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Supporting the COP28 Call to Action: Water for Climate Solutions

Water Policy Group welcomes the Call to Action: Water for Climate Solutions made at COP 28 by the Water and Climate Leaders.

The Call is for water and climate policy alignment, mutual support and mainstreaming actions, all of which are supported by the messages from our Listening to National Water Leaders project.

Water Policy Group particularly welcomes the inclusion of ‘policy scaffolding‘ in the proposed mutual support actions and the mainstreaming of water into UNFCCC processes which we have long advocated.

Water Policy group also believes it is time for the COP cover statement to recognise the full range of water and climate interdependencies, as has now been presented to the COP for the first time.

Upcoming webinars: Global Water Policy Insights

Gain insights from national water ministers, water agency heads, and other leaders responsible for national water issues in 126 countries.

In these webinars, Water Policy Group presents findings from its groundbreaking project, ‘Listening to National Water Leaders,’ conducted over 2021-23.

The results of this project are featured in the 2021 and 2023 Global Water Policy Reports, available at, and will be discussed in three global webinars over a two week period.

Register at no cost for the webinar that best suits your schedule. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Best for Americas
14 November, 1800-1900 GMT /  1300-1400 EST

Best for Europe,  Africa & west Asia
16 November, 1200-1300 GMT /  1300-1400 CET

Best for Asia and Oceania
20 November, 0300-0400 GMT / 1400-1500 AEDT

World Food Day: Opportunities have an expiry date!

Water security and food security are intrinsically linked. But we are moving far too slowly to make safe and clean water and sanitation accessible to everyone, and falling dangerously short in the quest to achieve zero hunger by 2030. Our current status and the prevailing trends in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are putting humanity on a very risky path.

Agriculture, our biggest water user, will need to respond to an estimated 50 percent increase in global food demand over the next 20 years. We must accomplish this by significantly increasing productivity, diversifying crops, and improving resource use efficiency. Recent projections from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) indicate that ‘business as usual’ could lead to an unsustainable 30 percent increase in agricultural water withdrawals. Meanwhile, household, industrial, and energy uses continue to rise, and there is less predictability and more volatility in water supply due to climate change. We are also facing increased water demand for climate mitigation measures such as for biofuels, hydrogen generation and commitment of reservoir capacity for hydropower (reported here) that further add to these pressures. These stressors have the potential to exacerbate conflict risks across regions and sectors.

A major paradigm shift is needed to rebalance policies, financing methods and levels, production and consumption patterns, and our lifestyle choices.

Water Policy Group’s Global Water Policy Reports 2021 and 2023 indicate that national water leaders see climate change as the highest risk to achieving their water objectives. The reports also indicate that national government leaders responsible for health, energy, environment, and food security do understand the significance of water for their sectoral objectives, but adequate responses are few and far between because water is not high enough on government agendas or is a low funding priority.

It is high time we turn this picture around and significantly accelerate our efforts towards achieving the SDGs and their targets for water and food security for all. A rapidly closing window of opportunity exists for governments to elevate water among national priorities, develop cross-sectoral policy, and improve governance that promotes efficient water use while protecting the underprivileged including women, youth, indigenous communities, and smallholder farmers.

Sound national water policies will enhance national and global food security, provide major climate adaptation and mitigation benefits, support economic development, help stop and reverse biodiversity loss and environmental degradation and reduce disaster risk—all while providing water security for all.

Water security remains the most accessible building block for SDG 2 toward zero hunger. It also supports the full suite of SDGs as well as our collective quest to halt global warming through a just transition to a low-carbon global economy. Water is too often taken for granted, despite having an extraordinarily high return on investment ratio.

Water Policy Group can support governments in their efforts. Our proposed ‘global scaffolding’ can provide the principles and guidance that may assist in achieving the right balance and the elusive ‘win-win’ solutions across sectors. When implemented, this ‘scaffolding’ would complement FAO’s National Water Roadmaps initiative.

Download the PDF statement

Water Policy Group
16 October 2023

NEW report reveals major challenges facing national water leaders

The 2023 Global Water Policy Report offers a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, experiences and opinions of national water leaders from 92 countries, responsible for water policy and decision-making impacting a combined population of 5.7 billion people.

Released on Thursday 6 July by Water Policy Group, the 2023 Global Water Policy Report: Listening to national water leaders reveals insights from national water leaders on current water risks and challenges, how international processes can best support improved water outcomes at the national level, and issues of integration with other sectors.

