Workshops

The following workshops and panels have been organized as part of the main conference program.

1. Monday 18 June 2018 | 10:50-12:30
Panel: “If I could just get water, then I am sorted”: Knowledge mobilization, social capital and water poverty – towards a resolution of the global water crisis

Moderator: Susan J. Elliott, University of Waterloo, Canada

Session description: The Millennium Development Goals were successful in some areas, and not others. With respect to water, we did well; however, close to 1b people around the world continue to lack access to safe water and over 2.5b lack access to adequate sanitation; those two numbers, of course, are not unrelated.

We now have the Sustainable Development Goals with SDG 6 promising that we: ensure availability of sustainable management of water and sanitation for all; that is, no one left behind. SDG 3 also promises to: ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages. Of course, these two goals are inextricably linked.

This session addresses the links between water security/water poverty and health in the context of fragile environments/developing world contexts.

2. Tuesday 19 June 2018 | 10:50-12:30 and 15:50-17:30
Workshop:
The complexity of agricultural efficiency improvements and water scarcity

Moderator: Kari Vigerstøl, The Nature Conservancy, USA

Session description: Agricultural irrigation alone accounts for 73% of total water withdrawals and 86% of total consumptive use globally. In arid and semi-arid regions, irrigation is the dominant water user accounting for more than 95% of total withdrawals. As such, addressing water use in this sector is a critical factor for ensuring water security, particularly in the world’s most water-scarce basins. Investments in improved agricultural water efficiency have increased substantially over the last decades in an attempt to reduce the total water withdrawals by this sector. If done properly, these investments can stretch scarce water supplies, create environmental benefits, and enhance farm productivity and profits.

The challenge with this approach, however, is that implementing agricultural water efficiency interventions does not necessarily result in quantifiable reduction in consumptive water use within a basin. This is due in part to the complexity of the hydrologic system. For example, neglecting to consider how ‘wasted’ irrigation water might have previously been replenishing the shallow groundwater beneath the fields and returning colder, clearer water further down the stream could result in unintended outcomes.  A simplified approach also does not often consider how water efficiency improvements can in some cases result in greater crop yield per hectare, or encourage additional planting with the water ‘saved’, which increases the total water consumption by agriculture.

This workshop aims to explore the complexities of agricultural efficiency improvements as a tool to address water scarcity and to improve understanding of what science, policy and engagement approaches can help ensure delivery of intended outcomes.

3. Wednesday 20 June 2018 | 10:50-12:30
Workshop:
Water is the master variable: Solving for human resilience in the modern era

Moderator: Fred Boltz, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA

Session description: Water is central to the functioning and resilience of the biosphere. Its availability and variability guides the distribution and diversity of habitats harboring the wealth of plant and animal life on Earth. Locally, water guides the suitability of agriculture, industry, energy and human settlement, with finite water limits bounding our use. As humanity has progressively settled and transformed the Earth, these limits have become boundaries at regional and planetary scales as well. We have surmounted or, likely, postponed addressing these limits with 20th century water management solutions of damming and diverting water from natural sources to areas where humans settle and of improving the efficiency of water use. However, we have reached critical limits that cannot be resolved by conventional engineering and efficiency approaches. Compounded by growing human demand and climate change, water is increasingly becoming our greatest vulnerability: for global agricultural breadbaskets, energy, cities, economies and society as a whole.

Recognition that our hydrological past is obsolete guidance to our future has sparked innovation in diagnostic and predictive tools and methods to manage for uncertain water futures. Major shifts are underway in water management, capitalizing on advances in science, technology and engineering, and transitioning to methods to design and manage for freshwater resilience. The present work considers the nature of freshwater resilience and its paramount influence on general resilience and suggests an approach to understanding and managing water for the transformations required for human resilience in the modern era.

Freshwater resilience is necessary for general resilience, as water is a key factor defining and bounding the resilience of every terrestrial human and natural system. This universal necessity provides for the uniform applicability of water as a master variable to solve for the general resilience of terrestrial social-ecological systems. Water, as a master variable, thus provides a consistent, comparable approach to solve for the resilience of discrete systems, such as food and energy, to nexus systems addressing tradeoffs among sectors, to complex systems such as cities and to nested complex systems, such as cities within freshwater basins, in which scales and factors of resilience are connected and interdependent.

The proposed panel will feature advances in resilience and complex systems theory, hydrosystems engineering, urban systems planning, and water governance and human dimensions of water management. The panel will highlight the applicability of water-focused resilience design for discrete and complex systems, drawing upon applied work in Mexico City and the Valley of Mexico and from urban and basin-scale analyses from the US and abroad. We will profile applied modeling and design approaches for general resilience examining the hypothesis that water serves as a Master Variable for consistent, comparable approaches to development planning for the resilience of complex human systems.