Oxford-led review shows rapid urbanisation increasing pressure on rural water supplies globally


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An international team of researchers has carried out the first systematic global review of water reallocation from rural to urban regions – the practice of transferring water from rural areas to cities to meet demand from growing urban populations. They found that 69 cities with a population of 383 million people receive approximately 16 billion cubic meters of reallocated water per year – almost the annual flow of the Colorado River.

The study, published in Environmental Research Letters, found North America and Asia are hotspots for rural-to-urban water reallocation, with the practice on the rise in Asia. Twenty-one cities rely on multiple water reallocation projects, such as Amman in Jordan and Hyderabad in India.

Since 1960 the global urban population has quadrupled, driving demand and increasing competition between cities and agriculture for water. With 2.5 billion more urban dwellers expected by 2050, this trend is set to rise. Even in the UK - where water is considered abundant - concerns about water shortages are prompting interest in water transfers, with Environment Agency Chief Sir James Bevan warning that England could run short of water in 25 years. Climate change will further put pressure on water resources and regional decision-making around water reallocation, as highlighted by drought crises in Cape Town, Melbourne and Sao Paolo over the past decade. For more details, click here