Yuanyuan Li, Editorial – March 2023

2023, the Chinese Year of the Rabbit, has got off to a running start. Given all the activities still ahead of us, we should probably take some caution from the Aesop fable about the tortoise and hare, and pace ourselves. Three big events have taken place so far that IWRA was very activity engaged in: IWRA’s Online Conference sponsored by UNESCO on “Emerging Pollutants: Protecting Water Quality for the Health of People and the Environment” in January; the Kick-off Meeting for the Preparatory Process of 10th World Water Forum took place in Jakarta, Indonesia, in February; and the UN 2023 Water Conference took place in New York, U.S.A., in March.

IWRA’s 3rd Online Conference was a huge success thanks to the efforts of the International Scientific Committee (ISC) led by IWRA’s current Past President Gabriel Eckstein, and UNESCO’s Sarantuyaa Zandaryaa, and all the members of the ISC, with support from IWRA’s Executive Office and Board, and from UNESCO personnel. In total, around 1,500 people participated in the conference from over 100 countries. The research presented and discussions held during this 3-day event were fascinating, and timely. With growing awareness of the issues relating to pharmaceuticals as well as microplastics, nanomaterial, PFAs and PPCPs, the sense of urgency for policy makers, scientists, and industry to work together to find safer alternatives to and better wastewater treatment options for these ubiquitous products is getting harder to ignore. We look forward to continuing our work with UNESCO on this important topic, as well as other important partners such as the OECD. The recordings and proceedings of this informative event are now online, and will soon be complemented by the final conference report and a series of policy briefs based on the key findings of the work presented. 

Then, before the dust had settled from the Online Conference, IWRA was involved in the 10th World Water Forum Kick-Off Meeting (also-known-as the 1st Stakeholder Meeting) held in Jakarta. With the Forum itself being held in Bali in May 2024, it is good to see that preparations have formally begun. The event was attended by Callum Clench, IWRA’s Executive Director; Eric Tardieu, IWRA’s Secretary General (and Vice President of the World Water Council); as well as Executive Board Director Guy Fradin and former IWRA President Patrick Lavarde. Under the overarching theme of “Water for Shared Prosperity” there are 6 subthemes: “Water for Humans and Nature” (which links to the theme for IWRA’s XVIII World Water Congress in Beijing this year); “Water Security and Prosperity”; “Disaster Risk Reduction and Management”; “Cooperation and Hydro-diplomacy”; “Water Innovative Finance”; and “Knowledge and Innovation”. As IWRA is an association whose mission is to share knowledge and expertise, IWRA’s Executive Director was asked to lead the ThematicProcess Break-out session for “Knowledge and Innovation”. I congratulate the Indonesian officials and the World Water Council on a very well organised and efficient event.

Last but not least, more than 10 members of the IWRA Executive Board and Office attended the UN 2023 Water Conference that took place in New York over three days at the end of March, in parallel to the New York Water Week. This event, co-hosted by Tajikistan and the Netherlands, was remarkable for a number of reasons. It is the first such UN conference in almost 50 years (the last one took place in 1977 in Mar Del Plata, Argentina). This conference also highlighted the fact that “Water is a dealmaker for the Sustainable Development Goals, and for the health and prosperity of people and planet”, giving recognition to the fact that not enough progress had been made since that first meeting so long ago. The outcomes of this year’s Conference are still being pulled together, but more than 300 billion USD have been pledged, which are expected to result in over 1 trillion USD of socio-economic impacts. IWRA has also added its pledge to the Water Action Agenda: Making water resources research and scientific knowledge more accessible to and usable by practitioners, policymakers and the public at large.” This pledge builds on IWRA’s ongoing activities to work with our membership and partners to develop an approach and methodology to make research and scientific knowledge more accessible to and usable by practitioners, policymakers, and the public at large. So, there is a lot of work ahead of us.

With these major events behind us, it is time to both catch our breath and to look forward. It is important that we ensure a legacy from these efforts by taking the lessons learnt with us to our XVIII World Water Congress in September in Beijing, and then on to the 10th World Water Forum in Bali in 2024, as well as the IWRA Islands Water Congress in the Faroe Islands in September 2024. I certainly hope to see as many of you as possible at these events.