Water experts mobilize in Toronto to discuss water security

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

There are 700 million people in 43 countries currently suffering from water scarcity. By 2025, 1.8 billion people are expected to be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity.

On June 17-20, Water Institute members and water experts from around the world are gathering in Toronto to discuss issues of water security at the First International Conference on Water Security.

“Water security is the greatest challenge facing our planet today,” said Water Institute member Philippe Van Cappellen, conference chair and professor in Waterloo’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. “We urgently need new platforms and tools to move scientific knowledge and data into solutions that mitigate the impacts of human activities on the availability and quality of freshwater resources.”

water tap
Three Water Institute members will be delivering keynotes that address water security from different perspectives in order to understand, address and plan for water security challenges. Interdisciplinary approaches are critical to collectively understand climate and environment-driven hazards, as well as socio-economic determinants, such as the cultural and political context in which we live, work and play.

“Water security is a balancing act,” said Water Institute member Rob de Loë, professor in Waterloo’s School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability. “In a time of increasing variability, competition and uncertainty, we need effective ways to meet human and environmental water needs. Good science is necessary, but not sufficient. Water security can only exist where governance systems are strong and effective.”

The central goal of the conference is to advance the science needed to make informed decisions about water allocations now and in the future. The conference will provide a forum for face-to-face dialogue designed to promote further scientific discussion. Water Institute member Susan Elliott will be moderating one of the workshops about the global water crisis, with particular focus on water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH).

African children getting water

“A sustainable supply of clean water is fundamental for agriculture and food security, the environment, and maternal and child health,” said Susan Elliott, professor in Waterloo’s Department of Geography and Environmental Management. “Climate change has severe impacts on water supply and sanitation due to increasing levels of severity of droughts and increasing flood risks. This threatens the health of communities and the sustainability of livelihoods in low and middle-income countries and has particularly acute impacts for women and girls.”

Water security is emerging as a primary sustainability challenge across the globe, and has implications for food, energy, economy, environment and public health. During the conference, technologies and innovative financing and governance systems are being discussed to address this complex problem.

Roy Brouwer, executive director of the Water Institute and professor in Waterloo’s Department of Economics, will share his expertise in water resource economics – in particular, water resource valuation, hydro-economic modelling and water policy instruments – when he delivers, “Economic Modelling and Valuation of Water Security” on June 20 at the conference.

For more information visit the conference website.