Keynote to Present a Vision for Future Water Security

I am very pleased to announce the keynote speaker for our upcoming water research forum will be Vanesa Rodríguez Osuna, Senior Scientist at CUNY Advanced Science Research Center, and Project Director at sequa gGmbH.  She will present a vision for the future of water security that she and her colleagues developed at the request of the UN’s High Level Panel on Water. She will break down some of the key challenges scientists and water management practitioners face if we are to go beyond the grey-green dichotomy of water management. This vision shows how this is necessary if we are to solve the world’s water crisis.

Image of the Shatt al Arab marsh area of the Tigris, Iraq

A view of Shatt Al-Arab from the northern part of Basra city. The building in the middle is in Sindibad Island. The palm trees further left from that are on the opposite side of the river in Al-Jibasi area.
by Aziz1005 [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

image of Mosul Dam

Water pours from a water way at the Mosul hydro-electric Dam water levels are higher than usual due to snow melting on May 14., 2003. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brendan Stephens) (Released)

Water Security Starts with Clear Information

It’s essential that we do a better job protecting the minute fraction of drinkable water on planet earth and begin focusing on water renewal (See this 5-minute video: Are We Running Out of Water?). Regardless of which region, we need as accurate a view as possible of where the freshwater is, what its properties are, and what obstacles may be blocking access to it. Vorosmarty et al. (2018) observed that current environmental surveillance systems are “fragmentary” and require “guesswork” (p. 318, Box 1. “A vision for water security”).
Map of Global Freshwater

Total renewable freshwater resources of the world, in mm/yr ( 1 mm is equivalent to 1 l of water per m²) (long-term average for the years 1961-1990). Resolution is 0.5° longitude x 0.5° latitude (equivalent to 55 km x 55 km at the equator). Computed by the global freshwater model WaterGAP. Petra Döll – uploaded by Hpdoell [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

What information is needed to make the picture of global water resources more complete? OSU researchers are making breakthroughs on environmental sensing via satellites, for example, but there must be other pieces of the puzzle. The authors of this vision also suggest that “a skilled practitioner workforce. . . which can rapidly assimilate new knowledge from the water sciences and convert it into practical solutions” is also necessary.
These two perspectives on water knowledge: bird’s eye (or, rather, satellite’s eye), and on-the-ground contextual, are what we seek to bridge during our water research forum on February 8th. Join us! Register here.

The central focus of the forum is a Water Security Vision for the future which entails: “The ever accelerating environmental and societal challenges of the rapidly developing world, particularly in the water sector, are today routinely met with novel solutions that have moved beyond the typical and unitary focus on engineering-based approaches of the past to embrace blended grey-green approaches to water management.” Vorosmarty et al (2018, p. 318). These approaches will require skilled workforces and knowledge sharing for local water management practices around the world.

Realism and Hope: Integrating local perspectives into conversations on how to solve the water crisis

According to Vorosmarty et al. (2010), “nearly 80% of the world’s population is exposed to high levels of threat to water security.” I learned from Danny Wright, CEO of Gravity Water, however, that more people are affected by water cleanliness issues than water scarcity issues because more of the world’s population lives in tropical climates (global map below) with plenty of precipitation. By integrating local perspectives into conversations on how to solve the water crisis, perhaps a more realistic direction may be found for overcoming the global water crisis.

Looking at water through the lens of war (Klare, 2002), the Middle East is the proverbial “canary in the coal mine” for water resource conflict with numerous cross-border tensions surrounding the Nile River and Euphrates Tigris river basins. Yet, at the same time, extraordinary cross-border cooperation in the region makes the Middle East a source for hope.

Our goal is to provide a framework for these conversations which will draw in multiple scientific, scholarly, and regional perspectives.  You can see the diversity of regional water circumstances from the map below – each region bring different knowledge-bases based on their environmental circumstance which could inform cultural and/or technological solutions.

 

Global Map of Biomes

Image credit: GRIDA, authors, Philippe Rekacewicz assisted by Cecile Marin, Agnes Stienne, Guilio Frigieri, Riccardo Pravettoni, Laura Margueritte and Marion Lecoquierre.