Urban drought challenge to 2030 sustainable development goals

X. Zhang, Nengcheng Chen, Hao Sheng, C. Ip, Long Yang, Y. Chen, Z. Sang, Tsegaye Tadesse, Tania Pei Yee Lim, A. Rajabifard, Cristina Bueti, Linglin Zeng, B. Wardlow, Siqi Wang, S. Tang, Z. Xiong, D. Li, Dev Niyogi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

154 Scopus citations


In the first two decades of the 21st century, 79 global big cities have suffered extensively from drought disaster. Meanwhile, climate change has magnified urban drought in both frequency and severity, putting tremendous pressure on a city's water supply. Therefore, tackling the challenges of urban drought is an integral part of achieving the targets set in at least 5 different Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Yet, the current literatures on drought have not placed sufficient emphasis on urban drought challenge in achieving the United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This review is intended to fill this knowledge gap by identifying the key concepts behind urban drought, including the definition, occurrence, characteristics, formation, and impacts. Then, four sub-categories of urban drought are proposed, including precipitation-induced, runoff-induced, pollution-induced, and demand-induced urban droughts. These sub-categories can support city stakeholders in taking drought mitigation actions and advancing the following SDGs: SDG 6 “Clean water and sanitation”, SDG 11 “Sustainable cities and communities”, SDG 12 “Responsible production and consumption”, SDG 13 “Climate actions”, and SDG 15 “Life on land”. To further support cities in taking concrete actions in reaching the listed SDGs, this perspective proposes five actions that city stakeholders can undertake in enhancing drought resilience and preparedness:1) Raising public awareness on water right and water saving; 2) Fostering flexible reliable, and integrated urban water supply; 3) Improving efficiency of urban water management; 4) Investing in sustainability science research for urban drought; and 5) Strengthening resilience efforts via international cooperation. In short, this review contains a wealth of insights on urban drought and highlights the intrinsic connections between drought resilience and the 2030 SDGs. It also proposes five action steps for policymakers and city stakeholders that would support them in taking the first step to combat and mitigate the impacts of urban droughts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number133536
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Nov 25 2019


  • Drought
  • Resilience
  • SDGs
  • Sustainability
  • Urban

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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