World leaders, water experts, development professionals, policy-makers, and one astronaut, have gathered in Stockholm, Sweden for a week-long meeting focused on finding ways to better use, and reuse, the world’s increasingly scarce fresh water.
As the pressures of growing populations and less available freshwater are felt around the world, realisation is growing among policy-makers, businesses, and citizens that we need to become more efficient water users.
“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,” Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) executive director Torgny Holmgren said.
The President of the United Nations General Assembly, Peter Thomson, called the world’s climate and water resources the “fundament of our existence”.
“Without proper stewardship of that fundament the 2030 sustainable development agenda obviously goes nowhere. Because without the fundament we can’t exist,” Thomson said.
Astronaut and Member of Sweden’s Royal Academy of Science, Christer Fuglesang described the intricate water reuse systems that are necessary during space missions, enabling food to be grown on board, and ensuring a drinking water supply – both helping to inform research and optimise methods for increased water use efficiency on earth.
“The Week’s theme, Water and waste: Reduce and reuse, 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,” added Holmgren.
He added that changes are also needed in how we think about the reuse of water.
“I think that it is very important to try and change the mindset around waste. Rather than presenting us with a problem, we can view waste as an asset,” Holmgren said.
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.