Water and Culture

Water may not hold memory, but the communities managing the water do. Water managers and planners can and should benefit from a rich past of water knowledge in innovating for water related climate action. Also, working with values, traditions, sense of place and spiritual connections to water, can help support adaptation by talking to human hearts and minds. By speaking a language relating to values, cultural and spiritual heritage, we can perhaps connect to decision-making and change makers around the world. For example, when countries in Europe for many years struggled to collaborate over river pollution and the need for waste water treatment, a notion such as “bringing back the salmon” instead triggered understanding, a deeper connection to what was at stake, and triggered action and change. This field of adaptation with the help of our cultural heritage is welcoming members to help support building a language and various tools to support change making. 

The Community of Practice is run by ICOMOS, the International Scientific Committee on Water and Heritage

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Water and Culture

The Water Heritage Community  will focus on the significance of water related heritage for adaptation to climate change. It focuses on how culture and heritage can support social movements for adaptation and positive change.

This community is complementary to the activities of the ICOMOS working groups on Climate Change and the SDGs that focus on the protection of cultural heritage against the perils of climate change. For example, when heritage is threatened by rising sea levels. Therefore, this is not the focus of this community of practice.

The objectives are:

  • Develop understanding and guidance to mainstream relevant water related heritage into adaptation policy and practice in water related sectors (i.e. agriculture, nature based solutions, health).
  • Highlight the significance of water related heritage for adaptation to international climate negotiations and more prominently to the national level implementation of adaptation (often linked to NDCs and NAPs).
  • Demonstrate examples to showcase a local, ground upward approach to increase commitment and resources towards water adaptation globally.

Develop, in cooperation with water professionals and water organisations,  for the Water Adaptation Community:

  • A White Paper on Water and Heritage
  • Webinars to raise awareness on the significance of water heritage for adaptation
  • A portfolio  of good practices related to drinking water supply, waterscapes, waterways, water and power, highlighting the relevance of the material, conceptual and spiritual values of water related heritage for adaptation.
  • Dialogues between water professionals and heritage experts to close existing disciplinary and institutional divides, including distinct methodological disconnects between the IWRM, the HUL, the ILM methodology, the EIA methodology etc.
  •  Dialogues between heritage experts, water professionals and climate scientists to foster collaboration on the significance of water heritage for adaptation at the global (negotiations) and national (NAPAs) level.
  • Education and capacity building materials for heritage experts, climate scientists and water professionals on the significance of water heritage for adaptation.
  • Events at important global and regional Water and Adaptation events such as the COP 26 at Glasgow (December 2021), the WWF9 in Senegal, Dakar (March 2022), the UN Water Decade Mid Term Review in March 2023.


  • 2021 White Paper draft is planned to be discussed in Glasgow and WWF 9 and to be finalised by 2022 at the TIIWE conference in Taiwan made ready to be presented at the UN Water Decade Review in 2023.
  • A website with selected examples.
  • Methodologies for the assessment of water related heritage values for adaptation to climate change.

The Water Heritage Community will seek insitutional collaboration with ICOMOS ISCWater, CIRAT (Brazil), the Taiwan International Institute on Water Education (TIIWE), Specialist Group on Ancient Water Systems (of the IWA), Global Network of Water Museums, International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the UNESCO International Qanat Centre in Iran, Spate Irrigation Network, NGO Drinkable Rivers, IUCN Water Programme, Ramsar Culture Nature Network. 


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