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


    Pietro Daniel Omodeo is a cultural historian of science and a professor of historical epistemology at the Department of Philosophy and Cultural Heritage / Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. His main areas of inquiry are Anthropocene philosophy, the material history of science in the longue durée, the cultural history of cosmology and the politics of epistemology. He is the author of Political Epistemology: The Problem of Ideology in Science Studies (2019). He co-edited, with C. Baldacci, S. Bassi and L. De Capitani, Venice and the Anthropocene: An Ecocritical Guide (2022) and is the editor of two journal special issues on geoanthropology: *with T. Asmussen, Early Modern Geological Agency, in Earth Science History 39/2 (2020); *with R. Garau and G. Rispoli, Historical Geoanthropology, in the Journal for the Interdisciplinary History of Ideas 11/22 (2022). He is the principal investigator of the FARE project EarlyGeoPraxis, funded by the Italian Ministry of University and Research. He also leads the Max Planck Partner Group in Venice The Water City on Anthropocene Venice and the Waterscapes Unit at THE NEW INSTITUTE CENTRE for Environmental Humanities (NICHE) in Venice.

    Cristina Baldacci is an Associate Professor in History of Contemporary Art at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, where she is also affiliated with THE NEW INSTITUTE Centre for Environmental Humanities (NICHE). At NICHE she is the PI of the Ecological Art Practices research cluster. Her research interests focus on archiving and collecting as art practices; reenactment and other ‘re-’ strategies in contemporary arts and theory; art and Climate Change; archives and the Anthropocene – all topics on which she has extensively published (see, among others, the monograph Archivi impossibili: Un’ossessione dell’arte contemporanea, 2016; the co-edited volumes Over and Over and Over Again: Reenactment Strategies in Contemporary Arts and Theory, 2022; On Reenactment: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools, 2022; the co-edited double issue of "Holotipus" journal on Archiving the Anthropocene: New Taxonomies Between Art and Science, 2023-2024). She is currently doing research for a new book on how to rethink (cultural and natural) archives and systems of classification, between art and science, in relation to the urgent questions raised by the environmental crisis.
    Another article will be published soon: Baldacci, C. (2023), “An Archipelago of Ecological Care: Venice, Its Lagoon, and Contemporary Art", Lagooscapes. The Venice Journal of Environmental Humanities, 3(2), [1-14].

    Erasmo Castellani is a research fellow at Ca' Foscari University, working on the Cariplo foundation project: 'The Emergence of Risk Society: Managing Danger and Uncertainty in Early Modern Venice.' He earned his PhD in History at Duke University, working on questions of empires, sovereignty and subjecthood in the Early Modern Mediterranean. His prior experience includes work on legal anthropology, practices of governance, political communication, and epistemic practices in Venice and its territories between the 16th and the 19th centuries through extensive archival research in Italy, Greece, Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia, and American collections. He has worked on digital humanities projects, organizing a   database of Venetian petitions (Voices from Istria, co-sponsored by Ca' Foscari and Primorska University, Koper) and collaborating with the Venice Interactive Visual Atlas (VIVA) project at Duke. His current research focuses on the interplay of social micro-management with the imperial politics of the Venetian Republic. In his book project, "The Power that Restrains: Negotiating Sovereignty Through Petitions in the Venetian Stato da Mar," he argues that Venetian imperial sovereignty was actually made by a myriad of particular interests that express the geopolitical complexities of Venice’s diverse subject populations. 

    Xenia Chiaramonte is a jurist and socio-legal scholar. She has mainly worked on environmental struggles and legal tools both from the perspective of a critique of penal governmentality of dissent and for the advancement of a legal imagination up to new social needs and contemporary climate breakdown. She’s the author of Governare il conflitto: la criminalizzazione del movimento No Tav [ITA] (Milan, 2019). She has extensively published in international journals, and her most recent lines of research delve into new forms of social institutions, a reading of praxis beyond the agency typical of neo-materialist positions, and a critique of the use of nature in contemporary ecological discourse. Presently, Xenia holds the position of a postdoctoral researcher in the FARE project. She is also an affiliated fellow at ICI BERLIN, where she is co-editing the forthcoming book Reducing Climate/Legal Imagination for Gaia with Sarath Jakka. This year marks the opening of the summer school she co-curates entitled Politiche della biodiversità funded by the Italian Institute of Philosophical Studies.

    Pietro Consolandi is a researcher and artist based in the lagoon of Venice, where he co-founded the Barena Bianca collective in 2018. He is a research fellow at NICHE (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice), where he studies the Rights of Nature legal framework and its potential application for Venice, also in concert with other European water bodies, such as the Mar Menor. He is OCEAN / UNI Research Lead at TBA21–Academy, having been involved with the foundation since 2020 after taking part in the first Ocean Fellowship. 

    Giovanni Fava is PhD candidate in Philosophy at University Ca’ Foscari of Venice, where he is working on a project devoted to the philosophical and epistemological aspect of the concept of the Anthropocene while trying to develop its political implications. His research deals with the problems of multitemporality, agency, the relationship between human and natural history, and eco-marxism. Giovanni’s interests span the philosophy of nature, political ecology, cultural anthropology, and contemporary French philosophy, with special reference to Maurice Merleau-Ponty, of which he is – together with Riccardo Valenti – Italian translator (L’istituzione, la passività. Note del Corso al Collège de France, 1954-1955, Mimesis, Milano-Udine, 2023). 

    Giulia Gandolfi is a PhD student at Cà Foscari University in Venice and at University Panthéon Sorbonne in Paris. During her studies in Venice, as part of a research group in political epistemology, she focused on the emergence of science from the historical context of human praxis, especially in medical areas. In Paris, as a member of the HIPHIMO group, her work is centered on Georges Canguilhem’s concept of vital normativity. Her research on Canguilhem analyzes the idea of knowledge production in medicine and biology as a pivotal moment for the biopolitical management of health.

