2017/10/06 Hamburg, Germany
Good water quality is directly addressed in goal 6 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It also impacts our progress in achieving many other SDGs, such as SDG 2 (Zero hunger) and SDG 3 (Good health and well-being). However, determining the qualitative status of waters is anything but straightforward. While many water quality indicators have been developed, their applicability to support the SDGs under various conditions requires further consideration.
At the 8th Water Research Horizon Conference 2017 organised by the Water Science Alliance e.V., UNU-FLORES organised and moderated an open space workshop addressing these concerns. Taking place on 20 September 2017 in Hamburg with the title “Water Quality, Climate Change and the SDGs: Research Needs for Application”, the workshop brought together participants, mainly from Germany (i.e.,TU Dresden, University of Bonn, GERICS Hamburg, University of Duisburg-Essen), but also from abroad (i.e.,IHE Delft) for roundtable discussions.
Scientists and practitioners gathered to discuss how climate change and other factors, such as the capacity of public authorities, impact the reliability of water quality indicators. In line with the main goal of the conference, that is the exploration of future research demands, the workshop encouraged participants to think about new research topics concerning the role of water quality indicators and assessing the usefulness of indicators with regard to targeted objectives.
UNU-FLORES’s presentation on the state of water quality indicators set the frame for discussing the issue. Participants found it interesting that there are over 450 indicators in existence. Reflecting on this, they explored if the problem with selecting the appropriate indicators from such a range stems from a capacity issue or a scientific one.
Based on the exchanges, there was agreement that the topic of water quality indicators is a broad one that needs further in-depth discussion. It was also worthy to note that many researchers are not well aware of how to connect their natural scientific knowledge to broader debates related to the SDGs.
The workshop concluded with an invitation for participants to send burning research questions to the organisers in a bid to stimulate further discussions within the water science community.