It's Day 2 of Open Access Week and we have another OA Ambassador Spotlight Blog to share!

Our OA Ambassadors raise awareness in their local communities about global OA movements as well as related opportunities through IWA Publishing. They are representatives of both the International Water Association and IWA Publishing and our joint goals to empower the next generation of water leaders and to shape the future of the water sector. These blog posts highlight their specialty and research focus, as well as emphasising the importance of Open Access publishing. 

The latest blog is written by Abdurrahman Aliyu, an MSc student at the Pan-African University Institute for Water and Energy Sciences, whose research covers the recovery of resources from wastewater, rainwater harvesting, and nature-based solutions. Connect with Abdurrahman on LinkedIn.

Water is essential for life, and taking care of it requires us to understand and manage it wisely. In today's world of increasing water scarcity which can be attributed to climate change, population growth, and increasing water demand, data is more crucial than ever for effective water resources management. Different disciplines of water resources management, such as flood risk assessment, water supply management, reservoir operation, and water sanitation, all require the incorporation of different types of water information for efficient planning and decision-making.

For example, flood risk assessment relies on rainfall, runoff, land use, and topography data to model flood events and identify areas at risk. Water supply management requires data on water demand, reservoir levels, population, and groundwater availability to ensure that adequate supplies are available to meet the needs of all users. Reservoir operation necessitates data on inflows, outflows, and evaporation to optimize water storage and release. Water sanitation demands data on wastewater flows, quality, and treatment plant performance to ensure that wastewater is treated to meet environmental standards.

To make evidence-based decisions in water management, a solid database is essential. Why is a solid database essential? Well, think of it like a map. To reach your destination, you need a map that shows you the terrain, the roads, and the obstacles. Similarly, in water management, a database is our map. It helps us assess the situation and make decisions that are based on evidence rather than guesswork. This data will come from a variety of sectors such as climatic, physical, socio-economic, and demographic information.

Integrated water resource management, which looks at water from a holistic perspective, requires data. Practitioners and policymakers, the people who make the big decisions about water, need to understand how important this information is. They must create the right institutions to collect and manage this data and allocate enough money and people to get the job done. It's like making sure you have the right tools before you start building something—you wouldn't want to use a hammer to tighten a screw!

But how do we decide what data is most important? We prioritize based on key water issues. By looking at the risks and damages associated with different aspects of water, we can figure out where our attention and resources are needed the most. In this way, data becomes a catalyst for proactive decision-making and sustainable resource allocation.

For example, let's talk about groundwater. Did you know that almost 50% of all drinking water comes from groundwater? But we don't know enough about how much groundwater we use or the state of these resources globally. This was one of the reasons the “World Water Day” theme for 2022 was chosen as “Groundwater: Making the invisible visible”, highlighting the importance of better monitoring and management of this vital resource. This knowledge gap which occurs as a result of little or no data (in some regions) poses a challenge to sustainable water management. Understanding the state of groundwater resources is imperative to ensure their preservation for future generations. As Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying, "You can't manage what you can't measure." To effectively manage our groundwater resources, we must first measure and understand them, which will lead to making more informed decisions about how to manage them.

As we navigate the future of water resources management, the role of data cannot be overemphasized. From addressing immediate concerns to planning for the long term, data serves as the beacon guiding us toward sustainable solutions. It is not just about numbers and figures; it's about making informed choices that safeguard our most precious resource—water.

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