Delivering a Sustainable and Equitable Water Future for All is what Connects Stockholm to Lisbon

My colleague, Ganesh, went to his first Stockholm World Water Week in 1992. He worked for a small NGO and stayed in a tent. Every morning he set his alarm, got dressed, got out of the tent in his suit, locked the tent and made his way over to the conference centre, which was in the middle of Stockholm in an old school building. These days the event is held in a sleek conference centre reached by commuter train, but the melee of water discussions, networking and socializing remains the same.

How does Stockholm’s World Water Week compliment the IWA World Water Congress, this year held in Lisbon? World Water Week has a strong focus on policy, stakeholder engagement and alignment with the UN objectives. WWC showcases the practice and cutting edge technical innovations, while linking to the policy discussion in Stockholm. The overlap is where policy, science and practice all interlink. As we lead up to the World Water Congress in Lisbon, the knowledge and connections made in Stockholm are a leverage point to highlight some of the workshops, forums and technical sessions at the Congress.

This year, World Water Week focused on water and energy. Water and energy, one of the great sustainability challenges and opportunities of the next decade, are inextricably linked and interdependent. We need water for energy (cooling, storage, biofuels, hydropower etc.), and energy for water (to pump, treat and desalinate). In order to sustain these resources, there needs to be close cooperation between sectors.

During World Water Week, IUCN and IWA convened a seminar on Energy Investments and Infrastructure Providing Benefits Across the Nexus, which explored the drivers for energy investments and policies in water infrastructure development and management. The session highlighted how we need to look at investments from an energy perspective in order to have influence on how investment decisions are made. Although there is always a push towards an integrated approach, the strength actually lies in the silos, and we need to use them more effectively to build a systemic response to the challenges ahead. This means bringing together sectors to consolidate investments, address key challenges, learn lessons on new processes and technologies, and then apply them to future contexts.

Building on the outputs of World Water Week, a Nexus workshop is being held at the World Water Congress with a focus on application of clean technology (or cleantech) across water infrastructure systems that support the water, energy and food sectors. For example, cleantech for agriculture can mean precision irrigation, pump efficient solutions, use of treated wastewater for irrigation and wetland management to reduce impacts from agricultural runoff. Technology from one sector can be used to benefit another.

The dialogues from both Stockholm and Lisbon will help shape and develop both the IWA Basins of the Future Programme ( and the Nexus Dialogue on Water Infrastructure Solutions (

These discussions come at a critical time. As the water sector meets in Lisbon, discussions will take place at the UN General Assembly in New York that will shape the sustainability agenda for the next decade. The Sustainable Development Goals will be the global community’s commitment to delivering a more sustainable future. Water will be at the heart of that future and the lessons from Stockholm and Lisbon must be heard in New York.

The trick is turning talk to action – which is where IWA members and partners play a key role. Only with a fully engaged water sector can we move the melee of discussions to practice and deliver a sustainable and equitable water future for all.

Katharine Cross

Strategy and Partnerships Lead, Australian Water Partnership
Katharine has extensive experience in the water sector from global to local scale with a focus on climate resilience and adaptation, nature-based solutions, water-energy-food nexus,  water governance and the digitalisation of the water sector. She h... Read full biography