Conference themes

In 2015 world leaders committed to ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. The targets defined for the goal seek to improve equitable access to water, sanitation and hygiene services (SDG targets 6.1 and 6.2) and further emphasise the use of Integrated Water Management (IWM) to improve water quality, to reduce water scarcity, and to protect and restore water-related ecosystems (SDG targets 6.3-6.6).

Whilst the goal is laudably ambitious, its success is challenged by a number of risks associated with climate change. Water-related natural disasters are increasing in frequency and intensity, with flood events presenting threats to water and sanitation infrastructure, bush fires leading to contamination of water sources and damage to riverine ecosystems and droughts placing pressure on the capacity to meet water demand for households and industry.

These pressures on water resources could impede the achievement of the SDG 6 targets. These pressures may also exacerbate existing vulnerabilities experienced by women, people with disabilities and other potentially disadvantaged groups. Water supply services, from catchment to consumer, must be designed to anticipate and withstand these threats, address inequalities and continue to meet minimum standards over time. Success will depend on the use of integrated, inclusive and innovative approaches to WASH and WRM.

Water and WASH Futures 2022 aims to build awareness of the links between WASH and WRM, to explore the significant common ground between the two sectors, and is calling on practitioners to forge new approaches to working together, in pursuit of sustainable water and sanitation for all. The conference themes have been developed with the goal of creating exciting opportunities for shared learning between practitioners, to spark debate and inspire action.

The Water and WASH Futures 2022 conference is an opportunity for WASH and WRM stakeholders to come together, build a shared understanding of the relationships between their respective fields and provide a major contribution to improved knowledge and action on WASH and WRM for the Indo-Pacific region.

Water and WASH Futures 2022 Abstract Themes

Please note that these themes are subject to change prior to the Call for Abstracts in April 2021. To be notified when the Call for Abstracts opens, ensure that you are subscribed to our newsletter by clicking here.

A conference program of oral presentations, with specific thematic sessions and streams, will be developed based upon the abstracts accepted. Submitted abstracts must align with one or more of the following 7 themes (abstracts may align with more than one numbered theme, and do not necessarily need to align with a specific topic listed under each theme).

To promote sharing and learning that is most useful to delegates, the conference is particularly interested to receive abstracts that address not only one of the 7 conference subthemes, but also address the following cross-cutting issues:

  1. Integration and/or intersection of WRM and WASH
  2. Scalability and sustainability
  3. Gender equality, disability inclusion and social inclusion

Presentations should rely on sharing practice-based evidence, such as rigorous evaluations or research, and abstracts should identify the type/source of evidence to be shared and its applicability to WASH and/or WRM.

1. Sustainable water management for water, sanitation and hygiene

SDG 6 sets clear targets for the world to manage water resources efficiently, meeting water demands for people, environment and production. As outlined above, there is a growing urgency to collaborate across sustainable water management and WASH as the frequency, severity and unpredictability of droughts, floods and other natural disasters increases with climate change. Population growth, growing inequities, urbanisation and pollution are also placing pressure on water resources. As more complex, inter-dependent challenges arise, so do new windows of opportunity to explore integrated approaches and innovative solutions.

Abstracts are encouraged to explore one or more of the following topics under this theme:

  • Water-use efficiencies and managing demand for water, including through diverse supply options and behaviour change;
  • Water safety planning, sanitation safety planning and securing water quality and quantity;
  • Improving sustained access to safe sanitation and hygiene in a range of settings (rural, urban, peri-urban, and humanitarian contexts);
  • Managing shared resources and addressing power asymmetries to ensure security of water for all;
  • Water sensitive urban design, integrated water management, water recycling and the circular economy in WASH and WRM; and
  • Decentralised and distributed water and sanitation systems, multi-scale and multi-utility solutions.

2. From inclusion to transformation

This theme aims to explore the links between gender equality and social inclusion within the WRM and the WASH sectors. It is now widely recognised that a twin focus on leaving no one behind and empowerment of women and marginalised populations is central to achieving the SDGs. But what do these inclusive approaches look like? And how do they compare to transformative approaches? What have we leant about achieving impacts at different scales? Abstracts are encouraged to answer these questions, by exploring one or more of the following topics:

  • Measuring changes in gender equality and power dynamics at household, community and institutional levels
  • Women in leadership and building diversity in the workforce
  • Informal settlements, slum settings and approaches to leaving no-one behind
  • Implementing ‘do no harm’ approaches in WASH and WRM (e.g. addressing backlash, gender-based violence, stigma around MHM and engaging men and boys)
  • Experience with partnership models and working constructively with rights-holder organisations

3. Adapting policy and practice for climate preparedness, disaster response, mitigation and resilience

Across the globe, countries are facing the challenges of extreme weather events, changing climate patterns and uncertain forecasts. For example, in the summer of 2019/2020 Australia experienced drought, bushfires and flooding at unprecedented levels, which contributed to short and medium term impacts on water resources, affecting water quality and the reliability of domestic water supply.

