22 March 2021

IIASA and World Water Day 2021

World Water Day held annually on 22 March, celebrates water and raises awareness of the 2.2 billion people living without access to safe water. It is about taking action to tackle the global water crisis. A core focus of World Water Day is to support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: Water and sanitation for all by 2030.



IIASA Water Security group is involved in several regional and global activities and initiatives focused on providing scientific knowledge needed to address the quest for water security. The group helps bridge science-policy-practice gaps related to water management and identifies solutions options that will ensure sustainable water futures.

As per the UN Water, the theme of this year’s World Water Day is valuing Water. Under the theme of Valuing Water, the 2021 campaign aims at generating a global, public conversation about how people value water for all its uses. The aim is to create a more comprehensive understanding of how Water is Valued by different people in different contexts so we can safeguard this precious resource for everyone. The value of water is much more than its price, see below five different perspectives highlighted by UN Water.

Valuing Water: Five different perspectives

1. Valuing water sources – natural water resources and ecosystems.
2. Valuing water infrastructure – storage, treatment and supply.
3. Valuing water services – drinking water, sanitation and health services.
4. Valuing water as an input to production and socio-economic activity.
5. Valuing socio-cultural aspects of water – recreational, cultural and spiritual attributes.

Highlights of IIASA Water Security Group Research and Activities

The IIASA Water Security group has continually been active in water science since the institute's inception in 1972. The group develops models and uses scenario-based approaches to support policymakers with sound scientific data and tools for responding to current and future global water challenges. 

  1. Groundwater Solutions Initiative for Policy and Practice (GRIPP)
    We are proud to announce that IIASA has joined GRIPP, a global partnership for sustainable groundwater management led by the International Water Management Institute to strengthen, expand, and connect current groundwater research and initiatives. Read GRIPP

  2. Strengthening water resources planning in East Africa

    Credit: Adam Islaam | IIASA

    IIASA researchers worked with local stakeholders from the East African Community to explore and co-develop regional water scenarios that can enhance understanding of the up- and downstream water sector interactions in the extended Lake Victoria Basin to facilitate rational water resource planning. Read more 

  3. Cooperation needed for a Sustainable future in Transboundary River Basins
    Can cooperation across sectors and countries help to achieve sustainable development? How do stakeholders in the Indus and Zambezi basins envision the future and how can they make that future a reality? IIASA researchers looked into these questions as part of a large-scale initiative with international partners. For this purpose in November 2016, IIASA partnered with the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) to establish the Integrated Solutions for Water, Energy, and Land (ISWEL) project. Read More

    Policy briefs

    Cooperation and joint investments are key to sustainable development in the Indus basin

    Sustainable development pathways to water, food, and energy security in the Zambezi basin

  4. UN World Water Development Report - WWDR 2021
    The United Nations World Water Development Report 2021 on Valuing Water focuses on opportunities and challenges to determine the multiple values of water as viewed through the lenses of the broad perspectives of key stakeholders or interest groups, examining each of them across social, economic, and environmental domains. Taher Kahil, Leader of the Water Security Research Group, and Yoshihide Wada, Director of the Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program, at IIASA, contributed to chapter 5 on Food and Agriculture led by FAO. This chapter addresses how value has been, and currently is being, attributed to agricultural water and identifies what is not yet valued, but could be, as well as the reasons and potential constraints. The unintended consequences of the ways in which water is currently valued in food and agriculture are highlighted, as well as the opportunities for and benefits of valuing it. View the report

MODELING Activities

  1. The Community Water Model (CWATM) is an open source model that examines how future water demand will evolve in response to socioeconomic change and how water availability will change in response to climate. The model enables the assessment of water supply and human and environmental water demands at both global and regional levels and is the first step towards developing an integrated modeling framework that will be able to provide vital information to decision and policymakers.

  2. Global Hydro-Economic Model (ECHO) is a bottom-up system analysis framework that can be used to develop integrated, long-term planning strategies for the water system. It can be used to inform the design of cost-effective and sustainable water policy decisions and to address the impacts of future changing socioeconomic and climatic conditions on water systems.
  3. Water Quality Modeling
    The IIASA Water Program conducts water quality modeling for water availability- and scarcity assessment, water-energy-land-environment nexus analysis, and identification of cost-effective solutions under long-term changes. 
    The MARINA model is soft-linked to CWATM and ECHO at IIASA’s Water Program. The MARINA model is used to quantify current and future nutrient export to coastal waters for selected large river basins under different socio-economic development and climate change pathways. 

Water Games: A joint initiative by IIASA and the Centre for Systems Solutions

With the growing population and environmental degradation, we are at a point where around 60% of people do not have access to sufficient and stable freshwater resources. How to address different water challenges? How to safeguard water resources for the benefit of our livelihood, culture, and environment?

Games and Simulations can provide exciting and insightful ways to raise awareness, develop empathy, and explore the opportunities and limitations of achieving clean and accessible water for all. IIASA and the Centre for Systems Solutions have been collecting and describing such water-related games and their applications on the Water Games website for several years. 

Join us to celebrate World Water Day and Sustainable Development Goal 6 to ensure clean water and sanitation for all. Visit the Water Games page on the Games4Sustainability website to find tools to promote change towards sustainable behaviors.

© Piotr Magnuszewski | IIASA

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Last edited: 22 March 2021


Taher Kahil

Research Group Leader and Research Scholar Water Security Research Group - Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program

Paula Abarca del Rio

Program and Project Officer Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program

Program and Project Officer Water Security Research Group - Biodiversity and Natural Resources Program

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
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