The Water Future Programme, as a global platform facilitating international scientific collaboration, offers an opportunity to develop theoretical, conceptual and methodological innovations to improve analysis and diagnostic capabilities.
Water Future will conduct knowledge synthesis to harvest our vast and growing store of water science, policy and management information. Despite more than a decade of substantial water-related research outcomes (e.g. through the Global Water System Project) and assessment (e.g., United Nations, The World Water Develop Report), to date we have no formal compendium of integrated and distilled knowledge—a synthesis of water research – that can comprehensively allow countries to rally around water issues, as they have around climate.
With the ratification of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and a renewed energy driving global development, we see it as timely to introduce a process that systematically harvests and then tests the value of this vast and continuously growing store of information within the policy and management domains.
An improved quantitative, geospatial, and simulation of products, depicting the biophysical and human dimensions of freshwater, offer a rapidly expanding knowledge base that can be put to good use at scales important to managers. A close exchange between research and policy making will also increase the robustness of the knowledge and solutions produced. A synthesis can then identify and rank domains requiring the attention of policymakers and practitioners to avoid an impending crisis and set society on a path toward bona-fide sustainability.
Going beyond how to assemble and merge data, the synthesis will develop a harmonised system that will advance our understanding of water systems to solve freshwater related problems. Reliable information on inter-linkages and the identification of patterns across multiple studies will be generated in the process, providing a state-of-the-science synthesis of freshwater-related knowledge that is of direct relevance to key stakeholders.
This knowledge will cover a broad spectrum of challenges, including:
- optimal governance for particular regions and locals but also at the global scale;
- watershed risk and protection;
- wastewater reuse;
- urban water management; and,
- achieving a balance between water allocations for humans and nature.
The synthesis will also form the basis of comprehensive reporting on global water governance that can be used to diagnose water challenges, guide water policy reform and assess and support good governance. Activities will be theme-based and result in a series of peer-reviewed products summarised succinctly for use by policymakers. As well as documenting global-scale trajectories (e.g., global aquatic habitat and species loss), activities will also be ranked according to the urgency of the threat and/or its location (e.g., drought-related groundwater stress).