28.08.2013 - UNESCO Office in Santiago

National and international experts come together in Santiago, Chile to debate about urban water management

Opening ceremony, Centro de Extensión, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Photo: © UNESCO/Carolina Jerez

With the participation of the coordinator of the UNESCO Urban Water Work Group for Latin America and the Caribbean, Adriana Piperno, a series of activities on “Water and the City” began on Monday, 26 August 2013, supported and organised by OREALC/UNESCO Santiago, the Centre for Sustainable Urban Development (CEDEUS), the Regional Cooperation Delegation for the Southern Cone and Brazil of the French Embassy in Chile and the French Institute of Chile.

This series, which ends on 30 August, includes the participation of Chilean and French researchers and other Latin American experts. Among these is the French national, Bernard Chocat, of the National Institute of Applied Sciences of Lyon, who gave a speech at the opening ceremony on the new urban water management paradigm which includes structural and non-structural measures for generating a smarter use of the cities’ water resources. Also, the coordinator of the UNESCO Urban Water Work Group for Latin America and the Caribbean, Adriana Piperno, explained the scope of water and land planning within the framework of UNESCO’s Urban Water Management Programme.

Water management. A present and future challenge.

In the opening ceremony, Mario Ubilla, dean of the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Urban Studies of the Universidad Católica de Chile, explained why it is such a high priority to research and work on this issue: “for the first time in the history of humanity, there are more people living in urban zones than in rural ones. Our continent is the most urbanised in the world, and more than 90% of the Chilean population lives in cities. So the challenges of urban water management are enormous and ever-growing”.

In this regard, Adriana Piperno highlighted the importance of instilling a culture of water within the entire society, government and the educational sector. She explained that the UNESCO group works to coordinate different efforts of countries in the region and to generate the exchange of scientific discovery, innovation, success stories and failures within the topic of water and the city. She went on to describe how the UNESCO Urban Water Work Group for Latin America and the Caribbean is currently focusing its efforts on preparing a guide so that countries can identify their flooding risk, and this project involves Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. The group is also working on a diagnostic of the Latin America urban water in order to identify the priorities for each of the countries so as to guide future projects, and it will also be organising a series of courses.

During the Water and the City series, Chilean presenters will share the results of their studies. For example, Sonia Reyes, researcher for CEDEUS, will address the water consumption policies for the watering of green areas in the Metropolitan Region; and Sebastián Bonelli, from the UC Centre for Global Change, will show the fundamental importance of adapting to climate change in the city of Santiago.

At the same time, professor Bernard Chocat will present the documentary “Nature, water and the city” to the professors and students of the Universidad Católica de Chile (activity open to the general public) in order to delve deeper into the challenges of urban water management, and the interaction between the water cycle and urban land. The screening of the film will be followed by a discussion forum.

Another activity is the screening of the documentary, “The thirst of the world”, in Bosque Santiago, directed by high school students from Santiago, as well as the presentation of CEDEUS, a new FONDAP centre (Fund for the Financing of Priority Area Research Centres), whose development was awarded in 2012 to the UC Faculty of Architecture, Design and Urban Studies and is co-led by the Faculty of Engineering of the Universidad Católica.

The UNESCO International Hydrological Programme (IHP)

For Koen Verbist, a specialist for the Hydrological Systems and Global Change programme, located in UNESCO Santiago, “the availability of water for cities, but also its quality, is a challenge that requires more and more resources. UNESCO and its International Hydrological Programme or IHP, implement various activities on this issue and focus on an integrated management of water access and waste water treatment, while at the same time working towards a change in paradigm, from the management of water offer to the management of water demand, with the objective of limiting demand and increasing the efficient use of water.”

The UNESCO objective in this sense is to promote scientific knowledge and to develop solutions for sustainable urban water management in order to help countries face the current and future challenges of its cities.

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