Conference themes

In 2015 world leaders committed to ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all – Sustainable Development Goal 6. The targets defined for the goal seek to improve equitable access to water supplies, sanitation and hygiene (SDG targets 6.1 and 6.2). But they also emphasise the use of integrated water management principles and approaches to connect WASH with water resources management (WRM), supporting targets SDG6.1 and 6.2, but also leading to improved environmental water quality, reduced water scarcity, and restored and protected water-related ecosystems (SDG targets 6.3-6.6).

Whilst SDG6 is laudably ambitious, its success is challenged by climate change. Water-related natural disasters are increasing in frequency and intensity, with flood events damaging water and sanitation infrastructure, sea level rise contaminating freshwater resources, bush fires contaminating water sources, and droughts causing water scarcity for households and industry.  On top of this, other changes to our environment and society, such as population and cultural changes, combine with climate change to create very complex challenges for water management and WASH.

Growing inequalities in WASH access adds further complexity and exacerbates existing vulnerabilities experienced by women, people with disabilities and other disadvantaged or marginalised people. These marginalised populations are forced to cope with a raft of impacts from climate change affecting many aspects of their lives, despite having lowered adaptive capacity because of gendered and social inequalities. Transformative approaches are required to address fundamental factors driving social inequalities in WASH and WRM.

Water supply services, from catchment to distribution to consumer to waste and reuse, and with linkages to sanitation and hygiene, must be designed to anticipate and withstand growing threats, address inequalities and continue to meet minimum standards over time. And, they must achieve this in the context of competing for water use with major water users and environmental needs, from increasingly scarce water resources.

Success in achieving and sustaining SDG6 will depend on the use of integrated, inclusive and transformative approaches to WASH and water resources management.

The Water and WASH Futures Conference 2023 will build awareness of the imperative climate change brings to better linking WASH and WRM and will explore the common ground and practical linkages between the two sectors.

We call on practitioners and professionals to forge new approaches to working together, including in partnership with stakeholders and organisations from many other sectors, in pursuit of sustainable water and sanitation for all.

Water and WASH Futures 2022 Abstract Themes

A conference program of oral presentations organised into specific thematic sessions will be developed based upon the abstracts accepted. Submitted abstracts must align with one or more of the following 6 themes. Note that abstracts may align with more than one numbered theme, and do not necessarily need to align with a specific topic listed under each theme. 

The six priority themes are: 

  1. Tackling local water security and scarcity 
  2. Climate-resilient WASH in practice 
  3. Mitigating climate change through WASH and WRM 
  4. Improving hygiene practices in a climate-stressed and COVID19 world 
  5. GEDSI – from inclusion to transformation in water management and WASH 
  6. Strengthening WRM and WASH enabling environments for resilient services and integrated approaches. 

To promote sharing and learning that is most useful to delegates, the conference is particularly interested to receive abstracts that address one of the six conference themes, as well also address the following cross-cutting issues: 

  • Practical integration of WASH and WRM 
  • Sustainability and scale (as key requirements for resilience) 
  • Community engagement, roles & behaviours 
  • Equality and social inclusion of marginalised people (such as people with disabilities, sexual and gender minorities, ethnic and religious minorities, people living in extreme poverty, or any other people marginalised by society).

1. Tackling local water security and scarcity

SDG 6 sets clear targets for the world to manage water resources efficiently, meeting water demands for people, environment and production. Often those demands are competing and being able to balance them is an essential element of successful water management. 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, as does the risk of social conflicts. This is causing significant short- and long-term impacts to water local water security – particularly in terms of the availability and delivery of sufficient quantities of water with sufficient qualities to sustain livelihoods, well-being, and socio-economic development, and to protect against water-related disasters in a climate. 

As more complex, inter-dependent challenges arise, so do new windows of opportunity to explore integrated approaches and innovative solutions. At the local level, where many water users are also water supply and resource managers, leveraging existing knowledge and participation are fundamental to sustaining local water security with peace and political stability, and in the face of climate change with its localised effects. But without connection to the management of land and water issues affecting whole water cycles and catchment, these critical local efforts can be undermined. 

