Guest Column | November 14, 2014

80 Ideas You Need To Memorize About Water From The World Water Summit

Donna Vincent Roa

By Donna Vincent Roa


Last week, I attended The Economist's 2014 World Water Summit in London and sat among and listened to the world's leading thinkers on water policy, management, irrigation, technology, economic development, sanitation and hygiene and water-related risks to catalyze action in response to the looming global water crisis and the growing strain on our water resources.

During the event, I live tweeted and had my ears tuned to the repeatable quips and quotes delivered by speakers. Whether talking about policies that drive progress, the role of the private sector, or how big data can help us to invest more effectively, the speakers shared precise ideas about the sustainable use of water, the kinds of solutions we need to meet the challenge of urbanization, and the importance of smart collaborations for ensuring water security.

Here are 80 thematically grouped takeaway ideas, action items, and considerations shared by organizational leaders, ministers, senior executives and British royalty at this year's 2014 World Water Summit. The eight themes include: 1) It's All About Water and Sanitation; 2) Scarcity, Prosperity and National Security; 3) Awareness, Education, Participation and Behavior Change; 4) Money, Investments, Costs, and Opportunities; 5) Economics, Politics, Risk, and Innovation; 6) Partnerships and Collaboration; 7) Expanding Our Focus; and 8) An Action-Oriented Reality.

It's All About Water And Sanitation

  1. Water is more than an environmental issue.
  2. Water is a factor in harmony and balance.
  3. Water creates paradise.
  4. Water is the fuel for growth.
  5. Water is the glue that holds everything together.
  6. Water is full of platitudes.
  7. Water and sanitation needs more visibility.
  8. We need to give sanitation its own platform.
  9. We need to reposition the toilet as the happy place to go.
  10. We need to focus on human-centered design and work backwards.
  11. We must make water our burning platform.
  12. We all need to respect the water cycle.
  13. Water comes from rivers, lakes, and aquifers.
  14. We need to value our ecosystems.
  15. We need to use less water.
  16. We must focus on the human angle of water.
  17. We need to make water simple so people can connect to it.

Scarcity, Prosperity And National Security

  1. Water scarcity is holding back prosperity.
  2. Water matters to national security.
  3. We must invest in water security.
  4. Water security and prosperity are inseparable.
  5. Focusing on urban ecosystems and water security is important.
  6. We need smart partnerships to drive water security.
  7. We must ensure sustainable distribution of water.

Awareness, Education, Participation And Behavior Change

  1. We need to reframe the conversation, change our vocabulary, and increase education efforts regarding water.
  2. We have to challenge and change public perceptions about food and water.
  3. We need to involve communities so that investments can be realized.
  4. The big challenge outside the utility fence is engagement with stakeholders and how we can stimulate collaboration with them.
  5. Changing public participation about water is a huge issue.
  6. We need to change stakeholder mindsets.
  7. We must spend a lot of time on education.
  8. Nobody has cracked the code on behavior change.
  9. Behavior change is an imperative that we must invest in and should address.
  10. Inequality and the voice of the poor must be addressed.
  11. We must focus on behavior to create demand for infrastructure.
  12. We need education and awareness raising to change behavior, perceptions, and mindsets.

Money, Investments, Costs, And Opportunities

  1. We must invest in water on a sustainable basis.
  2. We must explore the opportunity costs of not having proper investments in water.
  3. Water is an opportunity agenda for business.
  4. The role of the private sector is critically important for water resources management.
  5. Many corporations see water as a risk, but less than 20% have a detailed plan to address these concerns.
  6. Investments must make sense for the bottom line environment and society.

Economics, Politics, Risk, And Innovation

  1. The economy is a subset of nature, not the other way around.
  2. If we get the economics right, then politics, innovation and science will follow.
  3. Political leadership as it relates to water absolutely matters.
  4. Pricing is a political issue.
  5. We must encourage innovation and research.
  6. Not all industries take their water stewardship responsibility seriously.
  7. We must set boundaries, set specific goals, and most importantly, monetize and prioritize risk, while considering the issue of resilience.
  8. We need to move from resource hungry industries.
  9. We need to increase the productivity of water.
  10. We must view waste as an asset.
  11. We need business as unusual.
  12. We need to see the world through a water lens.
  13. We need data on what is happening, what will happen, and what ought to happen.
  14. Big data can help us to improve precision and sustainability in agriculture.
  15. We need tailored solutions.
  16. Development banks should be about development first and banking second.

Partnerships And Collaboration

  1. We cannot operate independently.
  2. Partnership is the only solution to solving the water crisis.
  3. Collaboration and partnership are critical.
  4. Multi-sector and cross-sector collaboration is essential.
  5. None of us can act alone to solve the water crisis.
  6. We need to watch out for devilish pacts.

Expanding Our Focus

  1. We must hold polluters accountable.
  2. We must focus on our oceans.
  3. We need to be more creative.
  4. We need to do more with less and do it sustainably.
  5. For utilities, we need to change from a monopoly mindset to a marketing mindset.
  6. The water sector needs to borrow from other sectors to improve customer service payment delivery options and marketing.
  7. We need to add transport to the water discussion.
  8. We need to look at the energy sector for inspiration.
  9. The food-water-energy nexus is THE defining challenge of mankind.
  10. Eat more fish.
  11. The Holy Grail is increasing protein content in meat alternatives.

An Action-Oriented Reality

  1. Crisis is an energizer, sadly.
  2. It is in everyone's interest to address the water and sanitation crisis.
  3. The face of the earth changes when people take action.
  4. We need to focus on action.
  5. We need to better manage our natural capital.

About The Economist Events

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About Donna Vincent Roa

Accredited business communicator, water communication expert, and counsel to CEOs, scientists, engineers and professional communicators, Donna delivers holistic, value-based and industry-relevant solutions and results. Donna is actively engaged with global water leaders at highest levels of business, government, associations, and international organizations. She is a multipotentialite, a fan of Einstein, and an avid environment and nature photographer who frequently writes about water issues. 

View @donnavincentroa for tweets delivered during the event or email Donna learn about how she can help you re-engineer the way your business communicates and link communication excellence to your bottom line.