Rationale and context
The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and the Government of Ghana are jointly organizing a Conference with the support of the Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz International Prize for Water (PSIPW) to promote the use of space technology in water management to the benefit of developing countries.
The Conference will be held in Accra, Ghana, from 10- 13 May 2022, hosted by the University of Energy and Natural Resources on behalf of the Government of Ghana.
The Conference is the fifth international event focusing on applications of space technology for water in the series of conferences organised with financial assistance of the PSIPW and the Inter-Islamic Network on Space Sciences and Technology (ISNET). The initial event, on the use of space technology for water management, took place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in April 2008, the second conference was organized in March 2011 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the third conference in Rabat, Morocco in April 2014 and the fourth in Islamabad, Pakistan in February-March 2018.
Water scarcity and water quality degradation interrelate in the major challenge to secure water of good-enough quality to meet human, environmental, social, and economic needs. According to UNESCO (2020), widespread water quality degradation across the world is the most serious water problem. Three in ten people lack access to safely managed drinking water services; water scarcity affects more than 40 per cent of the global population and is projected to rise. Over 1.7 billion people are currently living in river basins where water use exceeds recharge. Among the challenges to water security are climate change (extreme weather such as floods and droughts among others), an increase in population, increase in water consumption due to domestic use, agriculture, and industry. Pollution also adds to water stress. Water is very closely related to the prevention of disease outbreak, but also a factor that can spread diseases further. In addition, groundwater resources, providing for 30 % of Earth's freshwater resources as well as for better protection against drought and microbiological contamination than surface waters, have been rapidly depleted in recent years; this poses a major threat to global water security, agriculture, energy production and global peace.
The conference relates to a key objective of the Decade for Action on Water for Sustainable Development, 2018-2028: the international community shall "energize implementation of existing programmes and projects", such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the 2015-2030 Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the 2015 Paris Agreement. Furthermore, the Global Acceleration Framework for SDG 6 and the accelerators communicated therein, are taken into consideration for the planning of the conference:
- Expand the use of space technologies and space-based data for better water resource management:
- What space-based data is available to report on SDG 6 targets and indicators or other SDG targets which have a water-nexus? Which space-based data sources have not been exhausted / used so far to support SDG reporting
- What methods and models are used, which ones can be applied to report SDG 6 indicators? What are the lessons learnt from SDG 6.6.1 which is already reported based on satellite data; and
- What additional tools are required to deliver the data?
- Foster knowledge exchange between actors in the space sector and actors in the water management / water research sector as well as the establishment of partnerships;
- Help create partnerships (SDG 17) based on identified needs and solutions. Identify priority areas where pilot projects could be proposed and possible partnerships established.
- Identify user needs
- Identify needs of public entities and academia, civil society organizations, (e.g. data, capacity building, tools, policy, etc.) and match needs and solutions for sustainable water management; and
- Identify user needs for the Space4Water Portal (potentially also assess usability with volunteers).
- Demonstrate possible solutions (by technology providers via demo sessions).
Finally, specific regional contribution from Sub-Sahara Africa will be encouraged.
The expected outcome of the workshop is to make observations and converge on recommendations for the Groundwater Summit which will take place later in 2022, as well as for the 2023 Midterm Review of the Water Action Decade. Round table discussions on water-related extremes, water quality and health, groundwater as well as capacity building and gaps assessment. The Office for Outer Space Affairs will report to the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space on conclusions of the conference and recommendations.