Why a Global Network of Water Museums? Water museums display, all around the world, a unique repository of different forms of humankind’s connections with water and its natural, cultural, tangible and intangible heritage. They exhibit and interpret artefacts, techniques and traditional knowledge to preserve and promote the world’s outstanding variety of water-related values and heritage that have been passed down through civilizations, from generation to generation, and still inform and can influence everyday life today. The Global Network of Water Museums (WAMU-NET) is an initiative endorsed by the Intergovernmental Council of the Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (UNESCO-IHP). By establishing this network, the Resolution n.XXIII-5 calls on people and institutions to implement urgent actions to repair our deteriorated relationship with the most precious liquid element on the Earth, and to operate within the frame of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Today many water museums and institutions operate in isolation from each other. There is a pressing need to exchange experiences and best practices more fully through a larger network, so that new water perceptions and more sustainable management models can be developed for the emergence of a “new water culture”. In this perspective, museums can play today a key role in water awareness education, linking ancient knowledge to contemporary agendas for developing sustainable solutions to the global water crisis.

The role of Water Museums in the World Water Crisis The challenges of growing water scarcity, depletion of resources, pollution, desertification, melting glaciers and disrupted patterns of floods and droughts as a result of climate change, together with dramatic declines in both biological and cultural diversity, and displacement of entire human populations, cannot be resolved through purely technocratic approaches. In recent decades, technocratic approaches have conceived and used water mainly as a means of supporting economic development at all costs. Simultaneously, however, water’s presence in the human environment, and its ways of functioning, have been made increasingly “invisible” and far from people’s consciousness – thus, making its multiple values more vulnerable than ever. There is a need to reinterpret our inherited and multiple “water worlds” for a new vision that will promote more enlightened water management. This is challenging. Holistic, multidisciplinary and innovative perspectives are now essential to overcome unduly narrow technocratic approaches that have proved to be an inadequate response to this challenge. This is the start of a new “water civilization” with a more far-sighted vision.

Mission and Goals of UNESCO’s Global Network of Water Museums (WAMU-NET) The Global Network of Water Museums aims to inform, motivate, connect and mobilize authorities and citizens to turn the vision described above into a reality. This promises to re-articulate and re-energize the unique relationship which humanity has with water, as the most precious source of all life. The mission of WAMU-NET is to provide an impetus for connecting past and present knowledge, sustainable water uses and management practices with the future needs of humans and the biosphere as a whole. A reinvigorated connection to our shared water heritage will pave the way for a paradigm shift in managing our water environments. The overall goal of the Global Network is to reach new audiences worldwide in order to foster and communicate new visions for more enlightened water management, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this context, the Global Network actively promotes a new relationship between humanity and water: a new water ethics, which helps to reconnect people with the tangible and intangible heritage of water, including its social, cultural, ecological, artistic and spiritual dimensions.

Further information The Global Network of Water Museums is a non-profit NGO based in Venice, Italy. Here you can download its ethical vision encoded in the registered Charter. UNESCO-IHP Resolution XXIII-5 (2018) is downloadable here. If you would like to join or get more information about the Global Network, click here.