The 2015 World Water Week, themed Water for Development, officially opened on Monday August 24 in Stockholm with over 3,000 participants from more than 120 countries, representing governments, academia, international organisations, civil society, the corporate sector, and many others.
The role of water for development cannot be overestimated. Water is the foundation for all aspects of human and societal progress. We need it to survive – literally, to quench our thirst, to prepare our food, and maintain our hygiene, but it is also central to economic and social development, sustainable growth, and a prerequisite for healthy ecosystems.
This year, a decision on the Sustainable Development Goals will be followed by a new climate deal at COP21 in France. Water’s role in these processes, and in development, is crucial. With water availability severely altered by climate change, and a growing world population needing more food and demanding more goods and services, time is not on our side.
“From the Horn of Africa, over the Sahel, to São Paulo, California and China, people’s perseverance is being tested. We can no longer take a steady water supply for granted. The many local water crises today combine into a severe global water situation of great concern to all of us,” Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director of Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), told the opening session.
In his opening address, the Prime Minister of Sweden, Stefan Löfven, said: “When the international community is shaping a new sustainable development agenda, water management and allocation must be at its heart. Not only as a separate goal but as an essential vehicle for development and health.”
Painting a very serious picture when talking about climate change and the effect it has on his small island nation, the President of the Marshall Islands, Christopher J. Loeak, said: “We are a country contemplating a future where we are literally being wiped off the map of the world. As the leader of my country I cannot look my people in the eyes and with good conscience say that everything will be ok, when I know the world continues to travel down a very destructive path.” President Loeak underlined the great importance of reaching an ambitious climate agreement during the upcoming COP21 in France.
The Prime Minister of Jordan, Abdulla Ensour, described the extreme pressure his country is under due to the combination of water scarcity and a very large refugee population, and emphasised the importance of regional cooperation over water.
Peru’s Minister of State for Environment and President of the COP20, Manuel Gerardo Pedro Pulgar-Vidal Otálora, echoed the words of several of the speakers and added weight to the argument that water must be made a key player in the climate debate.
During World Water Week, three prizes are awarded, to recognize excellence in the water world. On Sunday, the Stockholm Industry Water Award was awarded to CH2M, a Colorado-based global service and engineering company, for developing and advancing methods to clean water, and increasing public acceptance of recycled water.
On Tuesday, 25 August, the Stockholm Junior Water Prize will be awarded to one national team out of the 29 competing nations by H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden.
On Wednesday 26 August, the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize will be awarded to Rajendra Singh of India, for his innovative water restoration efforts, improving water security in rural India, and for showing extraordinary courage and determination in his quest to improve the living conditions for those most in need. The prize will be awarded to Rajendra Singh by H.M. Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden, during a ceremony in Stockholm City Hall.