Head of Water Initiative, World Economic Forum
Water is the number 5 global risk of highest impact in the next decade, as ranked in the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Global Risks Report. In examining the top global risks of highest likelihood and impact over a 10-year horizon, all but one can be linked to water.
Featuring prominently in that group is a cluster of environmental risks, including extreme weather events, natural disasters, climate change & adaptation, man-made environmental disasters, and biodiversity loss & ecosystem collapse. Water’s link to each of these is evident through droughts, floods, and mis-management of water. Equally, geopolitical and societal risks in the form of food security, involuntary migration, and inter-state conflict being triggered by water insecurity are well documented.
While the international water community has for years pointed to these links, the Global Risks Report represents the perspectives of nearly 1,000 decision-makers from across public and private sector. These are not dedicated water or environment professionals, but rather risk officers from companies and experts from institutions around the world, who have identified this interconnected set of risks and signaling their concern for the global economy and value chains.
Even more sobering is while we have seen the emergence and disappearance of other global risks – including the financial crisis, and chronic disease – over the past decade, water has stubbornly remained in the top 5 for seven consecutive years.
What will it take for water to finally disappear from the list?
While the foundations of water resource management – such as strengthening governance and policy, enhancing capacity, and building public-private cooperation – must continue to progress, the emergence of transformative technology has significant potential in supporting, accelerating and scaling this work.
Could blockchain technology be applied to create transparent and verifiable water allocation and market schemes that reflect true values of water? Or could a combination of advanced satellite imagery, big data, and artificial intelligence help improve real-time, actionable information for city officials to predict and manage any future Cape Town “Day Zero” scenarios?
These technologies – what we call the Fourth Industrial Revolution – are being applied in other sectors. Why not water?
This is the next chapter of the World Economic Forum’s Water Initiative, called Water Security Rewired.
As the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation, we are using our platform and networks to support a community of water leaders and technology innovators to explore and understand the realm of possibility, including its limitations. Water Security Rewired will help spark new ideas, collaborations and lay the groundwork for next generation technologies to emerge. This new innovation agenda marks an exciting new chapter for the future of water.Read More
During the session of “Relations of Rural Water and Food Security to the Water SDG“, A. Lo Porto gave a presentation on “SDGs implementation in Europe” which was held in parallel with the CEWP Joint Steering Committee.
The audience was of around 150 participants, with among others Chinese researchers and practitioners. In the presentation A. Lo Porto discussed the differences between the current approach based on SDGs and the previous one based on MDGs.
It was showed how “water” is a transversal subject present in all the SDGs. Furthermore, the SDGs, in which the issue of water use in agriculture is prominent ,were also discussed and analysed.
A. Lo Porto also showed that to achieve the goals a new “model for water-smart society” must be conceived and implemented in which the innovation must play its role based on a multi-stakeholder approach.
On the 28th of June, A. Lo Porto participated at the session of “Game Changers for the Future Market – setting the scene“, at the CEWP PI ACCESS Program, with about 250 attendees.
Antonio Lo Porto gave a presentation on the WssTP Water Vision and on its SIRA. The concept and the meaning of the ETPs was introduced and a short story of the WssTP was highlighted summarizing current achievements and structure. The three different programmes constituting the backbone of the WssTP activity (Collaboration, Advocacy and Innovation) were descripted.
The value “of” the water and “in” the water were discussed, showing how reusing water sources, adopting the multiple water concept, recovering the valuable goods in the used water streams and advancing the innovation can achieve the goal of creating a future-proof model for water smart societies through the development of water smart communities, the increasing of the circularity in the water economy and the rationale use of multiple water sources.
These concepts are the basis on which the WssTP SIRA has been developed. The major references to water in agriculture, in food production and in the bioeconomy present in the SIRA were discussed and analysed. In the conclusions, the aims of the newly developed “WssTP International Water Dialogues” were discussed.
After this presentation, a cluster of other presentation followed given by representatives of the European Investment Bank, the China Industrial Bank and others, after which a panel debate of around 40 minutes took place.
The Water Innovation Europe 2018 edition dedicated to “The road towards a water-smart society: “Overcoming the water challenges of the future” was concluded on the 14th of June in Brussels, with about 200 participants joining us from the whole water sector.
The two special ingredients woven into the fabric of this year’s programme: a strong and visible inclusion of water in HorizonEurope (FP9) including a possible Mission on Water, and provision of a more central place for water in the governance structures at all levels were enthusiastically received by the water community that was present to prove that the sector can become less fragmented and more united on occasions as such. Patrick Child, Deputy-Director General for Research & Innovation, European Commission opened the conference with his key-note speech, highlighting that the next years will be significant for the water sector and that the new programme Horizon Europe will offer the opportunities that the sector urgently needs.
What are the WIE2018 take-home messages?
Built upon the main concepts of the new WssTP Water Vision 2030, the programme of WIE2018 featured high level speakers and panellists who exchanged insights on how we can overcome the future water challenges and achieve a zero-water stress society.
The outcomes emerged out of the five panel sessions: Water Crises; Water -Smart Industry; Water-Smart Cities; Water-Smart Agriculture; Water-Smart Society, keynote speeches and discussions during the WIE2018 conference can be summarized into the following messages:
- Even though in the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2018, the water crises were ranked for the 7th consecutive year among the top 5 global societal risks in terms of impact, the value of water for our society is still not sufficiently recognized.
- The impact puts at risk our well-being, health, food production, and our economy, and may lead to social instability and uncontrolled migration.
- To address the water crises at EU level, water needs to be better anchored in the institutional build-up of the Europe Union in a way that does justice to the value of water for our society and all its different uses (urban, industry, food, and nature). The combination of water and energy in a DG Energy & Water seems the logical way forward. Research and innovation are essential to develop better and more affordable solutions and the complexity of the water crises make water a self-evident topic for a HorizonEurope Mission “Securing water for all”.
The whole WIE 2018 Press-Release can be viewed here.