Unlocking the value of water through digital transformation

Problems related to water scarcity, water pollution, lack of essential water infrastructure and extreme climatic events like floods and droughts are occurring at unprecedented rates all over the world. This accelerating pace of changes in water systems is affecting the global economy, human health, biodiversity, natural environment and society at large. But science and technology, which have played a central role in identifying and understanding water risks, is now struggling to keep pace.

“Changes in our water systems and their complex interactions are difficult to capture with our existing tools and infrastructure and this has led to vast information gaps, which in turn result in poor decision-making,” says Dr. Anik Bhaduri, the Director of the Sustainable Water Future Programme of Future Earth.

Dr. Bhaduri will bring these issues to the forefront at the upcoming Sustainability Research & Innovation Congress 2021 (SRI2021) in a session entitled Unlocking the value of water through digital transformation.


The risks born out of the interaction between natural processes (such as hydrological, biogeochemical and ecological) and anthropogenic systems (such as engineered systems, law, governance, institutional practices, cultural systems and human behaviour) remain difficult to understand, analyse and predict.

“These complex interactions result in many unknowns that are constantly and rapidly evolving,” says Dr. Bhaduri. “However, progress is being made in the development of an evidence-informed and value-based digital operating framework for water which should allow us to better keep pace with the changes.”

Recent meetings of experts have resolved that scientists, public stakeholders, decision-makers, political leaders and the private sector need to develop an action plan to confront the changes in water systems. The experts call for the development of a digital operating framework for water that will integrate institutions working in aspects of hydrology, biogeochemistry, ecology, human health, culture and social economics.

“This type of digital framework will enable us to identify, predict and adjust responsible production and consumption behaviours under varying risk conditions based on evidence-based science,” says Dr. Bhaduri. “Our session at SRI2021 will delve deeper into the framework.”

The session will discuss the following:

  • How can we leverage advanced cyber-infrastructure and integrate multiple subsystems in the domain of, but not limited to, hydrological, biogeochemical, and ecological and anthropogenic processes?
  • How can we embed existing scientific models with big data analytics, cloud computing, augmented intelligence, deep-learning techniques and distributed ledger systems like blockchain technologies to verify information flows?
  • What are the opportunities that the value-based digital operating framework can offer for better investment and allocation decisions respect to time and space and shape our strategic thinking on sustainable water futures?
  • How can we incorporate safeguards for the digital framework against the ever-evolving challenges related to data privacy, cybersecurity and ethics?

Speakers at the session include Katrina Donaghy of Civic Ledger, Katherine Daniell and Chitresh Saraswat of Australian National University, Chandan Banerjee of Water Solutions Lab of Future Earth South Asia and Edoardo Bertone and Vallipuram Muthukkumarasamy of Griffith University. The session will take place from 2:00-3:30 PM Brisbane time on Tuesday, 15 June.


Will you be joining us onsite in Brisbane?

Meet with other kindred minds interested in ocean systems and sustainability for a meet and greet at the Pig ‘N Whistle West End, 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm on Tuesday June 15.

The Sustainability Research & Innovation Congress 2021 (SRI2021) is the world’s first transdisciplinary gathering in sustainability. This annual event unites global sustainability leaders, experts, industry and innovators to inspire action and promote a sustainability transformation. For the first time, the Congress will launch as a live virtual event with a diverse and innovative online program from 12-15 June 2021.