Water, Heritage and Sustainable Development

View of the Piave River and the natural protected area Grave di Ciano (photo by Maria Conte).

The Chair “Water, Heritage, and Sustainable Development” established at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice focuses on water culture and hydropolitics from the transdisciplinary perspective of historical geo-anthropology, that is, from the viewpoint of the Anthropocene transformation of the planetary ecosystem. It particularly investigates flows of water, people, knowledge and finance, in connection with aquatic landscapes such as Venice and its Lagoon.

It is active within the programme UNITWIN/UNESCO, which promotes inter-university cooperation and networking to enhance institutional capacities through knowledge sharing and collaborative work. It also builds bridges between academia and civil society, and is committed to education and the development of novel forms of dissemination through collaboration with water museums.


The UNESCO Chair “Water, Heritage, and Sustainable Development” aims to open up new perspectives on water sustainability at the encounter of research and education. 

Concerning research, the Chair promotes the comparative investigation of historical waterscapes in different sites across the globe by looking at the epistemological connection between social and ecological knowledge in water-landscapes engineering. In doing so, a Venetian and international network of scholars has been established in order to addresses one of the most urgent questions of today’s hydrogeology, that is, the natural-cultural nexus, as indicated in the IX strategic plan of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Hydrological Program: “What is the role of water in… the dynamics of human civilization, and what are the implications for contemporary water management?” (IHP-IX Strategic Plan, Annex 2, n. 23). The main research objective is to comprehend water heritage as an open-ended historical geo-anthropological process, assess the current predicament, marked by socio-ecological imbalances, and assess alternative pathways to a sustainable future. By looking at the water-cycle from a historical-material and cultural perspective, the Chair seeks new meaningful pathways to address the environmental crisis of the Anthropocene by cross-disciplinarily integrating the agendas of socio-hydrology and hydro-sociology.

Concerning dissemination and education today, it is more urgent than ever to reconnect people with the valuable water-related natural and cultural assets and strengthen educational programmes also in cooperation with museums that exhibit the variety of the unique and exceptional aquatic heritages of the world.

In considering the approaches of the environmental humanities to achieve the UN Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs), the Chair cooperates with other UNESCO Chairs to support the implementation of crucial Resolutions of UNESCO-IHP (Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme): the first on Water Sustainability Education [pdf] (2018) and the second on the World Inventory of Water Museums (2021). Thus, the Chair is active in investigating specific issues related to education and training needs of museums and institutions affiliated with the Global Network of Water Museums

The Chair was established in 2021 and is housed at NICHE (THE NEW INSTITUTE Center for Environmental Humanities), which is located at Ca’ Bottacin, Venice.


Identify and foster new interdisciplinary approaches for connecting natural and human sciences to water heritage (both natural and cultural, tangible and intangible) and generating innovation through research

Focus the attention and interest of all water museums and WAMU-NET members towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with reference to any kind of water-related heritage, including ‘minor’ heritage, water values, and other intangible aspects

Address capacity building needs and training gaps of water museums world wide, with specific reference to the members of the Global Network of Water Museums (WAMU-NET), and promote cultural diversity

Foster cooperation with other high-level research centers and international organizations, including UNESCO Chairs and Centres, to ensure that the international community of water museums has a stronger role in the present debate on water sustainability education

Lectures and webinars

The UNESCO Chair “Water, Heritage and Sustainable Development” organizes, in cooperation with the Global Network of Water Museums (WAMU_NET) and Civiltà dell’Acqua International Centre, a series of lectures and webinars for the period 2021-2024.

Webinars are addressed to the staff of water museums, scholars, researchers and professionals in the fields of water.

Water, Culture, and Society  
Between Ancestral Practices and Freshwater Multifunctionality

The second series of lectures and webinars organized by the UNESCO Chair in cooperation with THE NEW INSTITUTE Centre for Envrironmental Humanities (NICHE) at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice took place from 29 September to 6 December 2022. Among the different scholars and practitioners invited for this year, the pioneering water anthropologist Veronica Strang (Durham) gave a keynote lecture on indigenous water beings and multi-species democracy.

In connection with this year's World Water Day theme dedicated to Groundwater - entitled 'Making the Invisible Visible', the side event organized within the UN-Water Summit on Groundwater in Paris and the 4th International conference of water museums complete the educational offering for 2022.  

Specific lectures focused on the following topics: ancient knowledge and hydro-technologies; cosmological and legal frameworks; sustainable groundwater management.

This year’s series is organized in cooperation with the UNESCO Chair on ‘Rivers and Heritage’ (University of Tours, France), the UNESCO Chair on ‘Water and Culture’ (University of the Republic, Montevideo, Uruguay) the ERC grant ‘Water Cultures – The Water Cultures of Italy 1500-1900’ at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, and the Global Network of Water Museums (WAMU-NET).

The planned lectures will be held in English, Spanish, and French.
For information please write to:  unescochair.water@unive.it
More info

11th October 2022
file pdfFrancesco Vallerani
University Ca' Foscari of Venice, UNESCO Chair holder, Italy
4.47 M
file pdfJavier Taks
University of the Republic, UNESCO Chair holder, Uruguay
3.47 M
18th october 2022
file pdfInti Calvijo
University of the Republic, UNESCO Chair team member, Uruguay
2.63 M
file pdfJulieta Lopez
Uniersity of the Republic, Uruguay
3.48 M
26th October 2022

