Incubating an innovative mindset for sustainable water use in cities, industry and agriculture

Top international and local leaders will meet this week in Guayaquil, Ecuador to build consensual actions to address some of the most critical issues confronting the planet today.
En Español

Guayaquil, Ecuador, 28 September 2019 – The IWA-IDB Innovation Conference on Sustainable Use of Water: Cities, Industry and Agriculture (30 September – 2 October) features a wide range of innovations and strategies to improve sustainable use of water across cities, industry and agriculture – from insightful explanations to critical present issues such as the fires ravaging the Amazon rainforest to future thinking regarding the use of new digital technologies that can enhance watershed awareness and environmental protection such as technology-augmented river basins.

The IWA-IDB Innovation Conference on Sustainable Use of Water: Cities, Industry and Agriculture is the first multidisciplinary event bringing together water and sanitation professionals, industry, farmers, policy-makers, regulators, financial institutions, indigenous peoples, environmental and cultural associations, consultants and technology vendors to stimulate pathways for action to radically transform the way we, collectively, use water.


Water as a unitary resource

Water underpins every aspect of life in this planet – from the food we eat to the clothes we wear to the businesses we create and to the ecosystems that sustain us. Water is as much of a connector between human activities as it is a reflection of our interdependences. Dams built in one country reduce river flows to downstream countries for years afterwards, affecting hydroelectric and irrigation capacity. When a city overexploits groundwater, it contributes to land subsidence that results in an increase of flood hazards.

When industry contaminates surface water, it can pollute groundwater supplies as well. If farmers overexploit groundwater supplies to critical levels, serious global food shortages or spikes in price could ensue. And every time it rains, fertilizers, pesticides and animal waste from farms and livestock operations wash nutrients and pathogens into our waterways.

“Water is not only inside us, but one of our most powerful interconnections with other human beings and the environment, says Cheryl Davis, Chair of IWA’s Specialist Group on Sustainability in the Water Sector. “How much water we use and how we use it—whether in cities or rural areas, for agriculture, or for industry—affects how much water is available to others, and whether that water will help them or harm them. Because our current patterns of water use are putting us and future generations at risk, we have a shared responsibility to be innovative now.”

The conference aims at stirring discussions and practical tactics to increase incentives for sustainable water use across the largest water consuming sectors, while devising strategies to minimize barriers that currently impede progress in advancing towards a cyclical model of consumption and the frugal innovation concept of doing more with less.

“The effects of climate change, with increasingly severe and frequent floods in some areas and with prolonged droughts in some others, are impacting our economy and our population. We need to incorporate effective innovative solutions that address the needs of the population first, if we want to secure sustainable drinking water and adequate sludge management for our citizens”, said Sergio Campos, Chief of the Water and Sanitation Division at the Inter-American Development Bank.

“The main objective of this conference is to initiate a learning environment for water professionals, by connecting local and global experts from education, research, private sector and government”, says Peter Goethals, Professor at the University of Ghent. “We can learn from the diverse cultures and available expertise, and therefore a key element of the conference is also to setup a sustainable network of water professionals via a national IWA chapter and Young Water Professionals group.”

The Sustainable Development Goals call for innovation in the way policies, technologies, practices, finances and partnerships should pull together to achieve solutions to the many interdependent and cross-cutting challenges facing humanity.

The IWA-IDB Innovation Conference on Sustainable Use of Water: Cities, Industry and Agriculture features a wide range of experts from all areas of the water and sustainability sectors. Thought leaders speaking at the Congress include:


  • Dave Archambault, Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies
  • Sergio Campos, Water and Sanitation Division chief at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)
  • Cheryl Davis, IWA Specialist Group on Sustainability in the Water Sector
  • Peter Goethals, Professor in Applied Water Ecology and Sustainable Water Management at Ghent University
  • Paula Kehoe, Director of Water Resources with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission
  • Oliver Maennicke, IWA Specialist Group on Sustainability in the Water Sector
  • Juan Pablo Mariluz Silva, Autoridad Nacional del Agua
  • Alexis Morgan, Global Water Stewardship Lead, WWF
  • Jason Morrison, Pacific Institute & CEO Water Mandate
  • Sudhir Murthy, IWA Senior Vice-President and Chief for DC Water
  • Cecilia A. Paredes, President of ESPOL
  • Will Sarni, Founder and CEO Water Foundry


The conference is organised by the International Water Association (IWA) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) under the coordination of the IWA Sustainability in the Water Sector Specialist Group, and with the collaboration of Ghent University, Escuela Superior Politecnica del Litoral (Espol), Asociación Latinoamericana de Desalación y Reuso de Agua (Aladyr), Vlir Network Ecuador, Cemdes, SGS, Isle Utilities, and the municipality of Guayaquil.



For more information, to attend as media or to request interviews please contact:

Marta Jimenez (IWA) Tel +31 631 93 40 81,

Julio Marenco (IDB) Tel +1 (202) 425-9183,


For more on speakers and the full programme for the conference please visit:


About the International Water Association

The International Water Association (IWA) is an open, yet ordered platform in which both innovators and adopters of new technologies and approaches can generate creative friction. It is a place for diffusion, benchmarking and evidence. IWA programmes develop research and projects focused on solutions for water and wastewater management; we organise world-class events that bring the latest science, technology and best practice to the water sector at large; we work to place water on the global political agenda and to influence best practice in regulation and policy making; and we do this via the IWA’s global membership. IWA members are situated in 130 countries worldwide, forming the largest international network of water professionals working towards a water wise world.


About the Inter-American Development Bank

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is devoted to improving lives. Established in 1959, the IDB is a leading source of long-term financing for economic, social and institutional development in Latin America and the Caribbean. The IDB also conducts cutting-edge research and provides policy advice, technical assistance and training to public and private sector clients throughout the region. The IDB’s Water and Sanitation Division seeks to accelerate the introduction of innovative solutions in the water and sanitation sector to generate reliable and inclusive services that in turn contribute to improving sustainable management and the use of these services for all.



 The Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral (ESPOL) is a Higher Education Institution in Ecuador with a strong focus on engineering education and research. Located in coastal Ecuador, is one of the top universities in the country, ranked among 200th in Latin America. With a strong dedication to provide high level training to professionals as well as lead the technological development and innovation needed in coastal Ecuador, ESPOL currently aims to closely work with the community to improve livelihood and promote the sustainable development in the region.