World’s major cities ‘need to go circular with water now’

The World Economic Forum is urging cities to “close the loop on water use” to insulate communities from future climate-related shocks.

In the first in a series of papers to highlight new ways of thinking about global water resources, the WEF says increasing water stress due to population increases, global warming, and climate change poses real challenges for cities.

One in four cities – representing over $4 trillion in economic activity – are already water-stressed. This is also true of 70 percent of the world’s megacities, the paper says.

“Cities must look to reuse all materials in water and water itself, minimizing waste from drinking, sanitation, irrigation, heating and cooling.

“In a circular city, there is no such thing as wastewater. Each metropolis would tap this resource fully, as a rich source of energy and nutrients, many [of which] are crucial to urban living,” it says

The paper cites Singapore, which has no natural aquifers, as being at the forefront of developing a circular water economy.

The city uses reclaimed water to satisfy 40 percent of current water demand, is rolling out 300,000 smart water meters by 2023, and has become a global hydro-hub in pioneering new water technologies and jobs.

“Public acceptance of drinking recycled water is a challenge that Singapore has overcome through widespread education,” the paper adds.

To fund circular water outcomes, the paper suggests, among other things, using blue-green bonds and other financial incentives to align environmental, social, and governance and water goals.

“Pension funds and institutional investors would look more favourably on new city and water infrastructure if they were circular.”