The Top 100 Global Water Questions
The problem of global water security is expected to become more acute as the impacts of climate change are felt more keenly around the world in the future, with pressure on freshwater resources growing day by day and water stress and scarcity risks increasing both at a local level and on a global scale.
Because different regions face different issues where water stress is concerned – and because human survival, healthy ecosystems, energy and food production all depend on water availability – the challenges posed by water security are hugely complex, requiring research and action across multiple levels.
To help provide direction for research priorities where water resources are concerned, a new scoping study has identified the top 100 global water questions to help give researchers and funding agencies a shared language with which to discuss different disciplines and interests.
Conducted by the University of Leeds, in partnership with the universities of Bradford and York, the study highlighted research questions across six themes: water and sanitation for human settlements, water security and scarcity, water and sanitation safety risk management, hydroclimate-ecosystem-Anthropocene dynamics, knowledge production and multi-level governance.
The aim is for these questions to provide an interdisciplinary and multiscalar framework to guide the nature of water research over the coming decades.
Some of the 100 questions include what technologies have been successfully and sustainability implemented at scale by governments with no external input, how can the design of sanitation interventions embed environmental health performance and what is the impact of seawater intrusion on domestic water supply in coastal regions?
While the researchers do acknowledge that these 100 questions are by no means a definitive list, they do provide an interdisciplinary and multiscalar framework for thinking about the nature of research in relation to water. The scoping study is also indicative of the demand for recognition of power and politics as barriers to water access.
It also shows that there is an interest in justice for the marginalised populations who suffer from the pollution and over-consumption of the rich, as well as justice for the ecosystems degraded through governance failures across all scales of human life.
Commenting on the findings, professor Anna Mdee – co-author of the report – said: “The 100 top global water questions demonstrate a demand from the global water sector to address the consequences of human governance failure of water resources.
“These failures are evident on a daily basis across the planet – from ongoing droughts in the US to the catastrophic effects of heatwaves in India – and highlight the need for concerted efforts in interdisciplinary research and action.
“These 100 questions also highlight the importance of justice for marginalised human populations and the need for cooperation to ensure water and sanitation policies align with the current needs of individuals, populations at different scales.”
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