Abstracts that explore this theme are invited, including those relating to the following topics: 

  • Water cooperation with major water users such as agriculture to ensure water security for all – managing competing needs for shared resources and addressing power asymmetries
  • Linking local-level water and sanitation planning with larger-level water resources and catchment management and catchment to improve local water security, including examples from Pacific Island Countries
  • Managing local water supplies in the face of water scarcity: drought management, supply continuity planning, business continuity planning, water-use efficiencies, water conservation behaviours, and considering water-based links with sanitation and hygiene
  • Water sensitive urban design, nature-based water management, integrated water management, water recycling and the circular economy in WASH and WRM
  • Multi-scale and multi-utility decentralised and distributed water and sanitation systems as approaches to improving water security
  • Access and use of climate information to support WASH service delivery by water resource and WASH managers (regardless of their scale of operation and jurisdiction)
  • Addressing social exclusion in governance and management of water and WASH
  • Community-based water management (e.g. sustainability of committees, addressing social conflict and other structural factors, engagement of youth in water leadership). 

2. Climate-resilient WASH in practice

A range of climate-adaptation measures to WASH services are already being successfully implemented. Many of these seek to ensure the benefits are universal and socially inclusive, and are finding ways to manage with the high uncertainty about the nature of specific climatic changes. Sharing of lessons amongst WASH programmers and practitioners is needed given the urgency to adapt WASH systems for climate change, and timely given there are lessons emerging from progress already made to achieve this. 

Whilst this a significant achievement and will deliver benefits for many people and communities, the scale and nature of WASH adaptations are currently insufficient to adequately respond to the growing challenges of climate change – they are incremental rather than transformative. Further exacerbating this incremental change is the inequalities in adaptation progress that is emerging: the largest adaptation gaps exist among lower income population groups, who often have a lower capacity to cope with climate impacts and a higher exposure to climate hazards. A shift to transformative WASH adaptations to climate change is required if universal WASH adaptation is to be achieved. This means there is a clear need for WASH policies and practices that support transformation – that is, address underlying social and political aspects that are driving inequitable, short-term, unsustainable and small-scale WASH adaptation. 

Abstracts that explore this theme are invited, including those relating to the following topics: 

  • Climate-resilient WASH practices, policies and services, especially examples at scale, in rural and urban areas, informal settlements, challenging environments, schools and healthcare facilities
  • Collaboration between WASH and other sectors (particularly WRM, health, and/or food), and/or other groups such as Rights Holder Organisations (RHOs) on implementing climate change adaptations, especially transformative WASH adaptations, to strengthen WASH resilience alongside gender and social inclusion, livelihoods and economic development, education, and other societal needs
  • Behaviour change approaches that support climate resilient WASH outcomes, at any level of setting (e.g. individuals, households, communities, schools, healthcare facilities, mass populations)
  • Integration of climate resilient WASH with disaster risk reduction, particularly examples from the Pacific Islands where this is well-developed
  • Practice and policies that support transformative WASH adaptations, addressing political and societal economies of WASH as well as longer-term risks of climate change
  • Nature-based solutions/approaches to strengthening WASH resilience, especially to climate change.

3. Mitigating climate change through WASH and WRM

Climate change mitigation is at the forefront of efforts to maintain global warming at or below 1.5°C, the scenario outlined by the IPCC as required to avoid significant risks to natural and human systems, and water has a key role to play in these efforts. Water resource management and WASH services will be a critical feature of our transition to net-zero climate emissions because global water use, storage and distribution, together with the lack of wastewater treatment, contribute 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Net-zero water resources and WASH should be considered a minimum, and technologies and processes need to be further explored to achieve net negative emissions. In addition, future financing of sustainable development, including development of water resources and WASH systems, will increasingly require these sectors to demonstrate clear and achievable pathways to net-zero climate emissions; failing to address this requirement may significantly reduce financing for sustainable development. 

Although there are positive efforts toward climate mitigation, net-zero emissions and renewable energy by many water utilities in higher income countries, we need to progress similar commitments in low-middle income countries. Most WASH policy and practice to date has focused on climate adaptation, as described above, and there is important work for those involved in WRM and WASH to determine, communicate and act on the ways WASH and WRM mitigate and slow the rate of climate change. 

