2nd International Conference on Water and Society4 - 6 September 2013
New Forest, UK
The second international Conference on Water & Society took place in the New Forest, home of the Wessex Institute of Technology, the organisers of the meeting.
The Conference which follows the success of the first meeting held in Las Vegas, provides a multidisciplinary focus for the presentation and discussion of many issues affecting water resources management and technologies.
The availability of clean and inexpensive water can no longer be taken for granted as the need for it continues to increase due to a growing world population demanding higher standards of living. Agriculture and industry, major users of water, are at the same time those who contribute more to its contamination.
The socio political implications of a world short of clean, easily available water are enormous. Coupled with the increased demands for energy it will lead to realignment in international politics and possibly the emergence of new centres of power in the world.
The Conference reviewed those issues as well as some more technical aspects of water resources management and quality to help the policy makers put forward policies and legislation that will lead to improved solutions. It is the wish of the conference that a climate of justice and peace can be developed with mankind learning to share the benefits of this unique substance, the origin of all life on earth.The Conference was opened by Professor Carlos A Brebbia, director of the Wessex Institute who welcomed the delegates and explained how the Conference relates to the aims of the Institute, ie the international dissemination of knowledge.
Carlos presented some of the technical developments pioneered by WIT, including the production of major computer codes for the solution of problems in science and engineering. This led to wide recognition of WIT around the world and close collaboration with industry.
Another way in which the Wessex Institute disseminates knowledge is through the WIT Press extensive publication programme which now produces nearly 70 books per year in addition to publishing a series of international journals.
The conference programme is an essential part of WIT activities as it brings together scientists from all over the world. This results in the development of networks of expertise, typically involving interdisciplinary topics.
Keynote Address by Prof. P Canelas de Castro
Carlos then introduced the keynote speaker, Professor Paulo Canelas de Castro from the University of Macau and currently a Scholar at Claire Hall, University of Cambridge. Paulo is coordinator of the Master in European Union Law, International Law and Comparative Law in Macau where he is holder of the Jean Monet Chair.
Paulo has participated in important international activities. He was legal adviser and counsel for Portugal and Mozambique in different water law issues. He was a member of the Luso-Spanish Commission for implementation and development of the 1998 water convention. He is currently consultant for several organisations and Judge of Red Cross International Humanitarian law Moot Court in Hong Kong. He has received many academic awards and is a member of different renowned organisations.
Paulo spoke about “Changes and Continuities: The Evolution of International Water Law”. He explained that over the past thirty years International Water Law has undergone profound transformations, real paradigm shifts.“The 'old' paradigm was based on purely intergovernmental law, minimalist in its obligations, focused mainly on bilateral contracts almost exclusively related to construction projects, quantitative in content and anthropocentric to the core. Its geographical focus also mirrored these minimalist tendencies: so many times it was reduced to boundary waters issues. In such an approach, there is no room for environmental ‘fancies’ nor participation by actors other than the state, and international law is little more than a sum of rights and obligations which lack any purpose or ethical concern. The only identifiable principle is the (economic) principle of equitable use, barely constrained by the vague notion that an effort should be made to avoid damaging neighbouring territory. What is postulated is merely the equitable conciliation of interests. A minimalist law leads to equally weak legal constraints. The Helsinki Rules, adopted by the International Law Association in 1966, are a good illustration of this tendency. Hard law basically consists of treaties, typically bilateral, adopted in Europe and the United States mainly, such as the Luso-Spanish 'conventions'.
“Since the mid-1990s, however, this normative panorama has been experiencing fundamental changes. The first sign was a profusion of international conventions. This has been supplemented by the activity of numerous international organisations, especially those of the UN family (evidenced by documents such as Agenda 21 or the regulations of the World Bank), and of non-governmental organisations like the International Law Institute or the International Law Association (the Berlin Rules on Water Resources being particularly important). The search is on for new solutions, whether material, procedural, logistical, or organisational for integrated international waters management; a new paradigm.
