Participants gathering from around the world for Amsterdam International Water Week 2019 made progress with their discussions and deliberations on the first full day (Monday 4 November) of this important event in the global water calendar, with high profile keynote speakers to inspire them, and an interactive Integrated Leaders Forum helping to shape the thinking of city, utility and industry representatives.
AIWW 2019 was officially opened in a ceremony in which Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, and leader of the Global Commission on Adaptation, set the tone for the week with a special video message, highlighting in particular the need for action on climate change. “Safeguarding our water for all is a formidable task, but it is also an opportunity to improve our ecosystems, grow our economies, boost agricultural efficiencies, and tackle inequity,” he said.
“Water is core and centre of the climate crisis – fixing the climate crisis means fixing water,” Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs of the Dutch Government told the AIWW Conference. “Business as usual is not enough. Business as usual is lethal, and it is already lethal today.”
“This means moving from non-responsive and reactive investments, to very proactive cases, building with nature,” said Ovink. There are sound business cases for such approaches, he added, but it is crucial that these are communicated, and he called on AIWW participants to address this. “That is definitely something this crowd can help with,” he said.
David Nabarro, former UN special advisor on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, highlighted AIWW’s contribution to progressing the Sustainable Development Goals. “This agenda for sustainable development, the one that is underpinning the discussions this week on integration, is key to every one of us in the world,” said Nabarro. “It is the only plan we have for the future of our planet, and in this, the water community is central: we cannot have well-being and good health for everybody in our world without enabling everybody to access the water they need, to be able to manage extreme shortages of water, as well as excesses.”
City, utility and industry leaders were brought together in an Integrated Leaders Forum featuring dedicated tracks for each segment and integrated sessions. The Resilient City Leaders Forum saw cities around the world, from Houston and Cape Town to Wuhan and Manila, share experiences on issues and approaches such as nature-based and blue-green solutions, community engagement, and drought.
On the Utility Leaders Forum, Roelof Kruize, CEO of Waternet, remarked that utilities around the world have much in common, sharing a need to make transitions connected to water reuse, extremes of weather, digitalisation, and cost recovery.
On the Industry Leaders Forum, Menno Holterman, Chair of the Managing Board of AIWW and CEO of Nijhuis Industries, highlighted that long term solutions need the involvement of all stakeholders, including a multistakeholder approach to supply chains.
AIWW 2019 participants were engaged by a host of leading speakers, including Rich Sorkin, CEO of Jupiter Intelligence, who outlined the opportunities for powerful new climate risk modelling using scalable cloud computing, giving greater accuracy in a way that can integrate into customer work flows.
Mark Gough, CEO of the Capitals Coalition, made the case for moving beyond simply considering financial capital in decision making, instead incorporating other capitals, such as natural capital, as a way of bringing other values into decisions.
Mbulelo Tshangana, Director General of the Department of Human Settlements, South Africa, pointed especially to the importance of collaboration, especially when water is scarce, noting that collaboration is a mark of good leadership.
Other pressing water issues and opportunities to respond these in the areas of integrated water resources management, finance, blue-green solutions, and energy transition and resource recovery, were covered in research and innovation sessions, workshops, and sessions presenting cases and solutions sessions.
Roald Lapperre, Director General at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, summed up the various water challenges, commenting: “The clear conclusion is that it is time to act and to plan ahead.”
Menno Holterman added: “Coming together during events like the AIWW provides a unique opportunity to develop affordable, effective, and bankable solutions to address the impacts of climate change, the rising sea levels, food security, energy transition, and also geopolitical issues related to globalisation, Brexit, cross-border migration, peace and stability.”
Holterman sees that the AIWW format can help in the development of solutions. “We have successfully invested in bringing together city leaders, utility leaders, industry leaders, financiers, talking in an open transparent way on how to solve [water] issues, by first understanding each other better – what are your needs, what is possible, what is not possible – and then to find a collective way, learn from each other, and also speak openly about what is not going well or should be improved. I think that makes this event, and our approach of mix, meet and match, really special.”