Among their many messages, national water leaders are saying:

  • Inadequate infrastructure and data along with fragmented institutions are their greatest water challenges.
  • The international, multilateral scientific processes most useful to them are those that can provide water data and information, forecasts, projections and scenarios—as well as monitoring, evaluations, and assessments that can be used at a within-country scale.
  • Platforms like the Water Action Agenda that would enable countries to make public commitments in relation to water can help raise the priority of water in their government.

Water Policy Group member Tony Slatyer says, “Given the basic responsibility of governments for the well-being of the people under their jurisdiction, we are deeply interested in the experience and opinions of the Ministers and the senior officials who have this responsibility within governments. Policy makers and water practitioners in all countries and in all international organisations committed to improved water outcomes will also be interested in the particular and shared experience of these national water leaders.”

In 2022, invitations were sent by the President of the UN General Assembly (PGA) to all UN member States, through their UN New York-based Permanent Representatives, for Ministers responsible for water matters (or their top officials) to respond to the Water Policy Group survey. The key findings from the 2023 Global Water Policy Report helped to inform global dialogue at the United Nations 2023 Water Conference (22-24 March 2023), and the 2023 Water Policy Report sets out these findings in full.

The 2023 Global Water Policy Report: Listening to Water Leaders was prepared by the Water Policy Group in partnership with the University of New South Wales Sydney Global Water Institute.

Download the full report.

Water Policy Group
6 July 2023

Dr Olcay Ünver receives 2023 IWRA Crystal Drop Award

Water Policy Group congratulates member Dr Olcay Ünver on his receipt of the 2023 International Water Resources Association (IWRA) Crystal Drop Award, given for his outstanding and impactful contributions to the global water sector.

The IWRA Crystal Drop Award is bestowed upon organisations or individuals in recognition of their laudable contributions to the improvement of the world’s water situation. Awarded only every three years, it represents the highest level of recognition by IWRA and is one of the most esteemed awards available to individuals within the global water community.

In addition to being a valued member of Water Policy Group, Dr Ünver is currently Professor of Practice at Environmental and Resource Management Programme; Senior Global Futures Scientist at Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory; and Adjunct Faculty at Melikian Center at Arizona State University. He is also Industry Fellow at Australian Rivers Institute and serves as senior advisor to Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations and UNESCO.

In his public service career spanning over three decades, he served as Vice-Chair of UN-Water, led FAO’s water programmes and activities, and UNESCO’s World Water Assessment Programme. Earlier, he was a distinguished Professor at Kent State University, Ohio. In his home country, Turkey, he was President of the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP), where he transformed an engineering project of dams, power plants and irrigation systems into a sustainable human development programme integrating social development, employment creation, gender equality and environmental sustainability with infrastructure investments, which earned an IWRA Millennum Award.

Fellow Water Policy Group member Tony Slatyer congratulated Dr Ünver on behalf of the Group, saying, “We are so pleased with this recognition of Olcay’s tireless work in global water affairs. He is both a total professional and an enthusiast for the cause of improved water outcomes everywhere. We also acknowledge and warmly thank Olcay for his commitment and contribution to our Global Water Policy Reports, the 2023 edition of which is about to be published.”

The winners will officially receive their awards at a celebration during the XVIII World Water Congress in Beijing, China (September 11-15, 2023). A second IWRA Crystal Drop Award will be presented to the Korea Water Resources Corporation (K-Water), for its contributions to global efforts in addressing water scarcity, promoting water security, and implementing efficient water management practices.

Water Policy Group
28 June 2023

Download PDF statement

Media enquiries: Trish Dalby | 

Anne Castle writes foreword for new book on the Colorado River

Water Policy Group member Anne Castle – former assistant secretary of the Interior for Water and Science and a Colorado River veteran – has written the foreword for a new book titled Living River – The Promise of the Mighty Colorado. The book explores the endangered Colorado River from source to sea with conservation photographer Dave Showalter, using powerful visual storytelling to illustrate how we can create a resilient watershed if we change our relationship with water.

A section of the foreword is shared below and the book is now available for purchase through Mountaineers Books.

