Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Managing the world’s water – sharing good practice

Dr Harry Dixon reports from the World Water Congress in Edinburgh

This week CEH organised a Special Session at the International Water Resources Association’s (IWRA) World Water Congress. The Congress is the Association’s 15th global gathering and this year it is being held in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, reflecting the Scottish Government’s drive to grow the water sector under its HydroNation agenda.

At CEH, we host the UK Committee for Nation and International Hydrology (UKCNIH). This Committee, chaired by Professor Alan Jenkins, provides a forum for UK government departments, agencies, research bodies, professional societies and universities to discuss current issues and priorities related to freshwater research. The aim is to better coordinate UK engagement in national and international hydrological research.

Speakers in the special session on international catchment management science
and application at the World Water Congress XV.

Central to the Committee’s activities are the UK’s activities related to the International Hydrological Programme of UNESCO , for which CEH leads engagement on behalf of the Department for International Development (DFID), and involvement in the water related activities of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), for which Alan Jenkins is the UK Hydrological Adviser.

On behalf of the UKCNIH we convened a session at the World Water Congress to bring together a range of experts from both the UK and overseas involved in catchment management science. The aim was to discuss both the scientific and implementation challenges related to catchment based approaches to water management.

The Session was kicked off by Mark Williams, Scottish Water’s Head of Environmental Science and Regulation, who provided a very interesting set of examples of issues the water industry are faced with when tacking urban pollution. Next, David Harley, Water and Land Manager at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, provided a local perspective outlining the regulatory challenges related to the development of River Basin Management Plans and in particular the issue around rural defuse pollution.

The Congress is, as the name suggests an international gathering with around 900 delegates from across the work attending. One key aim of our Session was to discuss the role of international science programmes in relation to improving catchment management and one very interesting examples in this area came from Prof David Harper (University of Leicester and long-standing member of the UKCNIH) who provided an overview of his work on the Lake Naivasha basin in Kenya. David outlined his research on the ecohydrology of the basin, an area which provides 40% of all cut flowers that are sold in EU supermarkets.

In addition to UK researchers and practitioners, we were very pleased to be joined by representatives of both UNESCO and WMO to give a UN perspective on the future direction for global science in this area and ideas on how the world community can improve catchment management. Dr Blanca E Jiménez Cisneros is the Secretary of the International Hydrological Programme (IHP) and UNESCO’s Director of Water Sciences. Blanca’s presentation set out the global challenges related to water security and the ways in which the IHP aims to provide a framework for global water science, policy development and education. Giacomo Teruggi from WMO detailed their activities under the Hydrology and Water Resources Programme and gave an interesting overview of the Associated Programme on Flood Management – a joint initiative by the WMO and Global Water Partnership to advocate the concept of Integrated Flood Management.

To bring the different ideas together, Prof Bob Ferrier (James Hutton Institute and member of CEH’s Science Development Group ) rose to the challenge of summarising the current issues and challenges in relation to catchment science and posed some thought provoking ideas. Following Bob’s presentation, Alan Jenkins adopted the role of David Dimbleby to host a Question Time style panel session with all our speakers to explore the issues further. The panel and audience discussed a range of questions covering: the key scientific questions to which catchment managers need answers; the challenge of mobilising individuals and organisations in relation to adaptation; and how to stimulate greater community engagement in managing the freshwater environment.

The Session generated some interesting discussions and highlighted the difficult challenges faced by the global community to improve catchment management. However, it also highlighted some great examples of UK scientists and practitioners rising to these challenges to deliver integrated catchment management approaches both in this country and overseas.

It is clear that as hydrologists we have an important role to play in developing water management in this area and that by working through organisations such as UNESCO and WMO we can ensure we learn from others internationally and that the good practices we have in the UK are shared around the world.

Dr Harry Dixon

Dr Harry Dixon is a Senior Hydrologist at CEH and the Secretary of the UK Committee for National and International Hydrology. He works closely with Prof Alan Jenkins to provide the Committee’s Secretariat and CEH’s leadership of UK engagement in international science programmes of WMO and UNESCO.

Related links

World Water Congress XV Special Session 4 outline of speakers 

World Water Congress XV

UK Committee for National and International Hydrology

Staff page of Prof Alan Jenkins, CEH

Staff page of Dr Harry Dixon, CEH

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