Is It Timely Now To Produce A Comprehensive Water Assessment?

Today, there is no dearth of scientific water research, however there is also no formal compendium of integrated and distilled knowledge that would allow member states, and different stakeholders to rally around water issues, as they have around climate (i.e. IPCC).  A comprehensive global water assessment through the synthesis of Global Freshwater-Related Knowledge – will assist not only in producing updated estimation of dynamic water availability and how it is distributed (spatial and temporal) but facilitate and guide water policies and decisions to achieve its maximum targeted impact at different scales.

Sustainable Water Future Programme (Water Future), UNESCO-WWAP and its partners are planning to produce a comprehensive assessment of global water jointly. The assessment will offer rapidly expanding knowledge base that can be put to good use at scales important to managers using improved quantitative, geospatial, and simulation of products, depicting the biophysical and human dimensions of fresh water. Such knowledge synthesis and assessment embedded in applied future scenarios will identify pathways for better decision making on the water realm. This will be an important basis to inform policy and decision making across scales and sectors.

As part of a prepatory dialogue series, a workshop was held on March 20-21st in Brisbane at Griffith University with the aim of creating a framework for the production of synthesis and water assessment.

The following aspects were discussed during workshop:

  • Rationale for water assessment;
  • Key objectives;
  • Why it is timely now to produce a comprehensive assessment which had been considered as an ambitious project a decade before;
  • Framing collaborations between science and policy network in producing this knowledge; and
  • Assessing the capability in terms of methodology and data.

The workshop found that with the new global commitment to set water goals (SDG6) beyond water sanitation and health, it is timely to follow a policy engaged model on global awareness, impact and offering solutions. Producing a compendium of the state of the knowledge that identifies key drivers, (emerging) trends, challenges and possible policy responses can push the water agenda forward.

Further, the knowledge user for this assessment is not confined to UN member states only but also includes both the public and private sector.

The assessment will be of direct relevance to stakeholders concerned with a broad spectrum of issues: policy relevance for particular regions and locals but also at the global scale; watershed risk and protection; wastewater use; urban water management, groundwater management and achieving a balance between water allocations for humans and nature.

In the past, a comprehensive global assessment on water had been viewed as an ambitious project given the patchy data and methodological issues. Now advanced geospatial analysis using large-scale GIS, remote sensing and earth observation offers an opportunity to capture the full dimensionality of water problems and give better insights on population and environment at risk.

The proposed assessment will build on decades of water research under the Global Environmental Change Programs such as DIVERSITAS, International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), International Human Dimensions Programme (IHDP), World Climate Change Research Programme (WCRP), and nearly a decade of human-water research under the Global Water System Project (GWSP). These integrative studies have successfully centred human impacts on the hydrologic cycle within the global change science agenda.

The Sustainable Water Future Programme has also formed nine international working groups and three core groups recently to drive this key initiative. A policy engagement team ( PET) comprising of different stakeholders (Intergovernmental agencies-Development Banks, Developmental organisation, Civil Society, representative of selected member countries, industries) will be formed soon. The Policy Engagement team will define the policy objectives and help to assess stakeholder information needs and to tailor activities and outputs of working groups to meet policy needs.  Such science -policy interaction will represent a reality check for both (new) knowledge and the effectiveness of governance arrangements with a suitably cast international reporting system, consisting of focused national and sub-national social science, governance, technical capacity, and economic statistics.

A design document on the Assessment will be presented during the upcoming World Water Forum 2018.

News Item Courtesy Of:
Anik Bhaduri
Executive Director
Sustainable Water Future Programme