Addressing Water Scarcity 

to Achieve Climate Resilience 

and Human Wellbeing

24 March 2023

Summary of Findings and Recommendations:

Water scarcity is a significant contributor to societal and economic development challenges, adversely impacting human health and food insecurity. The IPCC AR6 Synthesis Report highlighted worsening challenges in the coming years. Bold approaches are needed to establish resilience to climate change and protect human health.

To achieve a resilient and equitable water future, we need to create informed cooperation between water users, especially agricultural producers, while ensuring continued food security. Similarly, groundwater resources must be protected for the future generations and not over-exploited for current economic benefit. For example, over-exploitation in the Mekong Delta threatened long-term water security and economic development; it was through an approach of understanding the long-term implications of improperly managing groundwater, that the stakeholders were able to adopt more sustainable practices. The international community must address water scarcity with location-specific, equitable, culturally safe, locally acceptable, and scalable solutions, using the SDG framework as a mechanism for channeling investments. This support includes capacity building for UN Member States and local decision-makers facing water scarcity to fully understand their challenges and create effective responses - for instance, using data to forecast long-term changes to water availability and enable citizen science.

Academia has an important role for braiding diverse ways of knowing, informing critical knowledge gaps and serving as key player in enhancing capacity. In particular, academia and the wider research community should:

  • strengthen understandings of the complex and multi-faceted linkages between addressing water scarcity and enhancing climate change resiliency;
  • prioritise and respect other forms of science and evidence;
  • creating and sharing case studies on water cooperation and management to inform government policies and investment approaches towards enhancing public health and societal resilience by systematically addressing water scarcity, building on evidence of the socio economic impacts of improved water resilience;
  • provide advice on flexible policies that can be effective in different scenarios, and
  • identify success stories and document lessons learned from failures that serve as the foundation for scaling up local, national, regional, and global responses to water scarcity.


Speakers and Topics:

  • Mr. Sulton Rahimzoda – Chair, International Fund for saving the Aral Sea (Tajikistan) – Addressing water (and energy) scarcity in Central Asia
  • Ms. Azar Abadi – University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health (USA) – Precipitation extremes (droughts and high-precipitation events) and their impacts on public health
  • Mr. Kaveh Madani – United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health – Addressing water scarcity to achieve food security
  • Ms. Josefina Maestu - University of Alcala (Spain) - Sustainable water management in water-scarce regions
  • Ms. Corinne Schuster-Wallace – Global Water Futures, University of Saskatchewan (Canada) – Impact of prolonged droughts on human health and wellbeing
  • Ms. Kate Brauman – Global Water Security Center, University of Alabama – Integrating water information into decision making for national security
  • Mr. Ryan Smith – Colorado State University (USA) – Groundwater storage capacity diminished by drought, and impacts on groundwater quality
  • Mr. Gualbert Oude Essink – Deltares (the Netherlands) – Saltwater intrusion threatens coastal populations’ water supplies

Some Key Questions:

The discussion during the session will focus on addressing some important questions:

  • What do we need to do differently?
  • Do we understand well the complex and multi-faceted linkages between addressing water scarcity and enhancing climate change resilience?
  • Can government policies and approaches lead to the desired enhancements in public health and societal resilience?
  • How best can different forms of knowledge be used to address water scarcity? What role should academia and researchers play towards this end?
  • How realistic is it that financial and human resources will be diverted to build resilience? Can the private sector play a positive role in this respect?
  • What are the strongest arguments that can be presented to international, national, and local institutions to enhance their investments into overcoming water scarcity?
  • Which success stories can serve as the foundation for scaling up national, regional, and global responses to water scarcity?


Landmark Room, Millennium Hilton, One UN Plaza, New York

24 March 2023; 1:15-2:45 pm

Organizing Partners:

  • Simon Fraser University, Pacific Water Research Centre - Host
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health - co-Host
  • Colorado State University, USA
  • Global Institute for Water Security, University of Saskatchewan
  • United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health
  • University of Alabama, The Global Water Security Center (GWSC)

Water Action Agenda:

The emphasis of the Water Action Agenda is on accelerated implementation and improved impact towards achieving SDG 6 and other water-related goals and targets, looking at content, process and structure. The existing and future challenges in the field of water require innovative and transformative ideas and a “beyond business as usual” approach.

PWRC's Commitment to the Water Action Agenda: Building resilience against global water scarcity

About the UN Water Conference

PWRC has received accreditation from the UN Secretariat as a Stakeholder for the 2023 UN Conference on Water. PWRC is already engaged in the preparatory work through its involvement with the Dushanbe Water Process, which hosted its most recent conference in June 2022 at which PWRC also hosted a session

The UN 2023 Water Conference – formally known as the 2023 Conference for the Midterm Comprehensive Review of Implementation of the UN Decade for Action on Water and Sanitation (2018-2028) – will take place at UN Headquarters in New York, 22-24 March 2023, co-hosted by Tajikistan and the Netherlands.

The conference will include an opening and closing session, six plenary sessions, and five interactive dialogues, as well as side events organized by participants. It will result in a summary of proceedings from the UNGA President that will feed into the 2023 session of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).