Blog.Sep 19, 2018

Stockholm is just the beginning

The time has come to summarize World Water Week 2018, though this is certainly no easy task. With 265 sessions, not even the most optimistic participant could hope to cover but a fraction of them. At the same time, almost regardless of which activity you attended, there were some common and important themes.

Firstly, there is a growing sense of urgency – nature has given us several stark wake-up calls this year, leaving us in no doubt that we must act immediately to tackle the world’s growing water challenges. In response to this, questions of good water governance must move to the fore.

Secondly, ecosystems are key to wise water management and water is key to ecosystems. We must learn to work with nature to find the solutions that make our societies stronger and more resilient.

Thirdly, everyone depends on water and therefore everyone must have a voice in the water discussion. The water community needs to be transparent and inclusive, encouraging new groups to join our ranks.

With so many participants echoing these same sentiments, there is real cause for optimism. More and more people are aware of the importance of water; there is a growing number of organizations making firm commitments to reduce their water footprint; and there are many new innovations to help us use water more sustainably.

What is needed now is collaboration to make sure that these initiatives gain traction. Therefore, I am delighted to see the crucial role World Water Week has come to play as a meeting place. This is where a grassroot activist can easily strike up a conversation with a government official, and a young entrepreneur can discuss her or his latest innovation with a leading scientist.

Many participants have commented that this open atmosphere is something that really sets World Water Week apart from other conferences. It may have something to do with the fact that we tend to attract a younger crowd than many similar events. We also constantly try to encourage more interaction, this year with the new networking sessions that proved hugely popular.

In fact, it is not only the multitude of things that happened in Stockholm in August that make it hard to summarize World Water Week 2018. Just as significant are all the projects and partnerships that will eventually grow out of the Week’s informal meetings.

Many leading water initiatives started rather tentatively with conversations and new acquaintances during earlier World Water Weeks. One such example is the City Water Resilience Framework, which currently brings together Amman, Cape Town, Hull, Mexico City and Miami. The original idea grew out of a meeting between Arup and Rockefeller Foundation during World Water Week.

Most likely, we will soon hear about many new inspiring ideas and partnerships that started with some random notes on a napkin during World Water Week 2018.