United Nations University - Institute for Integrated Management of Material Fluxes and of Resources / United Nations University-Institute for Water, Environment and Heath / Global Water Operators' Partnerships Alliance at UN-Habitat / Bremen Overseas Research and Development Association / IRIDRA

Using information tools on multifunctional nature-based solutions to achieve SDGs

Sunday 26 August | 09.00-10.30 | Room: FH 307
Photos: brytta, MHLE/iStockphoto; Design: Claudia Matthias/UNU-FLORES

The implementation of the water- and interrelated SDGs calls for joint action by various stakeholder groups empowered by the provision of data, information and knowledge on Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) through modern easy-to-use information and communication tools.
The objective of the event is to understand how information tools need to be designed to optimize and increase the use of multifunctional nature-based solutions. It will address the design and implementation of online platforms which can support scientists and practitioners in their contributions to the SDGs related to Water & Sanitation, Urban Resilience, Energy, Water & Food Security. It will explore how a Nexus Approach to managing water, soil and waste contributes to achieving interrelated SDGs.

Each representing a different perspective, speakers will give a short thought statement. The panel will discuss opportunities and challenges associated with using wetlands as nature based solution for addressing pollution abatement, along with other ecological services and benefits with a focus on the design and use of information and knowledge tools designed to facilitate SDG goals and targets implementation. The audience will play a major role in this seminar. Participants are encouraged to share their views, experiences and questions during the following discussion in an interactive

Gold standard events are committed to ensure the gender balance in speakers/panellists and young professional representation in the session.


Chair and moderator – Tamara Avellán (UNU-FLORES)

9:00 - 9:15     Keynote speech (Fabio Masi IRIDRA SRL): ‘Wetlands beyond pollution control – thoughts on a circular economy’

9:15 – 9:45     Panel discussion of 5 speakers (5 min pitches, 10 min general questions)
Nagabhatla, Nidhi (UNU-INWEH): ‘Multifunctional Wetlands as and for Nature-based Solutions’
Wolf, Alexander (BORDA): ‘Nature-based solutions for Wastewater & Faecal Sludge treatment: Field Experiences and communication between stakeholders’
Kehoe, Paula (San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC)): ‘Using man-made wetlands in office buildings for wastewater treatment – challenges and opportunities?’
Brueggemann, Kurt (UNU-FLORES): ‘The Constructed Wetlands Knowledge Platform – usability’

9:45 – 10:25     World Café addressing 5 questions on each topic of the presenters (2 x 20 min discussion)

10:25 – 10:30    Wrap-up by Chair


Fabio Masi in his keynote strongly urged that sustainable development calls for a new way of thinking water management. The typical dualism of water supply management vs wastewater management does not hold true anymore. Fabio Masi, Alex Wolf and Paula Kehoe each showed examples of Nature based Solutions that help overcome that divide by bringing decentralized wastewater treatment into the community and household that provides a direct source of fit-for-purpose supply. Tamara Avellán, Nidhi Nagabhatla and Alex Wolf demonstrated how information tools can help collate this global knowledge and provide benchmarks on design, financing, legal constraints and other data and information that is crucial when deciding about the implementation of technologies. CWetlands and mWater are two tools that try to fill the void in global level data collection on (nature-based) solutions for (waste)water management. These tools can evolve to build a community of practice beyond scientists and engineers to inform government and financing mechanisms. The participants of the world café highlighted in particular the need of promoting an inclusive approach of both nature-based and decentralized solutions to overcome the challenges in rapidly urbanizing areas. They were particularly impressed about the success of using constructed wetlands within the headquarters of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission that allowed to cut down the freshwater use by 60 %. City of San Francisco has established a streamlined permitting process and ongoing monitoring and reporting requirements to allow other buildings/districts in San Francisco to collect and treat water onsite and to ensure adequate protection of public health.

Recommendation 1
Wastewater stream separation, on-site treatment, and building internal re-use should become a standard for all new housing projects worldwide to help achieve SDGs. Defining management/oversight requirements for protection of public health and understanding equity issues when deciding on centralized vs decentralized systems is critical to leaving no one behind.

Recommendation 2
Nature-based solutions are in principle well suited for decentralized treatment of water with various degrees of pollution. Information tools can help delineate benchmarks for participatory or community-led planning, design, and operation and maintenance under varying local conditions. These tools can further collate information on the ecosystem services that NbS provide.

Tool  1 - CWetlands
CWetlands compiles data on constructed wetlands by systematically consolidating and curating them according to user needs and through users who provide their own data to the platform. Through web-based maps, it provides benchmarks on design, O&M and removal efficiency parameters according to wastewater type, climate or Human Development Index.

Tool 2 - 2030 WaterSecure
2030WaterSecure is aiming capacity development of states and stakeholders on water security agenda and tackling the 21st-century water challenges by employing state-of-the-art data, information and knowledge, various communication tool. The focus  on young water professionals and