The Sustainable Water Future Programme (WATER FUTURE) is a global research platform with expertise and innovation in water research, policy, security, and sustainability.

Building upon more than a decade of water-related research under the Global Water System Project, WATER FUTURE provides the knowledge and support to accelerate transformations to a more sustainable “water world”.

Research to support the transformation to water sustainability

Water is and will remain a crucial factor in the many challenges that our world faces, and is a central goal of the Sustainable Development Agenda.

WATER FUTURE is a core activity of Future Earth, an international research hub driving global environmental change. Hosted by Griffith University’s Australian Rivers Institute in Brisbane, Australia, its sole mission is to support the quest for solutions to the world’s water problems. This will be done through the promotion of science-based evidence and implementation and monitoring of goals for sustainable development.

Consistent with the broad objectives of the Water SDG, research conducted through WATER FUTURE seeks to ensure a balance between the needs of humankind and nature through the protection of ecosystems and the services it provides, and to offer real solutions underpinned by interdisciplinary science to deliver a sustainable ‘water world’.

WATER FUTURE will address science, engineering, governance and management issues to drive policy change in the science arena. This broadens the scope of the programme to serve as an incubator, network hub and translator of different projects’ scientific findings for science policy dialogues. As an example, WATER FUTURE will serve as a “testbed” for developing, testing and monitoring experiences with integrated methodologies and will establish a future-oriented knowledge synthesis and assessment process on the state of global water resources, the Global Water System Assessment.

WATER FUTURE will address the water-related science, policy and societal questions regarding global environmental change and the pathways toward sustainable futures, guided by the following knowledge-to-action agenda from the Bonn Water Declaration on Global Water Security:

Understand the complex and interlinked nature of the global water system
focusing on how this may change now and in the future through the adoption of a multi-scale and interdisciplinary approach.
Implement state-of-the-art synthesis studies
on the fresh water system that can inform risk assessments and be used to develop strategies to better promote the protection of water systems.
Build the capacity of the next generation
in global change research and management, making use of cross-scale analysis and integrated system design to enable the next generation of water scientists and practitioners in water research.
Expand monitoring
through traditional land-based environmental observation networks and state-of-the-art earth-observation satellite systems, to provide detailed observations of the state of the global water system.
Explore ecosystem-based alternatives to costly structural solutions for climate proofing
such that the design of the built environment in the future includes both traditional and green infrastructure.
Stimulate innovation within water institutions
with a balance of technical- and governance-based solutions and taking heed of value systems and equity.


The world needs to focus on water if it wants to deal sustainably with global change. Water is and will remain a crucial factor to the many challenges that our world faces in the light of global change, including climate change, environmental hazards, population growth, health risks, economic development, technological innovations, pollution, land use change and ecosystem protection and restoration.

WATER FUTURE aims to bring the world’s focus back to water through the following four key objectives:

Innovative research and knowledge synthesis

Despite a decade of research outcomes, the world has no formal synthesis of water research generated by the global water community to date. Water Future believes now is the time to act to introduce a process to systematically harvest and test the value of this vast and continuously growing store of information within policy and management domains, leading to sustainable solutions for water problems.

By harnessing the leadership of the scientific community within the framework of WATER FUTURE, we can create a close exchange between research, policymaking and practice.

Finding solutions through industry collaboration

WATER FUTURE will foster new and adaptive planning and water system design principles through interactions between students, researchers, entrepreneurs and community representatives. It will draw on the latest developments from the water science industry, placing them into a planning and design process for water solutions, and engage the private and public sectors to combine forces for innovation in a solutions lab.

A Water Solutions Laboratory Network will be developed by WATER FUTURE to further enhance existing knowledge of global best practice of environmental service innovation, and  the demand and supply side of environmental services, as well as its benefits and costs.

Future proof our water system through a comprehensive assessment of our global water system

Global statistics confirm the mounting pressure on water systems across the planet, arising from non-sustainable water engineering practices, pollution, and biotic stressors. Freshwater issues are embedded in nearly all of the world’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to meet the sustaining needs of humans and ecosystems; good water stewardship is fundamental to their success.

