World leaders, water experts, development professionals, policy-makers, and one astronaut, began a week-long meeting in Stockholm focused on finding ways to better use and reuse the world’s increasingly scarce fresh water.
A statement by Ms Rowena Barber, Communication Manager, Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), made available said water is fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
She said that the term “water scarcity” is becoming increasingly common, as more countries, and cities are experiencing the effects of high population pressure and less available freshwater.
The week, which began on Monday, draws over 3, 000 participants from nearly 130 countries.
She quoted Mr Torgny Holmgren, SIWI’s Executive Director, Torgny Holmgrem, as saying that there was the need to make drastic changes for efficient use of water.
‘‘The realisation is there, we need to become more efficient water users; we need to make some drastic changes.
“World Water Week is a key meeting place for the water and development community; it is here that we come together and make sure that the very best ideas are brought forward.’’
According to her, Holmgren said the World Water Week, organised by SIWI, is the world’s biggest global annual meeting focusing on water and development.
They (participants) came to Stockholm to learn about new research results, share experiences, and discuss progress in the implementation of the Global Goals.
They strive together to find new ways to meeting the world’s growing water challenges.
The President of the United Nations General Assembly, Peter Thomson, called the world’s climate and water resources the “fundamental of our existence.”
He said “without proper stewardship of that fundamental, the 2030 sustainable development agenda obviously goes nowhere; because without the fundamental we can’t exist.
“Together with the Paris Climate Agreement, implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals represents the best chance our species has to achieve a sustainable way of life on Planet Earth before it is too late.”
Sweden’s Minister for Environment, Karolina Skog, said that Sustainable and efficient management of water and wastewater has a profound effect on all aspects of human life; economic growth, sustainable development and sustainable city planning.
He added that it would promote circular thinking in industry and in production, energy saving, good quality water, adding that it is crucial for health and for a sustainable environment.
Christer Fuglesang, astronaut and member of Sweden’s Royal Academy of Science, described the intricate water re-use systems that are necessary during space missions, enabling food to be grown on board, and ensuring a drinking water supply.
This, Fuglesang said, would both help to inform research, and optimise methods for increased water use efficiency on earth.
Holmgren pointed out that it will be challenging but necessary to change large-scale water consumption patterns as a central aspect of efficient water use.
“The Week’s theme, Water and Waste: Reduce and reuse, really touches the very core of our daily lives.
‘‘To reduce, some drastic changes will be necessary, especially by the main water users, including industries, energy producers and the agriculture sector.
‘‘I think that it is very important to try and change the mind-set around waste; rather than presenting us with a problem, we can view waste as an asset also becoming a business opportunity.”
Mr Stephen McCaffrey, 2017 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate and a Professor in water law, spoke of the need for water cooperation and water diplomacy.
He told participants that although the ingredients for potential water conflicts exist, such as higher population pressure, climate change, and much of the world’s fresh water being shared by two or more countries, studies show that water sharing is much more likely to lead to cooperation than conflict.
SIWI is a water institute, working to improve the way freshwater resources are governed.
By combining its areas of expertise with its unique convening power, it influences decision-makers, facilitates dialogue and builds knowledge in water issues, thereby contributing to a just, prosperous and sustainable future for all.