Amsterdam International Water Week 2023 pushes for water action
‘Water in transition. Accelerate the action.’ This was the central theme of Amsterdam International Water Week 2023, which took place from 6 to 9 November. With its invitation-only Integrated Leaders Forum and a two-day conference programme filled with inspirational keynote speakers and an impressive list of presentations and interactive workshops, professionals and scientists from the water sector set their eyes on Amsterdam this past week.
Water and climate adaptation
The Integrated Leaders Forum brought together 100+ top water minds from 16 countries who came to express their commitment to action. The Water Envoy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, Meike van Ginneken, had a prominent role in the event, first addressing the audience with her opening statement and then hosting one of the five ‘meet the leader’ discussions. During her interactions, she shared her vision of ‘water as the engine of climate adaptation’ and set out three steps to achieve this.
“Climate mitigation is CO2 and climate adaptation is H2O,” says Van Ginneken. To make water the engine of climate adaptation, “We need to do three things. First of all, we need engineering and technology to adapt to a climate that’s changing. Second, we need to make water central in our economic decision making and our spatial planning. We can no longer grow our food in the desert, we can no longer build our cities in flood prone areas. And third, we need to protect and regenerate our freshwater ecosystems. Ninety-nine percent of freshwater storage is in nature and that’s our buffer for dry periods and floods,” she explains.
Advocating for cross-sectoral collaboration
Cross-sectoral collaboration and partnerships are essential elements for a successful water transition. This was a central theme during Van Ginneken’s ‘meet the leader’ session, where she said “Solving global crises will require bridging sectors and not only water people talking to the same water people.”
Breaking down silos and bringing together knowledge, skills and resources were emphasised as crucial elements in addressing water challenges, especially at bilateral and national levels. As part of the two-day conference, great examples of cross-sectoral collaborations were showcased under the following four sub-themes:
- improving water quality;
- resilient water systems;
- circular solutions: reuse, recover and recycle; and,
- transitions in water, agri/food and energy.
Presentations given under these topics are available on the organiser’s website.
“This week we worked on integrated solutions for the water sector to accelerate action in the water transition,” says Monique Bekkenutte, Executive Director at Koninklijk Nederlands Waternetwerk (KNW - Royal Netherlands Water Network) and member of AIWW's Organising Committee.
When asked about where the Dutch water industry leads the way, Christopher Gasson, owner of Global Water Intelligence and member of the AIWW’s Programme Advisory Committee, says “I’d would say that the number one is on the circular economy, and number two is probably on nature-based solutions. And I think both are going to be essential for the planet’s future.”
The next Amsterdam International Water Week will open its doors in March 2025. The Dutch water sector will undoubtedly continue its work on accelerating action and Amsterdam will be the place to share knowledge and experiences once more.