The Extraordinary World Meteorological Congress has endorsed a Water Declaration, including the Water and Climate Coalition, to accelerate implementation of SDG 6, and approved a new vision and strategy for hydrology and an associated plan of action.

The resolutions reflect the top priority given to water by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in the face of growing water stress and water-related hazards, coupled with inadequate and fragmented capacity to meet the challenges. They were agreed following a special two-day Hydrological Assembly.

« By 2030 a cooperative global community is successfully addressing the growing challenges related to hydrological extremes, water availability and quality, and food security, by advancing operational hydrology through enhanced science, infrastructure, capacity-building and related services, in the context of sustainable development and enhanced resilience, » reads the vision statement.

More than half of the world’s population will be living under water stressed conditions by 2030. Climate change will further exacerbate these conditions and increase our vulnerability to water-related disasters,

In view of the urgency of the situation, the Water Declaration sets the following aspirations:

  • That by 2030 early warnings for early action related to floods and droughts will be available for people everywhere on the planet to access;
  • That policies for water and climate action developed within the sustainable development agenda be integrated to yield maximum benefit for our people;
  • That we will pursue these goals through partnerships for capacity development, knowledge exchange and information sharing, formulating  policies, institutional and legal/regulatory frameworks.

Water and Climate Coalition

The Extraordinary Congress endorsed the Water and Climate Coalition « to promote the sharing and access to integrated hydrological, cryosphere, meteorological and climate information to plan and operate resilient and sustainable water resources systems at local, national, regional and river basin scales.”

It stressed that the unrestricted sharing of Earth system data and information is vital to create benefits that will « allow us to optimize water resources management, national adaptation planning, including planning of quality infrastructure, as well as effective disaster risk reduction, including early warning systems.”

The Water and Climate Coalition will officially be presented at the United Nations Climate Change negotiations, COP26.

It aims to accelerate progress to the goals of the water-related Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG6 (water and sanitation for all) and boost resilient water adaptation to climate change as well as demographic and socioeconomic development for the future.

A major obstacle to provide efficient and sustainable water solutions is the lack of information about the currently available water resources, future availability and demand for food and energy supply. Decision makers are faced with the same dilemma when it comes to flood and drought risks. 

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Today, 60% of WMO Member States report declining capabilities in hydrological monitoring and thus in the provision of decision support in the water, food and energy nexus. More than 50% of countries worldwide have no quality management system for their water related data in place.

Hydrology Action Plan

In order to meet the challenges, the Extraordinary Congress agreed a detailed action plan. It identifies target outcomes to WMO’s eight long-term ambitions.

  • No one is surprised by a flood

While the total economic damage caused by floods has tended to increase, flood early warning systems have proved to be an effective tool to decrease the numbers of fatalities. Better understanding of flood risk, flood forecasting and warning have strengthened preparedness and response capacities. But lack of trained people and good hydrological monitoring network remains a challenge.

There should be impact-based end-to-end Early Warning Systems (EWS) for flood forecasting in the context of a broader integrated flood management strategy implemented by Members, including through the Associated Programme on Flood Management.

Public, communities and businesses should have enhanced access to and better capacity to react to official national flood forecasts and warnings locally and globally.

Congress approved a new Sustainability Strategy for the future development and implementation of the Flash Flood Guidance System with Global Coverage.

  • Everyone is prepared for drought

Drought has major socio–economic, health and political consequences, yet many countries do not yet have adequate national drought policies.

Members should reduce adverse impacts of drought at all levels by implementing integrated drought management systems, including drought monitoring, early warnings, vulnerability and impact assessments, and drought mitigation, preparedness and response measures.

WMO activities, including the Regional Climate Outlook Forums,  support Members drought preparedness, whilst the Integrated Drought Management Programme provides policy and management guidance through globally coordinated generation of scientific information and sharing best practices and knowledge.

  • Hydro-climate and meteorological data support the food security agenda

Food security should be enhanced by informed end-users’ decisions at all levels from regional to local;

The concept of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) including water use and allocations for supporting food production should be widely accepted and followed.

Success will be measured by the decreased number and magnitude of famine/hunger emergencies due to drought and water scarcity, and the number of Members monitoring and accounting for water consumption in their water budgets at the basin scale.

  • High-quality data supports science

Globally accepted and free accessible data infrastructure is lacking – monitoring data from NHSs and research is not brought together.

The value of data accessibility, usability and reliability has been proved to be a strong driver for science development.

There should be increased discoverability, availability, and use of high-quality hydrological and hydrometeorological data for scientific analysis, as promoted by the Global Hydrometry Support Facility (HydroHub).

Success will be measured by the number of river discharge/groundwater/lakes and reservoirs/cryosphere time series with data available and the number of Members performing routine hydrological data quality assessments.

  • Science provides a sound basis for operational hydrology

The development of operational services needs to be based on the state of knowledge of the water resources and the current and foreseeable pressures on them. Earth system science in an integrated perspective broadens the hydrological perspective and the advancement of hydrological science.

There should be a reduced gap between research and operational hydrology applications; operational hydrology uses improved understanding of Earth system science

There should be greater understanding of how the hydrological system responds to extreme conditions.

  • We have a thorough knowledge of the water resources of our world

Collecting, managing and sharing data on water resources and uses are fundamental for better understanding and management. Despite the advances in technology and policy, we are far from having comprehensive information on the state of water management across the world, or regarding major characteristics, trends, constraints and prospective changes.

Regional analyses need to be supported by systematic, up-to-date and reliable information on water and serve as a reference for large-scale planning and predictive studies.

Members should implement reliable water resource assessment systems and use these to complete and share information on the availability of water resources.

Success will be monitored by the number of Members completing and sharing water resource assessments, including via HydroSOS or WMO regional systems. There should be annual reports on the status of global water resources published from 2025 onwards.

  • Sustainable development is supported by hydrological information

Water lies at the heart of the UN Sustainable Development Agenda. Therefore hydrological information is important for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the monitoring and assessment of their progress.

Hydrological information of adequate resolution, quality and timeliness should be  available and used to make informed decisions on sustainable development at all scales.

Success will be measured by the number of Members including hydrological aspects and water budget information in their development plans at the national level and reporting on SDG progress using reliable hydrological data and indicators.

  • Water quality is known.

Water quality is an integral part of the water cycle. The monitoring of surface and groundwater quality is a necessary condition for the basic requirements of society and ecosystems, and the possibility to adopt timely corrective solution whenever needed.

There should be increased cooperation at the national, regional and global level on water quality monitoring and water quality data exchange.

Success will be measured by the number of Members running water quality monitoring programmes, performing water quality assessments and sharing their data.