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Effective water management is essential for climate change adaptation

Published on 2.6.2021
Tampere University
Petri Juuti.Petri Juuti is research manager and UNESCO Chair in the Faculty of Built Environment at Tampere University.
Next to nothing would function in today’s society without water services and sanitation. As climate change increases the likelihood of both droughts and floods, water services are under growing pressure all over the world. The annual Water Services in Urban Settings Conference hosted by the UNESCO Chair will delve into the challenges of urban water management. The conference will take place in a virtual format on 3 June 2021.

Incidents of extreme weather are expected to increase as a result of climate change, which is a global concern also from the perspective of water management. Finland is in a position to offer sustainable solutions for the world’s water and sanitation services and related collaborative activities both in the private and public sectors.

“The particular strength of Finland’s water sector is the combination of world-class expertise with an uncorrupted public sector. It is no coincidence that Finland is among the top performing countries in the global corruption, education and water management indexes and the world’s most corrupt countries tend to score the lowest in all three,” says Petri Juuti, research manager and UNESCO Chair in the Faculty of Built Environment at Tampere University.

Water management is an indispensable, albeit largely invisible, part of the urban infrastructure. Despite being out of sight, water management lays a foundation for all aspects of life that are essential from the perspective of sustainable development: human health, good hygiene, environmental protection and industrial activity. 

Many previously water-rich regions are now suffering from water scarcity. Finland has not escaped this problem in the past few years either. Petri Juuti finds that the role of water management will become increasingly important in the era of global climate change, especially in Africa where extreme weather events have already become more frequent and severe and are causing major problems.

“The problems tend to accumulate on people living in poverty. In Africa, thousands of children die each year from diseases that are directly linked to unsafe water supplies and poor sanitation. Droughts are becoming more widespread due to climate change and exacerbating the vulnerabilities of women and girls who are responsible for collecting water. The lack of clean water and safe sanitation also causes many girls to drop out of school, leading to a whole new set of problems” Juuti says.

“Developing countries and Africa, in particular, need well-educated policymakers, leaders and university teachers and researchers. Finland is in an excellent position to provide world-class education in water management,” Juuti adds.

Local water companies operate flexibly

Tampere University’s UNESCO Chair in Sustainable Water Services focuses on urban water supply and sanitation services. 

“Water being such a vital resource, the operation of water services is closely integrated into urban planning. The study of this topic can shed some new light on the ongoing battle to tackle the challenges of urbanisation. The technological and administrative solutions that are chosen for water management purposes have a direct impact on people and entire communities. The question about water management is also a question about the success of urbanisation and people’s attempt to create a better society and environment for themselves,” Juuti muses.

Water management is an area where continuous maintenance and development is required – also in Finland with the world’s best water services. As part of an international project, the Capacity Development of Water and Environmental Services (CADWES) research team at Tampere University has examined how water companies in Finland have succeeded in safeguarding the continuity of their services during the Covid-19 pandemic. The results demonstrated that they fared exceptionally well.

“The research results illustrate the flexibility and power of small, local water companies: water management has worked well and been largely unaffected by the pandemic. These companies are able to cooperate effectively, and support is readily available to smaller municipalities. It is easy to plan collaborative activities because the companies are not competing with one another,” Petri Juuti says.

The Water Services in Urban Settings Conference will take place on 3 June at 12.00–16.15. The event is organised by the CADWES research team at Tampere University and the Tampere Association of Associate Professors.

Research Manager, UNESCO Chair Petri Juuti, tel. +358 50 447 8805, petri.juuti [at]
Water Services in Urban settings Conference: Docent Riikka Juuti, tel. +358 50 447 9998, riikka.juuti [at]

Text: Sanna Kähkönen
Photo: Jonne Renvall