Can Singapore’s Water Week Win Where Rio+20 Lost?

Water did feature heavily in the discussions at Rio+20 as it is recognised that the scarcity of safe water is a problem that will be further exacerbated, but the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development failed to produce realistic targets in resource consumption and water use. Seeing this as both a threat and an opportunity, the upcoming Singapore International Water Week aims to present innovative solutions through the commercialisation of water technologies. Read more

By Brian Clark Howard for National Geographic News (22 June 2012):

Although it looks like world leaders are not going to adopt specific Sustainable Development Goals at Rio+20, the delegates from 190+ countries did spend a lot of time talking about water in Rio de Janeiro.

Before the United Nations conference this week, advocates had hoped international leaders would make firm commitments on clean water, especially when it comes to extending infrastructure and sanitation to the 1 billion or so people who still lack access.

While the Brazilian negotiation team was leading the effort to hammer out the road map document to present to the leaders at Rio+20, the UN special rapporteur for safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque, was urging member states to support those goals in as strong terms as possible.

Although water was already recognized as a human right by the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council (in 2010), there is still a long way to go, she argued.

de Albuquerque told the Inter Press Service that during the negotiations for Rio+20, a number of states lobbied to remove the words “right,” and to weaken commitments around water in other ways.

The final draft document did retain relatively strong language on water, although it does not present specific actionable targets or detail funding mechanisms. This has left many activists to deride it as so much hot air, although it’s also true that mission statements can help set an agenda.

Water Day at Rio+20

June 19, Tuesday, was Water Day at Riocentro, the suburban conference center that hosted the main part of Rio+20. Unfortunately, that was also a day of intense press conferences around the last-minute pre-negotiations, which many say sealed the fate of the official negotiations. So water issues didn’t get as much traction as they otherwise might have.

Still, the agency UN-Water released a statement for the day, noting, “Success of green economy depends on sustainable, integrated and resource-efficient management of water resources and on safe and sustainable provisioning of water supply and adequate sanitation services. This approach must be underpinned by timely measurement of economic performance in terms of indicators of social and environmental sustainability.”

UN-Water added, “Universal coverage of water supply and sanitation services must be a central development goal in the post-2015 period. UN-Water urges national governments to set realistic intermediate targets and goals.”

To get down to more specifics, several panels were held throughout the day, with speakers from water ministries around the world, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and others.

H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia and Goodwill Ambassador for Water and Sanitation in Africa, chaired one of the panels.

In May, Sirleaf told the Summit for Sustainability in Africa, “How do we ensure that our watersheds, forests, fisheries and other ecosystems are protected from overuse and degradation because we need one more hospital or one more school? Development and conservation can go hand in hand, provided we develop a framework for action around a shared vision.”

It’s too early to say what the result of Rio+20 will be for the water space, but hopefully new connections were made between those with experience and those with problems. Member countries have said they are concerned about protecting freshwater, so that may be a solid first step.

Howard is an Environment Writer and Editor at National Geographic News. He previously served as an editor for and E/The Environmental Magazine, and has written for,,, Yahoo!, MSN, Miller-McCune and elsewhere. He is the co-author of six books, including Geothermal HVAC, Green Lighting and Build Your Own Small Wind Power System.



Singapore International Water Week 2012 to focus on industrial water solutions and successful commercialisation of innovative water technologies

The global platform for the sharing and co-creation of innovative water solutions taps on business interest in water technologies and emerging global industrial water sector.

Singapore, 21 June 2012 – The Singapore International Water Week 2012 shines its spotlight on the emerging global industrial water sector and sets the stage to accelerate the commercialisation of innovative water technologies that address the world’s most pressing water challenges.

To be held from 1 to 5 July this year at the Sands Expo & Convention Center, Marina Bay Sands, the fifth edition of Singapore International Water Week provides the global platform for the sharing and co-creation of innovative water solutions and technologies under the theme “Water Solutions for Liveable and Sustainable Cities”. The theme underscores the pressing need to integrate sustainable water management strategies into the urban planning process.

Today, the global industrial water sector ranks second in water consumption, taking up an estimated 25% of global water demand, and forcing industries to search for innovative solutions to improve water sustainability across the value chain. According to the Global Water Intelligence, the industrial water and wastewater equipment market will grow at 7.5% a year over the next five years to reach a total value of $22 billion in 2016. Demand for equipment is expected to grow fastest in the oil and gas sector, at an annual rate of over 24%.

