06 July 2023 / Vienna, Austria
Let's have a wonderful summer - we earned it!
Contributed by:
Voice of the Danube
06 July 2023

Time to take a breather, people: Looking back at the first half of 2023, we understand why time has flown by faster than ever. Those months were packed with action. Let's have a short look back and then let's take a bit of a break. Voice of the Danube will be back in September.

January 2023 was the month when the Danube Water Program (DWP) stretched its legs and entered Phase 4: Started originally as a three years policy and technical assistance program for water sector institutions and other sector stakeholders in countries of the Danube region, the DWP has made more than one big splash, producing a beneficial impact that encouraged repeated extensions of its runtime, first in 2016, then in 2019, and once more, with a Phase 4 that will have a strong focus on water security and resilience of the region's water sector in the Danube region.

In February, our community gathered in the virtual space for a new edition of the successful KnowNow webinar series, one that set a record as the first KnowNow webinar that blew its timeframe. Treating the ongoing revision of the European Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive, and featuring Michel Sponar, Deputy Head at the European Commission's Directorate-General for Environment as the keynote speaker, it produced a lively discussion, that generously overdrew the available time budget. “Maybe we should have another session soon and schedule two hours”, remarked Mr. Sponar during the wrap-up.

Not much later, on 13 March, IAWD member Sofia water hosted two events: The IAWD met to discuss future strategies – and the D-LeaP's Utility Management Training kicked off its second training cycle. IAWD's Board members and staff went through a three-day program including the regular Board Meeting, a subsequent Strategic Retreat and a field trip to the Sofia Wastewater Treatment Plant, while next door, 16 water professionals from 6 countries sat down for the initial residential week of the second edition of the Utility Management Training, the comprehensive professional training course that is a mainstay of the 
D-LeaP capacity building initiative. 

Ten days later, the Danube Water Program entered the biggest stage in its ten-year history: At the UN Headquarters in New York, the Danube Water Program starred in a side event to the first UN Water conference since 1977. The Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Regions and Water Management, the World Bank, IAWD, SHUKALB and AQUASAN hosted the event themed “Regional cooperation as a key to accelerate SDG 6 implementation – The Danube Water Program as lighthouse example to improve water and sanitation services within the Danube region”. It was a proud moment for our community, and we appreciate the interest and positive feedback.

More and more, the Danube Water Program finds international recognition as a model for regional cooperation, capacity building and knowledge exchange – an approach that is obviously fit for export to other regions facing similar challenges: During the first week of May, delegations from five Central Asian nations gathered in Vienna for a DWP hosted capacity building and knowledge exchange event organized by CAWEP, the World Bank’s Central Asia Water and Energy Program.

This study tour aimed, amongst other issues, at building awareness and capacity for resilient water practices, and at promoting policies, regulations and procedures for risk-informed planning and water use efficiency at the national and basin levels by demonstrating the practical benefits of developing new and different ways of doing business. For those who want to take a closer look, there is an official event video available below.



In between all the meetings, the D-LeaP Committee council met twice to finalise the Work Plan for 2023, outlining the planned D-LeaP capacity buidling progams in the region for this year.

All the while, we all had been gearing up for the biggest event of the year: The Danube Water Conference, held back to back with the Danube Hub Benchmarking Workshop 2023, set records with the biggest and youngest audience ever, making lots of room on the stage for the national chapters of the Young Water Professionals network.

Aptly titled “Navigating Changing Waters”, the Conference focused on the multiple current and future challenges for the water sector. With a conference dinner set on a riverboat cruising the Danube, and a double celebration of IAWD's 30th, and the DWP's 10th anniversary, it was all in all a memorable, motivating and encouraging event.

Celebrations continued on 19 June with a two-day event commemorating 75 years of partnership between the World Bank and the Republic of Austria. Titled “Greening the Cooperation”, the invitation-only event brought four sessions on a variety of themes with green transformation as their common denominator, with a whole session dedicated to the Danube Water Program.

And while we were meeting, summer came rolling around. We wish our sector happy and not too dry weeks, enough of the deserved rest and recreation, and we are looking forward to meet you again in September.

Have a wonderful summer - you earned it!