Cecilia Tortajada
Professor in Practice in Environmental Innovation, School of Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Glasgow

Short Bio

Prof. Cecilia Tortajada holds the Chair of Professor in Practice in Environmental Innovation, School of Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Glasgow, UK., and Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.

Over 30 years of experience in water, environment and natural resources management in the context of development. Working at present on impacts of global changes on water resources, food, environment, and societies. Winner of the Crystal Drop Award in 2016 and the 50th Anniversary Award in 2021, International Water Resources Association (IWRA). Member of the International Selection Committee, Millennium Technology Prize, Technology Academy Finland; the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships Peer Review College, UK; and the OECD Initiative on Water Governance. A very prolific author, her work has been translated into Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, French, German, Hindi, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish languages.

She is Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Water Resources Development; Associate Editor of Water International; and member of the Editorial Board of Journal of Natural Resources Policy Research; Urban, Planning and Transport Research Journal; and International Journal of Water Governance. Co-editor of Water Resources Development and Management book series, Nature Springer, and member of the Series Advisory Board, Springer Briefs in Earth Sciences, Geography & Earth System Sciences.

Keynote Session

Future of water management and the need to adopt a systems approach

Theme: Transitioning from sectoral to nexus thinking

Climate change, resulting extreme events and intensified socio-economic and environmental impacts, have become central to policy debates globally, as has the need to develop adaptation and mitigation measures at the local levels.
In an increasingly globalised world, economic, social and environmental (including climatological) events have posed additional challenges to governments and institutions, often surpassing their policymaking and implementation capacities. This has been the case in the water sector.

Water scarcity, pollution, mismanagement and overallocation continue impacting all sectors on which societies depend. This is happening at a much faster pace in countries in the global South due to insufficient policy actions and institutional capacities. Countries of the global North, despite their more robust institutions, are also struggling to cope with the impacts of climate change on water-related issues.

The world is now so interconnected that policy and political decisions in one economic sector in one part of the world are having serious impacts on other economic sectors, as well as on societies, in different parts of the world. Most of the time, water resources and their local availability and access have been impacted by decisions elsewhere affecting the most vulnerable populations. Should countries change their economic policies because of the direct and indirect impacts they create in other countries? Would they? Unlikely. Political priorities are generally local despite the global rhetoric.

Given the growing complexities, sustainable management of water resources requires an in-depth understanding of climatic and non-climatic aspects at national and local levels and how best to address them. The nature of actions may not be new, but their implementation has become more urgent than ever before. These include more comprehensive planning and policy implementation; a better understanding of the interdependencies among the various sectors; improved coordination among institutions within and across sectors; consideration of water policy decisions in the energy, agriculture and environmental sectors and vice versa; and more innovations not only regarding technology but also in terms of ideas.

Availability of clean water for an increasing number and types of uses and users within a framework of change, both climatic and political, requires a different approach that is not so narrow anymore. It is time for policies, decisions and actions to be taken within a systems approach that promotes a more comprehensive understanding of natural, policy, and political variables and their interdependences. This will be the only way forward.