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