Addressing water challenges: promoting collaboration through science and innovation

Image: Vinoth Chandar

Wilton Park continues to foster multi-sectoral responses to crucial environmental issues, most recently with a four day event on sharing innovation to address water challenges. Collaborating with the British Council and the UK Government’s Science and Innovation Network (SIN), this event brought together experts to discuss innovations that can help communities suffering from water shortages. Whilst the event emerged from increasing collaboration between British and Middle Eastern researchers, participants from several other regions also attended, testament to our unique capacity as a neutral convener.

The key purpose of the event was recognizing science and technology as an essential tool for solving water issues, which was achieved by bringing together both scientists and other actors involved in water innovation. Examples of specific questions broached by participants were financing water innovation, water technologies and partnerships, the technology anthropology interface and innovation and gender. Case studies from the Levant, a region at significant risk of water shortages, but also from elsewhere were used to contextualize the matter and share best practice. Various water related challenges such as municipal wastewater and contaminated groundwater were discussed in detail, facilitating new research partnerships which may ultimately help to manage such challenges more effectively in the future.

This was a timely event, corresponding with the launch of STREAM, a programme funded by the Department for Business, Energy, & Industrial Strategy and the British Council and designed to increase international cooperation on water research between scientists. Nevertheless, decreasing water supplies are anticipated to remain a crucial policy issue in the near and far future, influenced by growing populations, urbanization and climate change. Such concerns go beyond water security – a lack of control of water resources can have a devastating effect on people’s health and livelihoods as well as lead to increased instability and conflict.

Looking forward, we are holding a roundtable dialogue at the end of September on building early warning systems to prevent flooding in the Greater Horn of Africa.

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