19 June 2016 - 21 June 2016
Laxenburg, Austria

2nd Water Futures and Solutions Scenario Focus Group Meeting

IIASA water research scholars continue extensive dialog with the Scenario Focus Group (SFG) of the Water Futures and Solutions Initiative, a representative group of water policy and planning decision makers at the national and international level.

 © Dave Bredeson | Dreamstime

© Dave Bredeson | Dreamstime

From 19-21 June 2016, the 2nd Scenario Focus Group (SFG) Meeting of the Water Futures and Solutions Initiative will take place at IIASA in Laxenburg. The meeting is the continuation of a first round of feedbacks collected from a representative group of water policy and planning decision makers at the national and international level, in Paris in 2013.

The SFG coming together at IIASA in June is a representative group of water policy and planning decision makers at national and international levels, who are involved in the development of the scenarios, and will help ensure their relevance, plausibility, and legitimacy.

The input from and exchange with the SFG will play a crucial role in directing the next phases of the WFaS Initiative towards the aim of a more sustainable global water future.


The WFaS Initiative is an ambitious and complex undertaking which aims to combine a stakeholder dialogue process with scientifically broad-based multi-model scenario assessments.

To engage stakeholders as co-producers of the scenarios is a distinct feature of the WFaS Initiative. WFaS engages stakeholders in the process of scenarios development and so initiates identification of potential solution options. The stakeholder processes are used to assess stakeholder needs and to ensure relevance of scenarios for them. Through the continued dialog within and between the SFG the scenarios will be analyzed and further improved, and potential solutions identified.

In order for the WFaS Initiative to accomplish its goals, an organizational structure has been set up comprising of various interacting groups of which two, the Scenario Focus Group and the Project Group.

The Project Group is composed of IIASA researchers and experts who support and document the qualitative and quantitative scenario development. Their main activities include performing modeling and assessment work, and test management options to determine the degree to which they are robust based on strategic directions provided by substantive input from the SFG. The project group ensures that the scenarios present an integrated, coherent and complete analysis of the issues and options, and are consistent with state-of-the-art science.

In the last two years, the project group together with outside multidisciplinary collaborators have conducted ‘fast‐track’ multi‐model analysis of the three Shared Socio-economic Pathways (SSP’s) scenarios to which the SFG provided input at its meeting in Paris in December 2013. 

With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs (Agenda 2030) by the United Nations and agreement on the UNFCCC climate goals in Paris, we now have a clear internationally agreed set of goals and targets for sustainable development.

Aims and Expected Deliverables of the 2nd Scenario Focus Group Meeting

Stakeholder participation is critical to the WFaS success as they provide an implementation perspective and reality check how to utilize and further develop project results for public and private sector. 

During the meeting the aim is to engage in a feedback loop with stakeholders to improve the envisaged pathways to a secure and sustainable water future by: 

  • Developing sets of possible future water pathways (described as narratives) for achieving SDGs as expressed in Agenda 2030, where basic human needs are satisfied in harmony with the natural world.
  • Exploring conflicts, trade-offs and divergent interests that need to be resolved in order to reach SDGs, especially SDG 6 (ensure access to water and sanitation for all).
  • Exploring types of solutions (intervention options).
  • Providing feedback and insights into WFaS activities: global water modeling, water scenarios and regional examples. 

The workshop sessions aim at gathering stakeholder ideas to develop a set of pathways consistent with the new ambitious SSP1+ assumptions (based on the The World in 2050 Initiative),  that leads to satisfying basic human needs in harmony with the natural world as expressed in Sustainable Development Goals. This approach, rather than trying to depict different destinations, would concentrate on how to make a transition from “Business as Usual” to the desired endpoint. With the focus on transition pathways, difficult tradeoffs would be explored, eventually resulting in the analysis, conclusions and guidelines important for policy makers. We plan to look specifically into unexplored and non-intuitive pathways with unexpected win-win solutions to overcome painful tradeoffs. The pathways explored will include the types of solutions (intervention options) prioritized by taking into account the types of options primarily considered in the regions and/or river basins.

The expected deliverables are substantial and include:

  • Narratives describing water sustainability pathways - how to achieve SDGs in a few selected river basins corresponding to HE classes.
  • Workshop Report including pathways’ narratives, stakeholder feedback and agreed next steps

For more information on the composition of the Scenario Focus Group in 2016:

Workshop Structure and Program of the 2nd SFG Meeting: 

The workshop is structured around maximizing small group discussions as informed by short targeted presentations.

The three day program will start with a recapitulation of the last meeting and brainstorming session and informal discussion over dinner on common goals for the current meeting.

The 2nd SFG Meeting will comprise of thematic sessions on:

  1. WFaS results and current international framework
  2. Water Security
  3. Water Trade-offs and Options and IIASA models
  4. Sustainable Water Security Pathways

The workshop sessions have been designed and structured to cover a lot of ground in an efficient way. This approach may be a bit different from other meetings or workshops. It is based on the principles of Stakeholder Dialogue - an approach that was specifically developed to enable highly productive and focused discussions for complex environmental challenges. It includes careful selection and use of facilitation techniques to make the most of everyone’s time. The workshop will be busy, very interactive and encourage full participation.  It will feel informal but we will keep participants focused on task and ensure that everyone has the chance to contribute.

For more information about the workshop content:

WFaS outlook on stakeholder engagement

Within the WFaS Initiative it is considered exceedingly important to understand the needs and priorities of all stakeholders within the basins to help guide and develop scenario preparation. These scenario narratives will be used to implement data and models that examine the consequences (both negative and positive) of various potential solution interventions in moving towards a more secure and sustainable water future.

With the adoption of the SDGs by the United Nations and agreement on the climate goals in Paris, there is now have a clear internationally agreed set of goals and targets for sustainable development. The questions and focus now developing id what are the possible pathways to achieving them?

Within this context IIASA is preparing to move to the next phase of the project which will refine the methodology used in the ‘fast‐track’ to include environmental flows and water quality and will explore adaptive solutions for future water scarcity. The ‘Sustainability’ scenario (SSP1) will be adapted with the end goal to fully achieve the sustainable development goals by 2050, with as much progress as possible by 2030.

Using this, the WFaS initiative will examine alternative sustainability pathways by testing of the impact of suggested policies and solutions, some of which you suggested at the Paris meeting. 

Part of the analysis will be done at the basin level building on the capacity of local researchers using input from basin stakeholders. We plan to present this approach at the Budapest Water Summit (November 2016) at which the key participants will be members of the High Level Panel on Water. It is important that we have your advice and input to this process.

For more information on WFaS and the SFG please read the WFaS project documents, recent publications, reports and the report of the 1st SFG Meeting (Paris 2013).

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Last edited: 03 February 2017


Simon Langan

Senior Guest Research Scholar Water Security Research Group - Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program


International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313