• SaWaM welcomes Sudanese state minister to workshop


    Estimating the past, present and future availability of freshwater resources is essential to human life – especially in dry regions. However, the parameters are often prone to high levels of uncertainty due to factors such as insufficient local observations. The SaWaM project is therefore developing a prototype for an online decision-support tool for seasonal reservoir planning and management in semi-arid regions in Brazil, Sudan and Iran. The tool uses refined global seasonal forecasts, ecosystem and hydrosystem modelling, and satellite-based monitoring of key hydrological parameters in near real-time.

    In its first year, SaWaM conducted initial tests of hydrological, atmospheric and ecosystem models and regionalized remote-sensing data. It also analysed the performance of seasonal predictions. One of the challenges turned out to be finding the right balance between the accuracy of the modelling/results and their transferability to other regions. SaWaM has also been busy conducting a series of workshops in the case study regions to involve local water managers from the outset and ensure that they transfer the findings into everyday practice.

    One of the highlights of the workshops was the participation of Sudanese state minister Hon Khidir M Gasm Elseed at the kick-off event (which welcomed over 50 participants) in Khartoum, Sudan. The minister stressed the importance of seasonal water management across national borders. Other workshop attendees included important local partners such as representatives of the Dams Implementation Unit and the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation Sudan, who also greatly supported the organization of the event. One of the clear messages at the workshop was that the transboundary water management of the Nile and its tributaries across the countries of Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt is one of the major tasks in the region. It was also stressed that contributions from interdisciplinary projects (like SaWaM) are urgently needed in order to maintain the sustainable and fair distribution of water resources.

    The workshops in Iran and Brazil also attracted a great deal of interest among local stakeholders. The kick-off meeting in Iran, which included training sessions on hydrometeorological methods, was hosted with Khuzestan Water and Power Authority (KWPA) and welcomed over 100 participants. KWPA also organized a tour of dams and reservoirs in the region for the SaWaM researchers. The kick-off meeting in Brazil was supported by local partner Agencia de national de aguas (ANA, which is responsible for managing the larger Brazilian rivers), and by Fundação Cearense de Meteorologia e Recursos Hídricos (FUNCEME). Along with ANA and FUNCEME, the SaWaM project was presented at the 8th World Water Forum in Brazil.

    SaWaM is currently focusing on combining satellite and model-based datasets. There are also plans to integrate the results into models and tools currently used in Brazil to monitor reservoir levels, precipitation and seasonal forecasts. In addition, a second workshop in the Lake Urmia region of Iran is being arranged. Since SaWaM aims to guarantee that the results will be transferrable to other areas once the project has finished, it is working to increase the exchange of information between the three pilot regions by setting up an online platform for sharing experiences and results between the local partners.

    To read more about the project or keep up to date with its progress, please visit the website.

  • Interview with Graham Alabaster (UN Water GEMI initiative) on the possibilities for the science community to engage in the monitoring process of SDG 6


    Interview with Graham Alabaster of UN-Water’s GEMI initiative on how the scientific community can engage in the SDG 6 monitoring process

    Monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a complex issue involving many UN organizations. In 2014, UN-Water launched the Global Expanded Monitoring Initiative (GEMI) to bring together the different UN organizations tasked with monitoring the SDG on water (SDG 6). GEMI’s aim is to present the whole water sector and to bring together the many different initiatives that monitor the various SDG 6 targets. We spoke to Dr Graham Alabaster, one of the initiators of the GEMI initiative, about how the scientific community can engage in the SDG 6 monitoring process.

    GRoW: Where do you currently see the greatest deficits in terms of SDG 6 monitoring?

    Alabaster: For me, the main issue is that the countries haven’t yet taken sufficient ownership of the monitoring process. They still see it as something which is external and to be supported by multilateral or bilateral organisations. This might be for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the national statistical offices have to deal with considerable gaps in technical capacity due to the complexity of SDG 6 monitoring compared to other SDGs. At our meeting in March, representatives from the statistical community, the Inter-agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators, who approved the SDG methodologies, clearly acknowledged the challenges of SDG 6 monitoring and asked for technical support. Besides the gaps in technical capacity at the national statistical offices, another challenge is that the institutional responsibility for the water indicators is divided across different ministries. But still, for me, our biggest challenge is to ensure that countries appreciate the need for monitoring. If they don’t, they just won’t do it – or they’ll do it grudgingly and it won’t be useful. So we have to work much harder to anchor the ownership of SDG 6 monitoring in sustainable development and encourage the countries to recognize it to a greater degree.

    GRoW: The GRoW research projects work on different levels to support the SDGs. This ranges from local solutions to global analyses. Where do you see the greatest potential for a research programme like GRoW to support SDG 6? How could the scientific community and GRoW in particular support the monitoring process around SDG 6?

