Why a Global Network of Water Museums?

Water museums exhibit and interpret, all around the world, a unique repository of different forms of humankind’s connections with water and its natural, cultural, tangible and intangible values. They work with artefacts, techniques and traditional knowledge to preserve and promote the world’s outstanding variety of water-related heritage that has been passed down through civilizations from generation to generation, and still informs and can influence everyday life today.
Water museums communicate the value of this heritage to large audiences worldwide in an increasingly coordinated way, linking this to contemporary agendas on the global water crisis and the development of sustainable solutions.

Water museums and related institutions play a leading role in education on these topics. Many of them are active already in communicating the urgency of managing water resources in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, many of these 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.

The Global Network of Water Museums is an initiative of UNESCO, endorsed in 2018 by the Intergovernmental Council of the International Hydrological Programme (IHP). This is underpinned by a belief that new water perceptions, behaviours and more sustainable water management models can be developed and promoted for the emergence of a new “water culture”. The UNESCO-IHP Resolution XXIII-5, which establishes the Global Network, calls on people and institutions to implement urgent actions to repair our deteriorated relationship with the most precious liquid element on the Earth, which is the source of all life.

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 the Global Network, more information is available in these documents:

If you need more details and would like to get in touch, please write to us here.

Supplementary information

Our goal is to become an innovative “agent of transformation” in the global water debate and a channel to communicate SDGs and the present water challenges to new audiences. Do you want to know more about the Global Network of Water Museums?

PDF: Manifesto

PDF: Resolution