    Emiliano Guaraldo is a postdoctoral research fellow at NICHE, the New Institute Centre for Environmental Humanities at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. He has obtained a PhD in Italian Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in 2019 with a dissertation on the visual and literary imaginations of petroleum in the Italian context. Together with Marco Malvestio and Daniel Finch-Race, he is editing the forthcoming volume Italian Science Fiction and the Environmental Humanities (Liverpool University Press, 2023). With Cristina Baldacci, he is the co-editor of the special double issue of “Holotipus” journal Archiving the Anthropocene. New Taxonomies between Art and Science (2023). He is a member of the Ecological Art Practices research cluster at NICHE and of Unruly Natures (University of St. Gallen). His work aims at understanding the historical, aesthetic, and political dimensions of extractivism and toxicity within the transmedial imaginations of the Anthropocene.

    Corinna Guerra is Assistant Professor in History of Science and Technology at the Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, where she teaches “Philosophy and Politics of Life and the Environment” and she is Associate Researcher of the Laboratoire d’Excellence HASTEC (History and Anthropology of Knowledge,Technologies and Beliefs), France and the GHDSO at the Paris-Saclay University. Her research focus is on the chemistry of the 18th century, natural disasters and the relationship between geochemical peculiarities of a territory and the evolution of scientific disciplines. Her first book Lavoisier e Parthenope (Naples 2017) was awarded the Prize for Young Historians by the International Academy of the History of Science. She has been appointed among the 100 Italian (women) Experts for the History and Philosophy Area 100esperte.it [ITA].

    Heiner Krellig is an art historian, who has obtained his doctorate under the supervision of Prof. Wolfgang Wolters at the Institut für Kunstwissenschaft of Technische Universität Berlin with a thesis on Venetian veduta painting, entitled Menschen in der Stadt. Darstellungen städtischen Lebens auf venezianischen Veduten. After having obtained scholarships at the Deutsches Studienzentrum in Venedig/Centro Tedesco di Studi Veneziani, as well as from the DAAD, he was researcher of the National Inventory Research Project (NIRP) at Glasgow Museums, and he has taught History of Art, History of Fashion, Photography and Graphic Arts at LetteVerein – Fachschule für Mode- Foto-, Grafikdesign, Berlin, in the lifelong-learning program of Freie Universität Berlin, and later at Universität Bamberg. He has collaborated with various international museum institutions, especially the Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten Berlin Brandenburg (Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation). Besides his specialisation in Venetian art history, he has always nourished a profound interest in the history of gardens and the theory of conservation of monuments, as well as gardens and nature. Indeed, in 2013–2014, he was the Project Manager of the pioneering, transdisciplinary research project Historische Gärten im Klimawandel/Historic Gardens and Climate Change, funded by the German BUND e. V. (Friends of the Earth Germany). Since 2021 he is collaborating to the Max Planck Partner Group The Water City - Political Epistemology of Hydrogeological Practice.

    Francesca Melina is a PhD student in the Sustainable Development and Climate Change joint program between IUSS Pavia and Ca' Foscari University of Venice. She is working on a project that considers the possibility of seeing art as a trans/multidisciplinary reflexive practice that acts directly on the social fabric and produces political, epistemological and gnoseological transformations. Thus, conceived as a (collective) practice that could produce commons and promote an ethics of proximity and care in relation to issues of global warming. Francesca is interested in the construction of a phenomenology of art practice that investigates the relationship between art and capitalism, art and science, and art and politics, with a further attention to ethics.

    Justas Patkauskas is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice. He conducts interdisciplinary research at the intersection of speculative philosophy, concept history, and social theory. Working in the tradition of historical epistemology, he is broadly concerned with the ontology and epistemology of knowledge-making in modernity. His research interests include immanence theory, knowledge ecosystems, and the Anthropocene. Specific topics concern biopolitics, cybernetics and Earth system science.

    Omar Rodríguez is a historian and philosopher of science interested in the introduction and development of European thought, mainly Renaissance humanism, in the Ibero-American multicultural world. More specifically, he recovers the complex interrelationships between natural, religious and political notions in the conceptualization of the skies and territories in the Americas, especially in New Spain. At the same time, he has studied the history of civil engineering in Mexico, analysing the different interests behind public works. Currently, his research focuses on the study of the particularities of knowledge and practices in multicultural societies and its implications for their environments. He has recently written Transformation and Persistence of the Basin-Valley of Mexico in the 16th and 17th Centuries. He collaborates with the New Institute Centre for Environmental Humanities (NICHE) and with the Water City Project. The Political Epistemology of Hydrogeological Praxis. He is beginning a postdoctoral fellowship on The Dispute for the Environment in the Valley of Mexico within the FARE project EarlyGeoPraxis in Ca' Foscari University in Venice.

    Krešimir Vuković obtained a doctorate in Classics at the University of Oxford. He was Lecturer at Oxford’s Faculty of Classics, Rome Fellow of the British School at Rome and Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at LMU Munich. He is strongly interested in environmental humanities and ecocriticism and ways in which they can provide valuable lessons in current global crises. At NICHE, he is studying the fluvial environment of the Venetian lagoon in late antiquity and writing a book entitled The Living Streams: Rivers as More-than-Human Entities in the Ancient World for the series Cambridge Elements in Environmental Humanities (Cambridge University Press). He is also a specialist in Roman religion and mythology and has published widely on these topics in journals and edited volumes (OUP, CUP). He has recently published the book Wolves of Rome: The Lupercalia from Roman and Comparative Perspectives (Walter de Gruyter, 2023) on the role of non-human animals in Rome’s most enduring festival.


    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