“Three main trends seem to evidence its fundamental characteristics. These are the cardinal choices or 'friendships', propensities of a body of law that is no longer axiologically neutral, but governed instead by goals and values in an effort to respond to the global water crisis.
“The first of these choices is the protection of the environmental or ecological status of water as well as associated ecosystems. This option is expressed in the definition of the goal of water and ecosystem protection on the same footing as the goal of water use regulation; in the holistic reference of these subject-matters to a much larger and interconnected universe of objects, as the concept of ‘river basin’ indicates; in the integration of solutions for the most diverse problems of international water management, whether in ‘normal’ or extreme situations; in the highlighting of the issue of water quality. Henceforth, any new project, any new development scheme has to subscribe to the logic of sustainable development.
“The second option is that of developing intense multi-stakeholder relations. Where classic law guarantees a conciliation of interests between riparian states only, new law seeks to integrate, at both its law-making and implementation stages, an ample and diversified range of actors. This involves states, of course, but not just riparian states, because, for instance due to the increasing focus on the interrelation between river and sea, the participation of coastal states is encouraged, along with states without transboundary waters, as seen in the adoption of the UN Convention. Many other formerly excluded players are now considered, such as international organisations, regional or specialised, along with non-governmental actors, whether NGOs, individuals or epistemic communities. Gradually the perspective of multi-level, transnational governance is being adopted in contrast to traditional, international government.
“Increasingly, it is admitted that the solution to the global water crisis may lie in a multi-polar network of initiatives, which would also imply that this new form of law has a vision sufficiently large of international concerns.
“The third choice is the increased coherence and robustness of this area of law, a robustness which is evident not so much in an increase in the number of mechanisms but in the growing complexity of its internal solutions. Today they cover all the water management issues in an integrated vision of sustainable development, and seek to ensure the most wide-ranging justice. This is what explains the growing interface of International Water Law with wider-ranging International Environmental Law.
“It is revealing that there is a clear assumption that water is not only a social and environmental entity, but also an economic one. At the same time, modern international water law is becoming increasingly coherent and organised.
Paulo ended by saying that such profound changes, tantamount to a silent revolution should however not make us forget that paradigm shifts do not occur neatly and at a precise time. They rather are part of a long lasting process of reshaping normative responses to new challenges and that this process does not go without facing resistances. It is, moreover, a never ending process with emerging (new) issues already discernible in the horizon.
Keynote Address Dr M-W HoThe next keynote address was given by Dr Mae-Wan Ho, Director of Science in Society and Chief Editor and Art Director of Science in Society magazine. She is best known for pioneering work on the physics of organisms and sustainable systems, presented in books such as The Rainbow and the Worm, The Physics of Organisms and Living Rainbow H²O. She is also a prominent critic of Neo-Darwinism and genetic determinism, and was among the first to warn of the dangers of genetic modification in her book Genetic Engineering Dream or Nightmare? She took part in the United Nations negotiations that led to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, and is on its roster of experts. She is frequently asked to advise governments, non-government organizations and international agencies on a range of issues including GMOs, sustainable agriculture, circular economy, and renewable energies; and is much in demand as speaker on all these issues in addition to evolution, and science and art, being also an artist and occasional poet.
Mae-Wan curated two art/science/music festivals recently, the latest (Colours of Water, 2013) to raise public awareness on the depletion and pollution of water resources, and the importance of conservation and sustainable use.
Mae-Wan has published more than 170 scientific papers and over 600 popular articles across the disciplines.
Dr Ho’s address was entitled “Living H²O: the Rainbow Within”. In her own words “Quantum coherent liquid crystalline water at interfaces makes life possible by enabling proteins and nucleic acids to transform and transfer energy at close to 100 % efficiency. It provides the excitation energy to split water in photosynthesis, releasing oxygen for the teaming millions of air-breathing species that populate our planet, at the same time generating electricity for intercommunication and the redox chemistry that powers the entire biosphere.” She concluded -
“Water is the means, medium and message of life; the rainbow within that mirrors the one in the sky”
Keynote Address by Dr J WinpennyAnother important address was entitled “Is Water a Risk or an Opportunity?” by Dr James Winpenny of Wychwood Economic Consulting.