The challenge to the scientific water community is how to assess and govern risk related to the SDGs so that the present needs of all are met while also safeguarding earth’s life support system for future generations.

It requires a comprehensive risk assessment of the global water system. WATER FUTURE will function as the scientific arm of a series of new global water system assessments focusing on the Sustainable Development Goals to support improved decision-making and management under increasing risk and uncertainty.

Influence policy making through capacity building and outreach

WATER FUTURE aims to influence policymaking at a global scale by initiating active dialogue between scientists, policy-makers, water managers and the general public. Part of this will be to provide advanced training to students and young water professionals to build their capacities for successful science-policy interactions.

We will train the next generation of water scientists and practitioners, who will focus together on key planning challenges, adopting and capitalising on the best state-of-the-art science, technology, and water assessment tools and promoting an expanded use of integrated and ecosystem-based approaches for the design of future water security systems.

For further information

Call for working group proposals

Submission deadline: 15 July 2016
Decision date: 1 August 20126
Submit Proposals Working Groups form

The Sustainable Water Future Programme (Water Future) of Future Earth, a major global platform for integrated research on global water, is calling for proposals to form different working groups that will develop the research programme of Water Future under the following research priority areas:

  • Water, Sanitation, and Health
  • Water Quality and Ecosystem
  • Balancing Water Needs for Humans and the Environment
  • Groundwater Management
  •  Freshwater Systems and Deltas
  • Understanding Human values of the Freshwater Systems in the Anthropocene
  • Urban Water System
  • Transboundary Water
  • Sustainability in the Water-Energy-Food Nexus
  • Climate Risk and Adaptation/ Coping with Hydrological Variability Research proposals in similar areas of study are also welcome

Future Earth and Water Future

Future Earth and Water Future are not funding bodies but are supported by the International Council for Science (ICSU), the International Social Science Council (ISSC), the Belmont Forum of funding agencies, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations University (UNU), and the World Meteorological Organisation.

Water Future builds on more than a decade of coordinated international research of the Global Water Systems Project (GWSP) to study the complex global water system with its interactions between natural and human components and their feedback processes.

The work of GWSP established that human activities in the Anthropocene have greatly impacted the global water system and changed the way water moves around the globe as never before.

Managing freshwater in the planetary water cycle has become a key challenge for global environmental sustainability. Water Future addresses this challenge by providing the knowledge and support to understand the state of global water and to develop potential policy solutions, including co-designing improved, evidence-based solutions that support sustainable development trajectories. The Water Future Programme will provide the mechanisms and frameworks that facilitate greater cooperation and collaboration across academia, industry, and government at the local, national and global scale. This will increase the cross-fertilisation of ideas and, in particular, a much more rapid and effective translation of research outputs through to business and governance outcomes and opportunities.

Working Groups

Working Groups of Water Future will develop research strategies and activities in accordance with the programme’s agenda. Other than basic research, each of the working groups will contribute to the key initiatives of Water Future – the Global Water System Assessment Initiative and Water Solutions Lab Network, which will integrate a broad international science, policy and practice community. Regional centres and the international secretariat will be responsible for the coordination of the working groups and their key initiatives to help define their roles.

The groups should be interdisciplinary and consist of members from all over the globe, integrating the natural and social sciences, legal and governance expertise, economics and technology to address solutions to the multi-faceted global water problems.

  • Topics should be global in scope
  • Water Future will help to facilitate the creation of working groups among researchers with similar proposal interests
  • Groups should be 15 to 20 people maximum of three years duration.
  • The leader or chair of each working group will be part of the Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) of Water Future
  • The themes described above are not really silos and instead, connect to any other themes.

Water Future aims to connect problem identifiers with solution identifiers, knowledge generators and knowledge implementers while focusing on integrated solutions to develop knowledge-to-concrete actions and find solutions through the co-production of knowledge involving scientists and other stakeholders. The WGs are encouraged to engage relevant stakeholders in their activities (co-design and co-production) from policy development, government agencies, and non-governmental organisations including business groups and non-profits, and other representatives of civil society.


