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World Water Day: Transforming water challenges to sustainable solutions for all

World Water Day, celebrated annually on the 22nd of March since 1993, aims to highlight the significance of freshwater resources. Considering that more than 2.2 billion inhabitants have very limited or no access to fresh water, local, national and international actions are needed to address this persistent global water crisis and in parallel, provide access to clean water to all populations.

A central objective of World Water Day is to advance the realisation of Sustainable Development Goal 6: ensuring water and sanitation for all by 2030. “Water can create peace or spark conflict. When water is scarce or polluted, or when people have unequal, or no access, tensions can rise between communities and countries” (UN Water).

The theme for this year’s World Water Day is Water for Peace.

The challenges

The variability of water directly affects populations, economies, and ecosystems, making the system less predictable and necessitating more complex management practices. This leads to challenges in water management, impacting flood and drought management, water quality, and the fair and sustainable distribution of water for all purposes. Also, two-thirds of the freshwater ecosystems worldwide are moderately to highly threatened by human activities, such as agriculture, mining, urbanisation, industrialisation and waterworks like dams, reservoirs and channels.

Consistent monitoring and assessment of water resources are essential to effectively adapt to changing hydrological conditions. This helps build a shared understanding of water-related issues, enabling the development of agreed-upon solutions.

The benefits

Optimising the water management systems to remove damaging elements is highly beneficial for humans and the environment. Proper water management offers several advantages. It allows for the efficient planning, management, and distribution of water resources, ensuring that water is used in the most effective way possible. When considering environmental safety, water management plays a pivotal role in maintaining the sustainable operation of water resources, safeguarding water quality, and guaranteeing the welfare of all water users. In nations such as India, effective water management has a paramount importance in securing food supplies and augmenting food-grain output within constrained land areas with limited water resources.

In summary, sound water management is indispensable for fostering economic growth, environmental preservation, and societal welfare.

The European context

Taking in consideration the global challenges and the benefits from the implementation of a sustainable water management system, Europe has adopted the European Water Framework (EWF) which works as the central piece of legislation for water quality management. The WFD defines water as ‘a heritage which must be protected, defended and treated as such’ (WFD, consideration (1)). As a result, its goal is to sustain water systems and ensure that bodies of water are used for human consumption.

Therefore, ensuring high water quality is considered a priority for the EU. In line with this, the European Union has intensified its efforts and grants to support projects focused on water improvement, employing innovative approaches for managing water resources. Nature-based-Solutions (NbS) and its integration into water management strategies can enhance the sustainability, resilience, and overall health of water resources, contributing to more effective and holistic approaches to water management. The following projects are working towards effective integration of water management strategies to achieve the aforementioned objectives.


D4RUNOFF focused on the pollution from urban runoff to our water environment. The project is developing new analytical and detection techniques, sensors to monitor pollutants and an AI-platform to pick up the data and provide them to the water management stakeholders and policymakers. The project’s results will contribute to the existing knowledge we have on what pollutants we can find in our cities and how the implementation of the NbS can treat the water and potentially remove the pollutants that pollute our water ecosystems. Additionally, these novel technologies and tools will be tested in three different climate locations, Santander in Spain, Odense in Denmark, and Pontedera in Italy.


NICE explores nature-based solutions such as green walls, vegetable rooftops, rain gardens and hybrid subsurface wetlands, which will be further enhanced with tailored strategies such as bioaugmentation, reactive materials and other innovative filling media, novel design and plants. Wastewater, greywater, polluted river basins, storm water and combined sewer overflow can all be sustainably managed in a circular urban water system. To achieve sustainable circular urban water loops, the project will integrate research, private sector, citizens, policies and economy. Building in an extensive analysis of existing nature-based solutions, NICE develops and tests new approaches in labs and pilots around the globe – in Vigo, Talavera, Algeciras, Benalmádena, Madrid (all in Spain), Lyon (France), Turin (Italy), Aarhus (Denmark), Gdansk (Poland), Cairo (Egypt) and Pereira (Colombia).


By developing innovative methodologies and best practices for urban water runoff management, WATERUN seeks to address diffuse water pollution in urban catchments. Through collaborative efforts with key stakeholders, including researchers, industry, public authorities and citizens, the project aims to ensure that decisions are taken with consideration for environmental, social, and economic dimensions in mind. Three diverse case studies in Santiago de Compostela, Aarhus, and Amman will allow for validation in various contexts, and contribute to advancing knowledge on diffuse water pollution in the face of climate change. Ultimately, WATERUN strives to protect public health, preserve water bodies, and promote high water quality standards in urban environments.


LIFE RESEAU project seeks to reduce the discharge of untreated stormwater overflows (SWOs) in heavy precipitation areas. To do this, it will retrofit and upgrade conventional activated sludge Wastewater Treatment Plants (WWTP) and combined sewer networks (CSN), based on the use of i) Advanced Biofilm Reactors that will be designed to be integrated into the existing facilities, increasing the WWTP capacity, without additional land requirements, ii) a Storm Water Treatment Module based on mechanical filtration  and iii) a Smart Infiltration/Inflow Management System (SiiMS) for monitoring and controlling the combined sewer networks by assessing the presence of infiltration/inflow in CSN, optimizing the operation and maintenance tasks and evaluating the influence of Climate Change scenarios. The solution will be tested in two areas: Moaña (Spain) and Søndersø (Denmark).

Water is precious and valuable for all of us. In Europe, almost 98% of the population has access to clean and fresh water, available on premises, accessible when needed, and free from fecal and chemical contamination. European efforts and the work of EU-funded projects focus on reducing and removing pollution while ensuring that there is enough water to support wildlife alongside human needs.

#WorldWaterDay #WaterAction #Goal6

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