Leading figures in the global water community are gathered in Copenhagen, Denmark this week at the International Water Association’s World Water Congress & Exhibition. This event has brought together more than 3,500 influential participants to share insights, network, and do business — including our content director, Corinne Lynds, who is a member of the Canadian coalition.

The world faces multiple challenges relating to water. These include the need for urgent action on adaptation and mitigation measures in response to climate change. The importance of this theme was highlighted by the inspirational presentation given during the opening of the Congress by Professor Jason Box, a prominent scientist researching the Greenland icesheet. The challenges also include the need for far greater action if the world is to meet the global aims set out in the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), of securing water and sanitation for all by 2030.

The IWA Congress & Exhibition takes place every few years in different countries around the world. They provide an opportunity to focus on topical issues and new trends, and they reflect the strengths of the host location. The 2022 edition is framed around the theme of “Water for Smart Liveable Cities.” It is featuring inspirational stories from Denmark and from the wider Nordic region, as well as from around the world.

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As the leading global network of water sector professionals, IWA’s World Water Congress & Exhibition brings together a diverse mix of actors who can all contribute to water solutions. Five days of critical discussions are now underway.

Corinne Lynds, content director of Actual Media, Environment Journal and Water Canada magazine’s parent company) is a proud member of the Canadian Coalition attending the International Water Association’s World Water Congress & Exhibition.

Thousands of experts, innovators, companies, regulators, government representatives, and others, have come together to learn about the latest global trends, emerging technologies, and developments in pioneering science all connected to water and wastewater management. Image credit: IWA.

Features of the coming week include a High-Level Summit, forums on utility management, groundwater, and industrial water, and the launch of further programmes and initiatives, all alongside a comprehensive offering of technical papers, workshops, poster presentations, business forums and exhibits.

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Kala Vairavamoorthy, the executive director of the International Water Association, speaks at the opening address. Image credit: IWA.

IWA Executive Director Kala Vairavamoorthy commented: “The week in Copenhagen got under way with a fantastic Opening Ceremony featuring eminent scientist Professor Jason Box. This has set the stage for what is the largest edition of our Congress to date. Themes such as the circular economy and resource recovery, emerging technologies for sanitation and non-sewered systems, digitalisation, and the opportunities for climate-smart utilities, mean what we are discussing is hugely relevant to the water challenges of today and tomorrow.”

Anders Bækgaard (DANVA), Congress President, added: “What particularly characterises this edition of the Congress is the close-knit collaboration between the Nordic countries, an innovative region that is a true advocate of sustainable living. Additionally, it is a great pleasure for me to announce that in the 2022 Congress, special attention has been placed on young water professionals and students.”

The exhibit area features hundreds of companies from the water-consuming industry, agriculture, architects and urban planners, hydrologists and soil and groundwater experts, social sciences, ICT-sector, the financial sector, among others. Image credit: IWA.

The Congress is the occasion at which IWA reveals the winners of its prestigious awards programme. The outstanding winners announced during the opening ceremony were:

  • Global Water Award: Nisha Mandani, Our Aim Foundation, USA
  • Gender Diversity and Water Award: Annabell Waititu, Big Five Africa, Kenya
  • Young Leadership Award: Céline Vaneeckhaute, Université Laval, Canada
  • Water & Development Award for Research: Professor Damir Brdjanovic, IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, the Netherlands
  • Water & Development Award for Practice: Africa Sand Dam Foundation, Kenya

Céline Vaneeckhaute, Université Laval, Canada, winner of the Young Leadership Award.

Other important announcements made during the opening ceremony included two relating to young water professionals: the creation of an endowment fund for young water leaders, supported by founding donors Patty and Glen Daigger; and the announcement of funding for young water professionals to participate in next year’s meeting review progress of the UN SDGs, supported by Grundfos.

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High level summit

The High-Level Summit, connecting leading figures from the water sector with government and city politicians from Copenhagen (Denmark), Freetown (Sierra Leone) and Tshwane (South Africa) was presented around the theme of water as a key to action on climate and the SDGs.

The Summit was organised by the IWA, the Danish Water and Wastewater Association (DANVA), the Municipality of Copenhagen, P4G and the Confederation of Danish Industry, in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment of Denmark and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.

As the leading global water sector membership organisation, IWA’s Congresses bring together water sector representatives and showcase excellence in research and practice. The 2022 edition is the largest IWA Congress to date. This year it also featured a High-Level Summit for the first time, adding a political dimension that covered three topics: finance, governance, and partnerships. These are crucial elements in addressing water challenges and delivering change on the ground to improve lives and protect the environment.

The Summit, whose delivery was led by DANVA, was held in the context of the overall theme of the Congress.

“Cities are ideally placed to contribute much-needed action both on the climate change agenda beyond COP26 and on implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The IWA Summit has provided an ideal opportunity to focus on water in advance of COP27, and of the March 2023 UN review of the Water Action Decade”, said Tom Mollenkopf, president of IWA.

The Summit included Ministerial contributions from India and South Africa, and contributions from cities. Joakim Harlin, Director of the Freshwater Ecosystems Unit, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), set the tone for the Summit with a call to action. “We cannot afford to wait. The time to act is now. Policymakers must put water at the heart of action plans, and everyone has a role to play. Business as usual is not an option if we are to achieve the SDGs and climate targets. We have an opportunity to start here and now, today!”

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“The water sector has a lot to offer to meet the global climate and sustainability goals. We have learned today that we need to work together not only in partnerships, but in transformative partnerships based on trust and transparency. This must be supported by governments and municipalities. The presence of the policy and decision-makers today contributed to building a common sense of urgency for action, which applies to both politicians and water specialists,” commented Carl-Emil Larsen, CEO of DANVA, an organizing member of the summit.

“We need to approach water as a key action point for addressing climate challenges and as a key enabler for a sustainable future. The IWA High-Level Summit today is an important setting to get the conversation going. However, it is vitally important these conversations lead to practical partnerships where our collective knowledge leads to tangible actions,” added Poul Due Jensen, CEO, Grundfos, a solutions provider.

With the COP27 and 2023 UN review of the Water Action Decade meetings taking place next year, the messages of the Summit will be gathered together and released to provide a reference point on the opportunities to connect practical options .

Key messages and calls to action from the Summit:

  • Water solutions are of fundamental importance for our future: resilient solutions are urgently needed.
  • Freshwater ecosystems are a critical part of the puzzle – these need to be factored in as part of the solution.
  • Joint efforts and partnership are required to accelerate action and make a difference.

For further information and updates from the rest of the week, please visit: worldwatercongress.org

Featured image credit: IWA.

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