Working groups in Water Future will form part of a platform for integrative research on the global water system with leading organisations. This will increase the visibility of the working group to different stakeholders (governments, funding agencies, and donors) as part of an authoritative global water platform for science-driven sustainable solutions.

Other Benefits include:

  • Water Future’s support in organising workshops  and conferences
  • Assistance in the dissemination of key results to improve translation from research to outcomes
  • Promote awareness of research activities amongst the relevant science communities and funding agencies in the region
  • Develop research proposals, and help to mobilize external research funding
  • Opportunities to expand the scope of research through contributions in Global Water System Assessment, and strong links to global water policy makers, business and practitioners in society through active participation in the Water Solutions Lab Network (WSLN)
  • Support from the International Modelling and Data team
  • Collaboration with other relevant working groups and projects under Future Earth
  • Enhanced visibility through promotion of events and research on the Water Future website, and through print and online publications.


Water Future will help the working groups secure external funding to organise workshops and cover meeting costs such as participants’ travel and accommodation expenses. Water Future does not allow the use of funds for overheads incurred by the host institution. Please note, it is the responsibility of organisers to generate most of the funding necessary for the meeting.

Submit Proposals Working Groups form

Planning Commitee

A planning committee for Water Future has been formed to guide the formulation of a strategic research agenda for the programme for the next three years and to make recommendations to the scientific committee on research initiatives and operations. The planning committee reviews and provides advice on the implementation and means to achieve the priority of the programme.

András Szöllősi-Nagy

András Szöllösi-Nagy is currently the Research Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies Köszeg (iASK). Before, he was the Rector of the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education and a Professor of Stochastic Hydrology both at UNESCO-IHE and TU Delft. His research fields include time series analysis, stochastic modelling, state space methods, adaptive systems, real-time hydrological forecasting and control of water resources systems using recursive algorithms. He serves, as elected Governor, on the Board of Governors of the World Water Council, is elected fellow of the World Academy of Arts and Sciences (WAAS).

Charles Vörösmarty

Charles Vörösmarty is a professor of civil engineering at the City University of New York. He was also the founding chair of the Global Water System Project. Dr. Vörösmarty’s research focuses on the development of computer models and geospatial data sets used in synthesis studies of the interactions among the water cycle, climate, biogeochemistry and anthropogenic activities. His studies are built around local, regional and continental to global-scale modelling of water balance, discharge, constituent fluxes in river systems and the analysis of the impacts of large-scale water engineering on the terrestrial water cycle.

Janos Bogardi

Janos J. Bogardi is the chair of German National Committee of the Sustainable Water Future Programme (SWFP) and a senior fellow at Centre of Development Research , University of Bonn . He earned his PhD in Civil Engineering at the University of Karlsruhe, Germany and was Professor for Hydraulics and quantitative Water Resource Management at the Agricultural University of Wageningen, the Netherlands and worked with the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris, France. He was then appointed the director of the United Nations University – Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS) in Bonn. In June 2008, he was honoured by the International Cannes Water Prize ‚Grand Prix des Lumières de l‘Eau de Cannes‘.

Paul Shrivastava

Paul Shrivastava, Executive Director of Future Earth, has a unique background that combines academic scholarship and teaching with significant entrepreneurial and senior management experience. Currently he is the David O’Brien Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the John Molson School of Business, Concordia University, Montreal. He also serves as Senior Advisor on sustainability at Bucknell University and the Indian Institute of Management-Shillong, India, and he serves on the Board of Trustees of DeSales University, Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Stuart Bunn

Professor Bunn is the Director of the Australian Rivers Institute at Griffith University in Brisbane. His major research interests are in the ecology of river and wetland systems with a particular focus on the science to underpin river management. Stuart has extensive experience working with international and Australian government agencies on water resource management issues. He was a member of the Scientific Steering Committee for the Global Water System Project, the Chair of the Scientific Expert Panel for the Southeast Queensland Healthy Waterways Partnership and has previously served as Chair of the Scientific Advisory Panel for the Lake Eyre Basin Ministerial Council.

