Water Program

Overview of the Program

Bridging Water Research, Innovation and Management: 
Enhancing Regional Water Management Capacity
 1. Introduction and Background

At the beginning of the XXI Century there is a water crisis, which is a consequence of a long history of excessive and inadequate use, pollution and contamination, and increasing demand. There are several demands and multiple uses of water, with growing withdrawals of surface and ground water reserves. The increasing urbanization produced a rising demand for freshwater in very large quantities. In the next 20 years the rate of urbanization will continue to grow. By the year 2025, there will be 30 mega-cities with more than 8 million inhabitants and 500 cities of 1 million inhabitants. To supply clean and adequate water to these cities is a scientific, technological and managerial challenge.

Water in the planet exists in the atmosphere, on the earth's surface and beneath it. However, at any given time, only 0.001% of the planet's water is located in the atmosphere. The overwhelming majority is placed on both surface and ground water reserves. Hydrologically, wherever precipitation falls, the natural shape of the land gathers the runoff into lakes, streams and rivers constituting the watersheds. Watersheds integrate the surface water run-off of an entire drainage basin and they are vital to human civilizations, playing a critical role as sources of water, food, hydropower, recreational amenities, and transportation routes. Although great quantities of fresh surface water are present in many large watersheds, often extending across one or more international boundaries and providing the largest parcel of the water consumed in the world, the great majority of the earth's liquid fresh water is located beneath the surface. 

Ground water has been used by humans since the beginning of civilization, however until less than a century ago, consumption was limited only to near-surface water. With the fast advance in technology, deep ground water is now extracted on a large scale. As a counterpart, in the last decades, especially in arid and semi-arid areas and in big cities around the world, the aquifer over-abstraction is producing rapid lowering of the potenciometric surface and water levels, increasing pumping costs and decreasing yields. Another problem resulting from the ground water over exploitation is an irreversible dewatering and compaction of the sediments resulting in subsidence and other geotechnical problems, as happening in places as Mexico City, Venice and Bangkok.

Multiple uses of both surface and ground water are increasing and many local and regional authorities now consider water as a basic asset for development (Gerick, 1993). On the other hand, degradation of water bodies by human activities may undermine their abilities to provide water ecosystem and economic services, potentially imposing enormous environmental and socio-economic losses.

Although the hydrological cycle makes all kind of water in the planet linked some way, traditionally surface and ground waters have not been viewed or managed as integrated units. The disconnection between policies and practices regarding the two main water compartment stems, in part is due to the failure of professionals (both scientists and managers) in considering them as integrated units, thus disregarding their interdependence. What happens in a watershed can have a profound impact in the aquifers, qualitative and quantitatively. Pollution, for example, is nowadays the most serious human impact on water. An increasing variety of contaminants is finding its way into both surface and ground water supplies, especially in urban and industrialized areas. The chief pollutants, as waste disposal sites, point and non-point sources (as landfills; sewage treatment lagoons; disposal pits; urban runoff and water from agricultural land treated with fertilizers and pesticides) have several sources, contaminating both surface and ground waters. Effective management will depend on a deep understanding of the processes regarding water (e.g., water regime, aquifer recharge, water quality) and catchment issues (e.g., land uses, terrestrial inputs).

The present dichotomy regarding surface and ground water issues can be advantageously treated by an integrated holistic approach, considering that there is a common source of problems (pollution, over-extraction, over-commitment), although subsequently resulting on different processes (eutrophication, contamination) and symptoms (excessive production, toxicity, salinization). Sustainable management on surface and ground water resources will not be possible unless scientists can bridge professional and cultural gaps, getting the best possible understanding and knowledge into the hands of managers. 

The IANAS Water Programme raises a new paradigm, proposing that water - both at and beneath the earth surface - can be treated as an integrated unit. Hydrogeologists, limnologists, engineers and ecologists, among others, need to work together, upon cross-sectorial and regional approaches to management, in order to optimize investments (both human and money resources) that will be essential if water is to continue playing its critical role in the natural functioning of the Earth, providing ecological, hydrological and economic services to humankind. Innovative approaches at both the research, management and capacity building levels are needed in order to accomplish the Millennium Goals proposals.


2. Water resources and development
Water of good quality is the basis for economic development and growth in the quality of life. Development also brings as a consequence increasing pressure from the multiple uses of water. Therefore it is necessary an adequate scientific and managerial approach to deal with this problem. Costs of water supply and water treatment will increase with development, therefore it is necessary to educate people in good practices, provide cheaper techniques for water treatment and promote conservation of clean natural sources of water. Irrigation will play an important role in this XXI Century and the control of quality of irrigated water will be a basic need for many countries and regions. 

Industrial development needs water and to promote industrial growth, incentives for saving water and treating effluents are necessary. Management instruments such as the implementation of legal and institutional framework are necessary to protect water supplies and to regulate its use (Meybeck et al, 1990).

The medium-size cities of several countries in the Latin America (towns of 50.000 to 200.000 inhabitants) are now facing a water crisis due to contamination of the supply sources and the discharge of untreated sewage downstream. This is also aggravated due to the disposition of solid waste, which is always located in the watersheds far away from the cities, affecting the water supply of other urban regions downstream (Lee, 1992).

