan and build a new dam or a desalination plant. There are also challenges with data collection, since predictions of water needs are based on population growth, consumption patterns, climate, rainfall predictability, etc. Also, spending on big capital projects is difficult in countries where education or health systems are not working well. Finally, in addition to needing good data, technical experts need access to legislative processes, lobbying voices to help communicate water needs, etc. 

Natural Science

This task team looks at the effects of major droughts (or other extreme water events) on ecosystems and the natural environment.  We distinguish between drought as a hydrological phenomenon and the social consequences of drought, because they tend to have rather different effects. The task force will thus need to include the differences between the natural effects and the human-induced effects.  For example, Cape Town had two years of the deepest droughts ever recorded.Largely exacerbated by climate change, they occurred outside of the usual (15 year or 70-90 year) cycles. Other cities face very different kinds of hydrological challenges. But social factors play a major role as well, including corruption, population growth, unemployment, informal settlements, pollution in wastewater treatment, pollutants in rivers, degree of dilution of pollutants, and a variety of conservation issues. 

Technical and practical issues of management also fall under our purview. City engineers work with the science of their specific fields, as well as with environmental impact assessments and with established requirements for ecosystem management. But they also work under the political constraints in their particular city. As water scarcity increases, these constraints and pressures also increase. It’s not just that there will be less rainfall, but weather events are also likely to become more severe for many of the participating cities: deeper droughts, bigger floods, with the floods becoming less frequent and the droughts probably more frequent. 

In order to deal with such huge fluctuations in water supply, we have to think in the long term, with 2050 being a reasonable timeframe. Planning is not only for a longer time period, but also for an increase in unexpected events. The climate change that is underway requires thinking far beyond the normal five-year planning cycle. For example, we will ask delegates from the cities what are their strategy policies and action plans both for the five-year horizon and for the 30-year projections of net precipitation, average temperature, etc.

Climate models suggest less usable fresh water combined with more erratic and unpredictable and severe climate events. When one combines that with a rapid increase in population, decrease in agricultural production, and decreased support from national governments, one begins to recognize some rather similar parameters across many cities. The science tells us very clearly the urgent kinds of pressures that will be exacerbating water scarcity over the coming three decades. We hope to encourage planning that has that longer-term realism in mind.

Social Sciences

This task team looks at water-related issues in cities from a social science perspective, including sanitation and access to potable water. Three different types of representatives from the participating cities are sought: specialists in the provision of human services, with a focus on services provided by city governments; activists, including many from civil society, who draw attention to injustices in the systems currently in place in the various cities; and researchers who specialize in the best practices for providing services.

Many urban needs are water-related, beyond the liters of potable water available per person per day. Sanitation is largely a water issue. Flush toilets have become the standard for the modern city and yet access to a flush toilet cannot be presupposed in many cities.

Sanitation failures have impacts that cut across many of the sectors of urban society, exploding outward, for example, into the areas of health, economics, and education. 

This task team therefore has both a descriptive and a normative function. On the descriptive side, we want to learn what water-based services are provided in the participating cities and how they are provided. Participants will be asked to describe where their challenges lie, but also some of the solutions that they have found and achievements that they are proud of. But it is also important to recognize where basic human rights are not being observed and where basic human needs are not being met. This means that issues of equity and of water justice are also part of our mandate.

Civil Society

This task team includes perspectives from the arts such as literature, poetry, music, creative and performing arts, which are not normally understood as civil society. It also includes activists to speak to the people who work with others on the ground and know the gripes and concerns and anger often expressed towards the municipality. Civil society groups, such as community-based organizations, are often closer to the ground.

It is a way of keeping the others on their toes and responding to the kind of experiences of water shortages on the ground which none of the others would necessarily do.

We are focusing on locally-based stakeholder institutions outside of government, business, and industry, including NGOs, NPOs, CBOs, and FBOs.