2014 UN-Water Annual International Zaragoza Conference. Preparing for World Water Day 2014: Partnerships for improving water and energy access, efficiency and sustainability. 13-16 January 2014

The Conference Focus: Partnerships improving Water and Energy efficiency, security and sustainability

The Conference will analyze the commonalities and differences of both sectors and the advantages and disadvantages of partnerships. It will look into setting up, composition, financing, incentives, synergies, skills, cost effectiveness and support for and from partnerships. As well as definition of responsibilities and liabilities, benefit sharing, symmetries, long-term sustainability, negotiation and the flexibility required.

The Conference aims to draw lessons on what the factors that make successful partnerships are, in water and energy, the role of different actors and how to scale up partnerships.

The role of partnerships

There is a role for collaborative resource planning, identifying synergies, and minimizing and negotiating trade-offs. There is, for example, a fundamental disconnect in policy making and planning because each domain is required to focus on a narrow mandate in meeting its own aims and fulfilling its own targeted responsibilities. Pressures emanating from developments in the energy sphere will be more restrictive and make the tasks facing water planners, and the objective of securing water, much more difficult to achieve. There are no integrated policies across sectoral boundaries.

There is also a need to overcome the disconnection between some energy and water utilities. They have much in common, and much to learn about each other’s reform agendas – both successes and failures.

There are opportunities for industry (inside the water and energy boxes) to operate efficiently, profitably and sustainably. Because of its private management structure, industry has the flexibility to effect changes and improve efficiency in water and energy use within itself, its immediate sphere of influence and along its supply chains. For governments and regulators, opportunities exist to provide enabling environments and institutional frameworks that operate to integrate the sectors.

All the above support the need for 'integrated approaches' and cross-sectoral approaches to break-down institutional fragmentation and institutional silos; partnerships and commitments help break these institutional fragmentation.

The realms of partnerships

Practice shows there is cooperation in different realms. This includes:

  • Collaboration on integrated energy and water resource planning and related technologies is needed among federal, regional, and state agencies as well as between industry and other stakeholders. A key step is to establish mechanisms for ensuring policy coherence across the Water and Energy ministries and institutions.
  • Development and implementation of decision making tools providing a common space and a platform for different decision-making entities are needed to create various scenarios and predict their resource demands in an integral resource management framework in national development planning.
  • Providing basic water and energy services. Sustainable development is dependent on access to water and energy. Water and energy are also absolute necessities in improving health conditions, education, food security and building infrastructure.
  • Decisions on investment approvals for power and hydroelectricity stations, in relation to other major water users, can and do take account of all relevant local factors. Likewise joint management of multipurpose infrastructures involving stakeholders can provide opportunities for partnership and cooperation.
  • Efficient use and reduction of waste could be achieved by focusing on programmes for the reduction of unaccounted-for water, as water is a profligate user of energy.
  • Efficient utility management: improved bill collection by both services could be attained more easily if there is coordinated collection for both utilities.
  • Efficiency and improvement in water and energy need to be measured for benchmarking and future evaluation. Separate data and indicators are available for both water and energy use in industry. Industry is interested in measuring the cost effects on its profitability whereas governments and society are more focused on overall economic results, social benefits and the environment. Metrics comparing water and energy use to indicate the effects of one upon the other, both at plant scale and for countries as a whole, are necessary yet seemingly absent.
  • Water and energy audits for a facility are a starting point to benchmark its status, measure usage and identify areas for improvement in both the demand and supply sides.
  • Technological innovations, particularly in relation to renewable energies, can increase water availability from water savings and improve water quality through pollution control. Managing the energy domain’s water vulnerabilities will require deployment of better technology and greater integration of energy and water policies (IEA, 2012).
  • Integrating environmental considerations into existing energy and water planning and decision-making is key to achieving sustainable development. It is essential to analyze the tools that are available to make operable the water and energy nexus and ecosystem services.