Author: Arin C. Haverland
Hundreds of international water institutions have been established over the last three decades in an attempt to address global water issues. Despite great efforts by these and other institutions, a significant percentage of the world's population still lacks access to clean water and sanitation facilities. Although billions of dollars have been spent on development, infrastructure and public health endeavors meant to tackle such issues, little research has been done to examine how these often influential organizations known as global water initiatives (GWIs) are addressing such urgent issues in the face of a rapidly changing climate.
As water is central to the hydrological cycle, and affected by changes in climate, examining the role of GWIs in the use and translation of climate-change science may lead to better understanding of the mechanisms through which such organizations are linking climate change to their work in water management and governance. By examining 170 GWIs through two distinct phases of methodology, it was found that GWIs are addressing climate change issues through their work with water. Evidence presented in this research supports the claim that GWIs have adopted climate change as part of their overall operational frameworks and that their missions may be supported and ultimately achieved through the addition of climate-change science. While GWIs are shown to use climate-change science in setting objectives, and in decision making, it was also found that issues of cost, access, and utility remain as significant barriers.
Findings presented in this study also suggest that intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations, alongside professional societies dedicated to trades and disciplines related to water, are among the most important categories of GWIs, and as such, operate within a series of complex networks. This research also revealed that activities and outputs of GWIs enhance water management and governance, contribute to the world's knowledge base on water, and highlight the need to acknowledge GWIs as an important and prominent aspect of the global water dialogue.