The Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture, Abdulrahman Abdulmohsen AlFadley, inaugurated yesterday a two-day workshop on Water Research Priorities in KSA, organized by the National Center for Water Research and Studies in collaboration with the World Bank Group. The workshop was attended by key local and international experts and researchers in the water sector from public and private sectors, scientific research centers, and universities.
The workshop is part of the ministry’s efforts to develop a nationally aligned water research strategy for the Kingdom, and it aims to establish a time-bound research agenda to enhance the role of research in advancing knowledge and delivering solutions through applied and field research on water problems and to better inform the decision-making process of main water agencies, both public and private, serving the water sector in the kingdom.
The workshop focuses on many axes, including the vision of the Ministry of Education for water research support, the report of the first implementation phase of the National Water Research Strategy in Saudi Arabia, the best international practices in water research management, the ministry's significant achievements in regional groundwater studies.
The minister delivers the opening speech on the first day of the workshop. He affirmed that the ministry has attached great importance to scientific research by establishing the National Center for Water Research and Studies. It has also developed a long-term National Water Strategy aims to work towards addressing key challenges, leveraging previous and on-going studies, and reforming the water and wastewater sector to ensure sustainable development and optimal use of the Kingdom's natural and financial resources while providing affordable high-quality services, in line with the water sector's vision " A sustainable water sector, safeguarding the natural resources and the environment of the Kingdom and providing cost-effective supply and high-quality services." He also emphasized that scientific research plays an important role in achieving sustainable water resources and supporting the decision-making process.
For his part, the Deputy-Minister for Water, Dr. Abdulaziz AlShaibani, delivered remarks at the opening of the workshop. He highlighted the significance of the National Water Strategy 2030 which recognizes the important role of water as the center of economic and social development, and its vitality to basic human needs, environmental management, and to sustain economic growth. He confirmed that investment in science and technology is a crucial driver for sustainable development and that countries that have invested in applied R&D have achieved sustained economic development.
"The National Water Strategy includes a program to develop the National Water Research Strategy; Program 4 of the strategy is designed to enhance the role of scientific knowledge about water management and development as an important asset of the national economy" he added.
During the first day, the workshop reviews the experience of the World Bank in formulating and implementing water research strategies at regional and country levels as well as relevant international experience from California, Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand.
The second day of the workshop included three discussion panels and key findings and recommendations. The first panel was on "priority institutional arrangements to finalize and implement the national research strategy", and several recommendations were reached. Stakeholders proposed to make a survey among all concerned Saudi institutions. They also proposed that the ministry signs an MoU with the Ministry of Education to allocate budget to funding the water research, as well as another MoU to be signed with other water research centers in terms of groundwater research nationally and internationally. In addition, arranging a series of workshops discussing water issues in cooperation with other research centers to set a mechanism contributing to national water strategies.
The second panel was on "priority water research themes for 5 years, public domain for data information and knowledge system". Participants presented a series of recommendations, including establishing specialized centers within the ministry to unify efforts and integrate and coordinate policies within relevant entities to achieve food security, bridging the gap in regulatory policies, rationalizing water use, assessing the impact of importing products that consume a large amount of water.
In the final panel on "links between the strategy and the 10 programs of the National Water Strategy: suggestions to mobilize funds from Government and Private sector through competitive research grants to support research projects". Key recommendations were made; the regulation and governance of support and regulations for financial support for scientific research with the relevant authorities such as the Council of Ministers and the Ministry of Finance. In addition to creating Water Hub that includes all those interested in the water sector; all researchers, investors, public and the private sectors, and developing a quarterly or semi-annual publication on research topics, as well as conducting research studies projects needed by key investors in the water sector, or creating a platform to fulfill this role or establishing research companies.