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UA Water Experts Speak at United Nations Event

In yet another example of the UA's global reach, experts Sharon B. Megdal and Robert G. Varady recently spoke at the United Nations-organized 2013 International World Water Day conference in The Hague, Netherlands.

An aerial view of one of the tributaries of the Niger River. (Photo credit: © UN Photo/Shaw McCutcheon)

Water cooperation was the focus of the on March 22 event, with prominent speakers, government officials and heads of state coming together from across the world to discuss sustainable, peaceful solutions for securing the global water supply.

Megdal, director of UA's Water Resources Research Center (WRRC), led a breakout discussion on how water cooperation helps preserve water resources and protect the environment. The panel addressed a number of themes, including the use of spatial scales for decision-making and environmental restoration. The discussion concluded that, whenever possible, water decisions should occur at the local level and appropriate platforms should be established for inclusive stakeholder engagement.

"Safe, reliable water resources are considered a top environmental concern in the United States, but a lot of people aren’t aware of what they can do in their own community to conserve water and protect the environment," Megdal said.

"The WRRC is addressing that issue in Tucson through an innovative program called Conserve to Enhance, which asks participants who install water-saving technologies like rainwater harvesters to track their water savings and make a matching financial contribution to a local environmental restoration effort. This idea of connecting individual water users with environmental conservation projects can serve as a model for other parts of the world."

Varady, deputy director and research professor of environmental policy in the UA's Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy, spoke at another thematic breakout session on the topic of how water cooperation builds peace.

"While there are numerous examples of water cooperation dating at least to the Code of Hammurabi, the condition of peace is elusive and hard to identify," Varady said.

"A more palpable concept is water security, which emphasizes problems that threaten a society’s stability and prosperity, while maintaining adequate and sustainable quantities and qualities of water for communities and ecosystems – all in the face of uncertain global change," Varady also said. "And water cooperation does build water security."

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization organized the conference in collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs on behalf of UN-Water.

Megdal and Varady also spoke at the European-North American consultation of the Groundwater Governance Project, held in The Hague prior to the World Water Day proceedings.