The 2017 edition of World Water Week, one of the leading global conferences on water, was recently completed in Stockholm, Sweden. This year’s theme was Water and waste: reduce and reuse, which reflects the 2030 Agenda and two of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) which set targets related to wastewater, reduction, reuse, and recycling.

There was a strong recognition at this year’s conference of the increasing risks and threats posed by water scarcity globally, with discussion about the role of technical approaches, as well as policy and institutional ones, in delivering solutions.

Consistent with this, there is increasing interest in water valuation across a range of sectors and uses, which is critical to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of water management and use. As was stated by the Executive Director of SIWI in his concluding remarks:

“With increasing scarcity, we must recognize the many values attached to water, be it economic, social, environmental, cultural or religious. I believe that by re-valuing water, we will develop a deeper understanding and respect for this precious resource, and thus be better prepared for more efficient use”

Australia is making important contributions to global initiatives relating to water scarcity, including on valuation, efficiency, information and data, and innovation. Australia led initial contributions to water valuation under the UN’s High Level Panel on Water, with a framing paper on water valuation and contributed WaterGuide a guidebook and framework for water management which was launched at this year’s World Water Week.

However, in reflecting on this year’s World Water Week, it appears much more can be done to leverage Australia’s expertise and experience in managing water scarcity and variability. More and more countries are experiencing the negative effects of water scarcity, but do not benefit from the types of approaches Australia now employs, and the lessons learnt from more than 30 years of policy reform.  

Our approaches to strategic water planning, property rights, water allocation, water markets and pricing, regulation, and environmental water, provide a comprehensive approach to better reflect the many values and uses of water. They enable more objective decisions and drive efficiency while alleviating the impacts of scarcity. We should do more to promote these in the international water management agenda.