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World Water Day - 22 March 2004

Water covers two thirds of the Earth’s surface, but fresh water represents only 2.5% of all water resources and less than 1% or 200 000 km3 is usable. Freshwater is renewable only by snow and rainfall at a rate of 40 000-50 000 km3 per year. Water resources per capita will steadily decline because of population growth, pollution and expected climate change.

For all those reasons, since 1992, the United Nations has designated March 22 each year as World Water Day. This event intends to inform the public about the real importance of the water issues, which concern everyone, though different regions in specific ways. It is important to encourage more responsible public and private water use and conservation. It is time to become aware of that problem and exercise choices for responsible water use individually and as groups and societies.

World Water Day 2004 focuses on the theme: Water and Disasters. The UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction and the World Meteorological Organization have been charged with co-ordinating events on the day.

World Water Day 2004 is celebrated against the background of implementing the ambitious water-related Millennium Development Goals as adopted at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), in September 2002 in Johannesburg, South Africa. In this context, the European Union Water Initiative (EUWI) was launched to promote:

  1. Halving by 2015 the proportion of people without access to clean water and basic sanitation;
  2. National integrated water resources management plans with due attention to river basin management and transboundary catchments, using 2005 as a landmark for reviewing progress.

The traditional approaches to increase water supply and sanitation services are reaching their limits under conditions of global change. New approaches are called for. A lot of knowledge exists already to help us coping with societal and environmental change. However, it is often not readily accessible or in a suitable form to enable smooth transitions. This also calls for more interactive relationship between science and society.

On the other hand, integrated water resources management is an ‘old concept’, but a ‘new science’. It calls for judicious water resources management within ecological and socio-economic systems. Developing and applying new types of rules, norms and incentives encompassing the IWRM concept can take inspiration from ancient cultures, but needs to reinvent them in today’s context of 6 billion world citizens.

The EU Water Initiative has recognised that knowledge and innovation are preconditions for breakthroughs utterly needed to reverse current unsustainable trends. Creating and sharing knowledge between Europe and its partners underpins mutually beneficial cooperation and is a source of hope for the future.

A brief overview of where we stand with the research component of the EUWI shows that a large number of research projects relevant to its goals are already on-going or have recently been completed in the 4th and 5th Framework Research Programmes (FP4, FP5). This represents a very significant stock of knowledge. We are making efforts to provide better access to this knowledge capital through this website.

Since 2002, within the 6th Framework Research Programme (FP6), work programmes have embraced the priorities set by the Water Initiative and bring fresh international research collaborations on stream. Some early results and an outlook into the near future was offered at the 10th EUWI Multi-stakeholder Forum, Brussels, 16 March 2004.

Overview (PDF - 419 kb)

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The vast portfolio of research collaborations involving teams from all parts of Africa and their European peers can make a considerable knowledge contribution to the African component of the Water Initiative. The opportunities afforded and its impact potential for improved knowledge management were discussed at the Panafrican Water Implementation Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in December 2003. Among the programmatic objectives of the EU-Africa Strategic Partnership on Water Affairs and Sanitation emphasis is put on

  • Making better of use of existing knowledge to improve practice;
  • Strengthen African S&T policy and research capacity;
  • Maintaining momentum in research cooperation between Europe and Africa.

Overview (PDF - 392 kb)

List of projects (PDF - 190 kb)

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  Latin America

The 1999 Brasilia Summit of Heads of State of Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe (ALCUE) identified scientific cooperation among the bi-regional cooperation priorities. The Conference of Ibero-American Water Directors further elaborated the principal water problems, including coping with extreme events, such as El Niño. An overview of EU supported activities addressing these challenges was presented recently to their fourth Conference

Overview (PDF - 370 kb)

List of projects (PDF - 105 kb)

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Parts of the Mediterranean are among the most water-scarce regions in the world. Naturally, water is a prime focus of research collaboration and development cooperation efforts. Here, the importance of better knowledge management was underlined in the context of the Hellenic Water Week in June 2003.

Overview (PDF - 430 kb)

More information on the Mediterranean component of the EU Water Initiative is available at

For further information on the research component of the EU Water Initiative and associated activities in these and other regions, please contact:

Andrea Tilche –
Zissimos Vergos –
Cornelia Nauen -

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