Water resources are under pressure from continuing population growth and urbanisation, rapid industralisation, and expanding and intensifying food production, particularly in developing countries and in urban areas. Urban populations may nearly double from current 3.4 billion to 6.4 billion by 2050. Numbers of people living in slums will rise even faster, with most of the rapid expansion in urbanization taking place not in megacities (21 of the world’s 33 megacities are on the coast), but in small and medium sized cities with populations of less than 500 000.

This represents a global threat to human health and wellbeing, with both immediate and long term consequences for efforts to reduce poverty whilst sustaining the integrity of some of our most productive ecosystems. At least 1.8 million children under five years-old die every year from water-related diseases. Diarrhoeal diseases make up over four per cent of the global disease burden, 90 percent of which is linked to environmental pollution, a lack of access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Over half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by people suffering from water-related diseases.

The report reviews how the production and treatment cycle can be better understood and managed so that through better investment and management, major environmental, societal, and economic dividends can be achieved.