    Alabaster: There are two aspects of SDG monitoring to which I think the scientific community can best contribute. One concerns providing improved and affordable methods of data collection and data modelling techniques where these are not available. For many of the countries, particularly in Africa where capacities are rather weak, collecting the data is still a huge challenge. One solution is to look at modelled estimates as an interim solution until better data becomes available. This could be done through a variety of methods and approaches, such as using remote sensing data, developing methods to compute wastewater inflows from water consumption, doing mass balances, or adopting model approaches that tap into existing knowledge and data in the countries. The other area where the scientific community can contribute is building national and regional data observatories for SDG 6, building capacities for data collection and related issues, and providing assistance for modelling data. These kinds of observatories must be interministerial. In most countries, an SDG 6 observatory would have to involve a combination of the ministries responsible for issues such as water, health, urban development and the environment.

    The scientific community could also use SDG 6 monitoring to promote a resource conservation perspective. Looking at local solutions, there is a need to develop dedicated approaches for managing water demand and reusing wastewater. The scientific community should also help develop tools for assessing opportunities and approaches.

    While the SDG monitoring looks at national data, it’s also important to consider intranational differences to better understand the challenges and potential solutions. We need disaggregated data to understand things like differences and inequities in service levels across different urban areas, between the rich and the poor. We also need it to understand pollution sources and their impact on ambient water quality. In Mexico, for example, the volumes of wastewater from industry and domestic sources are equal. However, the organic load from industry is five times higher than from domestic wastewater. This is probably the case in many rapidly industrializing countries. Bangladesh is another example. Its huge textile industry is almost secretly polluting water resources in a very harmful way, while SDG 6 monitoring and related efforts are focussing on sanitation provision.

    GRoW: How do you think research projects likes those in the GRoW programme could engage in ongoing processes in GEMI or other political processes related to the SDGs?

    Alabaster: I’m always a fan of a good crisp paper that highlights relevant research results in a way that is accessible. That type of paper could be shared with the GEMI partners, mainly the seven UN agencies that are the custodians of SDG 6 monitoring. As for more direct involvement, we are planning a partnership platform within GEMI, where we could work much more closely with initiatives like GRoW and other partners to bring other sources of knowledge and information into the GEMI process. Within the process of developing SDG 6 monitoring, the custodian agencies have convened expert working groups, but on a rather ad-hoc basis. These doors shouldn’t be closed. Depending on the research areas that the GRoW projects are working on, we could help establish bilateral relations between the GRoW organisations and the GEMI members, which include UNEP, UN-Habitat and FAO.

    GRoW: Thank you very much for talking to us.

  • SDG 6 review at the High Level Political Forum 2018


    GRoW position paper is well received by participants at HLPF events 

    From 9 to 18 July, the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) convened at the UN Headquarters in New York to conduct and in-depth review of several SDGs, including the SDG for water (SDG 6). GRoW was involved in several events, represented by steering committee member Dr Ursula Eid, who acted as a moderator and keynote speaker.

    In preparation for the HLPF, GRoW prepared a Position Paper on on SDG 6, emphasising the need for an evidence-based approach to achieving SDG 6 and calling for a science platform on water that will bring together relevant actors. The paper and its key recommendations were brought into the discussion at several side events and thereby contributed to the review process. The paper was of particular interest at the side event “Are Women meaningfully involved in implementing SDG 6+ in National Plans?”, during which there was a discussion about data insufficiencies and the need for better empirical data on SDG 6. Consequently, the proposed international science platform was well-received by the audience.

    The GRoW position paper was also introduced at the side event “Sustainable Use of Waters – Precondition for a World without Hunger / The implementation of SDG 6.4 Water use and scarcity and its link to the Human Right to Food”. The session focused on the link between virtual water exports and food security in water-scarce countries. The GRoW research projects working on water footprints therefore played a prominent role in the discussions at this event.

    The HLPF’s Ministerial Declaration adopted at the meeting’s closing identifies water pollution, water scarcity and insufficient financing as key challenges for the water sector. Aiming at successfully implementing SDG 6, the declaration points to the International Decade for Action on Water and Sustainable Development and calls for greater international cooperation among stakeholders, political leadership to raise awareness of the urgency of SDG 6, and concrete actions to meet the global water targets.

  • GRoW publishes position paper on SDG 6


    GRoW researchers have identified key challenges to achieving SDG 6

    Agreeing on the SDGs was a tremendous accomplishment for the international community, and continuing on this path is essential for our joint future. To achieve the targets, we will have to make ongoing efforts, adopt new approaches and examine multiple challenges. In preparation of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and the in-depth review of SDG 6, the partners in the research program Water as a Global Resource (GRoW) produced a position paper highlighting key scientific challenges to achieving the ambitious SDG 6.

    The GRoW research programme primarily aims to contribute to achieving SDG 6. GRoW brings together more than 90 institutions active in research, business and practice. They are working together in more than 20 countries worldwide to develop new approaches for improving sustainable water resources management and water governance systems. 

    A stronger evidence base for the SDGs

    In its position paper, the GRoW partners emphasise the need to build a better evidence base for achieving and monitoring SDG 6. They call for a global platform that would bring together science, policy and practice to bundle key water topics, consolidate knowledge on achieving the SDGs and thereby strengthen evidence-based decisions.

