Over half the world’s people now live in cities, and 90 percent of population growth going forwards will be urban, whether through migration from rural areas or natural growth. Cities put communities and ideas near each other, generating a large portion of a country’s GDP and innovation. Cities also enable efficiency in both buildings and transportation, and increasing the number of residents with low-carbon lives is a key part of responding to climate change. Cities currently account for 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, a number currently expected to grow and one associated with the impacts of supplying resources to urban residents—energy, food, water, and materials.
Sustainable food and water use is a key factor in ensuring the sustainability and long-term resiliency of urban communities. One third of urban residents, however, still lack access to key infrastructure. Many residents live in informal settlements—slums, favelas, zopadpattis, etc.—which lack land tenure along with water, sanitation, food, or permanent housing. Other communities in more developed countries face unmaintained infrastructure and a history of racial, economic, or other biases in access to fresh food. In addition to promoting lower carbon lives and avoiding droughts and stress, access to high-quality food water is, thus, key to community health and economic prosperity, whether in Flint, Michigan, or in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro.
For cities to support large populations without overtaxing resources in the long term, they must develop stronger supply chains for water and food. In some areas, localizing food production and water treatment may also be feasible, but it will require consideration of land use and other factors. In addition, new technologies or innovative applications can enable broader access to high-quality water and food for urban communities, but they should not replace the responsibility of governments to address these challenges. Throughout all of these factors, the long-term impacts of climate change must inform design choices and planning to adapt to hotter summers, more floods and droughts, and ongoing sea-level rise.
The Solve community aims to unearth innovative solutions to support marginalized urban communities accessing sustainable and resilient food and water sources. To do so, Solve welcomes solutions from innovators around the world that:
- Produce drinkable water or healthy food near the point of consumption in resource- and cost-efficient manners
- Extend, monitor, and maintain infrastructure for supplying water to urban neighborhoods
- Improve urban supply chains and equitable market access for nutritious low-carbon food