UNU Organises World Water Week Session on Information & Knowledge Tools to Support Nature-Based Solutions

  • 2018•09•18     Stockholm

    The message at the opening of World Water Week 2018 (26–31 August) was loud and clear: we urgently need more Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) to avoid a global water crisis. This will requires joint action that is empowered by data, information, and knowledge on NBS.

    One session at the week-long gathering of water experts, world leaders, and civil society representatives in Stockholm focused on “Using Information Tools on Multifunctional Nature-Based Solutions to Achieve SDGs“. This session, which explored how modern, easy-to-use information and communication tools can be optimised to increase the use of multifunctional NBS, was jointly organised by UNU-FLORES, UNU-INWEH, the Global Water Operators’ Partnerships Alliance at UN-Habitat, the Bremen Overseas Research and Development Association, and IRIDRA.

    Panellists from various backgrounds discussed the opportunities and challenges associated with using wetlands as nature-based solutions, with a focus on the design and use of information and knowledge tools to facilitate implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and their targets.

    CWetlands and mWater are two tools that try to fill the void in global-level data collection on nature-based solutions for (waste)water management. These tools can evolve to build a community of practice beyond scientists and engineers to inform government and financing mechanisms.

    Participants highlighted the need for promoting an inclusive approach of both nature-based and decentralised solutions to overcome the challenges in rapidly urbanising areas. The success of using constructed wetlands within the headquarters of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. which allowed freshwater use to be cut by 60%, was noted.

    Session participants agreed that wastewater stream separation, onsite treatment, and building internal reuse should become a standard for all new housing projects worldwide to help achieve SDGs. Defining management requirements for protection of public health and understanding equity issues when deciding on centralised versus decentralised systems are critical.

    Nature-based solutions are, in principle, well suited for decentralised treatment of water with various degrees of pollution. Information tools can help delineate benchmarks for participatory or community-led planning, design, operation, and maintenance under varying local conditions. These tools can further collate information on the ecosystem services that NBS provide.

    World Water Week, organised annually by SIWI Stockholm International Water Institute, was attended by a record 3,700 participants. Besides convening the above session, UNU-FLORES and UNU-INWEH represented the United Nations University (UNU) in the World Water Week Exhibition.