Vladimir Smakhtin

Director - The United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health (UNU-INWEH)

Dr. Vladimir Smakhtin is an experienced manager and researcher in the broad area of water resources assessment and management, with various assignments in Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, South Africa, Canada, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos, Iran, Morocco, Ethiopia, Ghana, Uzbekistan, Myanmar, and other countries. The author of over 200 research publications

Specialties: Large multi-disciplinary research program design and management; climate change and water resources, river hydrology, environmental flow assessments and tools development, low flows and droughts, global water scarcity, basin processes’ modeling, hydrology of ungauged basins, water-related disaster risk reduction, water storage planning, agricultural water management.

Keynote Speech Abstract


Freshwater scarcity is increasing and around 4.0 billion people already live under conditions of severe water scarcity for at least one month of the year. Given changing climate and rainfall patterns, global water scarcity will further intensify. The conventional water resources – surface water in rivers and lakes, as well as ground water in many regions, are becoming insufficient to meet the needs in water scarce areas even though water-use efficiency techniques improved over time. Thus, water-scarce countries and regions are expected to increasingly consider and rely on alternative (unconventional) water resources – to narrow the water demand-supply gap. Unconventional water resources are those that are generated as a by-product of specialized processes; they may need suitable pre-use treatment before use; they may require effective on-farm management when used for irrigation; or they may need special technologies to collect and access water. Examples of unconventional water resources include, but are not limited to: desalination of seawater and highly brackish groundwater; groundwater confined in deep geological formations; physical transportation of water through icebergs and tankers; micro-scale capture of rainwater where it otherwise evaporates; atmospheric moisture harvesting using processes such as cloud seeding, fog water collection; and residual/used water from urban areas and agriculture.

Despite their multiple benefits, the potential of unconventional water resources is vastly under-explored. While the technologies on developing and using these new water resources are emerging, significant barriers to their adoption exist in most locations. Low awareness of the potential and options for unconventional water sources create a situation where countries lack flexible policy frameworks and clear policy action. Limitations in national institutions to appreciate how they can benefit from these new possibilities, or to do comprehensive economic analyses, create the perception that these water resources are too costly to pursue. Given the enormous task of achieving the SDG 6 goal (the “water goal”) and its targets, it is high time for water scarce countries to plan and implement activities beyond conventional water resources to address water scarcity, and as a climate change adaptation measure. The presentation will explore the global status and prospects of unpacking the potential of such water resources.