From Solutions to Implementation

Climate change represents one of the many challenges we face today, its disruptive influence on water management is perceived to be one of the many critical risks facing our world: a risk of high likelihood and high impact on human wellbeing, ecosystems and economies.

Extreme weather events, such as droughts and floods, will increase in both severity and frequency, while water scarcity will become far more widespread and affect millions of people globally. Growing population, increasing urbanisation, changing land usage and economic development all amplify the impact of climate change; how we manage this will determine the future sustainability of our planet and its resources.

As the world’s population continues to urbanise, climate change will continue to influence the urban environment in which we live. This is not a new phenomenon, but the urgency of the situation is. We know that with research and technology development we can continue to improve our understanding of the impacts of climate change on urban environments. However, we need to move away from just developing solutions and push for their implementation. Understanding what this means for cities will be central to creating the sustainable cities of the future; cities that are adaptive and resilient.

In Europe, about 75% of the population lives in urban areas; a figure that is likely to increase in the coming years. This means a growing demand for water and sanitation provisions. New solutions, ones that can be effectively – cost effective, carbon and energy efficient, etc. – implemented in cities, will be required to deal with the new paradigm.

IWA and its partners have already shown that this is possible. The European Union funded PREPARED project, aimed at enabling the water sector to better adapt and cope with climate change, highlighted that the water supply and sanitation systems of cities and their catchment areas can adapt and be resilient to the challenges of climate change.

Placing real and existing needs at the centre of the PREPARED project meant innovative solutions were not only developed, but also implemented by water utilities. By championing advanced strategies to meet the water sanitation challenges brought about by climate change, it allowed utilities to plan for future needs.

The 7th World Water Forum 2015 champions the need to transition from solutions to implementation. As the core value of this year’s forum and drawing from solutions identified in the previous event, implementation will be materialized through the ‘implementation roadmaps’ so as to catalyse collective action and positive change. It will help facilitate the needed shift from solutions to implementation; bridging the platform of science and technology to water issues and contributing to the SDGs.

The forum will show that identifying solutions is only one part of the equation, and a solution is only as good as its implementation. We must move towards a situation where implementation becomes as critical as finding solutions. We need to focus more on how this can be done: how we can get the right resources to the right people at the right time to ensure that solutions are implemented and are successful. How we can combine the science and technology with policies and systems to contribute towards more concrete and integrated roadmaps for implementation.

The International Water and Climate Forum comes at a good time to continue the discussion around water supply and sanitation in the context of climate change. To support the transition from solutions to implementation, this gathering will connect water researcher and technology with high profile water utility managers and CEOs. These water leaders are well positioned to influence implementation of the many solutions at our disposal today, and to demonstrate how this can be achieved.

Personally, this is an exciting process to be involved in. The outcomes of the International Forum can provide significant synergistic opportunities that utilities and other sector leaders can adopt to improve preparedness for the impacts that urban environments will experience due to climate change. These can act as inspiration for the application of solutions in other areas. The solutions are there, but how these are implemented is important: the synergies are strong but priorities across sectors vary. I think this is both the challenge and the opportunity, and this is where we should be in the water sector.