    Download the position paper here.

  • SDG 6 Synthesis Report is out


    In preparation of the up-coming High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in July and the comprehensive review of the UN sustainability goals on water (SDG 6), UN-Water has published the “SDG 6 Synthesis Report 2018 on Water and Sanitation”. Based on data on SDG 6 global indicators the joint position from the United Nations on the progress of reaching the aims of SDG 6 is represented in the report. For the upcoming six months a publicly accessible dialogue process has been initiated.

    The dialogue process consists of three phases: 

    • Collecting overall feedback (2 May – 16 May)
    • Preparing main messages for the HLPF-Meeting (25 June – 9 July)
    • Looking forward and next steps (31 August – 14 September)
  • Work on the GRoW cross-cutting topics has begun


    With a kick-off event in Berlin, the first three cross-cutting topics in the GRoW programme began their work in March. Three days of exciting and insightful discussions resulted in the first concrete results, including a joint GRoW position paper highlighting what the GRoW projects see as the key challenges to achieving SDG 6. This paper has since been channelled into the current political process on SDG 6 monitoring (such as the UN HLPF meeting in July). In addition, two online meetings (on agricultural irrigation and digitalization) allowed a number of colleagues to exchange ideas and possible avenues for further collaboration.  

    Harnessing synergies

    Here’s a little reminder about why GRoW partners also work on cross-cutting topics: Although GRoW covers very diverse research areas, a number of thematic and methodological overlaps exist. The cross-cutting topics therefore allow us to harness synergies and share knowledge across the individual projects. The GRoW steering group has defined three topics so far: 

    • Incentive mechanisms in the context of governance
    • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Hitting the targets
    • Water footprints

    The work on these topics doesn’t drive itself, though. It requires partners who are willing to invest time and energy in them, and who want to engage with fellow researchers. Support from the owner of each topic is therefore crucial to keeping up the momentum.

    The way forward

    A number of online meetings about topics such as digitalization and irrigation agriculture have recently taken place, and the next “real-world” meetings are coming up soon:

    • Water footprints: 27 September, Berlin
    • Incentive mechanisms in the context of governance: 22 October, Frankfurt (tbd)
    • SDGs: Hitting the targets: 11 December, Osnabrück, Germany

    These meetings will focus on potential outputs and end results of the joint work on the respective topic. The results could be manifold and might include joint publications, methodological guidelines, or expert events on topics of broader interest.

    We’re looking forward to welcoming you to these meetings and to continuing our productive discussions.

  • The GRoW project “GlobeDrought” investigates drought conditions in Western Cape, South Africa


    The threat of “Day zero”, when taps in the city would run dry in the Western Cape of South Africa, clearly shows the necessity for sustaibable water management.. Even though “day zero” was averted just in time the region remains in a critical situation.

    During this time of major drought, the project team of GlobeDrought acquired data from satellites and field sources which showed the severity of water shortage in this region caused by three years of an ongoing drought. At the time of research, natural water resources were left at its minimum. Water sources of major importance in the Western Cape region, such as the Theewaterskloof Dam, contained only 10.9% of its maximum capacity. The South African Government reacted with water restrictions. Just before “Day Zero” had reached, rain solved the problem for the time being. However long-term solutions need to be developed and put into practice.

    The Team of GlobeDrought aims to develop a global web-based information system to forecast critical water stress situations at early stages by combining different data sources for water balance into one coherent system.

    Within the GroW Initiative further projects - iWaGSS, go-Cam, STEER and WELLE- contribute to developing strategies and tool for sustainable integrated water resource management and adaptation in South Africa. To find out more, visit the Project sites.

    To read more about thethe findings of GlobeDrought, please read the small a status quo report, which shortly summarizes their findings of drought conditions in the West Cape.

  • UN announces Water Action Decade 2018-2028


    World Water Day, which took place on 22 March, saw the launch of the International Decade for Action: "Water for Sustainable Development". The decade will help to improve cooperation and capacity development in the field of water management by encouraging the sharing of good practices and providing a platform for advocacy, networking and partnership-building in response to the ambitious 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals.

  • GRoW at World Water Forum in Brazil


    Between 18 and 23 March, water experts from government, science, industry, consultancies and NGOs met at the World Water Forum 2018 in Brazil to discuss potential solutions for key water-related challenges at the global level. Three of the four GRoW projects working in South America were present and jointly featured at the side event “Water scarcity in semi-arid environments of our Earth: Main challenges and recent developments for risk mitigation”, which was organised by the Water Science Alliance. The event focused on practical examples from South America, such as seasonal prediction of water resources, estimation of sediment loads into reservoirs, water quality problems, and efficient irrigation and water use. SaWaM presented an operational hydrometeorological forecasting system for dryland conditions in north-eastern Brazil. WANDEL gave a presentation on the improved water footprint of sugarcane-related energy production, and Trust introduced modular concepts for sustainable water supply and water reuse. SaWaM had the honour of being invited to present its work in the Brazilian pavilion with the Brazilian water authority.

    Further information can be found in the programme.