IMPORTANT LEGAL NOTICE - The information on this site is subject to adisclaimerand acopyright notice
Contact   |   Search

World Water Day - 22 March 2006

What happened since the last World Water Day in water research and its use to advance understanding and developing solutions to problems? What conditions impact? What is planned in 2006? Examples of making research more directly useful to citizens through improving communication and engagement ( 883 KB). This year’s motto for World Water Day is ‘Water and Culture’ .

  1. Water and Culture
  2. EU Member States set up an ERA-NET on international water research in developing countries
  3. New research in support of the water-related Millennium Development Goals
  4. Independent review panel recommends multi-stakeholder approach to IWRM
  5. Europe engages with partners in other parts of the world in search of robust solutions to water challenges

Additional information on the general web portal of the EU Water Initiative, the EU's Water for Life scientific research site and also at UNESCO's Water Portal.

Water and Culture – the Motto in 2006

This year’s emphasis on Water and Culture brings home the essential message that water means many different things to different people. To some, particularly the most vulnerable, it is foremost a human right, as also affirmed by UN bodies. To some others, it is a sacred good deeply embedded in their belief systems.

Samoan children carrying water

To scientists, it may be an exciting object of their most inspiring investigations as they try to unravel the secrets of life and edge forward in understanding of ecosystems and how human societies relate to nature and its goods. To the economists it is also an economic good that in times of increasing scarcity we need to pay a fair price for. Politicians might also explore how such a price can be distributed fairly among different groups in society.

Water structures have shaped human societies for millennia. The Chinese and Roman empires had some of their defining moments from water management. The Water Atlas by Pietro Laureano, published a few months ago by UNESCO, documents these traditions in many parts of the worlds, particularly where water is scarce. These traditional approaches and techniques arising from those needs can be classified and hold many lessons for today. A global web archive is being developed to document, preserve and modernize the associated traditional knowledge and practices in ways that are socio-economically viable: (traditional knowledge world bank).

Under profoundly changing socio-economic conditions, with now 6 billion humans on this planet, widely degraded ecosystems and evolving needs and aspirations, many of these once effective techniques require scientific study and judicious innovation to continue delivering sustainable benefits to today’s societies and people. Research is proving its worth in making this happen. Just one example:

SHADUF - Traditional water techniques: Cultural heritage for a sustainable future

Ancient practices of water harvesting, catchment and distribution had guaranteed for years water supplying to the countries and the towns all over the Mediterranean. They were rooted in society and the environment, thus becoming as a part of the local knowledge able to create the identity and the harmonious management of landscape. An variety of water systems, such as the foggaras, the qanats, the khattaras - drainage tunnels -, the shadufs - wells with a balance bar, the filter cisterns, the terracing, die drainages, the stone barrows, the harvesting soils and the diversion dikes, shaped in time the Mediterranean landscape, thus acting on its functionality and on its beauty as well. Current risks of water shortage, desertification and degradation of soils from global warming, the increase of demography and urbanisation and the agricultural industrialisation are high. Studying, innovating and reusing the traditional water systems is a fundamental contribution to the water resource management based on local sustainability and also the recovery of aesthetical values of the monuments which are a further resource for people, but need adaptation to a changing socio-economic context to be fully successful. Duration: three years, budget €1.11 million.

Graphic element Top of the page

EU Member States set up an ERA-NET on international water research in developing countries

The pilot phase of a European Research Area (ERA)-Net coordination of EU Member States research activities on all aspects of water supply and sanitation in developing countries got underway in 2005. This ERA-Net is developing under the coordination of DFID (UK).

The strategic objectives of the EUWI-ERA-NET are:

  • To improve the effectiveness of EU member state funded research on water for development, through better communication and coordination of research activities, and thus contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
  • To provide global leadership in the OECD-DAC coordinated efforts to increase harmonization and alignment of donor actions with developing country partners.
  • To facilitate the transfer of knowledge from research in support of the EU Water Initiative (EUWI).
  • To improve synergies between Member State water research programmes and the EU Framework Programmes for Research and Technological Development.

The EUWI-ERA-NET is a consortium of so far 14 ministries, funding agencies and national RTD authorities from 11 European countries.

EUWI-ERA-NET will work with other ERA-NET’s in related fields. The EUWI-ERA-NET is one building block in the process of preparing the Art 169 action focusing upon of research on infrastructure (water, energy, transport) in international development. The EUWI-ERA-NET will also complement the activities of the Water Supply and Sanitation Technology Platform (WSSTP) in working with industry towards delivery of the MDG’s.

