As we prepare to enter 2012, our world and the future of its finite freshwater resources face serious challenges. Parts of the planet have significant water resources compared to their demands, while others- too often those that are economically disadvantaged with populations growing at a faster rate - have limited supplies, and are subject to water related extremes such as floods and droughts. The multitude of parameters such as the quantity and quality of water, forces such as demographics, changing consumption patterns, economic development, climate change/climatic variability and their interwoven impacts makes managing water and decision-making a remarkably complicated and multidimensional issue.
As the third edition of the United Nations World Water Development Report demonstrated, external forces that affect water resources and its uses and management are undergoing rapid, accelerating, and often unforeseeable changes that can increase uncertainty and introduce greater risks. It must also be remembered however that accelerating changes can not only be seen as creating risk - but also as providing opportunity.
Equipped with better knowledge and systematic analyses based on trends, foresight, scenarios and other methods, leaders in government, the private sector and civil society and other decision-makers can assess water risks and make better decisions aimed at reducing vulnerabilities and increasing benefits. In this process, adopting multidisciplinary approaches that draw on experience and developments in other sectors (such as public security, economics and finance) is important to reveal the links between water resources and decisions made outside the 'water box'. The fourth edition of the World Water Development Report, to be launched at the World Water Forum in Marseille in 2012, aims to reach 'out of the box' decision-makers as well as those within the water world and, in these uncertain times, encourages full participation from the global community in order to make the best possible choices for the future.
Keywords: Freshwater; Assessment; Uncertainty; Decision-making
Biography: Olcay Ünver is the Coordinator of the United Nations World Water Assessment Programme of UN-Water and the Director of the UNESCO Programme Office on Global Water Assessment in Perugia, Italy. Prof. Ünver holds a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin and Master's and Bachelor's degrees, also in Civil Engineering, from Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey. Prior to joining UNESCO in 2007, he was with Kent State University, USA where he was a distinguished professor of water resources from 2004 until 2007. Prof. Ünver earlier served as President of the South-eastern Anatolia Project Regional Development Administration in Turkey and as a water resources engineer for Lower Colorado River Authority in USA and a research scientist at the University of Texas. He has also undertaken leadership positions in various international organizations such as Board Member and Treasurer of World Water Council (1995-2003); Vice-President and Secretary-General of International Water Resources Association (2001-2006) and Council Member of International Hydropower Association (1997-2000). Prof. Ünver was named “a European Visionary” by the Time Magazine in 1999.