Griffith University researchers were central in developing the Asian Development Bank’s world leading water security index, the Asian Water Development Outlook (AWDO) 2020, released the past week.

Over the past two years, researchers from the Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith’s International Water Centre and the University of Queensland’s Advanced Water Management Centre (AWMC) have established and managed a number of the criteria or key dimensions used by the AWDO to rank the water security of 49 countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

“The Asian Water Development Outlook is one of the most comprehensive and holistic water security indexes available,” said Dr Lachlan Guthrie from Griffith’s International Water Centre, who led the development and management of key dimension related to Rural Household Water Security.

“It recognises the essential, but relatively small volume, of water used by the world’s most vulnerable people in rural households,” he said.

“AWDO gives a detailed current status and trajectory for national water security in 49 countries. It helps prioritise investment and improve equity in water access,” said Professor Steven Kenway from the AWMC, who developed the Urban Water Security component of AWDO.

Despite Asia’s impressive growth in economic and social welfare during the last decades, 1.5 billion people living in rural areas and 0.6 billion in urban areas still lack adequate water supply and sanitation.

Of the 49 Asian and the Pacific countries assessed, the water security index identified 27 that face serious water constraints on economic development and 18 that have not sufficiently protected their inhabitants against water-related disasters.

National water security scores across the five key dimensions

“Importantly, the AWDO 2020 has included an environmental perspective of water security,” said Dr Ben Stewart-Koster from the Australian Rivers Institute who led the development of the Environmental Water Security aspect of the security index.

“Countless examples around the world show that water security is severely reduced because of unhealthy aquatic ecosystems.

“The work we did on the AWDO provides a platform to start to address this and has the potential to improve the water security of countries in the region.”

Griffith University was also involved with the creation of the Urban Water Security section of the AWDO, which was led by a team from the University of Queensland.

“It is great to be involved in the confluence of such a strong group of water researchers,” said Professor Mark Pascoe from Griffith’s International Water Centre who oversaw the project.

“Griffith University’s involvement in the Asian Water Development Outlook confirms our reputation as world leaders in water governance and integrated water management.”