Project Web site :

Graphic element Top of the page

New research in support of the water-related Millennium Development Goals

Within the 6th Research Framework Programme, continued attention was focused on the water-related Millennium Development Goals as amended at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002. The sobering five-year assessment report of the United Nations (2005)1 is food for thought:

  • Progress has been made in ensuring sustainable access to safe drinking water in most parts of the world since 1990. However, people in rural areas and particularly also the rapidly growing numbers of urban slum dwellers are the groups with least access.
  • Access to sanitation remains the biggest challenge. Sanitation coverage in the developing world role from 34% in 1990 to 49% in 2002. If present trends continue, however, close to 2.4 billion people worldwide will still be without improved sanitation in 2015, that is, almost as many as there are today. Sanitation problems are most critical in urban slums, where little progress has been achieved and growth in numbers of slum dwellers outpaces improvements of urban habitats.
  • Numbers of slum dwellers in 2001 were highest in Southern Asia (253 million), Eastern Asia (194 million), Sub-Saharan Africa (166 million) and Latin America and the Caribbean (128 million).
  • Waste and associated contamination and pollution problems are a growing risk to improvements in water supply.
  • Strengthening protection against forced evictions, access to credit and other flanking measures are among the demonstrated methods to encourage residents to invest in their home and bring about structural improvements.
  • Aid is critical for the poorest countries, while middle-income countries benefit more from trade.

Importantly, in addition to the identification of promising approaches and conditions of success, education, research and innovation are important create, organise and disseminate the knowledge required to scale up workable solutions, develop new or adapt existing technologies to changing socio-economic conditions to help deliver faster progress on the MDGs. That also requires adopting integrated approaches to water resources and allocation management, based on multi-stakeholder involvement and improved communcation of results outside the scientific community to help uptake and social innovation. Mainstreaming attention to social roles of men and women (gendering research and implementation agendas) is of utmost importance for effectiveness and social equity.

Recently started research projects include:

SWITCH – Sustainable Water Management Improves Tomorrow’s Cities Health

This Integrated Project (IP) is coordinated by Unesco-IHE Institute for Water Education in the Netherlands and will run from 1 February 2006 through 31 January 2011. Partners from Brazil, China, Colombia, Egypt, Germany, Ghana, Greece, India, Israel, Netherlands, Palestinian Authority, Peru, Poland, Spain and Switzerland collaborate to achieve the following objectives

  • Development, application and demonstration of a range of tested scientific, technological and socio-economic solutions and approaches that contribute to the achievement of sustainble and effective urban water management (UWM) schemes in ‘The city of the future’ (projection 30-50 years from now);
  • Development of efficient and interactive urban water systems and services at city level in the context of the city’s geographical and ecological setting (river basin level), which are robust, flexible and adjustable to a range of global pressures (global level).

The budget of the project is € 23 million.

GEWAMED – Mainstreaming Gender Dimensions into Water Resources Development and Management in the Mediterranean Region

This INCO Coordination Action (CA) is coordinated by the Institute for Mediterranean Agriculture in Bari (Istituto Agronomico Mediterraneo di Bari del CIHEAM), Italy and will run for four years until 2009. Eighteen partners from 14 countries participate from all around the Mediterranean basin, of which five are from the EU and nine from the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean. FAO’s gender programme lends external support, as does Italy’s National Observatory for Female Entrepreneurship and Agricultural Work (Osservatorio nazionale per l’imprenditoria ed il lavoro femminile in agricoltura). Agriculture is the biggest consumer of freshwater. Women account for about 60% of the agricultural workforce, but tend to be excluded from decision making.

The purpose of the project is to

  • Build up an extensive knowledge base on gender for the widest possible sharing among stakeholders in the Mediterranean to support gender mainstreaming
  • Build up a dynamic network of competent individuals and institutions that is developed through 10 national multi-stakeholder workshops, three regional conferences/discussion fora and an internet platform for complementary support. Special emphasis is to be placed on women in rural contexts.

The budget of the project is €1.25 million. Synergies will be sought with other projects related to integrated water resources management in the Mediterranean that are committed to stakeholder engagement, such as MELIA – Mediterranean dialogue on integrated water management (€1.5 million) – and INECO – Institutional and Economic Instruments for Sustainable Water Management in the Mediterranean Region (€0.74 million) – and WADI - Sustainable management of Mediterranean coastal fresh and transitional water bodies: a socio-economic and environmental analysis of changes and trends to enhance and sustain stakeholders benefits (€1.82 million) - to maximise value for money. MELIA and INECO are also CAs, WADI is a specific targeted research project.

Graphic element Top of the page

Independent review panel recommends multi-stakeholder approach to IWRM

A newly engaged and engaging approach to Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) is at the heart of recommendations of an external expert panel2 reviewing a sample of 67 international water research projects spreading over research framework programmes 4 to 6 (1994-2006). The panel devised a new screening methodology based on sustainability principles and relevant theoretical work. Against this background it examined project documentation between July and December 2005 and also collected additional information, particularly on communication and impact through questionnaires sent to all projects. The report was made more robust by integrating additional advice from a mirror group of independent experts3 , who generously commented and provided additional insights.

