‘Left me with hope’: Virginia Tech researchers reflect on watershed United Nations conference | VTx


“Climate change and land-use change critically affect water resources through extreme events and environmental degradation around the globe, but countries are approaching these challenges in a different way based on their governance and management structures.

“Many of the SWIM board members from Xylem, Arcadis, IBM, and others presented at the UN Water Conference.

“I was invited for the ‘Water Innovation and Business high-level plenary, network, and matchmaking event.’ I met New York City Mayor Eric Adams and many high-level officials.

“Also, I am working on a new PBS documentary related to climate change and water crisis. The UN Water Conference and the New York Water Week events helped to connect with key people for my new documentary and storyline.

“We need transformative actions and solutions that drive the change we need for sustainability and resilience of water security.”


“I was amazed by the breadth of people from around the world who came to the UN Water Conference to talk about the critical influence of water on health, food, poverty, and conflicts. People from government, NGOs, academics and the private sector met in sessions to talk about opportunities for collaboration to address the pressing issues of water that we face.

“Hearing from people in countries where climate change and mismanagement of water are destroying their communities due to sea level rise, saltwater intrusion and lack of safe sanitation was especially heartbreaking.  I greatly enjoyed being part of the VT group. We all have different research interests but greatly enjoyed sharing our daily experiences with each other.”


“I believe this conference helped further increase awareness around water supply and access challenges and inequalities. Among the events I attended, I was particularly impressed with the Global Commitment to Stop the Flow of Lead in Drinking Water side event, and associated efforts to reduce exposures to lead by replacing and preventing the use of pipes and other water supply components that can leach lead into drinking water.”


“The conference was an incredible bringing together of the global community to discuss the myriad issues associated with water — spanning topics as diverse as water supply, water pollution, water treatment, the economics of water delivery, equity, climate change impacts, and so many more.

“While the diversity of ideas and people was impressive, it was less clear how much was actually accomplished by the meeting. Extensive discussion of the general problems associated with water delivery, supply, equity, etc. occurred, but less discussion of specific actions – at least in the sessions I was able to attend – there were so many to choose from – to address the issues. Ideally, this meeting should spark future, frank discussions about specific problems and potential approaches to address them. Water issues are inherently ‘wicked’ and thus it was not surprising that solutions were hard to come by.”


“The experience left me with hope for reaching our sustainable  development goals among  our growing population and climate extremes. Nature-based solutions that harness the ebb and flow of a river and the local cultural knowledge are part of the solution, and our research across Virginia Tech will continue to contribute to meeting the sustainable development goals for our global society.”


“The UN Water Conference was a fascinating experience. I was exposed to water issues from a global perspective and believe this will help me grow as a scientist throughout my career. Also, seeing firsthand how commitments and agreements could be negotiated in the hallways and over coffee is something I will never forget.”


“My main takeaway: less talk, more action.”