10 April 2015 | With historic droughts playing out in different parts of the globe, it seems that water is at the top of everyone’s mind. For the first time ever, groundwater legislation was introduced in drought-plagued California, shortly followed by mandatory water restrictions. Meanwhile, Sao Paulo, Brazil and Taiwan run dry – perhaps waiting for better water resource management.
But just how to manage this increasingly scarce resource is the constant question among those working in the water space. And the answer continues to evolve as policymakers, practitioners and scientists account for new factors like more people and a changing climate.
Center to the issue of water management is cities-hubs of not only water consumption but food and energy also and key to the water-energy-food nexus. A recent breakthrough regarding water management in cities came in the form of Lima, Peru’s new water tariff. The bill allows for nearly 5% of collected water fees to be devoted to green infrastructure, climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. Over a 5-year period, an estimated $112 million will be collected to address these issues. It’s a significant step forward in terms of not only actual progress made but also a huge show of leadership on the side of Peru’s water regulator-SUNASS (National Sanitation Service Superintendence), said Gena Gammie, a Manager in NGO Forest Trends’ Water Initiative
So it’s also a milestone cultivated in part by Forest Trends (publisher of Ecosystem Marketplace) over the past three years through its Watershed Services Incubator, a partnership with the Peruvian Ministry of Environment to develop cost-effective methods that would keep the water flowing in one of the world’s largest desert cities.
One such method under consideration by SUNASS is basically restoring pre-Incan canals, called amunas, which allow water to trickle slowly down the Andes Mountains arriving at the bottom just in time for Lima’s dry season. The amunas funnel water across the mountains instead of directly down. What’s more, a Forest Trends report found that amuna restoration – among other green solutions – is more cost-effective than the gray approaches assessed. And with the significant funding directed to initiatives such as this through the water tariff, the odds are in favor of moving the work on the amunas forward.
The water tariff will show how these green infrastructure approaches can address water scarcity, Gammie said. “It’s one part of the solution that’s been underutilized, but we’re now seeing the policy and mechanisms that can make a difference.”
Every Three Years
It’s a message Gammie plans on taking to the World Water Forum, a major convening of private and public representatives aimed at improving sustainable water resource management, happening this week from the 12-17 in Daegu, South Korea.
Hosted by the World Water Council, an international platform for the future of water, the World Water Forum is a big deal. Occurring every three years, it’s a high-level ministerial meeting that attracts CEOs and other top actors from the private sector as well.
This time, the forum was organized using a participatory process where all participants in the forum develop what are called ‘implementation roadmaps.’ These roadmaps are frameworks clarifying the activities and objectives pertaining to water management that governments and private companies are working on. They all feed into the forum’s four themes: Water Security for All; Water for Development and Prosperity; Water for Sustainability: Harmonizing Humans and Nature; and Constructing Feasible Implementation Mechanisms.
Forum events will address these themes through solutions and new data. For instance, one event addressing the fourth theme will discuss closing a finance gap estimated at trillions of dollars. It’s the gap in finance needed to fix existing water infrastructure that’s decaying and then also to construct new infrastructure that ensures the developing world has access to clean water. The panel will specifically look at identifying indicators to determine the role green as well as multi-purpose infrastructure plays in filling this gap. The indicators can then be used to evaluate finance for sustainable water management, according to the event description.
What will the top topics of this World Water Forum be? It’s likely the current water shortages will come up in many discussions. “Hopefully, the forum will be able to identify and share some solutions that cities can use to mitigate these crises,” Gammie said.
Another topic related to current events that is sure to make its way into the forum’s dialogues is the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) negotiations. The United Nations is set to establish them this year with a singular goal focused on water, among other objectives relating to water.
“The World Water Forum will definitely be informed by those negotiations to help direct its own implementation roadmaps,” Gammie said.
Participants like Gammie expect the SDGs to be a key subject among high-level policymaker discussions asking questions such as how should water be positioned within the SDGs Because of the forum’s focus on water management, ensuring the SDGs adequately encompass all matters surrounding water management to achieve sustainable development will also most likely be debated.
“It’s a big year for the world,” Gammie said, referring to the SDGs. It’s fitting then that the World Water Forum is happening this year as well.
It’s also fitting that Fernando Momiy Hada, the President of SUNASS, will be on hand to discuss the groundbreaking water tariff, which has implications for other cities struggling with their own versions of water stress.