Key findings of the report are that

  • The challenge is to converge the water policy and management determined by political processes with the fundamentals exposed by ecosystem and social science.
  • Researchers working on underlying fundamentals using ecosystem science and economics must recognise that their task should include learning how to communicate their science and the underlying fundamentals which their methods reveal to other stakeholders in society.
  • Governments, private sector and civil society movements should seek to incorporate scientific results more systematically in their deliberation and decision making processes to reach more robust solutions.
  • The partnership approach to water research and problem solving as expressed through IWRM oriented research has been evolving effectively in international cooperation;
  • The approach to and practice of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) needs to evolve further to deliver the full meaning of the defining term ‘integrated’. Integration implies inclusion of all sustainability dimensions: environmental, social and economic. Integration also implies inclusion of all social actors in consultative, planning and decision making processes related to water allocation and management. This evolved version of IWRM could be called Constructively Engaged Integrated Water Resources Allocation and Management.
  • The focus of the EU-INCO water research has been progressively more policy-relevant and starts to show results.
  • Future investment, for example through FP7 in water management and water policy, has good potential to increase its impact by adopting more systematically the constructively engaged approach to IWRAM.
  • Links to other policies, education, capacity building and innovation should be systematically sought to shorten impact times. In the international arena, links to Member States and Partners’ water-related policies, External Relations, Development Cooperation, Trade, Enlargement, Environment etc. are of particular importance.

The report ( 14 KB) was first presented to a wider public at the 4th World Water Forum in Mexico. Review panel members participated in several sessions sharing their results and recommendations. The key messages sont contained in a succinct policy brief ( 1 MB).

A journalist accompanied the panel’s work and produced a brochure illustrating the challenges and achievements of integrated water resources management to a general public. The principles are explained based on real life experience of international collaborative research and its use ‘on the ground’. The brochure offers highlights on opportunities afforded to citizens and organisations to make use of research results. It is available in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish on this website.

1) United Nations, 2005. The Millennium Development Goals Report 2005. New York, United Nations, 48 p.

2) Pragya (Academician) Dipak Gyawali (Royal Nepal Academy of Science and Technology, Nepal: Chair); Prof. John Anthony Allan (King’s College London and SOAS, UK: Rapporteur); Prof. Paula Antunes (New University of Lisbon, Portugal); Dr Basim Ahmed Dudeen (Land Research Center, Jerusalem, Palestine Authority); Visiting Professor Pietro Laureano (University of Florence and Director of IPOGEA, Italy); Prof. Cassio Luiselli Fernández (Instituto Technológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Mexico); Dr Pedro M. Scheel Monteiro (CSIR and University of Cape Town, South Africa); Dr Hong Khanh Nguyen (Vietnamese Academy of Science and Technology, Hanoi, Vietnam); Prof. Pavel Novácek (Palacky University and Charles University, Czech Republic); Prof. Claudia Pahl-Wostl (University of Osnabrück, Germany)

3) Prof. Peter J. Ashton, Principal Scientist, CSIR - Natural Resources & Environment, Pretoria, South Africa; Prof. Fatma Abdel Rahman Attia, Professor Emeritus, National Water Research Center, Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, Director of the Water Boards Project, Cairo, Egypt; Dr. Brunello Ceccanti, National Research Council of Italy (CNR), Institute of Ecosystem Studies (CNR-ISE), Pisa, Italy; Ms. Ulrike Ebert, External Affairs Manager and International Water Policy, Thames Water, UK; Dr. Ramaswamy R. Iyer, former Secretary (Water Resources), Government of India, later Research Professor (now Honorary Research Professor), Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi; Dr. N.Vijay Jagannathan, Sector Manager (Water and Environment), Middle East and North Africa Region World Bank, Washington DC; Dr. Luciano Mateos, Instituto de Agricultura Sostenible (CSIC), Córdoba, Spain; Dr. Jack Moss, Director Environment Services, SUEZ, Paris and The International Federation of Private Water Operators, Paris Office; Prof. Peter Rogers, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachussetts, USA; Prof. Muhammad Shatanawi, UNESCO Chair and Professor of Water Resources and Irrigation, University of Jordan, Amman, Jordan; Dr. Pasquale Steduto, Chief of the Water Resources, Development and Management Service (Land & Water Division), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations with collaborators, Rome, Italy; Ms. Lesha Witmer, Women for Water, NGO Representative in the EUWI Steering Group, The Netherlands

Graphic element Top of the page