WS9: Theme 3: Water Security: Science-Policy-Society Dialogue (Priorities and Implementation)

23.11.2023 14:15 – 15:45
Main Auditory

The seriousness of the global water crisis first came to international attention in 1992 at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, known as the Rio Earth Summit. In response to this event, the United Nations General Assembly designated March 22, 1993, as the first World Water Day, an annual opportunity to highlight the significance of freshwater as a life-sustaining resource.

Three decades have passed since the Rio Summit, and while some progress has been made in addressing global water issues, many regions continue to face critical water challenges. These challenges have intensified due to factors such as rapid population growth, industrialization, the unsustainable use of natural resources, and the ever-advancing impacts of climate change. Scientific reports from water experts worldwide emphasize the urgent need for the world to adapt and prepare for a looming water crisis. The reckless exploitation of nature and ongoing climate change are exacerbating these issues, leading to irreversible processes that disrupt delicate ecological balances, with biodiversity at the core. If current practices persist (business as usual), we are likely to reach the much-discussed tipping points by 2050.

One of the key obstacles to addressing water scarcity is the slow pace of institutional adaptation, particularly in the context of climate change. The global water crisis is, in part, a governance crisis, with inadequate and unsustainable water management. A common issue is the lack of integrated political and administrative approaches at different levels. Local and regional cooperation is often lacking or poorly implemented. We need to develop and implement governance structures more rapidly.

Water should be a recurring item on the global policy agenda, rather than addressed only sporadically at conferences every few years. By 2050, not only the projected 10 billion people on Earth will have to contend with reduced water resources, but this challenge will also play a crucial role in shaping adaptations and solutions in the face of climate change. We must continuously address critical water issues, tackling environmental, economic, and health problems simultaneously.

The magic formula lies in ‘reliable and cooperative partnerships between states.’ Without effective cooperation, we risk failure.


In line with the thematic direction of this workshop, we would like to focus on the following points:

  1. from scientific knowledge and knowledge transformation to solution-oriented implementation
  2. inclusive and participatory approaches for adaptation
  3. cross-sectoral implementation of SDG 6
  4. AI and the design of future water supply and resilience infrastructure in urban areas and agriculture.

The following impulse questions may be used for further orientation:

  1. How can we trigger policy change?
  2. How can scientific recommendations be successfully communicated to policy makers?
  3. What effective ways are there for water experts to help policymakers translate effective public policy actions on water into long-term solutions and could AI help?
  4. Ultimately, achieving water security requires a long-term, cross-party, and even cross-generational political commitment. What kind of promising hydro-diplomacy do we need (national, international)?
  5. What is the role or responsibility of academia in this context?
  6. Are there any tangible avenues for strengthening the interface between science and policy?

Session Host

Andreas Haarstrick, Lars Ribbe