Invited Speaker: Charles J. Vörösmarty

The economic development-environmental protection dichotomy is an out-dated construct. A 21st century approach to the world’s water problems is progressively being developed by researchers and practitioners, who are combining traditional and ecosystem-based engineering systems to yield cost-effective solutions. Given the continuing and widespread loss of ecological integrity, water security in a multi-generational, sustainability context requires a meaningful, global commitment to redirect the current downward trajectory in both i) the state of the world’s ecosystems and the services they provide to society, and ii) our collective level of stewardship of these important resources. Achieving water security over the long term will require overcoming some major strategic challenges related to protected areas, ecosystem-based solutions research, water observatories and expanded technical readiness. It also needs to address other limitations and demands related to water infrastructure, economies, human settlements and water quality, sanitation and health. I will discuss four globally significant actions can support the adoption of more efficient and sustainable water futures. Finally, the engagement of relevant stakeholders from academia, government, the private sector and civil society are needed to ensure that humankind will be able to meet its water security goals and commitments, including those expressed in the sustainable development agenda.

About the Speaker

Charlie Vorosmarty

Dr. Vörösmarty’s research centers on human-environment interactions. He has led several teams that have executed interdisciplinary studies using earth system models depicting the Northeastern U.S., developed and analyzed databases of reservoir construction worldwide and how they generate downstream coastal zone risks, and assessed global threats to human water security and aquatic biodiversity.

Dr. Vörösmarty routinely provides scientific guidance to a variety of U.S. and international water consortia. He was a founding member and from 2004-14 served as co-Chair of the Global Water System Project and more recently is helping to design its follow-on, the Sustainable Water Future Programme. 

In 2015-16 he served as Scientific Co-Chair of the Arctic Futures Initiative of the Arctic Council and International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis. He has served on a broad array of national panels, including the U.S. Artic Research Commission (appointed by Presidents Bush and Obama), the NASA Earth Science Subcommittee, the National Research Council Committee on Hydrologic Science (as Chair), the NRC Review Committee on the U.S. Global Change Research Program, and the National Science Foundation’s Arctic System Science Program Committee. He is spearheading efforts to develop global-scale indicators of water stress and has worked with chief U.N. delegates who negotiated the Sustainable Development Goals on water. His recent work is aimed at introducing quantifiable metrics on corporate environmental performance into investment decisions made by the private sector within the impact investing domain. He and his team were solicited to provide advice to the High Level Panel on Water (10 heads of state) in sustainable infrastructure investments, and as a follow-on to that request is exploring how natural capital can be combined with traditional engineering to enhance human water security.