Abstracts that explore this theme are invited, including those relating to the following topics: 

  • The need and role of WASH and water resource management sectors in contributing to climate mitigation 
  • Policies and practices for WASH and water resource management to achieve net-zero climate emissions, from local community-based solutions to city-wide, catchment or country level actions to reduce and/or offset emissions and increase carbon storage 
  • Low-emission WASH infrastructure solutions and services that reduce energy consumption and environmental impact 
  • Climate-supportive behaviours, such as reducing contaminant runoff, reducing water use, wastewater reuse, recycling, protecting wetlands and water sources 
  • Applying circular economies to water resource management and WASH, to support restoration and regeneration over the long-term 
  • Linking water sector policy reform, including regulating climate emissions and restricting financing options, to actions plans and commitments to climate change 
  • Applying nature-based solutions and approaches to WASH and water management for climate mitigation outcomes 
  • Analysis of water resources and WASH carbon footprints, including emissions from different types of WASH services and systems 
  • Influencing and advocacy efforts for climate change mitigation, for example, engagement in national policy and planning and including climate change in training and capacity building.
  • Cross-sectoral partnerships, beyond water resources and WASH, supporting integrated approaches to climate mitigation. 

4. Improving hygiene practices in a climate-stressed and COVID19 world

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic emphasised the critical role of safe personal hygiene, especially hand hygiene, as an essential preventative health intervention for mitigating some of the impacts of infectious diseases. It also highlighted the ongoing inequities in access to hygiene services, the need for longer-term responses and the increased pressure placed on health services. With the increasing impacts of climate change, natural disasters and water security challenges influencing people’s attitudes and access to water used for hygiene, these issues will be compounded. 

WASH actors in the full range of WASH settings, from health facilities and schools to public places, communities and cities, will need to be able to sustain safe hygiene practices during these emerging challenges and crises. This means promoting and sustaining handwashing and personal hygiene and sanitation practices, as well as water hygiene practices required for safe water consumption. 

This session will focus on sharing lessons and evidence from recent experience to inform future responses towards ensuring hygiene services and behaviours that are resilient, adaptive, safe and inclusive in a climate-stressed world. 

Abstracts that explore this theme are invited, including those relating to the following topics: 

  • Promoting good handwashing behavior or safe drinking water practices at scale 
  • Improving hygiene practices and infection prevention and control in health care facilities
  • Improving WASH behaviours and learning safe hygiene practices in schools and public places
  • Delivering hygiene messages that promote lasting behaviour change during emergencies and in increasingly water-stressed environments
  • Identifying underlying norms that contribute to ineffective and unsustainable hygiene behaviours.
  • Developing strategies to shift harmful gender and social norms that contribute to inequalities relating to hygiene (for example, leveraging rather than challenging norms in hygiene behaviour change campaigns). 

Evidence of changed behaviours and practices associated with supported responses in the context of rapid or slow onset disaster settings 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 behaviour to build resilience to future health and climate related threats.

5. GEDSI – from inclusion to transformation in water management and WASH

This theme will explore the importance of gender equality, disability and social inclusion (GEDSI) in WRM and WASH, both in terms of meeting the WASH needs of everyone all the time, but also in terms of managing and governing these systems. The twin focus on “leaving no-one behind” and “empowerment of women and marginalised populations” are both interdependent and central to achieving the SDGs. Climate change, together with parallel societal and demographic changes, will further exacerbate inequalities, making our attention to GEDSI even more time-critical. 

However, if we are to ensure sustainable and equitable outcomes in WRM and WASH, we must go beyond just inclusion in WASH and WRM activities and services, and seek to be transformative in our approaches. This requires addressing fundamental barriers to social inclusion. As WASH and WRM practitioners, we must identify what these transformative approaches look like in a changing climate. 