“The Colorado River is a waterway of superlatives—the most volatile supplies, the most iconic landscapes, the most dammed, the most litigated, and, lamentably, the most threatened.  It is also a river of contrasts, encompassing thriving cities juxtaposed with large swaths of rural areas where many households lack clean drinking water, whitewater rapids providing challenge and recreation upstream of a dried-up estuary, and lush and lucrative farmland whose very viability is threatened by diminished supplies […] Imagery provides a visceral understanding of the value of this river. It deepens our sense of community and stimulates appreciation for the many ways in which this river is loved—and being loved to death. These stunning pictures and the stories that accompany them offer touchstones of understanding of the river’s dilemma and furnish a foundation for a stronger commitment to sustainability.”

Learn more about the book.

Key findings from latest National Water Leaders Survey

Water Policy Group has released key findings from its latest ‘Listening to National Water Leaders’ survey, as a contribution to the UN 2023 Water Conference (22-24 March 2023).

The results provide insights from water leaders about how the United Nations and other international processes can help achieve water outcomes at the country level.

Water leaders from 92 countries across all regions participated in this project. Together, these countries make up a combined population of 5.7 billion—or 73% of the world’s population. The findings are now available for all UN member States and other entities to use as they prepare for the UN 2023 Water Conference.

Water Policy Group
14 March 2023

Download report.

Media enquiries: Trish Dalby | 

Policy scaffolding for water management issues

Water Policy Group proposes a new approach to help policy-makers solve the most sensitive water management issues.

The idea of global ‘scaffolding’ for water policy is to assist governments to work through difficult water management decisions using global principles and guidance agreed through an inclusive inter-government and multi-stakeholder process.

Water Policy Group offers the concept for consideration by the United Nations 2023 Water Conference (New York 22-24 March 2023).

Water Policy Group
14 March 2023

Read concept note

2022 Global Water Leaders Survey launched with support from United Nations

The 2022 Global Water Leaders Survey has been formally launched by Water Policy Group following a meeting convened by the President of the United Nations General Assembly (UN PGA) in New York on 24 October 2022.

Addressing the meeting, Water Policy Group member Olcay Ünver described how the results of the 2022 Global Water Leaders survey would contribute to the outcomes of the United Nations 2023 Water Conference, which is the midterm comprehensive review of the implementation of the International Decade for Action, ‘Water for Sustainable Development’, 2018-2028.

“Water Policy Group offers to support the United Nations 2023 Water Conference by drawing on the collective experience and perspective of Ministers and national water leaders with specific goal of contributing to the substance of Water Action Agenda and Water Action Decade, and improving alignment between water and other public policy outcomes,” said Mr Ünver.

In partnership with the University of New South Wales Global Water Institute, the 2022 Global Water Leaders Survey will gather thoughts and opinions from national water leaders from all over the world, feeding into the 2023 Global Water Policy Report. The Report will provide valuable insights into how water could be made a higher priority within national governments, how multilateral processes could help to achieve better water outcomes at the national level, and the level of agreeance between ministerial colleagues on the extent to which water outcomes contribute to other public policy objectives. The Report will also include a section on risks and challenges that impact national water leaders, building on the results of the previous survey to secure a deeper dataset and perspective—and identify whether key risks and challenges have evolved over the past year.

The inaugural Water Policy Report, the 2021 Global Water Policy Report: Listening to Water Leaders was released in November 2021, reflecting data from water leaders from 88 countries. Among the many findings, it revealed that the Sustainable Development Goalson water were ‘challenging’ or ‘impossible’ for many, with governance problems and lack of financing the main reasons for this.

Upon publication of the 2021 Report, then UN-Water Vice-Chair Ms Kelly Ann Naylor expressed her support, saying, “By surveying water leaders from all regions of the world, this report is a key point of reference as we move towards the UN 2023 water conference.”

Water Policy Group member and project Chair Mr Tom Soo said that the Group is encouraged by the support received so far.

“The 2023 conference is a major opportunity for nations around the world to collectively take a step forward in facing our water challenges,” said Mr Soo.

“Water Policy Group is extremely encouraged that the UN PGA and all those involved in the conference’s preparatory processes understand the importance of and support the water leader’s survey.  We’ll now look forward to the responses from water leaders around the world and delivering the findings in the leadup to the water conference next year.”

Water ministers of all UN Member States will be invited to participate in the 2022 Survey, which will close in mid-December.

The 2023 Global Water Policy Report and a summary of key findings will be released at the UN 2023 Water Conference in New York on 22-24 March 2023.

Questions about eligibility and survey access can be directed to

Water Policy Group
23 November 2022

Download statement  |   Read concept note