Understanding the mechanisms, in which water is used, polluted and in some cases de-polluted and how societies interfere with the hydrological cycle in quantity and quality provides the scientific platform to discuss the way in which different users have to cooperate to achieve environmental sustainability.
What are you expectations on the Zaragoza Conference on water cooperation?
To define additional ways to increase cooperation through water, based both on case studies and in experiences among international and national private and public organizations concerned with water.
Your session focuses on “furthering water cooperation in river basins”. Why is it important to specifically focus on water cooperation in river basins?
Many rivers have been as from the cradles for new settlements to develop. This way different cities and towns remain linked through water, sharing their water source and in many cases also the wastewater disposal site. Understanding the mechanisms, in which water is used, polluted and in some cases de-polluted and how societies interfere with the hydrological cycle in quantity and quality provides the scientific platform to discuss the way in which different users have to cooperate to achieve environmental sustainability. Moreover, understanding the need to respect the environmental flow as a key component of the sustainable and cultural development facilitates understanding the need to set limits to water uses. Once this requirement is agreed by users and other stakeholders of a river basin, the next step would be discussing, in this context, either in a water scarcity preventive or remediation context, the most equitable mechanisms to share water for present users but also considering trans-generational equity. One thing I regret from my session is having rivers apart from aquifers, as we are missing the way in which ‘they are cooperating and have to cooperate’.
What are the challenges that river basins are facing in terms of water cooperation?
The challenges are different depending on the intensity in which water is used in each basin, the extent of its pollution and also in the degree of development of the region
For water poor areas, the main challenge would be water scarcity and how to share meager water resources to supply the needs for present and future users. In this context, tools such as water metering, cascading the use of water and water reuse are of importance.
For water rich areas, challenges can be the pollution of water and its transmission to downstream reaches of rivers, but also the increase of flooding. This may create conflicts happen not only among settlements but also among different type of users, for instance energy power plants and municipalities.
A third challenge relates to groundwater, which must be managed conjunctively with surface water and in a number of cases, where there are no links between both types of water resources, attention must be paid to setting up groundwater governance schemes to ensure the environmentally and socially sustainable use of the resource.
Which tool or approach to promote water cooperation would you like to highlight?
The need for proper and validated information. To share the resources in an equitable way it is necessary first to have historical time series of all the components of the hydrological cycle, in quantity and quality terms. It is also important to know the variability in time of the resource. However, it must be acknowledged that there are cases – mainly in traditional communities – where in spite of not having “scientific” hydrological information - they have been able to face the challenges of sharing scarce water resources in an equitable and socially and environmentally sustainable manner. We must learn as well from these useful experiences.
Which key lesson learnt would you like to deliver for the International Year of Water Cooperation 2013?
Currently, water organizations mirror the societal degree of cooperation (or lack of it). I think this is the main challenge in an increasing global world; how to enable water organizations that were designed to work isolated to work jointly towards a common interest. In this respect, UN water agencies should take the lead to show innovative ways to cooperate among themselves.
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