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‘World Water Week showed how world can solve water crisis’

The 2021 World Water Week ended on Friday, August 27 with a strong message: we have many solutions to fix the water crisis and tackle climate change, but we need political will and sufficient investments. This is what the conference called on the international community to activate.

2021 World Water Week
Musical guests, Arcadia and Clara, entertaining participants at the opening of the 2021 World Water Week

The world’s leading water event, World Water Week was held from August 23 to 27 against a dramatic backdrop of unprecedented climate-induced disasters in many parts of the world, enhancing the importance of the Week’s theme Building Resilience Faster. But when the Week closed on Friday, it was on a cautiously optimistic note.

The Week’s over 400 sessions, co-created with leading international organisations, demonstrated several solutions to for example water scarcity, the climate crisis and poverty.

The results will now be used locally by the 13,000 participants from 188 countries but also fed into other global processes such as the United Nations’ upcoming High-level events on food and energy and the Climate Summit COP26 in November.

“Events such as the World Water Week, as well as the High-Level Dialogue on Energy and the Food Systems Summit later in September, provide an historic opportunity to shine a light on the much-needed energy, water and food revolution so that we can secure a safer future for all,” said Usha Rao-Monari, Associate Administrator UNDP, in the closing plenary.

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In her view, these transformations are necessary but only possible to achieve through improved management of water.

Cate Lamb, water lead of the UK High-Level Champion ahead of COP26, emphasised the role of water for effective climate action, putting the planet on a path to zero carbon emissions.

“At COP26, we want more countries to prioritise adaptation and translate their risks into resilient water investment,” she said, highlighting the importance of protecting wetlands and forests, reducing energy use, and tackling poor sanitation and waste treatment.

The recipients of the world’s most prestigious water award the Stockholm Water Prize, which was presented by the Swedish King H.M King Carl XVI Gustaf during World Water Week, also stressed the role of water in addressing major global challenges.

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“We don’t have time to solve the water, climate, and biodiversity crisis piecemeal and one at a time,” said the 2021 Laureate Sandra Postel during the award ceremony on August 25.

Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director of the organisers Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), promised that World Water Week 2022 will continue to provide concrete solutions to major global challenges.

“Next year’s World Water Week will have a special focus on valuing water, which I believe holds the key to solving the looming water crisis and tackle climate change. If we continue to underestimate the value of water, we will fail to manage it properly. We will look especially at the invisible water, like groundwater, that we might not be aware of but that is critical to our survival,” he said.

Dr John Cherry, leading groundwater expert and the recipient of Stockholm Water Prize 2020, welcomed the focus on valuing water and especially groundwater. The world is headed for a catastrophic water crisis unless we start taking this water into account, he argued, but emphasised that the problems are possible to solve.

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“Many solutions have been tried out somewhere around the world. At this amazing turning point in human history, we have all the means to solve the big water problems and now it is just a matter of the public learning about them and putting pressure on the politicians,” Dr Cherry said.

Henrika Thomasson, Director of World Water Week at SIWI, described the 2021 event as a resounding success: “We are of course very pleased to have been able to welcome a record number of participants from a record number of countries, offering them more sessions than ever before. But the real measurement of success is the impact we are making, all the solutions discussed at World Water Week that will now be implemented around the world. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of water in building a more resilient future,” Thomasson said.

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