The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted by the United Nations in 2015. Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) stand at the heart of this Agenda. As a blueprint for achieving better futures for all, the SDGs address challenges such as poverty, inequality, injustice, climate change and environmental degradation, making an urgent call for action and for global partnership.

Today, water museums play a pivotal role in understanding our watery past. Water heritage sites and museums are invaluable repositories of knowledge about humanity’s multifaceted water cultures and different water civilisations – including heritage that is natural and cultural, tangible and intangible. This heritage can foster new perceptions and awareness of the value of water. Safeguarding this is crucial for achieving many of the SDGs.

The mission of the Global Network of Water Museums is to develop and coordinate new educative programmes on water led by museums, and to stimulate innovative projects on sustainable water management. The vision of WAMU-NET focuses not only on SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), but on all the SDGs that are linked to water-related issues, building towards a new ‘culture of water’. Museums play a leading role in this.

As a ‘flagship initiative’ of UNESCO-IHP (see Resolution n.XXIII-5 endorsed in 2018 by the Intergovernmental Council of the Hydrological Programme) WAMU-NET coordinates an increasing number of water museums worldwide.

Water museums affiliated to the Network are engaged in educating the public, including the younger generation, on inherited hydraulic assets and on responses to the growing global water crisis. In doing this, museums reconnect communities with their local water heritage, and cultivate positive engagement in actions to halt and reverse the loss of aquatic ecosystems and biodiversity.

The variety of water museums in the Network embraces a range of approaches and scientific disciplines. Some museums focus on water with the lens of natural sciences, while others address the associated history and built heritage, from the earliest civilisations to today.

In making an inventory of different ‘water worlds’ inherited from the past – including the traditional knowledge and special techniques that have created distinctive waterscapes all over the world – the Global Network helps to inspire new visions for bridging past and present water wisdom. This makes a key contribution to sustainable development.