Visualizing the World Water Day Challenge

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In 2008, the world passed an historic milestone: for the first time, more than half the planet’s people lived in cities. Today the urban landscape continues to grow — some 3.3 billion of us now live in urban hubs.

Cities have traditionally been, and continue to be, crucibles of innovation, creativity, and wealth. But there is a darker side to urban growth. As cities expand, crime, pollution, disease, and poverty also rise apace — slums now represent some 38% of urban expansion. And because many of the world’s metropolitan centers lack the planning and infrastructure to support the new tide of urban residents, access to clean water — for drinking, cleaning, and industrial use — becomes newly critical.

What kinds of human activities consume the most water? Who has access to water, and where is it most needed? When it comes to global water inequity, is virtual water flow part of the solution, or part of the problem? How is the price of water changing around the world?

In anticipation of “World Water Day 2011”, we recently joined forces with the folks at Circle of Blue to shine a spotlight on these challenging urban water issues. We invited the design community to visualize urban water data, and help us draw connections and insights from across the spectrum of health, economic, environmental, and policy perspectives.

After much interactive clicking and much deliberation, today we’re happy to announce the winner (and award them $5,000 from GE) and two runners up (who will each get $500 from GE)

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