A Better World - Volume 7

[ 40 ] A Bet ter Wor ld Cooperation in applying space technologies to water management Abdulmalek A. Al Alshaikh, General Secretary, Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water; Nina Kickinger 1 , Associate information Systems Officer, United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs; Nathalie Ricard 2 , Scientific Officer, United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs W ater conservation and resource management represent some of the most critical environmen- tal challenges currently facing humankind. They are needed to achieve numerous Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDGs 2, 3, 6, 7, 11, 14, 15 and 17. Strategies for securing and safeguarding humanity’s water resources will be required in all sectors to avert a global humanitarian crisis. Space technology and applications play a key role in understanding global water cycles, mapping water courses, and monitoring and mitigating the effects of floods and droughts. Water scarcity is a major global challenge. While water demand and population rapidly increase, we are faced with consequences of urbanization, development pressures, and increased industrial demands on the resource. Water use worldwide has been rising at a rate of 1 per cent per year since the 1980s, driven by population growth, socioeconomic development and changing consumption patterns. Global demand is expected to continue growing at a similar rate until 2050, with 20–30 per cent of this increase caused by rising demand in the industrial and domestic sectors. The SDG6 Synthesis Report 2018 on Water and Sanitation shows that 2 billion people worldwide live in countries experi- encing high water scarcity, and four billion people experience severe water scarcity at least one month per year. Water stress will increase as demand for water grows and the effects of climate change impact life on Earth at an increasing rate. Innovative scientific solutions are needed to help solve the water crisis, and space technology applications provide tools for effective water resources management. Research and further development of these innovative technologies need to be encouraged and supported worldwide. The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water (PSIPW) have been working together for the past twelve years pursu- ing this aim in various ways. UNOOSA works to promote international cooperation in the peaceful use and exploration of space, and in the utilization of space science, technology, and space applications for sustain- able economic and social development. The Office assists United Nations Member States to establish legal and regula- tory frameworks to govern space activities and strengthens the capacity of developing countries to use space science technol- ogy and applications for development by helping to integrate space capabilities into national development programmes. UNOOSA, as the United Nations’ dedicated space entity, works across the political, legal, and technical aspects of supporting international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space. UNOOSA is led by Director Simonetta Di Pippo who also serves as the Senior Advisor to the Secretary-General on Space Affairs. PSIPW is a leading scientific award that focuses on innova- tion and is offered every two years. Since its establishment in 2002 by HRH Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz (1930–2011), PSIPW has given recognition to scientists, researchers, and inventors around the world for pioneering work that addresses the problem of water scarcity in creative and effective ways. PSIPW is particularly dedicated to space technology applica- tions for water management, and several of the winners over the years have been awarded for their innovations in develop- ing and using these technologies. Space technology benefits water resource management in many ways. Award winners have, for instance, used space technologies and chlorophyll information from satellite data 3 to successfully predict cholera outbreaks up to six months in advance. Satellite navigation data has been used to provide precise soil moisture measurements, snowpack thickness and vegetation content anywhere at no cost to users, as well as data on how climate change affects the world’s fresh water supply. The common aim of using space technologies for water resource management brought the two organizations together in 2008, when PSIPW began serving as an NGO observing member of the Committee for the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UN COPUOS). Since then, PSIPW participates every year in the Committee’s general meeting and its Scien- tific and Technical Subcommittee meeting. In the same year, UNOOSA and PSIPW jointly organized the 1st International Conference on the Use of Space Tech- nology for Water Management, held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Due to its success, it was decided to continue the organization of such events within the framework of a conference series called “International Conference on Space Technologies for Water Management”, which aims at fostering scientific knowledge exchange and supporting researchers from devel- oping countries. Subsequent conferences were held in Buenos Aires in 2011, Rabat in 2014, and Islamabad in 2018.