Why Urban Water Research Is Urgently Needed


Water is among the most under-valued and over-utilized of the world’s resources.

The combination of outdated water infrastructure and increasingly frequent water crises continue to threaten public health, environmental sustainability, and economic prosperity. The United States’ water infrastructure network is growing old and weak, and relies on approaches, policies, and technologies developed under a very different set of 20th century realities. Today, the changing frequency and duration of acute and chronic water crises—floods, droughts, rising tides, toxic drinking water, extreme storm events, and ecosystem degradation—only accelerate the risk and uncertainty of our water future.


Water is the universal connector, able to link issues of water, climate, food, jobs, public health, environmental and social justice, and energy.

Emerging research on the nexus between water and energy, water and food, water and climate, water and jobs, water and sea level rise, water and social equity, and water and urban sustainability and resiliency all suggest that new approaches to water management must integrate and innovate how our cities are planned, designed, built, managed, and used.


Rethinking water management is an international priority, and an economic and social necessity.

Many organizations including the United Nations (UN), World Wildlife Federation (WWF) and World Economic Forum (WEF) have publicly recognized the impending global water crisis. In WEF’s 2018 Global Risks Report, water crises are recognized as the 5th largest out of 30 global system risks and are linked to most of the social and environmental risks of highest concern (World Economic Forum, 2018).