Water, a shared critical resource

The initiative Water, a shared critical resource is about water as a base for society and an important prerequisite for biodiversity. How water is taken care of is an important indication of how society is changing towards a more sustainable development. Uppsala University has ongoing research in the theme of water in every disciplinary research domain. By cooperating between the various disciplinary research domains, a possibility arises for entirely new research.

Focus areas

Within the Water, a shared critical research initiative, cooperation is currently under way in the following three areas: 


With global growth, the demand for water-intensive products, such as clothes and some food, has increased.  This has resulted in a depletion of the world’s largest aquifers by more than half. Including Sweden’s aquifers. Despite society’s extensive dependence on groundwater, research in this area is limited. To highlight groundwater research in the debate on a sustainable society, interdisciplinary basic research is needed from various disciplines, such as geographic, hydrological, social, political, legal, financial and technical. Through such research, we can increase the visibility of the invisible fresh water resources and be able to use them sustainably.

Contaminants in water 

Modern analysis methods have made it possible to discover and quantify many different kinds of pollutants in the aquatic environment. Pollutants, such as pesticides, flame retardants, steroid hormones and molecules with hormone-like structures and other toxic chemicals have proven to be a potential threat to the water environment and our drinking water. In many cases, the pollutants are stable chemical compounds produced industrially. The question of pollution in water requires an interdisciplinary approach. Within Uppsala University, there is a possibility to create cooperation on the water theme by bringing together different disciplines, such as analytical chemistry, limnology, ecology, ecotoxicology, food research, toxicology, materials research, microbiology, political science, law and forensic science. The breadth that exists at Uppsala University offers major opportunities to conduct interdisciplinary research projects. There are therefore good conditions of helping to solve sustainability problems in connection with water pollution.

Water conflicts 

The climate changes have given us a new water landscape with limited water resources as a result. This is considered to lead to increased conflicts. At the same time, the water resources are important to create a fossil-free society, manage drought, provide drinking water, produce food and be a place for human recreation. As there is not enough water for everyone, it is often used in one or two areas at the expense of others. This gives rise to conflicts. Ensuring access to water and managing conflicts between various needs demands sustainable use of the water. Considering the large number of research disciplines at Uppsala University, which work with water, an interdisciplinary project on water conflicts may help to develop solutions for a sustainable use of water.

Email coordinator Susann Baez Ullberg for more information about the initiative Water, a shared critical resource.

Illustration of water flowing
Last modified: 2021-09-24