World Water Week 2017

World Water Week 2017

27 August to 1 September 2017, Stockholm, Sweden

“Water is not a sector, it’s a connector” was one of the key messages that resonated with this year’s attendees at the 2017 World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden. This annual event, addressing global water issues, took place from 27 August to 1 September and saw more than 3,000 participants discuss issues around the theme – Water and Waste: Reduce and Reuse.

The United Nations University (UNU) was represented jointly by UNU-FLORES and UNU-INWEH at their exhibition booth in the UN-Water pavilion. Given that water is a focus for many UNU Institutes, the booth showcased various projects and publications from across the various UNU institutes. A #UNU4water digital media campaign was also organised, along with a campaign page.

UNU-INWEH convened two sessions: ‘Journey to a world free of untreated wastewater’ and ‘Six critical components for SDG 6.3: does your country count?’. The first session, ‘Journey to a world free of untreated wastewater’ was organised in partnership with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI); United Nations University Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources (UNU-FLORES); and Turkish Water Institute (SUEN). In his keynote presentation, Dr. Manzoor Qadir provided insight into seeing a future world free of untreated wastewater with the key message emphasising the need for expedited efforts to collect, treat, and use fit-for-purpose treated wastewater to protect water quality and enhance resource recovery from wastewater. This will help in getting out of the Catch-22 situation where the use of untreated wastewater benefits poor communities, but comes with health and environmental risks and costs. Understanding the fact that seeing a world free of untreated wastewater may take several “SDG like periods”, the discussions provided a young generation of professionals the opportunity to raise their voice on the slow pace of wastewater treatment.

The ‘Journey to a world free of untreated wastewater’ session featured, from left to right: Dr. Tamara Avellán (UNU-FLORES), Dr. Burcu Yazici (SUEN), Ms. Praem Mehta (UNU-INWEH), Dr. Pay Drechsel – moderator (IWMI), Dr. Manzoor Qadir – key note speaker (UNU-INWEH), Dr. Sarantuyaa Zandaryaa (UNESCO-IHP) and Dr. Serena Caucci (UNU-FLORES).

The second session, ‘Six critical components for SDG 6.3: does your country count?’ led by Dr. Lisa Guppy, was organised in partnership with Korean Environment Corporation, Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Korea, and the United Nations Office for Sustainable Development. This session officially launched the SDG Policy Support System (PSS), a starting point to solve the global water crisis. The PSS enables national governments to leverage existing and emerging national and international data, to automatically build robust and dynamic evidence that is fit for policymaking and planning around SDG 6. Dr. Vladimir Smakhtin presented the critical components that make up the PSS, while Ms. Praem Mehta presented the PSS itself. Three country perspectives on trialing the PSS, were also presented, alongside a mind map that was populated by the approximately 80 session participants.

Participants at UNU-INWEH’s session, ‘Six critical components for SDG 6.3: does your country count?’

Dr. Manzoor Qadir also participated in a session held by UNU-FLORES, “Science Faces Practice: Benefits and Risks of Wastewater Use” where he presented on the policy and institutional aspects of wastewater management, emphasising the need to rethink the way wastewater is currently managed and highlighting the importance of flexible policies and supportive institutions to facilitate the shift from health and environment spending to preventative wastewater treatment.

Dr. Manzoor Qadir facilitated the World Café on policy and institutions, while Ms. Praem Mehta served as rapporteur. (Images: Serena Caucci/UNU-FLORES)

In addition to attending informative sessions, World Water Week is a good opportunity to meet, formally and informally, with fellow water professionals, researchers, government actors, development agencies, and private companies. One such opportunity was provided by the Embassy of Canada to Sweden, who arranged a meeting for Canadian delegates attending the World Water Week.

Dr. Vladimir Smakhtin and other Canadian World Water Week participants visiting the Embassy of Canada in Sweden.

Dr. Smakhtin, participated in two note-worthy meetings, the first, a half-day session held by the UN-Water Task Force (TF) on the preparation of the Synthesis Report (SR) looking at the progress of SDG 6. UNU-INWEH actively participates in the SR by leading three sections that examine links between SDG 6 and SDG 4 (Ensuring quality education for all), 11 (Making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable) and 13 (Combating climate change and its impacts). The meeting looked at the overall progress of the SR, which is expected to be released in March 2018 and will serve as a major UN-Water contribution to the upcoming High Level Political Forum (HLPF).

The second, was the 27th meeting of UN-Water. At this meeting, the creation of a new Task Force on Unconventional Water Resources was approved, for a duration of two years (2018-2019). The Task Force will be led by UNU-INWEH with key members including FAO, IFAD, IWMI, UNCCD, UNDP, UN Environment, UNESCO, and WMO. UNU-INWEH’s continued membership and support to the campaigns for the forthcoming World Toilet Day (2017) and Word Water Day (2018), was also approved.