11 of the big cities in the world most likely to run out of drinking water like Cape Town

11 of the big cities in the world most likely to run out of drinking water like Cape Town


Cape Town faces the unenviable situation of being able to become in a few weeks the first great city of the modern world to run out of drinking water.

However, the drought facing this South African city is just one of the extreme examples of a problem that many experts have long been warning about: water scarcity.

Although water covers 70% of the Earth’s surface, fresh water is not as abundant as you think: it only represents 3% .

More than 1,000 million people do not have access to water and another 2,700 million people need at least one month of the year.

An investigation of the 500 largest cities in the world published in 2014 estimated that one in four of these municipalities are in a situation of “water stress”, which according to the United Nations happens when annual supplies fall below 1,700 cubic meters per year. person.

Water tap
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Image caption A quarter of the world’s major cities face a water stress situation.

According to the projections of experts backed by the UN, the global demand for potable water will exceed the supply by 40% by the year 2030 , thanks to a combination of factors such as climate change, human action and population growth.

It should not be surprising, then, that Cape Town is the tip of the iceberg.

On every continent, important urban centers face shortages in a race against time to find a solution. Here we present 11 of the cities most likely to run out of water in the near future:

Drought in Sao Paulo
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Image caption At the most critical point of the drought, the reservoirs of Sao Paulo seemed desolate landscapes.

Sao Paulo

The financial capital of Brazil and one of the most populous cities in the world (with more than 21.7 million inhabitants), went through a crisis similar to that of Cape Town in 2015, when the capacity of its main reservoir fell below 4%.

At the most critical point of the drought, the city had fewer than 20 days supply of water and the police had to escort the trucks carrying the liquid to prevent the looting .

It is believed that the problem was due to the drought that affected the southeast of Brazil between 2014 and 2017, but a UN mission sent to Sao Paulo criticized the state authorities for the “lack of planning and investment”.

The end of the crisis was declared in 2016, but in January of the following year, the main reserves were 15% below what was expected for that time, once again putting into question the water supplies.

Polluted lake in Bangalore
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Image caption Pollution in the lakes of Bangalore is extensive.


Local officials in this Indian city are baffled by the growth of new developments, following the rise of this place as a global technology center, and are working to best manage the water network and the sewerage system of the city. city.

The outdated pipes of this city need an urgent and total renovation: a national government report found that more than half of the drinking water is wasted .

Like China, India faces a problem of water pollution and things in Bangalore are no different: an investigation of the lakes of the city found that 85% of them had water that only served for irrigation and industrial refrigeration.

Not a single lake had adequate water for drinking or bathing.

Goats grazing in the bed of a dry river
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Image caption Droughts have affected the waterways near Beijing.


The World Bank considers that there is a shortage of water when less than 1,000 cubic meters of drinking water per year are received per person.

In 2014, each of Peking’s more than 20 million inhabitants received only 145 cubic meters.

Although China has 20% of the world population, it accounts for only 7% of global drinking water .

A study by the University of Columbia, in the United States, estimated that the country’s reserves fell by 13% between 2000 and 2009.

There is also pollution: official figures from 2015 show that 40% of Beijing’s surface water was contaminated to the point of not even serving agriculture or industry.

The Chinese authorities have tried to attack the problem with the creation of massive water diversion projects and with educational programs, as well as the increase of tariffs for large consumers.

Pollution on the Nile
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Image caption The Nile contributes 97% of Egypt’s water supply.


The Nile River was crucial in the creation of one of the great civilizations of the ancient world, but in modern times it is experiencing problems.

It is the source of 97% of the water supply in Egypt, as well as the recipient of increasing amounts of untreated waste from agriculture and residential areas.

According to figures from the World Health Organization, Egypt is listed as one of the countries with the lowest median income with the highest death rate related to water pollution .

The UN predicts that the country will face a critical shortage by 2025.

A flooded neighborhood in Jakarta
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Image caption Illegal drilling of wells makes the capital of Indonesia more vulnerable to flooding.


Like many coastal cities in the world, the Indonesian capital faces the growing threat of sea level rise.

In Jakarta, the problem is serious because of direct human action: because less than half of the 10 million people in the city have access to the public water network , illegal well drilling is decimating the underground aquifers, literally shrinking them .

As a result, 40% of Jakarta is below sea level, according to World Bank estimates.

To this problem it is added that the aquifers are not being filled despite heavy rainfall because the prevalence of asphalt does not allow open fields to absorb rain.

Panorama of Moscow
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Image caption Moscow and Russia are plagued by water pollution problems.


A quarter of the world’s freshwater reserves are in Russia, but the country is plagued by pollution problems caused by the industrial legacy of the Soviet era.

It is something that specifically concerns Moscow, whose water supply depends 70% of surface water.

The official regulatory bodies recognize that between 35% and 60% of all drinking water reserves do not comply with sanitary standards.

Dry lake
Copyright of the AFP image
Image caption A 10-month drought dried up this lake near Istanbul.


According to the official figures of the government of Turkey, the country technically is going through a period of water stress, since the per capita supply fell below 1,700 cubic meters in 2016.

Local experts have warned that the situation could worsen and reach the shortage by 2030.

In recent years, densely populated areas such as Istanbul (with 14 million inhabitants) have begun to experience water shortages during the driest months.

The levels of the city’s reservoirs were reduced to 30% of their capacity at the beginning of 2014.

Donkeys carrying waterCopyright of the AFP image
Image caption Lack of access to the aqueduct is common in Mexico City.

Mexico City

The lack of water is nothing new for many of the 21 million inhabitants in Mexico City.

One in five receive just a few hours of tap water and 20% have running water for only part of the day.

The city imports up to 40% of its water from distant sources but does not have the infrastructure to recycle wasted water.

The loss of water due to problems in the pipe system is estimated at 40%.

A broken pipe in central LondonCopyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption The water waste rate in London is 25%.


Of all the cities in the world, the British capital is not the first that comes to mind when thinking about water scarcity.

The reality is different: with annual rainfall of about 600 mm (less than Paris and only half of New York) London takes 80% of its water for the consumption of rivers.

The administrative authority of Greater London says the city is nearing capacityand will probably have supply problems by 2025 and “serious shortages” by 2040.

It seems that the veto on the hoses will become more common in the future, in London.

The sumo arena Ryogoku Kokugikan
Image caption The sumo arena of Ryogoku Kokugikan is one of hundreds of public buildings in Tokyo that recycle rainwater.


The Japanese capital enjoys annual rainfall similar to that of Seattle, a city that is known in the United States as the “rainy”.

However, these precipitations in Tokyo are concentrated in only four months of the year.

That water must be collected because a less intense rainy season could generate drought.

This is what city authorities do: at least 750 public and private buildings in Tokyo have a rainwater collection and utilization system.

With its more than 30 million inhabitants, Tokyo’s water network depends 70% on surface water (rivers, lakes or melted snow).

Investments have recently been made for the renovation of the city’s pipeline system to reduce waste by leaks to only 3% in the near future.

The sea in front of Miami
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Image caption Marine pollution threatens Miami’s water supplies.


The state of Florida is among the most rainy in the United States. However, in his most famous city, Miami, a problem is brewing.

l Atlantic ocean water has polluted the aquifer Vizcaya, the main source of fresh water from the city .

Although the problem was detected in the 30s of the last century, salt water still leaks, particularly because in that American city the sea level is rising more than expected.

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Rava Desk

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