Claudia Pahl-Wostl

Claudia Pahl-Wostl is professor for resources management and director of the Institute for Environmental Systems Research at the University of Osnabrück, Germany, and a former co-chair of the Global Water System Project. Her major research interests are adaptive, multi-level governance and management of water resources, social and societal learning and their role in sustainability transformations, and conceptual and methodological frameworks to analyse social-ecological systems. Her emphasis on interdisciplinary work is reflected in her role as editor of three books and twelve special issues in peer reviewed journals.

Jakob Rhyner

Jakob Rhyner is the Vice-Rector for UNU in Europe and the Director of the UNU Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS). Prof. Rhyner is a professor at the Agricultural Faculty of the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-University in Bonn. He holds PhD in Theoretical Physics from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich. Prior to joining UNU in 2010, Prof. Rhyner served as the director of the Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) in Davos, where he had previously acted as the institute’s head of the Avalanche Warning and Risk Management Division.

Astrid Hillers

Astrid Hillers is a senior environmental specialist at Global Environmental facility. Astrid has joined the International Waters (IW) team, coming from the World Bank where she has worked since 2000. She has been engaged in cooperation on river basins in Africa, especially the Nile Basin Initiative, most of her time at the Bank. In the last three years, she has been part of the Bank’s Climate Change team and has been involved in developing the Bank’s ‘Strategic Framework for Development and Climate Change’ as well as working on adaptation to climate change, focussing on coordinating the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience.

Stefan Uhlenbrook

Stefan Uhlenbrook is the coordinator (Director) of the UN World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP), a UNESCO programme based in Perugia, Italy . Before joining WWAP, Stefan Uhlenbrook served UNESCO-IHE for almost 11 years in different functions, as Professor of Hydrology and Chair of the Hydrology and Water Resources Core Group (2005-2012); Director Academic Affairs (2010-2012); Vice Rector(since 2013) and Officer-in-Charge (since November 2014).) and Officer-in-Charge (since November  2014).

Richard Lawford

Richard Lawford is the co- principal investigator of SWFP’s cluster activity on Water Energy Food Nexus. He explores the linkages between Earth observations of water and climate as they relate to observational methodologies (including satellites), data processing and visualization systems, information interpretation and the use of information in decision support and policy development. His specific areas of application involve climate and hydrological information, water resource management and capacity building. As a senior scientific advisor of SWFP, Rick Lawford provides advice related to Natural and Social Capital in the water sector and the role of Earth observations and integrated information in achieving these goals. He also maintains links between the activities and goals of the Water programme within the Group on Earth Observations and the SWFP.

Claudia Ringler

Claudia Ringler is Deputy Division Director of the Environment and Production Technology Division at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). She also manages IFPRI’s Natural Resource Theme and co- leads the Institute’s water research program. She is currently also a co- manager of the Managing Resource Variability and Competing Uses flagship of the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Lands and Ecosystems (WLE) and chairs the Food, Energy, Environment and Water Network. Her research interests are water management, global food and water security, natural resource constraints to global food production, and the synergies of climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Anik Bhaduri

Anik Bhaduri is the Executive Director of the Sustainable Water Future Programme (SWFP) and Associate Professor at Australian River Institute, Griffith University. Previously, he has served as Executive Officer of Global Water System Project( GWSP).  With a background in environment and natural resource economics, he has specialised in water resource management. He has worked on several topics and projects, ranging from transboundary water sharing to adaptive water management under climate change. He also serves as a senior fellow at Centre of Development Research, University of Bonn.


International Secretariat-Water Future

The International Secretariat for the Sustainable Water Future Programme (WATER FUTURE) has been established in Brisbane, Australia; hosted by Griffith University. Leading Australian universities in water research, together with CSIRO Land and Water have formed a consortium to support the development of this initiative.

The secretariat headed by Associate Professor Anik Bhaduri is supported by research, marketing, communication and administrative staff at Griffith University.

