Tokyo nr. 1, water stressed cities of the world

Climate change, globalization, water stress city

Nr. 1 water stressed metropool Tokyo. Picture of the Skyline of Tokyo, with Mount Fuji in the backyard

Want to know which cities suffer from water stress? The Nature Conservancy has published a list of the top 20 of cities with water stress.

Over 500 cities around the world were investigated. In (big) cities like Tokyo, Shanghai and LA, a large number of people in a relatively small area puts a lot of pressure on water supplies, especially during times of drought. 

Hydrologic cycle

The next few decades will be the most rapid period of urban growth in human history, with 2.6 billion additional urban dwellers expected by 2050 (UNPD, 2011). All these new urban dwellers will need water, but surprisingly little is known globally about where large cities obtain their water or the implication of this infrastructure for the global hydrologic cycle

Nature Conservancy conducted the first global survey of the water sources of large cities (population >750,000), surveying the 50 largest cities and a representative sample of more than a hundred other large cities. Large cities contain 1.5 billion people.

Looking forward to the next few decades, it seems likely there will be a significant expansion in urban water infrastructure. Much of this new infrastructure will have to be built by cities with relatively few financial resources.

The water sources are shown, as well as if they are stressed in the analysis (WBM = Water Balance Model shows stress, WG = WaterGAP model shows stress) – report.

  1. Tokyo Japan, population: 36,933,000 Surface (WG)
  2. Delhi India, population: 21,935,000 Surface (WBM, WG) Ground
  3. Mexico City Mexico, population: 20,142,000 Ground (stress), surface
  4. Shanghai China, population: 219,554,000 Surface (WBM, WG), Ground
  5. Beijing China, population: 215,000,000 Ground (stress), Surface
  6. Kolkata India, population: 214,283,000 Surface (WBM, WG), Ground
  7. Karachi Pakistan, population: 213,500,000Surface (WBM, WG), Ground
  8. Los Angeles United States, population: 213,223,000Surface (WBM, WG), Ground
  9. Rio de Janeiro Brazil, population: 211,867,000 Surface (WG)
  10. Moscow Russia, population: 211,472,000 Surface (WBM, WG), Ground
  11. Istanbul Turkey, population: 210,953,000 Surface (WG), Ground
  12. Shenzhen China, population: 210,222,000 Surface (WG)
  13. Chongqing China, population: 29,732,000Surface (WBM), Ground
  14. Lima Peru, population: 28,950,000 Surface (WG), Ground (stress)
  15. London United Kingdom, population: 28,923,000 Surface (WBM, WG), Ground
  16. Wuhan China, population: 28,904,000 Surface (WBM, WG)
  17. Tianjin China, population: 28,535,000 Surface (WBM, WG), Ground
  18. Chennai India, population: 28,523,000 Surface (WG), Ground
  19. Bangalore India, population: 28,275,000 Surface (WG), Ground
  20. Hyderabad India, population: 27,578,000 metroSurface (WBM, WG), Ground


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