Yuanyuan Li, IWRA President, Editorial (September 2022)

2022 has been a record-breaking year–for all the wrong reasons.  We have seen the devastation of the unprecedented monsoon floods in Pakistan in recent weeks, where more than 1,500 people have died so far, and 33 million people in total have been affected.  But the impacts of climate change are not just there–even wealthy parts of the world are suffering.

Europe, for example, has experienced what is thought to be its worst drought in 500 years, and the hottest summer on record with many rivers drying up to such an extent that boat navigation is no longer possible. Nuclear power stations have had to reduce output as they can no longer be cooled by river water. 2022 has also seen the worst CO2 emission rates in Europe in 15 years, occurring from forest fires.  Now that the rains are starting to come again, Europe is also starting to see severe flooding in many parts of the continent as the ground is too hard to absorb the water (e.g. Portugal, Italy, Spain, Bulgaria, etc.).

Similar stories of extreme drought, raging fires, storms, and floods are coming from all over the world.  An unusual triple La Niña[1] is driving many of the weather extremes being seen around the world, making worse the impacts of anthropogenic climate change. The impacts are felt globally.  For example, La Niña appears to be intensifying the devastating drought in the Horn of Africa, affecting millions of people.  It is expected to result in a fifth consecutive failed rainy season, with Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia already going through their worst drought in 40 years.

Ensuring water resource management is more important than ever. It is integral to the discussions of climate change (and is related to both adaptation and mitigation, as the sector examines its own emissions).  IWRA will again be present at Climate COP this year in Sharm El-Sheik in November to discuss this issue along with many of our partners in the water sector.  Our work does not end there.

We are now only 12 months from the XVIII World Water Congress in Beijing, the theme for which will be, “Water for All: Harmony between Humans and Nature”.  Climate change arches over the various sub-themes: Water-Human-Economy-Ecology Nexus under a Changing Environment; Promoting Water Efficiency, Productivity and Services; Building Resilience for Disaster Prevention and Mitigation; Supporting Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Functions; Establishing Sustainable Water Infrastructures; and Innovation for Water Governance and Management.

[1] Part of the oscillation of the sea surface temperature across the eastern equatorial part of the central Pacific Ocean

The call for abstracts and special session proposals is now open, and I invite you all to prepare your submission now.

However, our focus is not only on water and climate change.  We are also looking at issues of water quality. Our IWRA Online Conference with UNESCO on “Emerging Pollutants: Protecting Water Quality for the Health of People and the Environment” takes place from 17-19 January 2023, and the call for abstracts for this free event is also open.  This event is sure to be interesting, especially due to its increasing focus on new contaminants entering water bodies.  Examples include pharmaceuticals, industrial and household chemicals, personal care products, metals, surfactants, industrial additives and solvents, pesticides, manufactured nanomaterials, and also their transformation products. Many of these substances are used and released continuously into the environment even in very low quantities. Some can cause chronic toxicity, endocrine disruption in humans and aquatic wildlife, as well as the development of bacterial pathogen resistance.

We are looking forward to participating in the UN 2023 Water Conference, set to take place in New York from 22-24 March. This will be a Midterm Comprehensive Review of the Implementation of the Objectives of the International Decade for Action on Water. We look forward to reporting back to our members about event, as well as about preparatory meetings, such as the one recently held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and the upcoming one in New York in October.  If you are planning to attend these meetings, be sure to get in touch with our Executive Office so that we can find a way to combine our voices at this important event.

I wish to end this editorial by bringing our thoughts back to the millions of individuals who are suffering now due to a combination of floods, drought, and poor water quality, as well as those who lack access to decent sanitation measures.  

We are a global community and the only way we will overcome these issues is by working together.  IWRA will continue to do its part by being one of the leading vehicles for sharing knowledge and expertise on water resource management.  Your membership helps us achieve this mission.  Thank you for your support.