Responding to this shift in global focus, the Water Week takes a four-pronged approach to share and co-create solutions in the industrial water sector, starting with the debut of the Industrial Water Solutions Forum to examine the issues surrounding the water-energy nexus. Themed „Towards Water Sustainability in the Industrial Sectors‟, this Forum is held against the backdrop of increasing water scarcity and more stringent environmental regulation worldwide, with global industries conducting vigorous reviews on their water footprint and how it impacts their operations. Key industries such as oil and gas, mining, food and beverage, and chemical sectors will be in focus to find a global view on how water solutions can turn their challenges into opportunities. In addition, the Water Convention, a key flagship programme of the Water Week, will also see its popular Hot Issues workshop discussing “Water Treatment and Management for Industries” and papers presented on industrial water solutions. The Water Week’s holistic approach also sees a variety of industrial water events held in co-location.

“As our world’s water supply is further stressed by global population growth, it is imperative that industry find sustainable solutions to meet their water demands,” said Lisa Henthorne, Chief Technology Officer of Water Standard and chairperson of the Industrial Water Solutions Forum. “The economic prosperity of our planet depends on water just as critically as our human health and welfare does. I’m excited to lead some of our industrial giants on a discussion of finding these solutions.”

Accelerating the successful commercialisation of innovative water technologies is another focus of this year’s Water Week in response to the rapid growth in business interest in emerging water technologies. The event continues to be the breeding ground for international collaborations on water technology R&D solutions that help to solve global water issues and the key driver to grow both Singapore’s and the global water industry. The TechXchange Workshop which made its debut last year makes a bigger showing in its second year, with over 200 participants and an impressive line-up of 21 water R&D innovations from Singapore and all over the world. It brings together venture capitalists, angel investors, private equity fund managers and institutional investors with industry representatives, start-ups and technology inventors for targeted business matchmaking and rewarding technology commercialisation opportunities.

“Singapore is an acknowledged “innovation hub” for its years of planning and application of advanced technologies to smartly manage its water resources. TechXchange highlights Singapore’s rising status in stimulating and fostering early-stage water innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Steve Kloos, Partner, True North Venture Partners and speaker at the TechXchange Workshop.

Linked to the TechXchange, this year’s Water Expo will also feature highlights such as the much-awaited showcase of Singapore’s – six new home-grown innovations at the Water Innovations@SIWW booth – ranging from biomimetic membranes to water quality monitoring systems using live fish. These new technologies are the result of years of R&D by Singapore-based scientists with support from the Environment and Water Industry Programme Office, an inter-agency body set up to spearhead the growth of Singapore’s water industry.

With the five flagship programmes – the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize, Water Leaders Summit, Water Expo, Water Convention, and Business Forums – this year’s Singapore International Water Week continues to present a comprehensive suite of events which cater to the interests of every segment of the water industry. The event continues to attract some of the world’s largest water companies and prominent personalities including Helen Clark, Administrator of United Nations Development Programme and Former Prime Minister of New Zealand, HE Kamal Nath, India’s Minister of Urban Development, HE Shintaro Ishihara, Governor of Tokyo, Pamela Cox, Vice-president ( East Asia and the Pacific) at World Bank, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore’s Minister for the environment and water resources as well as Prof Wim Kuijken, Commissioner of the Delta Programme in the Netherlands. This year, the Singapore Water Week will be co-located with the third edition of the World Cities Summit and the inaugural CleanEnviro Summit Singapore, delivering even greater value to the delegates with broader opportunities for cross pollination of ideas and access to integrated solutions for sustainable urban development.

“The Singapore International Water Week showcases the capabilities and expertise of Singapore‟s water industry to the world. Today it has grown into one of the pinnacle events on the global water calendar with its dynamic programmes strategically evolving to respond to the shifts in global focus on the water industry,” said Maurice Neo, Managing Director of Singapore International Water Week 2012. “What’s new in this fifth edition of the Water Week is a stronger focus on the co-creation and commercialisation of innovative water technologies and emerging challenges in the global industrial water sector. In providing this global platform, we hope to catalyse new ideas and see new collaborations to address the world’s pressing water challenges.”

For more details on the full programme for Singapore International Water Week 2012, please visit

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