Abstracts that explore this theme are invited, including those relating to the following topics: 

  • Approaches to understanding marginalisation and supporting empowerment and engagement of populations with different identities to build more climate resilient communities
  • Inclusive partnership models for example those working with rights-holder organisations, local networks, coalitions, think tanks etc.
  • Supporting transformative change, building diversity, equity, gender equality and inclusion into systems and structures, fostering inclusive leadership and addressing structural and systemic bias
  • Servicing typically marginalised communities and addressing inequalities within, including but not limited to informal settlements, slums, ethnic groups, remote communities, female-headed households, low-income households, people with disabilities, sexual and gender minorities while acknowledging intersectionality
  • Approaches to improving menstrual health and hygiene, including addressing unhelpful societal and gender norms
  • Tools for inclusive engagement and transformative approaches to address WASH, WRM and climate change related challenges which draw on local and indigenous knowledge, experience and expertise
  • Implementing ‘do no harm’ approaches, such as addressing backlash, gender-based violence and stigma, including monitoring and mitigating unintended consequences
  • Measuring changes in gender equality and power dynamics (including both improvements and backslides)
  • Supporting equitable and inclusive workforces in WASH and WRM
  • Strengthening data, evidence, knowledge, technologies, investment, and policies for delivering inclusive water and WASH services and impacts. 

6. Strengthening WRM and WASH enabling environments for integrated approaches and resilient services

Improving the resilience of water resource and WASH management and services requires engaging with the human and governance systems behind decision-making and resource allocation. Progressing net-zero approaches to water resources and WASH requires human and governance systems that extend well-beyond these sectors. Achieving the ambitions – of resilient and climate-mitigating water and WASH systems will require enabling environments to embrace a systems view. 

A systems perspective helps us to recognise that the water resources and WASH enabling environment need to work effectively as a whole system and is only as strong as its weakest component. A strong enabling system provides the legal, organisational, fiscal, informational, political and cultural contexts to make ‘good’ decisions. Such a system would include clear institutional arrangements, legal and regulatory frameworks, inclusive stakeholder engagement, be supportive of innovation, and require transparency and accountability. It should connect across and between scales, from local to international, and across institutional siloes. 

A systems perspective also emphasizes water’s interconnections and interdependencies with many other sectors. Water-related institutions and actors must seek collaborations with other sectors – this too requires capacities, political and cultural contexts that enable such cross-sectoral action and learning of lessons. We must strengthen various aspects of WRM and WASH governance and enabling environments to ensure sound and inclusive water governance that respects and builds on social and environmental capital. 

Abstracts that explore this theme are invited, including those relating to the following topics: 

  • Governance – planning and engagement for reforms to achieve climate-resilient water resource and WASH 
  • Overcoming structural challenges limiting the enabling environment for improved climate-resilient water and WASH systems 
  • Funding gaps, lifecycle costs and innovative approaches to leveraging finance for climate-resilient WRM and WASH 
  • Citizens’ engagement to enhance government and service provider accountability 
  • Measuring the effectiveness of governance systems for WRM and WASH services 
  • International aspects of water governance and diplomacy 
  • Inclusive coordination mechanisms for fostering collaboration and learning between government, civil society and the private sector 
  • Enabling environment strategies to foster cross-sectoral collaboration for integrated approaches to climate-adaptation and mitigation 
  • Supporting governance mechanisms and structures to be more equitable, diverse in representation and accountable.

The Water and WASH Futures team are pleased to have partnered with the following organisations to deliver this forum.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade provides foreign, trade and development policy advice to the Government. We work with other government agencies to ensure that Australia’s pursuit of its global, regional and bilateral interests is coordinated effectively.

The International WaterCentre seeks to develop the skills and knowledge in individuals, communities and organisations to drive systemic and lasting change.
IWC does this by employing a diverse range of strategies that have integrated approaches to water management at their core to strengthen the capabilities of individuals, communities and organisations.

Water for Women is the Australian Government’s flagship water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) program supporting improved health, gender equality and wellbeing in Asian and Pacific communities through socially inclusive and sustainable WASH projects and research.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) envisions a water-secure and resilient Asia and the Pacific, supporting ADB developing member countries through investments for better water services and careful management of water resources.

The Water and WASH Futures team are grateful to have received sponsorship from the following organisations for this event:

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