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Claim for integrated water research policy in Europe


02 Oct 2009


Climate & Environment
Sustainable Dev.

The workshop ‘Water for Integration – Integration for Water’ took place in Brussels on September 28, 2009. This event provided a platform for participants from different sectors to discuss barriers and needs relating to integrated water research. The workshop was organized by

On Monday, September 28, the European workshop ‘Water for Integration – Integration for Water’ organized by the Institute for Social-Ecological Research (ISOE) in cooperation with the European Water Partnership (EWP)
took place in Brussels. The participants included scientists, representatives and decision makers from European institutions, research funding agencies
and the private sector. As Thomas Kluge from ISOE subsumed in his closing remarks, they are calling on politicians to promote integrated research in the water sector and are appealing to researchers to launch joint initiatives and
look beyond the water cycle. To this end, the participants explored requirements and barriers concerning integration in current water research, and demonstrated approaches with which to tackle the issue. Furthermore, they
established ways of facilitating an open exchange between science and policy makers along with means of developing recommendations for future European Union research policy related to water and integration.

Today, water represents one of the most explosive issues confronting societies. Decision makers at all levels are being called upon to find long-lasting
solutions for pressing water problems. Cristina Gutiérres-Cortines from the European Parliament emphasized the fact that “politicians have to deal with a highly complex field driven by a multitude of controversial interests” and
pointed out “the need to reduce this complexity to practical, responsible and transparent decisions”. Furthermore, the heterogeneity of this field is mirrored
in various debates: water as a resource and a sink of pollutants, the social and ecological functions of aquatic ecosystems, the future design of water infrastructure, and the importance of sustainability in the management
of river basins. There is an evident need for water to be assessed in all its dimensions, namely economic, social, environmental and cultural. “Multidimensional assessments can help in the prioritisation of action” said scientist
Caroline Sullivan from Southern Cross University, Australia.

However, the actual practice of integrated water research still remains the exception rather than the rule. This is shown by the lack of an intermediate platform between science, decision makers and stakeholders, which was
one of the points addressed during the panel discussion. Integrated water research poses a great challenge for policy makers, funding agencies, evaluators and the scientists themselves, despite being a vital source of
knowledge for pressing political decisions and their sustainable implementation.

With this in mind, Andrea Tilche from the European Commission emphasized that “integrated water research is needed to help people to think out of their box”. A barrier to this lies in the traditional divisions between

research communities and, in particular, the cultural rift between the natural, engineering and social sciences, a situation which is reflected in research policy and its implementation. It is rare to find adequate funding schemes or joint calls for integrated research here, and transparent quality criteria and evaluation methods for such research are still lacking.

The workshop complements the policy review process initiated by the EWP in 2008, through which the ‘Water Vision for Europe for 2030’ was develope and presented at the 5th World Water Forum in Istanbul. The outcomes of
the ‘Water for Integration – Integration for Water’ workshop will feed directly into the 3rd Aquawareness stakeholder meeting in Brussels on September 29, 2009 and thereby into the vision mapping process which concludes the
EWP’s policy review process.

Further information:

Press Contact:

Dr. Corinne Benzing
Knowledge Communications & Public Relations
Institute for Social-Ecological Research (ISOE)
Phone +49 69 707 69 19-30