There is a need for shared learning on how to adapt policies and practices to successfully deliver the SDG 6 targets in a changing climate, in order to secure water resources and deliver sustainable WASH services. Abstracts are encouraged to explore one or more of the following topics:

  • Understanding the potential impacts of climate change on WRM and WASH across the Indo-Pacific region
  • Strategies for adaptation at the local and community level in WASH and WRM, including drawing on citizen science, women’s and indigenous knowledge for resilience and adaptation
  • Planning for flood, storm, fire and drought resilience in different contexts, including in peri-urban contexts
  • The climate change, health, WASH and WRM nexus
  • The climate change, food, WASH and WRM nexus

4. Tackling WASH and WRM in Pacific Small Island Developing States

The Pacific is the world’s least urbanised region, and home to widely dispersed populations with diverse sociocultural settings, complex governance systems, and limited access to government and private sector services compared to their urban counterparts. Pacific communities are disproportionately vulnerable to the water-related impacts of climate change and natural hazards, and much of the region relies on limited and fragile water resources that require careful management and protection. At the same time, population growth and movement are resulting in the proliferation of unplanned and informal settlements, often with relatively low access to safe and affordable WASH services and located in areas of elevated disaster risk

These characteristics present both challenges and opportunities. For much of the Pacific, water resources and WASH services are managed at the household, village or island level, and there is potential to support, replicate and upscale community-driven and locally-appropriate solutions. The unique understanding and engagement of Pacific communities on the issue of climate change and its impacts can also provide an important impetus to strengthen the integrated governance of water resources and WASH at the local, national and regional levels.

Potential topics within this theme include:

  • The issue of climate change as a driver for integrating WRM and WASH;
  • Building resilient rural WASH solutions and services through improved community understanding and management of water resources;
  • Improving WASH outcomes in urban and peri-urban informal settlements; and
  • Striving for an effective enabling environment and governance in an environment of constrained human and financial resources.

5. Linking data to decision-making and impact

This theme will explore modern data collection and technology’s potential contribution to sustainable WASH services and secure water resources, in the context of a changing climate. Data is the backbone to identifying and prioritising potential initiatives for WASH and WRM. It is an essential component to developing policy, planning interventions and measuring impact.

Cloud-based software and mobile technology have created new opportunities to provide a broader range of data to guide decision-making in developing country contexts. Remote imaging and mobile mapping can also generate data and information that enables a deeper understanding of spatially distributed WRM and WASH risks. These new opportunities for data collection also raise ethical questions around who has access to data and the need for transparency around what is being collected.

Abstracts are encouraged to explore one or more of the following topics:

  • Data-driven technology and its transferability between developed and developing country contexts
  • Big data, open data, access and transparency
  • Strengthening government capacity to monitor and manage water resources and WASH services
  • Using data to map and measure risks posed by floods, fires and drought
  • Innovative data use for asset management in both rural and urban contexts
  • Relevant data for measuring and valuing ecosystem services
  • Data that addresses vulnerability dimensions of gender and social groups, and how this is used to support equity in service delivery and resilience measures

6. Strengthening governance, collaboration and resourcing to improve sector performance

In 2018, the High Level Panel on Water identified the need to improve water governance to make progress across SDG 6 targets. For WASH, attention is increasingly being directed to strengthening the enabling environment and sector systems that are essential to sustain inclusive services. Similarly, good governance in WRM must consider who does what and how at each level to achieve sustainable and equitable management of water resources.

Institutions supporting WASH and WRM have developed a range of conceptual frameworks for respective systems that identify key categories, functions and factors. However, limited attention has been invested to understand areas of common interest, points of divergence and potential blind spots between them. This conference theme will address that to advance contemporary understanding between WASH and WRM stakeholders in relation to planning, coordination, financing, accountability and capacity.

Abstracts are encouraged to explore one or more of the following topics:

  • Integrated planning as a catalyst for enhancing WASH/WRM policy and programming
  • Inclusive coordination mechanisms for fostering collaboration and learning between government, civil society and the private sector
  • Funding gaps, lifecycle costs and innovative approaches to leveraging finance for WRM and WASH
  • Citizens’ engagement to enhance government and service provider accountability
  • Building individual, organisational and sector capacity for effective WASH and WRM integration

7. Special theme: Improving hygiene practices to mitigate the impact of infectious diseases

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has emphasised the critical role of effective personal hygiene, especially hand hygiene, as an essential preventative health intervention for mitigating some of the impacts of infectious diseases. Recognising the timeliness of this conference – after most countries will have been managing this outbreak for nearly a year – the committee would like to convene a special session dedicated to sharing lessons and evidence from recent experience. The session will provide space for discussing specific responses and approaches to improve hygiene practices, which may include topics such as:

  • promoting good handwashing behavior at scale;
  • improving hygiene practices and infection prevention and control in health care facilities; and
  • delivering hygiene messages that promote lasting behavior change during emergencies.

Evidence of changed behaviours and practices associated with supported responses will be particularly encouraged. The session may be used to inform a workshop focused on understanding the implications for future interventions that seek to improve hygiene practices and handwashing behavior to build resilience to future health threats.

For presentations relating to COVID-19, the Committee recognises that the specific content for these presentations may not yet be able to be described in a full abstract. For presentations related to COVID-19, the Committee will accept partial abstracts on this topic. Please use the full abstract template provided, as for all other conference themes, and include at least: a contact person (named as an author, which can be modified later), and a brief description of the key topics that will likely be addressed. A full abstract will be sought close to the conference for those presentations that are accepted.

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