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The SOS-Water project, initiated in October 2022 and funded by the EU, aims at addressing the increasing pressure on global freshwater resources by defining a “safe operating space” (SOS) for water resources, considering environmental, social, and economic dimensions, while co-creating objectives and indicators integrated into hydrological models.

Project period
The European Union’s Horizon Europe research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 101059264
Total budget (NOK)
External webpages
Research section
Freshwater Ecology
Contact person
Katarina Ana Cetinic

About the project

Global challenges surrounding freshwater resources, such as water scarcity, water quality deterioration, and loss of freshwater biodiversity, have escalated in recent decades. The urgency of these concerns has been heightened by increasing water use, climate change, and societal dynamics. To address these issues, the SOS-Water Project has set out to define a safe operating space (SOS) for water resources, considering environmental, social, and economic dimensions. This effort aligns with global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and European environmental directives, and is vital for ensuring a reliable and sustainable water supply that benefits humanity and natural ecosystems alike.

At the core of SOS-Water is a holistic and participatory framework that effectively engages diverse stakeholders, including policymakers, local communities, and experts, in the collaborative creation of future scenarios and management pathways. Utilizing Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA), a structured community-driven decision-making framework, the SOS-Water Project co-develops objectives and indicators. These are then integrated into hydrological models and benchmarked against state-of-the-art Earth observations to ensure the practical relevance of methodological advancements. This collaborative effort, spanning five case studies across Europe (the Upper Danube, the Danube Delta, the Rhine River and Rhine-Meuse Delta, and the Júcar River Basin) and Asia (the Mekong Delta) (Figure 1), aims to establish the groundwork for a comprehensive SOS framework for policies and water management strategies, extending from global freshwater SOS to regional and local scales. By providing guidelines for broader application, SOS-Water significantly contributes to informed water resource management, providing actionable solutions that align with the project’s overarching goals. 

The SOS-Water Project acknowledges the critical state of global freshwater resources and actively works towards a sustainable and resilient future. Through its participatory approach, SOS-Water pioneers a comprehensive stakeholder-centered SOS framework. The results are anticipated to improve the understanding of water resources availability, streamline water planning and management at different levels, and create economically efficient, socially fair, and resilient systems.

Project figure
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