The secretariat plays a key role in implementing the strategic priorities of the programme and facilitating communication processes. To support WATER FUTURE e’s networking role, the secretariat will function as a node and information hub, collecting information, ensuring communication flow and organising events relevant to the entire programme.

The Water Future International Secretariat is located in the six-star green energy rated Sir Samuel Griffith Building at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia.

Establishment of WATER FUTURE- Canada Hub

Members of the newest node of WATER FUTURE met recently at the Global Institute for Water Security (GIWS) on 10 and 11 May, 2016 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to design the activities of WATER FUTURE, and explore the needs, benefits and options for developing a western Canada hub for the Programme. In attendance were representatives from Future Earth, the University of Manitoba, the International Institute for Sustainable development (IISD), the Water Security Agency, and the City University of New York (CUNY), among others.

The Global Institute for Water Security, based at the University of Saskatchewan, will host the Secretariat of the Water Future-Canada Hub. This is an exciting development as the hub will be the first one based in North America, offering the opportunity to expand on water research at a higher capacity, and lead the way in further expanding the newly formed WATER FUTURE network.

Initially, the four themes that will be addressed through the node are, 1) climate risk and adaptation: assessing vulnerability and managing risk; 2) water quality and ecosystems: values and trade-offs; 3) Water-Energy-Food (W-E-F) and sustainability: critical threats and interactions; and 4) governance for transformation. The hub will work over the next few months to create introductory reports on the four themes, which will in part help to form the basis of the next stage of work of the Canadian node of WATER FUTURE.

Workshop on governance transformation and integrated information for the W-E-F Nexus

WATER FUTURE along with the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, Kyoto Japan, organised a workshop last month entitled “Governance transformation and integrated information for the W-E-F Nexus”. Hosted 4 – 6 April, the workshop was the third of four held in different regions of the world in connection with this Future Earth Research Cluster initiative. The initiative explores how Earth Observations, integrated information and new approaches to governance and solutions-oriented research could facilitate the improved management of the Water-Energy-Food Nexus. The objective of the cluster is to develop a plan for research and application activities to improve the sustainability of water resources and the essential productivity of energy and food systems. Through these activities, the cluster aims to advance the integrated application of sustainable development principles in the Water-Energy-Food (WEF) Nexus at all scales. This new research agenda will rely on Earth observations and derived integrated water information; the development and mainstreaming of knowledge and decision-support tools; and the application of good governance and management principles to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in the water, energy, and food sectors with a specific emphasis on the WEF Nexus. The focus of this workshop was on water and food components of the nexus, particularly interlinkages between water, land and coastal ecosystems and the provision of energy, water, and land for food production in Asia.


NEXUS Symposium in Osnabrueck, 15 – 16 JUNE 2016

WATER FUTURE along with the University of Osnabrueck and University of Tier is organising a scientific forum “Understanding the Water-Energy-Food Nexus and its Implications for Governance”, to be held in Osnabrueck on the 15 and 16 June 2016.
The forum is financially supported by the German Science Foundation (DFG) and will address challenges and key research gaps in dealing with the WEF nexus. Special attention will be devoted to supporting exchanges between senior and early career researchers to nurture the establishment of an interdisciplinary community of WEF nexus scholars and the forum is designed to allow for much discussion and interaction. As a follow-up activity, an academy supporting early career researchers to develop research proposals for submission to the DFG will be organised later this year.

Water connects: Budapest Water Summit

The Budapest Water Summit 2016 will be hosted by the Hungarian Government in cooperation with the World Water Council, under the patronage of János Áder, President of Hungary in November. The mission of the summit is to position water, not as a source of conflict and global risk, but as a source of cooperation, peace and development for all the countries committed to sustainable development. To this end, participants of the Budapest Water Summit 2016 will put forward their proposed solutions to the relevant international bodies and adopt the “Budapest Statement 2016”. With a focus on solutions and practical approaches, the Budapest Water Summit 2016 aims to foster a new type of integrated and sustainable water management. Water Future is playing a lead role in organising and convening the Science Forum at the event and will present the Water Solutions Lab Network during the summit.

Sustainable Water Future Programme