Quantitative assessment of water security in sight

KWR hosts the European workshop on the Quantitative Assessment of Water Security

The workshop Quantitative Assessment of Water Security took place at KWR on 29 January. The meeting with twenty guests from different European countries was organised to learn more about whether water security can be assessed quantitatively using indicators. There were lectures, followed by a panel discussion and an interactive session. On the basis of the results of the workshop, the Working Group on Water Security will produce a white paper in the coming months to clearly identify important questions relating to this theme.

Pro-active search for bottlenecks

During the workshop, twenty guests from a variety of European countries spoke at KWR about the question of whether water security can be measured. Water security is a complex concept that eludes a simple definition. For example, it relates to the availability of water for various applications such as drinking water and sanitation, but also agriculture and industry. It also includes issues relating to the safety and protection of people, buildings and property in the event of floods and other water-related disasters, as well as ecosystems and biodiversity. And all this in a socio-economic and broader social context.

The workshop was organised to see whether water security can be assessed quantitatively with indicators. If it can, it will be possible to identify bottlenecks pro-actively and start making improvements. At present, that is not possible because of the complexity involved.

KWR-onderzoeker Jan Hofman, medeorganisator van de workshop

KWR researcher Jan Hofman, co-organiser of the workshop

Varied programme

The workshop was organised by the Water Security Working Group of Water Europe led by Jan Hofman (University of Bath, KWR) and Blanca Antizar (Isle Utilities). There was a varied programme. The day consisted of a series of lectures, a panel discussion and an interactive session in which group discussions were organised about the development of indicators for assessing water security with the focus on different themes: water availability, water-related disasters, ecosystems and socio-economic factors.

Six international guest speakers

There were six international guest speakers, all with affiliations to leading organisations in the field of water security. An economic view of the subject was sketched by Gonzalo Delacámara, an economist with the Madrid institute IMDEA, the leader of the ‘Value of Water’ cluster of Water Europe and a member of the KWR Scientific Advisory Council. KWR researcher Kees van Leeuwen highlighted the importance of assessment systems based on the City Blueprint Approach that he developed and the recently developed SDG6 assessment system.

Oriana Romano, Head of the Water Governance and Circular Economy unit of the OECD, spoke about the importance of good governance to achieve Water Security. Water problems are often caused by shortcomings in administrative procedures. The framework developed by the OECD to analyse and develop Water Governance is an important tool for further improvement.

The fourth lecture was given by Guiseppe Arduino and Maud Berthelot of UNESCO. They presented the 8th UNESCO Intergovernmental Hydrology Programme, which focuses on water security on the local, regional and global scales. They also discussed the KWR and UNESCO project that is assessing six cities in Africa with the City Blueprint.

Finally, Hans Stielstra, the Deputy Director of the Water Unit at the European Commission (DG-Environment) provided an overview of the contribution that European directives make to establishing water security on a European scale. Broadly speaking, European regulations result in good water security. In the process of improving sustainability, water is an important factor in the new European Green Deal supported by the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan.

Panel discussion

In the panel discussion led by Blanca Antizar, it emerged that there are already several initiatives in place to assess water security. The panel felt it was important to look at how these assessments are carried out and possibly to work with them. There was also a discussion about how an assessment system should be used in practice. The objectives of water security are often defined from a political perspective, as in the case of Sustainable Development Goals. However, concrete actions to achieve goals, test results or collect the necessary information for this purpose are generally not in place.

De paneldiscussie onderstreepte onder meer de complexiteit van waterveiligheid

The panel discussion emphasised, among other things, how complex water security is

Calls for research

The workshop concluded with an overview of the European opportunities for funding research and innovation in the field of water security from Avelino Gonzalez-Gonzalez (EC, DG-RTD). He also listed the calls that are still open in Horizon 2020, the new arrangement for Horizon Europe. A new H2020 call was also discussed for implementing aspects of the Green Deal.

White paper

On the basis of the results of the workshop, the Working Group on Water Security will produce a white paper in the coming months to clearly identify important questions relating to this theme. What initiatives are there to assess water security? How can these be used to provide a direction for Water Governance and to improve a pro-active approach to water security? In which area is more knowledge and research needed?

Answers to these questions are important to establish a ‘Water-Smart Society’ and to shape the positioning of the water sector in Europe around the activities of the Green Deal. In addition, the development of water security is of global importance. The water crisis and a number of other water-related risks such as the biodiversity crisis and climate change have been included for a number of years in the top five of risks identified by the World Economic Forum. This makes water security an extraordinarily urgent and important challenge.

Uitwisseling van ervaringen en ideeën tijdens de interactieve middagsessie

Exchange of experiences and ideas during the interactive afternoon session