North American Cities Face Water Sustainability Risks

Arcadis Sustainable Cities Water Index ranks U.S. cities low among developed world

Arcadis, Sustainable Cities Index, North America, U.S., water sustainability

The first Arcadis Sustainable Cities Water Index showed that North American cities are among the most at risk in the developed world. In fact, no U.S. cities placed in the top 10 of the global rankings of water sustainability.

The study measured 50 global cities across a broad spectrum of sustainability issues impacting water resiliency, efficiency and quality. The study highlights the importance of water as a critical urban asset that is imperative to long-term success, economic development and overall sustainability.

Toronto, Canada, Washington and New York represent North American’s most sustainable water cities. Toronto ranks sixth globally, Washington ranks 13th and New York ranks 14th. Los Angeles ranks second for efficiency. Although, North American cities tend to outperform other world cities when it comes to water quality. In fact, Toronto, Chicago and Philadelphia rank in the top three North American and global cities for ensuring a healthy and clean water supply.

However, U.S. cities are more exposed to natural risks than European cities, like water scarcity and natural disasters. For instance, Los Angeles ranks near the bottom in resiliency because of its susceptibility to drought, earthquakes and storms, while Superstorm Sandy’s storm surge and flooding highlighted New York’s vulnerability to climate change and sea level rise. Fortunately, cities can manage these risks to make themselves more resilient. For example, New York’s risk-based planning against storm surge increases resilience and protection for residents, which can deliver significant cost savings long-term, and Los Angeles is working to improve its water sources and storage.

“The way cities manage their water issues has a direct correlation with quality of life, yet not all are dealt an even hand by Mother Nature,” said Michael MacPhee, president of water for Arcadis North America. “For instance, American cities in the index show their vulnerability to natural disasters and extreme weather, with seven U.S. cities falling to the bottom half of the list when measured for their resiliency to natural threats. U.S. cities that carefully and creatively use their water assets for strategic urban advantage will ultimately be more livable, safe and competitive, while attracting tourism and investment.”

To review the 2016 Sustainable Cities Water Index rankings with full details, visit


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