IWA provides input to UN-Habitat’s support of water operator partnerships

As a member of UN-Habitat’s Global Water Operators’ Partnerships Alliance (GWOPA), the International Water Association (IWA) actively participated at the 5th Global WOPs Congress. This was convened in Bonn, Germany by UN-Habitat on 22-25 May 2023, with IWA providing input as part of its expanding activity focused on utilities.

IWA Executive Director Kala Vairavamoorthy delivered a keynote speech to frame the event, which was convened around the theme of ‘Resilience in challenging times: mobilizing collaboration for future-ready water and sanitation service providers’.

Kala explored some of the key skills and perspectives that water operators will need to thrive in the future water landscape. These spanned: the productive use of water, built on integrated urban water and sanitation management; the opportunities around resource recovery – supported by innovations in both technology and business models; and the move to greater use of distributed systems. All three of these areas will be enabled through the opportunities presented by digital technologies.

IWA also took part in multiple sessions, which provided opportunities to share progress in particular with the flagship Inclusive Urban Sanitation and Climate Smart Utilities initiatives.

A session focused on utilities’ role in mitigating climate change included showcasing of several of the notable examples engaged with IWA’s Climate Smart Utilities initiative. Kala contributed to the panel discussion in this session. Emphasising the urgency of monitoring and addressing fugitive emissions, particularly in wastewater systems, he highlighted IWA’s support of research and implementation of improved monitoring techniques and guidelines to better account for emissions in the water sector.

The presentations delivered by some Climate Smart Utilities during the session focused on the need for better collaboration. The speakers underscored the importance of breaking down silos and promoting knowledge sharing to collectively address the common challenges faced by utilities worldwide. To facilitate collaboration, IWA has established a Community of Practice (CoP) that enables members to share valuable lessons learned and best practices. Additionally, the CoP platform focuses on understanding how global uncertainties stemming from climate change, population growth, urbanisation, and other factors impact utilities, allowing them to develop adaptive systems capable of meeting future demands. By fostering collaboration and leveraging collective expertise, IWA is actively driving effective solutions to improve services in the face of a changing climate.

The 5th Global WOPs Congress served as an important platform for stakeholders from around the world to exchange knowledge, share experiences, and collaborate on innovative approaches to water and sanitation challenges. Building upon the success of this event, IWA looks forward to sharing more insights with you at the upcoming IWA Water and Development Congress & Exhibition on 10-14 December 2023 in Kigali, Rwanda. This key event in the water sector calendar promises to showcase solutions for water, sanitation, and climate resilience for a water-wise future.