Global freshwater vulnerability is a product of environmental and human dimensions, however, it is rarely assessed as such. Our approach identifies freshwater vulnerability using four broad categories: endowment, demand, infrastructure, and institutions, to capture impacts on natural and managed water systems within the coupled human–hydrologic environment. These categories are represented by 19 different endogenous and exogenous characteristics affecting water supply vulnerability.

This study presents a global analysis of urban water supply vulnerability in 71 surface-water supplied cities, with populations exceeding 750 000 and lacking source water diversity. Vulnerability represents the failure of an urban supply-basin to simultaneously meet demands from human, environmental and agricultural users. We assess a baseline (2010) condition and a future scenario (2040) that considers increased demand from urban population growth and projected agricultural demand. We do not account for climate change, which can potentially exacerbate or reduce urban supply vulnerability.