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Integrated water management module for Stanford University students

IWC and The University of Queensland have been working with students from Stanford University's Bing Overseas program, which includes courses in Coral Reef Ecology, Coastal Forest Ecosystems, and Australian Studies.

We are living through a period of unprecedented change. More than seven billion people now inhabit the planet and this number is expected to grow to nine billion this century. Most people now live in cities and the pressures created by growing affluence on water and land resources and systems of water and energy provision are growing. Water tables are dropping and the functioning of the ecosystems which depend upon water security are also degrading, with consequent losses in ecosystem services and damage directly to livelihoods.

Within 20 years the world is predicted to have a demand for freshwater which exceeds supplies. At the same time the world demand for energy is expected to increase by 40%, with every increase in energy demand also an increase in water demand, particularly so for water intensive biofuels and hydropower.

884 million people still do not have adequate drinking water, and over 2.6 billion people do not have access to adequate sanitation services. Over 40% of installed hand-pump capacity in sub-Saharan Africa is no longer functional, with insufficient funds and attention having been paid to long term operational and system maintenance costs and systems.

So, one thing is clear. Business as usual is not an option. Income disparity alone has been recognised by the World Economic Forum as one of the most significant risks faced globally to social well-being. Change is required in the way that development is practised, particularly in relation to water and sanitation. Questions are being asked about the success of top-down, integrated water resource management schemes, and the opportunities for smaller scale, entrepreneurial solutions perhaps opening up.

But the need for change is not restricted to the rural poor. Securing the continued liveability and sustainability of urban places will also require significant change - changes in production and consumption patterns to meet the emerging and inter-linked changes of the water-food-energy-carbon nexus as populations continue to grow everywhere. Matching water qualities with use, decentralising water and wastewater systems, harnessing stormwater, embedding water sensitive urban design systems in urban areas to protect urban creeks, and ensuring the right institutional and economic environments exist such that decisions are taken upon a whole of water cycle, systemic basis will be essential, and will require change.

IWC's five-day module on integrated water management challenges current ways of approaching water management – first, by articulating the need for inter- and trans-disciplinary thinking and to develop foundation skills; second, by examining what we know about problems in traditional urban water management, and; third, by examining how water and sanitation play an essential role in development, and how problematic they are as problems to overcome.


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