UN Water Conference 2023: Uniting the world for water

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BIOAZUL participates in the United Nations Water Conference in New York

Water is a key element for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and for the health and prosperity of people and the planet. Yet our progress on water-related goals and targets remains alarmingly behind the mark, putting the entire sustainable development agenda in jeopardy.

Starting from this premise, the UN Water Conference 2023 was held in New York in March, 22-24, coinciding the first day with the International Water Day where BIOAZUL were invited to participate, a trip we will never forget.

Our intensive week in New York started Monday the 20th prior the UN Water conference, visiting the Embassy of Spain in the United States at the Chrysler Building where we had a meeting with the representatives from the New York Economic and Commercial Office as well as from Extenda – Trade & Investment Agency of Andalusia.

They gave us the opportunity to present BIOAZUL, our business lines and most relevant projects. Based on that, they explained how to make business and the different opportunities given by United Nations in the field of water. It was really amazing to get this first-hand information that will for sure support the company internationalization in multilateral programmes.

Open Call for Water Action

On the 22nd the UN Water Conference officially began, and it was impressive to see attendees from over the world moving around, making pictures, looking for a specific room, asking for the accreditations to enter in the different Plenary and the Interactive Dialogues, but all with a common objective: to accomplish the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their targets connected to water.

The first event where we had the opportunity of participating was the one dedicated to the Open Call for Water Action. A side event organized by the CEO Water Mandate which is an unprecedented appeal for private sector action to help solve the global water crisis and advance progress on SDG 6 to ensure access to water and sanitation for all.

“More than 50 leading global companies unite to make unprecedented collective commitment to SDG 6, call upon other companies to join “Open Call for Water Action” during historic UN 2023 Water Conference”

By joining the Open Call for Water Action, companies commit to work to build water resilience across their own global operations and supply chains. “We need concerted, collective action to ensure that there will be enough water for everyone in the very near future,” said Sandra Ojiambo, Executive Director and CEO of the United Nations Global Compact. “The private sector has the knowledge, resources and the skills to accelerate the action on water”. It was also inspiring to hear the CEO of Veolia, Estelle Brachlianoff, reminding that “the inaction is always more costly than the action”.

Climate Resilience needs a Water-Smart Society

Another of the topics of the first day of the conference was the climate resilience and how relevant it is to ensure the sustainable water management and sanitation for all to achieve this climate resilience and circularity. This was the focus of the side event organized by Water Europe and Ragn-Sells in partnership with the Consulate of Sweden in New York, BIOAZUL, Suez and Xylem.

“The Water Energy Food and Ecosystem (WEFE) Nexus interlinked approach contribute to circularity and resilience of the food systems”

Here our CEO Antonia Lorenzo had the opportunity to present the PRIMA BONEX project, coordinated by BIOAZUL. The WEFE Nexus methodology and other innovations proposed by BONEX are truly aligned with the need to go from the “silo approach” to the “integrated and interconnected approach” where the use of alternative water sources, resource recovery, renewable energy and energy savings are interlinked and whose implementation should preserve the planet ecosystems. The origin of these alternative sources of water (reclaimed and desalinated water) will not be that relevant any more in the near future and quality will be key to accelerate circular transition.

One of the best events we attended during this day was the “Actionable water reuse: valuing water for sustainable economic development”, organized by Vito. It covered the political will, through the participation of two Ministers, both women, Minister Zuhal Demir and Miniter Lydia Peeters and also the work being done by Water Reuse Europe, presented by one of the Directors Inge Genné, to contribute to the implementation of successful reuse scheme projects. As the leader of the Water Europe Working Group on Water and Sustainable Food Systems, our works is close and complementary to the one performed by Water Reuse Europe, and it is always good to know more about their initiatives.

“The use of reclaimed water must be promoted”

We also attended “Incorporating non-conventional water resources into integrated water resources management” event where, above all, they talked about the role of desalination (one of the organizers was the International Desalination Association) in these unconventional resources and the future ow water scarcity. The use of reclaimed water was also mentioned, a resource that must be promoted due to its low contribution to the pool of resources. In Spain, only 10% of treated water is regenerated and reused. A special case is the Region of Murcia , which regenerates and reuses 95% of the treated water.

Water for Climate

During our second day of the conference we had the honour of participating in the side event on Water for Climate organized by the Foundation on Low Carbon Economy in partnership with EU Climate Pact Ambassadors of Spain and the European Union. The side event examined the links between water and climate change from the perspective of the EU Climate Pact, which is a European initiative designed to raise awareness about climate change.

“H2O is to Climate Change Adaptation what CO2 is to Climate Change Mitigation” (Elena López-Gunn, CEO and founder of Icatalist)

The event underlined the need for greater cooperation between the water and climate communities to take action. “The water consumption has multiplied by 6 in the last year, twice the population growth. If there is no change in the business-as-usual scenario and in the consumption patterns, the global water deficit is estimated to be 40% by 2050”, highlighted our CEO Antonia Lorenzo during her speech on water and the private sector. Give greater attention to the role of water, promote the importance of water in climate adaptation and improving governance at international level were some of the key recommendations for water action.

It was very refreshing to listen to the young people point of view in relation with climate change and its effects. Youth want to act, but conventional channels and the type of information being delivered is not reaching them as expected. The use of social media seems to be effective, using messages adapted to their worries and fears.

Water, Energy, Food and Ecosystems Nexus

There is a very close relationship between water and climate, because through the water we feel and see clearly the effects of climate change. The solution must be addressed through the water-energy-food-ecosystem nexus as our climate and water systems are linked, and sustainable water management (through valuing and saving this resource) is a tool to address global climate challenges. These were some of the ideas presented during the event organized by Denmark House in New York titled “WEFE Nexus: Highlighting the need for Water-Smart Industry” which aimed at highlighting the urgent action that must be taken in a beyond business-as-usual approach to solve the challenges and deliver innovative and transformative solutions. Also we had the opportunity to meet Paul Rübig who participated as a speaker and he is the main author of the book: Emergency Preparedness, A Sustainable #Food #WATER #Energy Future, where our CEO Antonia Lorenzo and our colleague Rafael Casielles have collaborated with a chapter on “water and Sustainable Food Systems”.

The third and las day at the conference, we continued participating in events related to WEFE Nexus. In this occasion we attend the side event organized by IAAS (International Association of Students in Agricultural and Related Sciences) to address the complexity of the water-food-energy-ecosystem nexus in the MENA region. This event was very much aligned with the BONEX project scope. It was very gratifying to hear very young researchers and students to present their work and case studies in Morocco and Iran dealing with water allocation and conflicts in areas suffering from water scarcity problems, respectively. The organisers also gave the floor to the participants to hear about the challenges in their countries and how their entities are working on the implementation of actions contributing to the WEFE Nexus.

To finalise the day, we were invited to attend the event organized by One Drop Foundation and Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) among other, titled “Be the Drop that Shapes the Wave: Changing the story through the power of water and art for SDG6”. Leonellha Barreto, a colleague with who BIOAZUL has worked in several projects, chair this event dealing with innovation and entrepreneurship. We had the opportunity to meet again Marcello Basani and Sergio Campos from the Inter-American Development Bank and with who we worked in a consultancy for a circular economy and innovation from slaughterhouses to reduce watershed pollution in the LAC region.

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