The Senate Department for Economics, Technology, and Women's issues of Berlin has initiated the Berlin Water Dialogues as a platform for exchange of knowledge, experiences, and ideas between policy makers, private sector representatives, researchers, and non-governmental organizations. The focus of the discussions will primarily be on the interlinkages between the complexes water, food, and energy as well as on the increasingly multifaceted traditional and non-traditional drivers of change that affect all of them.
The main results and findings of the first meeting in Berlin 4-5 May2011:
Water, Food and Energy Nexus
Water issues, food security, and energy conservation are already complex topics on their own. However, taking into account long-term developments and strategies, they are without doubt connected. Changes and solutions in one sector usually have a great impact on others. Therefore, it is of vital importance to take a look at the big picture — future solutions and priorities have to take this nexus into consideration.
Innumerable decisions taken by different stakeholders are affecting water issues of all kinds, but even today there is limited awareness of the consequences of these activities for water resources. Therefore, there is still much room for improvement.
Many corporations have now included water into their sustainability agendas. Without doubt, the activities of business are affecting water cycles in many ways, while many pioneering solutions are already implemented. Then again, there is a lack of transparency on the consequences of business operations, from best-practice examples to business as usual. Industries are expected to act with more transparency and openness towards partnership and dialogue as well as to promote innovation and modernisation.
Considering the enormous volume of water consumed in the agricultural sector, much more needs to be done for a sustainable use of water resources — efficient water use, reuse of wastewater, and further research on water-efficient crops are only some of the aspects to be considered.
As long as political decision-makers are not willing to substantially address the economic value of water, including pricing, there will be no significant progress. It is essential that policy-makers take into account the importance of both the social and the economic value of water.
Investors and financial markets are increasingly considering issues of water efficiency when evaluating business activities. Internationally accepted standards must be developed and implemented in order to define and increase the relevance of water efficiency in both a business and a local context. It goes without saying that this includes more than only reducing water consumption.
Drivers for development
Water has to be recognized as a driver for global developments. Nevertheless, one cannot only approach water issues from a global perspective: water-related problems and constraints are local. Therefore the solutions must also be found locally.
The traditional focus of the water sector as well as of past funding programs on large-scale, capital-intensive projects with long investment cycles has hindered innovation. A change in focus to regional priority topics as well as on the transfer of findings of applied research would produce results and progress faster.
Networking, Data-Links, and Partnerships
Close connections between industries, researchers, and policymakers as well as cross-sector networks are necessary to generally achieve a more efficient and more comprehensive understanding and use of water. Also the availability of agreed, if possible, real-time data is essential to promote productive discussions. Research institutes have an important role to play in collecting and making available this data.
A clear language and widely accepted definitions are required that also must envision realistic objectives.
Great amounts of public funds are being spent in public procurement on all kinds of projects with an impact on water. The effects on water resources need to be part of both the conditions of a public tender as well as of the evaluation scheme of such projects.
There is no better way to create awareness and guidelines for other projects than setting a good example.
Improving approaches on water issues means not only raising awareness for problems, but requires new ways of thinking, different forms of action, and more responsibility from the stakeholders. Implementing clear incentive structures for these stakeholders will facilitate the processes of internal decision-making and of implementing concrete measures.
More about the Berlin Water Dialogues
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