Valuing Water Initiative - Better Decisions Impacting Water

At the World Economic Forum in January 2019, Prime Minister Rutte officially launched the Valuing Water Initiative (VWI). Using practical case studies, this initiative will showcase the implementation of the United Nations Valuing Water Principles in order to bring systemic change in the way water is valued in policy, practice, finance and behaviour and to inspire others to do the same.

The Valuing Water Initiative will demonstrate the practical application of the UN Valuing Water Principles through case studies in different water value chains and sectors. Through the influence of its partners, strong communication, supporting knowledge pieces and collection of best practices and lessons learned, VWI will inspire others to follow its leadership coalition, bringing systemic change in how water is valued in business practices, policies and behaviour.

VWI will use its convening power and access to heads of state, governments, businesses, NGOs, academicians and world class water experts to bring the systemic change required to understand, value and manage water. The focus is not restricted to sectors, geographies or any specific key actors but rather on water solutions which also bring positive cascading impacts on the planet, society and business.

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Image: ©Holandse Hoogte / Jaco Klamer

United Nations High Level Panel on Water

In April 2016 the United Nations and the World Bank Group convened a High Level Panel on Water (HLPW) to provide the leadership required to champion a comprehensive, inclusive and collaborative way of developing and managing water resources, and improving water and sanitation related services. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was one of the eleven sitting Heads of State in the panel.

In March 2018, the High-Level Panel on Water (HLPW) released its outcome document ‘Making Every Drop Count’ and recommended that we all understand, value and manage water better. The HLPW defined 5 principles to value water better and triggered the Valuing Water Initiative (VWI) to put these into practice.

The 5 Valuing Water Principles

  1. Recognize and embrace water’s multiple values to different groups and interests in all decisions affecting water;
  2. Reconcile values and build trust – conduct all processes to reconcile values in ways that are equitable, transparent and inclusive;
  3. Protect the sources, including watersheds, rivers, aquifers, associated ecosystems, and used water flows for current and future generations;
  4. Educate to empower – promote education and awareness among all stakeholders about the intrinsic value of water and its essential role in all aspects of life;
  5. Invest and innovate – ensure adequate investment in institutions, infrastructure, information and innovation to realize the many benefits derived from water and reduce risks.

The VWI aims to generate experience how to sustainably, efficiently, and inclusively allocate and manage water resources and deliver and price water services accordingly.

The UN High Level Panel on Water initiated the Valuing Water Leadership Coalition, to bring together global experience and leadership from the public and private sectors to change the way the world values water. Join us, and together let us build a global coalition for a water-secure world.

Prime Minister, H.E. Mr. Mark Rutte

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Image: Flip Franssen

With and by front-runners

The VWI will be shaped by a Leadership Coalition of front-runners who commit to learning how to apply the valuing water principles and share their learnings. The VWI will support them with the expertise and enabling environment needed to convene the right and relevant parties to act and integrate the Valuing Water Principles. Through inspiring showcases highlighting the learning process, a strong coalition and effective communications VWI will drive others to take the radical actions we need to meet our 2030 Sustainable Development Goals agenda.

Towards systemic change

VWI will be an open initiative, looking for synergy with relevant other initiatives, many of which may not explicitly address water. VWI aims to move away from fiddling at the margins of the status quo and get to the systemic core of the big water challenges. Addressing that core is essential. Without it, systemic change is unlikely to happen, and nothing less than systemic change is required to get us back on track. Not only for SDG6 but for all other water-related SDGs as well.

This initiative is open to change and will adapt and grow through experience and learnings.

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Image: ©ANP / Noel Celis

Core activities of the Valuing Water Initiative

VWI is a collaborative initiative, looking for synergy with relevant other initiatives, many of which may not explicitly address water. VWI adapts and grows through experience and learning. VWI is built around four pillars. Four strategic areas of intervention and activities:

  1. VWI Journeys: Demonstrate 4-5 practical applications of the valuing water principles to policy, business practices and behaviour across contexts, sectors, organizations and companies.
  2. Leadership by example: Develop a Leadership Coalition of frontrunners who commit to learning how to apply the valuing water principles and share their learnings.
  3. VWI’s Learning Platform: Develop a knowledge platform which hosts both relevant knowledge inputs to support VWI and learnings and best practices to value water.
  4. Action through Inspiration: Mobilize effective communication to inspire others to act through inspiration, influence and collaboration.

VWI Journeys are the heart of the VWI: these case studies are instrumental in building the coalition and constitute the space where the knowledge base and conceptual framework for the VWI are tested and improved. They will be designed as the frontline of systemic change. Diversity in the VWI’s portfolio of Journeys is essential. These Journeys may originate in one sector, in one organization or in one watershed. However, obstacles to systemic change may require cases to expand their scope.

A sustainable and resilient future starts with investing in people, in the enabling environment to secure best catalytic projects to have impact. In other words, we must invest millions to be able to invest our billions wisely. The VWI Journeys will showcase best practices, frontrunners and leaders who are leading by example, already putting this into practice.

Henk Ovink, Dutch Special Envoy for International Water Affairs


The Valuing Water Initiative secretariat is hosted by the Government of the Netherlands. The contact persons are:

the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management

the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO)