In this series of interviews we present members of our AIWW community. Tom Williams is Director – Water, World Business Council for Sustainable Development. In his daily life, he connects with large corporations on their water-related risks and opportunities for domestic (e.g. household products), industrial (e.g. manufacturing and energy) and agricultural water use.

Williams has worked in the global water industry for over 15 years, across the research, policy and research community. “I’m a generalist when it comes to water expertise and try to connect water experts across sectors and systems.”

He enjoys everyone in the water sector is working towards a common goal and a common good. The mission is very clear and this often comes across in water people’s passion.

Global water events such as the Amsterdam International Water Week are useful to hear new stories and connect with people – to translate this to be more specific, the event has to have something new to say (new stories) and has to be a place where I am going to meet 10+ people who I might have to otherwise meet individually.

“The year 2021 is set to be a BIG year for many themes: Biodiversity (in May, the CBD COP will be organised and establish new global biodiversity targets), Climate (UNFCC COP in November), Desertification and Drought (UNCCD COP in December) and Food (UN Food System summit at the end of 2021) – water impacts and depends on many key decisions made at these events – demonstrating how water impacts and depends on these areas (biodiversity, climate, desertification (land use)) and food) will be critical.”

“Covid-19 will have impact on investments, as part of recovery and resilience plans, how to make the case for investing in water and sanitation, so this should be addressed during AIWW 2021.”

Regarding the main challenges we face in the water sector in regards to climate change and circular economy”, Tom says

“On climate, I don’t think that the water sector has done a good enough job in qualifying and quantifying water-related solutions – there has been too much talk about how climate is water without giving concrete options to decision makers as to how water can support mitigation and adaptation efforts. For circular economy, its dependent on market and regulatory conditions – there needs to be a viable market to trade and sell water and materials from wastewater streams; and many of todays regulations are designed for linear systems. “

Five years ago, there was celebration that water was included in the SDGs with its own Goal – now, we know that we are way off track to meet the targets – in five years time, we must have a clear view of what it takes to achieve water security. “