Water scholars from 18 countries gathered in South Africa for the 11th biennial Rosenberg Forum on International Water Policy. Hosted at the University of Cape Town's (UCT) Water and Production Economics (WPE) research unit, this year's forum included the most diverse group to date, in terms of discipline, geography and early-career professionals. The week-long event, Oct. 23-27, addressed water quantity and quality management, economic production and welfare implications in the Global South.
Glenda Humiston, advisory committee member and University of California vice president of agriculture and natural resources, and Soroosh Sorooshian, forum chair, advisory committee member and distinguished professor of the departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth System Science at UC Irvine played key roles in planning and facilitating this year's forum.
Innovative approaches to water management – lessons from the Western Cape
This year's Rosenberg Forum kicked off with a day-long tour to observe public water system infrastructure and research sites in the Western Cape. These activities were arranged by Djiby Thiam, professor of economics and director of Water and Production Economics Unit at the University of Cape Town.
“Given the growing population and economic development that characterize countries in the Global South, water demand is expected to grow, putting more pressure on the limited natural resources. And this may affect social welfare,” Thiam noted.
During the tour, forum attendees discussed ongoing challenges and innovations in storm water management, blue-green infrastructure, aquifer recharge andwastewater treatment. Tour stops included an urban watercatchment site, the Berg River Dam, and a working farm that uses treatedwastewater for irrigation, among others.
Diverse perspectives to address water challenges
Wednesday and Thursday's sessions included presentations and panels addressing a range of topics related to challenges and opportunities to increase efficient and equitable water use in the Global South.
Wednesday's sessions emphasized the need to improve digital technology to address climate change, gender-inclusive approaches to climate-smart agriculture, wastewater reuse for irrigated agriculture, and the importance of building institutional capacity for policy changes.
According to Caroline Gelderblom of the World Wildlife Fund International in South Africa, “there is increasing awareness that there is a need to build cross-sectoral extension efforts to improve both national and international water resource strategies.”
Extension strategies that address multiple welfare challenges are quickly being adopted across the globe, but further integration is needed, particularly in water-scarce regions.
Thursday's sessions explored issues related to water pricing, collective management of surface and groundwater water resources and new approaches to address water scarcity.
Unpacking water management complexities in the global south
Friday's discussions included a technical workshop where scholars and practitioners presented research on the complexities associated with water in agriculture, urban and mining sectors, climate-induced risks, and policy interventions.
Organized by Thiam; Ariel Dinar, distinguished professor of environmental economics and policy at the UC Riverside School of Public Policy; and Christina Babbit, water stewardship senior manager of enterprise sustainability at Starbucks, the final day of the forum allowed scientists to present rigorous academic research on the policy interventions that are needed to address critical social, economic and environmental challenges in water management.
The technical workshop allowed scholars to test research methodologies that influence policymaking and, according to Thiam, are rigorous enough to be shared with an academic audience.
Technical manuscripts from this workshop will be published in a special issue of the Journal of Applied Economic Perspective and Policy.
History of the Rosenberg Forum
In 1996, the forum was established as an endowment gift from Bank of America's former chairman and CEO Richard Rosenberg. His vision was to bring together international scientists and policymakers to address global water issues through information-sharing, dialogue and data-driven decision-making.
Biennially, the forum convenes experts from around the world to identify approaches to reduce conflict in the management of water resources. The Rosenberg Forum is a program of the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources' California Institute for Water Resources.