Aither is pleased to have won the 2019 Water Industry Alliance Smart Water Award for Innovation in SMEs for the development and implementation of WaterGuide. The award recognises small and medium-sized businesses that have fostered innovation to solve a significant environmental and/or water resource related problem. We thank DFAT and AWP for their ongoing support and collaboration to develop and apply WaterGuide internationally.

Water scarcity is one of the most significant threats to global prosperity. Forty percent of people are already affected by water scarcity, and more than 50 per cent of the world’s cities and 75 per cent of irrigated farms experience recurring water shortages (Richter, 2016). The World Economic Forum recently noted ‘we are sleepwalking into catastrophe’, with water crises representing one of the most significant risks to the global economy.

WaterGuide is an organising framework for water management and use in response to scarcity, and is being used to improve water management globally. WaterGuide is not a technical or prescriptive manual, but a framework for initiating and guiding conversations on the large and coordinated institutional and policy reforms needed to make meaningful improvements to water resource management.

WaterGuide’s innovation is twofold. Firstly, it recognises that there is no single solution or lever to address water scarcity – we could spend trillions on water infrastructure and still not meet basic human needs, and we can ‘manage’ water resources but still not reflect the value of water to all stakeholders (including the environment) in decision-making. WaterGuide steps out the integrated and contingent elements required to address scarcity and is pitched at those who can influence the changes required. Secondly, it packages fundamental elements of the Australian water reform journey in a way that is immediately useful for decision makers in diverse political, economic and hydrological contexts.

Since its development, WaterGuide has been used to engage and guide high-level dialogues with senior decision-makers in Jordan, Iran, Mexico and Senegal. Aither, in collaboration with the Australian Water Partnership, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Asian Development Bank, is currently using WaterGuide to assist the Government of the Republic of Uzbekistan to improve water-related investment, management and use.

Aither looks forward to continuing to work with Australian partners and the international community to improve water management in the face of scarcity.