    Lahcen Kabiri and Oasis Ferkla
    Moulay Ismail University and Association for Environment and Heritage, Errachidia, Morocco 

    file pdfJordi Morato Farreras
    Polytechnic University of Catalunya, Barcelona, UNESCO Chair coordinator, Spain
    7.36 M
    file pdfThierry Ruf and Mohamed Madane
    IRD Montpellier, France and University of Agadir, Morocco
    2.72 M
    file pdfToufik Ftaita
    University of Nice, France
    3.26 M
    file pdfAbdullah S. Al-Ghafari and Majid Labbaf
    University of Nizwa, UNESCO Chair, Oman
    4.14 M
    18th November 2022
    file pdfKarl Mattihas Wantzen and Yixin Cao
    University of Tours, UNESCO Chair holder, France and University of Tours, France
    6.30 M
    25th November 2022
    file pdfTim Soens
    University of Antwerp, Belgium
    14.41 M
    6th December 2022
    file pdfEriberto Eulisse
    University of Venice, UNESCO Chair coordinator, Italy
    1.14 M
    file pdfEddy Moors
    Rector of the IHE, Delft, Netherlands and President of the WAMU-NET
    1.91 M
    file pdfElizabeth Lictevout
    IGRAC - International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre, Delft, Netherlands
    3.29 M
    file pdfJordi Morato Farreras
    Universidad Polytecnica de Catalunya, Barcelona, UNESCO Chair holder, Spain
    7.66 M
    file pdfDavid Gentilcore
    Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy
    3.00 M
    file pdfSara Ahmed
    Living Waters Museum, India
    3.06 M
    file pdfFarah Hamamouche
    CIRAD, Algiers, Algeria
    1.14 M
    file pdfMonica Cardillo
    University of Limoges, France
    408 K
    file pdfFrancesco Vallerani
    University Ca' Foscari of Venice, UNESCO Chair holder, Italy
    1.16 M

    Tools for promoting the natural and cultural water heritage

    The first training course organised by the Chair will be held online in form of a webinar series and will focus on different tools, strategies and good practices aimed at promoting water heritage outside museums.
    The course includes 12 webinars and 24 highly qualified speakers from different nationalities. It will run on Zoom every Friday from 13.00 to 15.00 CET starting from the 22nd of October and until the 21st of January 2022.
    During the course, the following topics are presented and discussed: inland hydrography, riverscapes and urban waterscapes; reading and interpretation of ancestral technologies; heritage mapping and digitization; itinerary design and digital audioguides; methodologies to build participative approaches for enhanced water management; eco-museums and community-led water museums; visual anthropology, collection of oral histories and video interviews; water as sustainable tourism resource; engaging audiences outside museums.

    Course presentations


    22nd October 2021
    file pdfFrancesco Vallerani
    Ca' Foscari University of Venice, UNESCO Chair holder, Italy
    4.64 M
    file pdfEriberto Eulisse
    UNESCO Chair coordinator, Italy
    6.11 M
    29th October 2021
    file pdfJordi Morató Farreras
    UNESCO Chair “Sustainability”, UPC, Barcelona, Spain
    5.66 M
    5th November 2021
    file pdfJavier Taks
    UNESCO chair “Agua y cultura”, Montevideo, Uruguay
    1.90 M
    file pdfSara Ahmed
    Living Water Museum, India
    4.78 M
    12th November 2021
    19th November 2021
    file pdfGiulio Castelli
    University of Florence, Italy
    5.15 M
    file pdfLucrezia Gigante
    Leicester University, UK
    5.17 M
    26th November 2021
    file pdfValentina Bonifacio
    Ca' Foscari University of Venice, Italy
    4.99 M
    file pdfAlice Chautard
    University of Oxford, UK
    9.73 M
    3rd December 2021
    file pdfRobin Weinberg
    Oral History Association
    10.13 M
    10th December 2021
    file pdfMichael Scoullos
    HYDRIA, Greece
    3.85 M
    file pdfFarah Kabir
    Action Aid Bangladesh
    3.34 M
    17th December 2021
    file pdfEdo Bricchetti
    Ecomuseum of Martesana, Italy
    21 M
    file pdfOsvaldo Negra
    MUSE-Science Museum Trento, Italy
    13.61 M


    7th January 2022
    file pdfPaolo Pileri
    Politecnico di Milano, Italy
    5.84 M
    file pdfIfor Duncan
    Ca' Foscari University of Venice
    3.55 M
    14th January 2022
    file pdfGraham Boxer
    Canal & River Trust, UK
    5.46 M
    21st January 2022
    file pdfHidenobu Jinnai
    Hosei University, Tokyo, Japan
    9.52 M
    file pdfSteven Loiselle
    University of Siena, Italy / Earthwatch
    3.08 M

    Events and news


    Past events and news


    Hosted by

    Ca' Foscari University of Venice


    Water Museums Global Network
    Civiltà dell'Acqua - Centro Internazionale
    Water Museum of Venice

    Other UNESCO Centres and Chairs  
    linked to the training activity for water museum

    UNESCO Centre cat.2 (Prof. E. Moors), Delft, The Netherlands
    Université de Tours
    UNESCO Chair “Fleuves et Patrimoine” (Prof. K.M. Wantzen), 37205 Tours, France
    Universidade do Algarve
    UNESCO Chair “Eco-Hydrology, Water for Ecosystems and Society”, (Prof. L.Chicaro), Faro, Portugal
    UPC: Universitat Politècnica De Catalunya Barcelonatech
    UNESCO Chair on “Sustainability” (Prof. J.Farreras), Barcelona, Spain
    Hellenic Republic - National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
    UNESCO Chair “Management and Education for Sustainable Development in the Mediterranean”, (Prof. M. Scoullos), Athens, Greece
    Università degli Studi di Perugia
    UNESCO Chair “Water Resources Management and Culture” (Prof. L. Ubertini), Italy
    Universidad de la República Uruguay
    UNESCO Chair “Agua y Cultura” (Prof. J.Taks), Montevideo Uruguay