It is no longer disputed that the world needs to recognise the value of wastewater, if we are to solve our planet’s water-related challenges. This year’s World Water Week sought to address the waste-water nexus under the overarching theme “Water and Waste: Reduce and Reuse”.
Over six days (27 August–1 September), more than 3,000 water professionals from around the world gathered and connected at the annual focal point for the globe’s water issues. Organised and hosted by the Stockholm International Water Institute, World Water Week takes place at the Swedish capital every year.
Opening one of the first sessions this year, Director Reza Ardakanian of the UNU Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources (UNU-FLORES) set the record straight: if we are to achieve target 6.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — “by 2030 halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally” — we need to start considering using wastewater as a resource for producing food. It follows, then, that we need to ensure its safe use.
This set the basis for discussion in the session “Science Faces Practice: Benefits and Risks of Wastewater Use”, co-convened by UNU-FLORES with partners the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; German Association for Water, Wastewater and Waste; and Technische Universität Dresden. Over 60 participants from various backgrounds — including government, development aid agencies, and private companies — spent their Sunday morning tuning in to presentations from both water scientists and practitioners, and actively participating in roundtable discussions. Central to the discussions on wastewater use was the issue of capacity development and how it should be financed.
In the second session, UNU-FLORES joined the UNU Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH), the International Water Management Institute, and the Turkish Water Institute at the event “Journey to a World Free of Untreated Wastewater”. Young professionals had a chance to share their insights as well as ask questions to wastewater leaders on approaches to safe water reuse.
Besides convening the aforementioned sessions, UNU-FLORES and UNU-INWEH also represented UNU at the World Water Week Exhibition. As water is a research focus for many institutes across UNU, the booth showcased the institutes’ various water-related projects and publications. This year, UNU institutes also ran an agency-wide digital media campaign under the slogan #UNU4Water. The campaign page features a selection of work on water across all institutes.
For more information, see the news story on the UNU-FLORES website.