General
02 Jul 2013

Global programme will pool knowledge to improve water management

A global project, run jointly by The Open University, is aiming to improve the management of unexpected events due to climate change – such as floods, water shortages and pollution incidents – by forging links between river planners and policy makers

The consortium behind the project has been awarded one million Euros by funders to build bridges among governments and policy-makers so that there is more collaboration over water issues.

The three-year project will look at 10 case studies from Canada, Australia and across Europe (one in the UK) and in each one it will focus on the governance of the social and the natural aspects of water catchments, in association with a range of policies such as biodiversity, climate change, water pollution, the ecological status of water and the impact of flooding.

Open University Professor in Systems Ray Ison, the lead OU researcher on the consortium, explained: “Water quality, security and the health of rivers are among our biggest global issues. From climate change - where there might be too much water or too little - to problems about water quality which is currently under threat, it seems likely that the future will be even more volatile and challenging. Even historical engineering works may no longer be adequate.

“Water is one of the biggest global issues and we are very pleased that the funders saw this programme as sitting right up there with other challenges facing Europe including financial and social problems.”

"Droughts, flooding and a range of pollution incidents have been widely experienced in Europe in recent years. But the issues arising vary enormously, with some parts of Europe having more in common with non-European countries,” says Professor Ison.

Complex issues cannot be addressed in isolation and what is needed is collaboration by all the policy-makers with the aim of encouraging more effective policies, embracing both environmental and social needs, he said.

“The consortium, called CADWAGO will be able to make some broader comparisons building on what has been learnt within and outside of Europe. Climate change adaption in particular is likely to challenge many, if not all, historical river management practices, so much can be learnt from places where climate change impacts are greatest.”

The project follows a call put out by the funders as part of a Europe and Global Challenges Programme. The funders are a trio of European Foundations including Compagnia di San Paulo from Italy, Volkswagen Stiftung from Germany and Riksbankens Jubileumsfond from Sweden.

The programme will have a four-stranded remit: to clarify how researchers and policy-makers understand ecosystems; to provide knowledge of the workings of institutions involved in water catchment; to critically examine how different organisations and citizens work together to manage water holistically and to design governance learning events for policy-makers.

One of the special features is that alongside the research, the team – which includes consortium partners from Sweden, Australia, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands and the USA – are inviting other policy researchers to be joint “learners” with them. The OU has a history of researching and facilitating “social learning” in complex and contested situations, so is ideally placed to take part in this programme, added Professor Ison.

The programme is closely linked to the OU’s Systems Thinking in Practice (STiP) postgraduate programme. Students of STiP learn how to improve complex and problematic situations across a range of job roles, organisation types, and industrial sectors.

Notes to Editors~

Funding for the programme – run by the Climate Adaptation & Water Governance consortium (CADWAGO) - was provided by Compagnia di San Paolo, VolkswagenStiftung and Riksbankens Jubileumsfond as part of the Europe and Global Challenges programme. More information on the funders can be found here: http://www.volkswagenstiftung.de/en/funding/international-focus/europe-and-global-challenges/grants-2012.html

More information about the programme and CADWAGO can be found here: http://www.cadwago.net/

Information about recent UK water governance policy can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/river-health-gets-16-million-boost

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