VIEWS: SSC at the World Water Forum

Dispatch from SSC President Jennifer Woofter

I arrived in Istanbul yesterday afternoon for the 5th World Water Forum (and what I also hope will be a little vacation). Grabbing a taxi from the airport to the hotel where I’m staying, the evidence of the conference is everywhere – from the oh-so-very-efficient customs and passport control to the conference signs and banners attached to virtually every streetlight and traffic light in the city. (There are also millions of flags, posters, and banners concerning the upcoming March 29 local elections – but that’s another story altogether).

The conference attendees are everywhere you turn, speaking in a dozen languages and all gesturing emphatically. Water, it seems, is an issue that everyone from GIS Analysts to the Crown Prince of Japan (who gave this morning’s keynote) can get excited about. The city is literally buzzing with enthusiasm, and the rest of the week looks to be more of the same.

Ironically, even as I type this brief update from my hotel room, I’m sipping on bottled water. It’s unfortunate that the city’s municipal water is questionable (either overly chlorinated, or not chlorinated enough, and while probably fine no one wants to take that chance), and so everyone chugs down artificially cheap and yet oh-so-environmentally-toxic bottled water. Providing safe and clean drinking water to Istanbul’s 12.6 million residents is going to continue to be a challenge, especially considering the city’s aging infrastructure and rapid growth. It will be interesting to see how the conference addresses the realities of its host city’s situation.

If you are in Istanbul for the conference, send me an email ( We’ll grab a coffee and share notes!