Almost 40% of the world’s population lives in river basins that experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year. Scarcity – low available water per capita – is forecast to worsen in many countries in the Middle East and North Africa as well as Mexico, Pakistan, South Africa, and large parts of China and India which already suffer from acute water scarcity . Water scarcity includes not only the physical scarcity of water but also the lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Some of the reasons commonly cited as contributing to water scarcity include population growth, rising demand brought by increasing incomes, the rapid pace and scale of urbanization, the large share of water used in agriculture, depletion of aquifers, climate change, wasteful use of underpriced resources, pollution from agriculture, industry and human waste, and poor governance of natural resource management. However, there is much debate over the relative importance of these reasons, and much debate about the most appropriate instruments and scale of solutions. In relation to developing countries, the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations include access to safe and affordable water for populations in all urban and rural areas.
The special feature of Ecology & Society on ‘Urban Water Governance’ is edited by Lennart Olsson (LUCSUS) and Brian Head (University of Queensland) and comprises seven case studies from very different settings. But they all share the common feature of addressing the problem of water governance in cities and taking into account both environmental and social concerns. LUCSUS researchers contribute with two case studies and one editorial:
Lennart Olsson and Brian Head: Urban Water Governance in Times of Multiple Stressors – an editorial (in press)