James Winpenny is an independent economic consultant based in Oxfordshire, UK, specialising in economic and financial aspects of international water. He holds degrees in economics from Cambridge University and the University of East Anglia. Prior to his present role, he held academic and research positions, was a senior economist in the UK’s development agency, worked in management consultancy, and has been a senior economist in the European Investment Bank. He has been a consultant to DFID - Department of Foreign International Development, UK - and most of the leading international development and financing agencies. He is the author of 8 books and many other publications and papers.
In the words of James “Alarm bells are starting to ring about the state of the world’s water. Will there be enough to go around for 2030’s population, meeting the swelling needs of domestic consumers, industries and farmers, without depriving the natural environment of essential flows? What difference will climate change make? Will market forces, aided and abetted by far-sighted and benign governments, meet the challenge? Is water (quantity and quality) going to be the key constraint on China’s growth? Why is business worried – but not governments?
These issues, amongst others, were explored in a wide-ranging talk which unpacked the ideas behind water security, what it means in different countries and circumstances, and why it is so vital to sustainable economic growth. The latest evidence and projections were presented to give some perspective to the topic, drawing on the speaker’s recent work for the UN, OECD, African Development Bank , UK DFID (Department of Foreign International Development), Global Water Partnership and other international development agencies and networks. The speaker focused on what the risks, challenges and opportunities imply for the main stakeholders involved.
The other invited presentations were as follows:
- “Pathogen Removal Options: Emphasising SOLDIS filtrate of a GSAP microflush toilet” by Steve Mecca from Providence College, USA.
- “Development of Evaluation Model for Customers’ Satisfaction of Water Supply Service” by Nagahisa Hirayama of the National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan.
- “Generational differences in policy preferences for water sharing - implications for the future” by Henning Bjornlund, University of Lethbridge, Canada and University of South Australia.
All other papers were classified under the following topics:
- Water Resources Management
- Water as a Human Right
- Water Quality
- Water Resources Contamination
- Water, Sanitation and Health
- Water and Disaster Management
- Policy and Legalisation
A special technical visit took place during the afternoon of the second day of the Conference to the water treatment works on the River Itchen. The works came into operation in 1973 and since commissioning, a number of treatment improvements have taken place including the addition of a water storage reservoir in 1983, a major refurbishment ending in 2001, and the builing of a membrane filtration plant in 2007.
The Manager of the site gave a general presentation on the various treatment processes which are used to improve the quality of the water. This was followed by a site tour to look at the individual treatment processes in more detail. Before visiting the treatment works, a packed lunch was provided for the delegates at the Itchen Valley Country Park which is adjacent to the site.
The participants had plenty of opportunities to interact with each other in a friendly environment in addition to coffee breaks. In addition, a BBQ was arranged during the first lunch break. Delegates were driven to the Wessex Institute campus and shown around the premises as well as being offered roast lamb for which Hampshire is famous. The excellent weather and the convivial atmosphere helped to make the occasion unique.
The Conference dinner took place in a renowned New Forest restaurant where the outstanding dishes were accompanied by excellent wines. Carlos thanked the delegates for having attended the dinner and for making the Conference such a successful international event, where delegates from different cultures and various parts of the world were able to interchange ideas and hold discussions in a friendly and productive way.
The International Scientific Advisory Committee of the conference met over dinner to discuss problems of common interest and suggestions for future meeting. This took place in a local restaurant in Ashurst village.
Closing of the Conference
The Conference was closed by Carlos who invited the presenters to send an extended version of their paper for publication in one of the International Journals published by WIT Press. He also explained that the digital library of the WIT Transactions is in the process of being upgraded to improve its accessibility and search facilities.
Papers from the conference will also be hosted online at the WIT eLibrary as Volume 178 of WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment (ISSN: 1746-448X, Digital ISSN 1743-3541). For more details visit the WIT eLibrary at http://library.witpress.com