MANAGING WATER SCARCITY IN RIVER BASINS: INNOVATION AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
The conference gathered together scientists and practitioners to inform, exchange and raise awareness about the latest knowledge and innovations in areas most affected by water scarcity. More than 280 participants attended the conference from about 30 countries including Europe, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and West Asia. The conference was conducted in 14 sessions, including 4 plenary sessions, 9 technical sessions and 1 side event. About 60 oral communications and 34 posters were presented covering mostly all issues related to water management.
The conference raised the critical situation of water scarcity in several regions in the world and the need for more collaboration and coordination between all water sector stakeholders including governmental entities, private sector, users, managers, politicians and NGOs. The conference stressed the importance of exchanging experiences and lessons especially between the North and the South for better management and highlighted the European and national Southern Mediterranean strategies on water. Most of communications recommended the potential of water reuse from municipal wastewater treatment, the use of brackish water, seawater desalination, water efficiency and reuse in agriculture and discussed decentralized solutions for sustainable development.
There was also a great interest to consider the Water, Food and Energy Nexus and integrated water resources management to achieve the sustainable use of this precious substance. Biosaline Agriculture and the use of unconventional water resources along with efficient technology of irrigation seems to be key solutions to save more freshwater and produce more food (More crop per drop).
The conference showed also water strategies from several European countries, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), North Africa and Near East under the context of water scarcity, highlighting the main challenges facing the sustainability of the water sector (e.g. climate change, pollution, overuse). The introduction of alternative crops in areas suffering from water scarcity and salinity problems attracted the participants attention thanks to their nutritional and agronomic importance and their positive impacts to improve poor farmers’ income.
One of the big challenges faced by the water sector is climate change. Several presentations showed the dramatic situation that will happen under the worst scenarios. Therefore, adaptation and mitigation measures need to be urgently implemented to save water resources and produce enough food for future generations.
Agriculture, which consumes already more than 85% of available fresh water resources, will face strong challenges in keeping the same water allocation while sustaining food security and rural economy. Countries in the region need to plan strategically their water resources allocation, review their water, food security and energy strategies to ensure that they are aligned with the imperatives of: (i) setting the sustainable limits of water consumption and (ii) making the best use of each single drop of water.
Finally, regional collaborative initiative and platforms as FAO WASAG: The Global Framework on Water Scarcity in Agriculture are very recommended to exchange experiences among water actors and sharing knowledge on innovative technologies to increase water use efficiency and water productivity.
Capacity building is an important tool to disseminate generated knowledge about water management and use. Thus, more efforts are needed to integrate innovative solutions within training programmes.
Book of abstracts available here.