The theme for the AGUA International Conference 2022 was ‘Water security and sustainability: a global emergency’, with key topics focused on water governance, nature-based solutions, water risk management, recovery of rivers, the rights of nature, and water as an integral part of society, culture, and nature. Hosted in Barranquilla by Universidad del Atlántico, in collaboration with the Hub’s Universidad del Valle team, the conference brought together researchers, government representatives, community organisations and environmentalists from across the world. 

Taking place just after our Assembly, many researchers from across our Collaboratories were given the opportunity to present their work, establish relationships and connections, and demonstrate the excellent research taking place across the Hub. (A full list of presentations delivered at AGUA can be found at the end of this piece). 

We asked some of our researchers to share their thoughts on how valuable it is to have and attend platforms that allow global exchange and transference of experience, knowledge, and ideas. 

“Sharing knowledge and information is necessary for facing the future and developing resilience.”

Water, our most valuable resource as mankind. In any language anywhere, its synonym is life. AGUA was an excellent place to realise, even if it is already known, the value of water and how its flow through a country carries with it meaning, culture and science. As my first international conference, it was remarkable to see the way people come up with common ideas, either as academics or simply humans concerned in a particular topic. Sharing knowledge and information is necessary for facing the future and developing resilience. Many people around the world are working on water problems and nature-based solutions, they feed research and shape science, and it is possible that my antipode has the solution to the problem that I’m dealing with. 

I also learnt that poetry is not forbidden to transmit science, technical language is not always necessary. As one of the speakers said when she talked about the Magdalena River: “A river is a being with a liquid soul and a heart of sand.” 

~ Johana Sánchez, Universidad del Cauca

“A great demonstration of how well the socio-ecological systems approach is established within the Colombian water security research community”

The AGUA conference is regarded as an important event on water security in Colombia, and the Hub was well represented. The diverse plenary sessions covered both physical and social sciences – from fluvial geomorphology, to the preservation of ancestral knowledge. For me, this was a great demonstration of how well the socio-ecological systems approach is established within the Colombian water security research community.

A lot of great talks were given during the conference, and two that stuck in my mind were those given by Dr Arlex Sanchez Torres and the Hub’s Prof. Miguel Peña Varón; both on nature based solutions (NBS). Arlex talked about his experience of implementing NBS in both Europe and Colombia, providing pertinent lessons learned on transferring NBS approaches between different contexts, and highlighting the pitfalls of a one-size-fits-all approach. Miguel’s talk was a showcase of some of the NBS projects his research group has contributed to, including some large water treatment infrastructure projects. It was great to see how the group is working with industry in such a direct way.

~ Dr Andy Carr, University of Leeds

"Sharing time with other members of the team during the conference increased my sense of belonging and cohesion... fundamental for collaborative research."

Ángela and I, Hub early career researchers, presented our work and research results on the application of the risk assessment approach MUISKA to an intermittent water supply system. This joint presentation helped me to understand the feasibility of applying the MUISKA approach to a specific water-security risk. From a collective point of view, sharing time with other members of the team during the conference and supporting each other during presentations increased my sense of belonging and cohesion, fundamental for collaborative research. Other presentations delivered by researchers from different Colombian regions allowed me to better understand the hazard security risks existing in other Colombian river basins and the current progress of incorporating a risk management approach in water resources research.

~ Dr Carolina Montoya Pachongo, University of Leeds

AGUA presentations delivered by Hub members:

  • "Unequal access to surface and groundwater concessions in the department of Valle del Cauca" - Samy Andrés Mafla and Mario Alejandro Pérez
  • "The complex power relations that limit the decontamination of water sources. Case study: cassava processing cassava processing plants in northern Cauca" - Natalia Duque Achipiz
  • Information system "Nuestra Agua": An experience of community empowerment" - Federico Pinzón
  • "Affectation of fishing from the traditional knowledge of riparian communities of the Cauca River" - Carolina Salcedo and Professor Miguel R. Peña
  • "Nature tourism: an ethnocultural experience in the community of bocas del palo community" - Zulay Mora, Eliana Lopez, Carolina Salcedo and Federico Pinzón
  • “Assessing Flood Exposure at the City Scale using Global Datasets” - Dr Andy Carr, Dr Mark Trigg, Dr Alemseged Tamiru Haile, Mark Bernhofen, Tilaye Worku Bekele and Dr Claire Walsh
  • “Opportunities for developing sustainable aquaculture production systems through nutrient recycling using duckweed” - Johan A Pasos
  • “Characterisation of C. reinhardtii during luxury phosphorus uptake accumulation for enhanced phosphorus removal from wastewaters” - Tatiana Zúñiga-Burgos
  • “MUISKA: multidimensional approach for risk assessment of an intermittent water system” - Dr Carolina Montoya Pachongo, Angela Bayona-Valderrama, Professor Barbara Evans, Dr Miller Alonso Camargo-Valero, Dr Diana Ruíz Ordóñez and Juan Pablo Martínez Idrobo
  • "Understanding Antimicrobial Resistance and Associated Health Risks in the Johor River Basin, Malaysia" - Dominic Kay
  • "Health Risk In The Johor River Basin: Faecal Coliform" - Kwa Yee Chu
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