Eighty per cent of the world’s population live in areas threatened by water security yet efforts to resolve this are repeatedly thwarted by pressures such as pollution, extreme weather, urbanisation, over-abstraction of groundwater and land degradation.
Now a major new project has been launched which brings together leading global experts from academia, industry and government to understand the true value of water and address the challenge of water security for all.
Water Security and Sustainable Development
The project is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) – which is a key component in delivering the UK AID strategy and puts UK-led research at the heart of efforts to tackle the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
the new UKRI GCRF Water Security and Sustainable Development Hub is one of 12 hubs being set up to tackle some of the greatest challenges facing today’s society.
“Access to clean water is essential for life and it is the stepping stone to sustainable development because it improves health, supports jobs, and enables food production.” explains Professor Richard Dawson, from the School of Engineering at Newcastle University and academic lead for the new Water Security and Sustainable Development Hub.
“Every year we invest billions of pounds on water infrastructure and yet despite this, eighty per cent of the world’s population live in areas threatened by water security.
“That’s because our focus is typically on the points of contact between water and people – pumps, taps and toilets for example.
“But there’s so much more than that.
“There’s the workforce that is trained to run, repair and maintain the system; there’s the supply chain that provides the equipment and technology to get the water from the land into our pipes; the organisations responsible for regulating water and the environment; and that the banks and funders that support investment in water infrastructure.
“We need to educate and incentivise sustainable use of water, but also manage water risks such as floods and droughts, and reduce pollution of the water supply to protect what we have.
“Most importantly, we need to make some difficult choices. Climate change, a growing population and an increasing demand for water are putting immense pressure on the system. We need to make sure different users are talking to each other, and enable them to reconcile the many demands on available resources.
“Only by understanding all the barriers and challenges will we be able to start addressing the issues of water security.
“If we continue to focus on parts of the water system in isolation, we will never solve this problem.”
70 years of water at Newcastle University
Starting in March, the Newcastle University led GCRF Water Security Hub will run for five years and also brings together leading research partners from Colombia (Universidad del Valle and Universidad del Cauca), Ethiopia (University of Addis Ababa), India (Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, School of Planning and Architecture Delhi), Malaysia (University Teknologi Malaysia), the UK (University of Leeds, University of Oxford), and the International Water Management Institute.
Professor Dawson says the enormity of the problem means we can only solve it if we work together, by bringing researchers together with local communities, local and national governments, water providers, business and industry and global organisations.
“I am delighted about the quality of the partnership which has a truly global presence. The key will be to learn from each other, to share examples of good practice and look at how these can be transferred and translated to ensure water security around the world.
“2019 marks 70 years of water research at Newcastle University, and this new Hub will further build on our expertise.
“With an initial focus on public health our expertise has grown and today we are leading the way in understanding and mitigating the impacts of climate change such as drought and flooding, and developing new solutions for water management and treatment of wastewater.
“The Hub marks a new era in our research programme, as we work with partners around the world to develop and apply interdisciplinary systems approaches to water security, explicitly acknowledging the interplay between the physical world and the people that live in it.”
For more information about UKRI and the GCRF Hubs, visit: www.ukri.org