Engineering Water For Peace by Philippe Gourbesville, IAHR President

Water for Peace


Philippe GourbesvillePhilippe Gourbesville
IAHR President

“Water for peace” underlines the critical role water plays in the stability and well-being of the world. 

More than ever, water is the grand challenge of our times. Faced with multiple socio-economic and environmental pressures, transformation is rapidly reshaping the world we live in today. The challenges we face are being driven by vulnerability to climate uncertainty; increasing  water demand caused by rapid population growth, changing consumption patterns and the rise of modern environments; degrading quality of our rivers, lakes, and aquifers; competing uses; and economic as well as geopolitical factors. 

Water can lead us out of crisisGlobal stability and well-being cannot be achieved without collective action on climate change adaptation and mitigation. Across the full water cycle, water engineering ensures the ability of nations to adapt to uncertainty and the shifting needs ranging from our urban environments and industrial plants to our agricultural fields and natural ecosystems.

Similarly, water engineering is critical to realizing the global energy transition, securing food for all and for optimizing our solutions in harmony with nature. As countries seek to improve their energy dependencies, engineering and innovation are instrumental to improving renewable energy options and reducing carbon emissions. To meet the projected 50% increase in global food demand over the next two decades, wide-scale acceleration of innovations in agricultural and irrigation engineering is vital to achieve more crop per drop. To meet these challenges and strive for water security, the restoration of ecosystems and optimization of green/grey solutions is vital for effective socio-economic development that is harmony with healthy environments.

As the world accelerates towards the digital transformation of global management processes, opportunities arise in the water sector to optimize allocation, improve decision making and produce accurate forecasts.

Water hazards and disasters are also affecting our societies and pose serious threats. Whether due to too little or too much water, nine out ten disasters triggered by natural hazards were water related in the past decade. The need for improving the resilience of our urban environments requests to deliver solutions that fit to an uncertain future, improve disaster preparedness, and reduce vulnerability with structural and non-structural measures.

All these key topics should be addressed without further delay. Antoine de Saint-Exupery said: “As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it.” Water professionals such as IAHR members, are dedicated to the pursuit of solutions required for the sustainable future of water and to deliver the solutions that are needed by our societies. It is time to give them the support and the recognition they need to achieve this task.

Prof. Philippe Gourbesville, IAHR President


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