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Sustainable Cities Water Index: Harnessing water for long-term success

The first Arcadis global report shows that, overall, cities need to make greater investment to improve their resiliency to extreme weather events and unforeseen water shortages, especially in North America.

Christopher Hill

Drinking Water Lead, Water North America Ask me a question

While cities in North America tend to outperform other world cities when it comes to water quality, their ability to overcome challenges associated with too much water and too little poses the biggest threat to their long-term success

The way in which cities manage their water has a lot to do with their ability to attract and retain businesses and residents, encourage economic growth and compete on the global stage. Cities positioned for long-term success understand and address their water in a sustainable manner and are both resilient and adaptable to climate change and extreme weather events that may contribute to issues such as scarcity and flooding.

The first report of its kind, the Sustainable Cities Water Index examines the water sustainability of 50 cities from 31 countries across all continents of the world. The Water Index centers around three key sub-indices for water sustainability: resiliency—withstanding natural disasters and unforeseen shortages; efficiency—efficiently managing the water supply; and quality—providing a clean and healthy water supply.

Cities are ranked according to how sustainably they manage and maintain water, as well as against their natural risk and vulnerability across the sub-indices. Toronto (6) is the only North American city that lands in the top 10. East Coast hubs of Washington D.C. (13th) and New York (14th) perform better than their West Coast counterparts, who are highly susceptible to drought and natural disaster. Investing in water resiliency solutions such as urban asset preservation and management and water reuse give North American cities the greatest opportunity to have a thriving relationship with their waterscape for generations to come.

“A number of North American cities have made and are making great strides in addressing resiliency, which poses the greatest risk to their long-term success,” notes Christopher Hill, Water Supply & Treatment Lead for Arcadis North America. “Many cities have undertaken significant efforts to address flood risk, such as New York City and Boston, and arid regions are adapting and implementing drought-resistant water supplies, including El Paso, Texas, and San Diego County. That said, aging infrastructure, growing populations, and financial and political constraints are impacting cities’ ability to implement water resiliency solutions.”

The Water Index was prepared in partnership with the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). It is not intended to be a “report card” on how well municipal water utilities do their jobs, nor is it a verdict of a city’s achievement. It is a tool to help elevate cities’ long-term water sustainability by showcasing innovative and effective approaches from all over the world. The cities included in this report were selected to provide an overview of the world’s urban environment, providing not only wide-ranging geographical coverage, but also a variety of levels of economic development, expectations for future growth and an assortment of water sustainability challenges.

"Cities that carefully and creatively use their water assets for strategic urban advantage will ultimately be more livable, safe and competitive, while attracting tourism and investment."

Click here to experience an interactive view of the Water Index.

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Christopher Hill

Drinking Water Lead, Water North America Ask me a question

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Harnessing water for long-term success

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