3. Proposal
In order to cope with these problems it is necessary to improve programs of water conservation, water management, wastewater treatment, control of eutrophication and contamination, and to develop a strong international scientific and technical capability based on research, development and innovation. Managerial capacity has to be improved and research & development to enhance management is essential. As development progresses, there is a permanent need to improve and further increase capacity building, including on this process researchers, water resources managers and water technicians. A strong link has to be developed between researchers, technicians and managers in order to improve management programs and to promote an integrated, predictive and ecosystem approach, or in other words, a watershed approach. Agenda 21 is very clear in the need for capacity building, human resources development and innovation.

"Many Governments will need to assign a high priority to their capacity-building efforts towards institution-building, legislation and human resources development. National efforts in this regard need to be supported by international, regional and national external support agencies, and by the non-governmental community, including the private sector. " Agenda 21

3.1 International Centers for Research, Development, Innovation and Capacity Building
As part of the framework for improving the development of human resources and the integration of innovation, research and management, it is necessary to implement centers for development of these activities, which will act as nuclei for development of new technologies, research, capacity building and field facilities for case studies. These are not necessarily new structures, but can be based on existing centers and networks. 

These centers will be linked throughout a network that will provide a facility for exchange of programmes, scientific data, research information and training programmes. Centers will emphasize the integrated management of atmospheric, surface and ground waters. These will also stimulate, integrate and catalyze ongoing activities, fostering innovation.

3.2 The need for International Centers in Water Resources Management

Capacity building facilities for advanced training at the specialist level, integrated to a network of institutions, are scarce in many regions of the world, although they are extremely necessary. Several programs for training at MSc and Ph.D. level emphasize local problems, but it is necessary to expand the scope of these programs and place them into the context of a larger reality, considered from a comparative perspective. An International Center in Water Resources Management will provide a forum for permanent discussion, preparation of case studies, and integration of research & management in a global perspective. Besides the regional context (a Latin American perspective), the international centers will have visitors from many countries from industrialized regions, young PhDs. and managers that will interact in a productive and creative atmosphere, stimulated by the international environment and the existing facilities for research, field work, and access to specialized literature. Such a concentrated facility is lacking at present. It is necessary the articulation of researchers, laboratories and libraries to stimulate a programme of high-level teaching and research. Existing local/regional infrastructure for water resources research & management can provide undoubtedly the necessary scholarly and applied atmosphere necessary for productive work.

International centers will have the task to draw attention to the water problems of the Americas in an integrated approach. They will place together scientists and managers that will address the pressing problems of water supply and, at the same time, produce advanced scientific knowledge. These centers shall stimulate publications and enhance activities for public awareness. They will address managers and scientists in specialized training modules, working in cooperation with local and regional universities. At the same time, such centers will be cooperating with other international centers worldwide, securing thus a network of high quality, which will stimulate advanced scientific research of top quality. This programme will accelerate the development of partnerships between public and private institutions, integrating water resources development & management (Tundisi and Straskraba, 1995).

4. Objectives of an International Center
4.1- To develop a focus on innovation, research & development and capacity building in water resources and related issues, control, management and treatment of water, including technologies for watershed (surface and groundwater) management and remediation and recovery;
4.2- To promote and maintain a permanent advanced training activity in water resources management in order to improve regional standards of training and enhance the preparation of qualified human resources in these fields of expertise. This advanced capacity building programme will have a strong scientific and technological basis;

4.3- To establish a network of collaborating institutions in the hemisphere, in order to utilize the best existing capacity and to provide the best quality training based research on development & innovation for scientists, managers and technicians. This network will also be extremely useful and fundamental for exchange of scientists, managers and decision makers; 

To develop new approaches, mechanisms and techniques of capacity building, at technical and scientific levels, integrating research approaches and innovation in water resources;
To prepare researchers, technicians and water resources managers with the best qualifications in order to meet the growing demands for human resources in scientific research and water resources management;

To provide opportunity for a permanent exchange of qualified personal.

It is clear that each International Center will add more activities and emphasize regional/local priorities to this focus. Training programmes will have emphasis on comparative studies, fieldwork, practical lectures, intensive use of field facilities and demonstration of water management problems. Training modules will be designed in order to promote an integration of science with management, providing the trainees with the best technological and scientific tools to develop research and management.

Staff will be recruited in the local expertise and a number of invited visiting scientists will be incorporated at each training activity. This will enhance the quality of the programme and will stimulate the development of joint research projects, with a network of professionals, training fellows and institutions.

In order to provide a solid scientific and technological background for the international centers, it is necessary to provide a focus on research and innovation development. This focus will enhance the performance and the role of the centers and will promote the necessary systemic approach to the problem of research and water management. The systemic approach will enhance the watershed as a unit of research and management and can address problems of water quantity and quality, integrating atmospheric, surface and ground waters at several spatial and time scales.

The prevention of eutrophication and the restoration of eutrophic lakes and aquifer contamination by nutrients require proper planning and management of associated watersheds. Therefore, sound management strategies require an understanding of the relationship between nutrient sources and degrees of contamination.
The watershed - a physical unit with a hydrologically integrated ecosystem - has been adopted as a unit for integrating research & monitoring and for managing and administering water resources. Integrated management should be adaptive, producing new ideas and tools, and can only be achieved with local participation and political and managerial support. Education at all levels plays a fundamental role. 
"Enhance national water resource assessment capabilities and measurement networks and establish water resource information systems that enable people to understand the options available for sustainable urban, industrial, domestic and agricultural development in combination with environmental conservation. " Agenda 21

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