SmartCity News-Blog

The Importance of Water in Urban Municipalities


We, at GTM, have made water, the most valuable resource of planet Earth, to our number one topic. Our recent Blog Posts, presented here on our website, should make us reflect upon ideas for strategic discussions, inspire cooperation, technology development, and, our Blog Posts should as well encourage new and innovative ways of thinking.

In our previous articles we reflected upon the importance of water for life: 

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Water is life, water is the basis of any economic activity, water is scarce, water is the most valuable resource on our planet. Unfortunately, water has long since fallen victim to an invincible economic greed. Water will also constitute a future cause of already existing political conflicts.

Any prediction to future handling of water resources seems impossible, neither for two decades ahead from now, nor in more, down the line. Judging from today’s perspective, not even professional scientists can tell precisely what should be done in order to limit climate warming and to ensure a safe and comfortable living for everybody. Many questions still remain unanswered: Is there enough clean and drinkable water for everybody? Is the water accessible for everybody, or just for a lucky few? How do we avoid political conflicts and water wars? How do we manage the water cycle in urban conglomerations and mega cities? Some scientists suggest that, in the end, the answer is to reduce mankind. We are simply too many!  

In biological science there is a concept called „Kill The Winner”. It says that, if an organism is particularly successful and reproduces itself strongly, the number of its opponents also increases. This includes predators and natural enemies, but also pathogens, such as viruses. The Corona Pandemic is an example of the „Kill The Winner“ principle, as the Austrian Microbiologist Heribert Insam states in an interview with the media outlet n-tv:

“Ecosystems and life in the world are built on an evolutionary process: there are predators and prey, hunters and take, at all levels. In the case of viruses, very often they have co-evolved with other organisms. Viruses, for example, have a significant role in enhancing the genetic diversity of many organisms. However, viruses are also important regulators in ecosystems. This is because they are particularly successful when the population density of their host organisms is especially high.”

Heribert Insam explains: “It is important for an ecosystem that not any species get out of hand. Population density is a very decisive factor. We can see this with the spread of the coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic. The virus first spread in the big cities. This dynamic only changed when countermeasures were introduced. Social distancing, practically, is nothing else but a reduction in population density. Through the „Kill The Winner“ principle, an equilibrium had also been established in the earth’s ecosystems over many millions of years. The only organism that is now reproducing in an uncontrolled manner is man. And, that is upsetting this balance.”

The Importance of Water in Urban Municipalities 

Today we draw your attention to a further aspect, often overseen and largely underestimated in discussions about the future of our most precious resource water. Our carbon-based biological existence is built on water, and, all our economic activities depend on water. Our survival is not possible without the availability and accessibility of water. 

What does this mean for highly populated urban municipalities, where most of the water is consumed, wasted, and, hopefully properly recycled?

bee smart city – the premier global smart city knowledge center, operating the world’s largest smart city network & community – recently published an interesting article about the aspects of water management in urban municipalities. The article of bee smart city not only gives valuable insight and scientific background information, but also provides answers and possible ways how to solve a problem so far underestimated:

>>> Why Smart Cities need to start getting smart about Water 

Since cities are growing to mega cities and their populations are exploding, this causes uncountable questions to arise: 

  • How to provide such tremendous amounts of water needed?
  • How to built and maintain the infrastructure?
  • What about Sanitation?
  • Sewage Systems possible?
  • How to cool and avoid “urban heat islands”?

About 233 million people live in the world’s ten largest cities. This is shown by the results of the UN’s World Urbanisation Prospects, which regularly compiles a ranking of the world’s largest cities with millions of inhabitants. (Source: Handelsblatt, Germany) 

10 largest cities, Handelsblatt, Germany

The ten largest Cities of the World (Handelsblatt, Düsseldorf, June 2021)

  1. Tokio, Japan 37,5 Mio
  2. New Delhi, India 28,5 Mio
  3. Shanghai, China 25,6 Mio
  4. Sao Paulo, Brazil 21,7 Mio
  5. Mexico City, Mexico 21,6 Mio
  6. Cairo, Egypt 20,1 Mio
  7. Mumbai, India 19,9 Mio
  8. Beijing, China 19,6 Mio
  9. Dakha, Bangladesh 19,5 Mio
  10. Osaka, Japan 19,2 Mio

Joe Appleton – Digital Content Strategist, Editor and Writer of bee smart city – underlines the urgency of the issue: 

“Currently, 55% of the world’s population lives in cities. According to statistics from the United Nations, conservative estimates predict that percentage to rise to 70% by 2050. Growing urban populations present their fair share of problems for city governments, but when combined with the effects of the climate crisis, the whole situation becomes deadlier and even harder to manage.

As cities struggle to cope with the population boom and the problems that go along with them, such as mitigating the effects of the Urban Heat Island effect, rising air pollution, preventing the rapid transmission of diseases, and providing necessary public services such as governance, transportation, sanitation, and healthcare, they will also have to manage resources that were once taken for granted. Access to water is the most pressing concern.”

Only recently, CNN, a major US media outlet, published the disastrous impact of urban heat islands, the impact on the urban climate, health and social systems alike: 

‚Hotlanta‘ is even more sweltering in these neighborhoods due to a racist 20th century policy (By Derek Van Dam and Haley Brink, CNN Meteorologists).

Hotlanta CNN

The bee smart city article is not only worth reading, but its hard copy should also be lying on the desk of every city manager and mayor. (>>> bee smart city)

Droughts and water shortages may have a huge impact on urban public health. bee smart city describes in detail the different types of droughts, and also highlights the impacts on health, sanitation and energy supply. The article not only describes the problem and not only scrutinises the impacts, but also provides solutions as to how cities can effectively manage water and fight against droughts. 

The Case Study of Barcelona, Spain, shows how to tackle the problem and gives valuable advice how to improve urban water management. Joe Appleton of bee smart city describes the situation as follows: 

“Barcelona is a city that has made excellent water security progress. In 2008, the city’s reservoirs became so low that the government had no choice but to import drinking water from France. The situation occurred during Spain’s driest year on record, with Catalonia being the worst-hit region. Since then, the city has worked hard to improve climate resilience and to future-proof the city.”

The key areas, Barcelona worked on:

  • Leaking Infrastructure 
  • Streamline Irrigation
  • Effective Water Management
  • Home Conservation

…and the Conclusion is?

Cities have to get smarter about water. Please share your perspective with us, feel free to comment and reach out.

bee smart city is the leading global community, connecting all smart city stakeholders with proven solutions, and the preferred network of United for Smart Sustainable Cities IP, the global smart city initiative of the United Nations.

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