2015 UN-Water Annual International Zaragoza Conference. Water and Sustainable Development: From Vision to Action. 15-17 January 2015

Special Regional Session: Achieving sustainable water for all in Latin America and the Caribbean

Date: 15 January 2015. 09:00-12:00
Location: Ebro River Basin Authority. Paseo Sagasta 24-28. 50071 Zaragoza, Spain
Co-convened by Caridad Canales from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNECLAC), Javier Gavilanes/Mónica Corrales/Inmaculada Paniagua from the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) and Víctor Arroyo/María Lahore from CAF – Development Bank of Latin America

The most recent data from the WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation (JMP) show that, although the situation varies greatly among countries, Latin America and the Caribbean has already exceeded the Millennium Development Goal of access to improved sources of drinking water and could well achieve the target on access to improved sanitation facilities. At the national level, the overwhelming majority of the countries of the region has already achieved or is likely to achieve the goal for drinking water. But while more than one third have already achieved the target for access to sanitation, the majority are unlikely to do so. Despite the apparent success in the expansion of access to improved services between 1990 and 2011 (going from 85% to 94% for drinking water and 68% to 82% for sanitation), there are reasons to believe that what has really been accomplished is much more modest.

Only 88% of the population has access to piped water into their dwelling, yard or plot; and probably less than 60% is connected to conventional sewer systems. At least in the cities, a connection to the dwelling is the solution that is most in demand by the population, and it tends to be in line with ability to pay. Regarding the quality of the services; this is often poor, even in large areas of major cities in the region. For example, many drinking water supply systems work only intermittently and service is actually available for just a few hours per day or a few days per week. And the population covered by adequate water quality monitoring and control systems is very limited, even in urban areas. In some cases, water is not disinfected effectively, leading to a high risk of exposure to a number of diseases for people who use water directly from the pipe.

The regional session of the 2015 Zaragoza Conference, “Achieving sustainable water for all in Latin America and the Caribbean” will bring together experts and stakeholders from Latin America and the Caribbean to discuss how to address the aforementioned challenges. By showcasing case studies and analyzing recent trends in the region, the panelists will highlight those means of implementation that have had positive outcomes in the region, focusing on their appropriateness considering the social, economic and environmental context of the region.

>> Special Regional Session: Achieving sustainable water for all in Latin America and the CaribbeanPDF document

Focus of the session: key issues and challenges

The session will focus on Financing/Economic Instruments and Governance issues for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Latin America and Caribbean.

  • In relation to financing and economic instruments the session will address how many countries in the region have adjusted tariffs to move toward some degree of self-financing, but few have established effective systems of subsidies for low-income groups. As a result, in a number of big cities the basic monthly bill takes up an average of 5% of the income of the poorest quintiles and as much as 10% in some cases. It is still unusual for services to be self-sustained through tariffs. Budget allocations depend on policy priorities that change over time and tend to be cut in times of crisis. And there are indications that the investments needed to replace existing assets are often not made. Moreover, much of the infrastructure is deteriorating. Many catchment sources are at risk and under pressure from growing competition for water, while more than two thirds of waste water is discharged untreated into the nearest body of water, causing serious pollution problems. This threatens the medium- and long-term economic and environmental sustainability of service delivery. On top of all this come the enormous challenges that climate change has been posing for the sector.
  • In relation to governance: institutions / legal framework the session will address the growing concern with improving governance in water management as well as with strengthening the role of water management in environmental protection. The concern for governance, in particular, is based on the perception that water management remains inadequate and this could jeopardize progress in the reduction of poverty and in the achievement of sustainable development. Although there have been notable advances in water management in nearly all countries, these have not yet translated into widespread increases in water-use efficiency, changes in overall levels of water quality, nor region-wide sustained increases in the contribution of water to levels of social and economic development. As such, much remains to be done in improving overall levels of governance. In general, there has been a widespread inability to establish institutions that are able to deal with water allocation issues under conditions of scarcity and conflict. The water sector still exhibits many examples of poor management, and there is a general absence of self-financing and, a consequent dependence on fluctuating political support. In general, there is an inability to respond to crises. Despite much improvement, reliable information is often missing, including on the resource itself, on the infrastructure, on institutional responsibilities and on future needs.

Questions to be addressed by speakers

  • What are the main challenges for the region that can hinder the implementation of the human right to water and sanitation and the post-2015 development agenda?
  • How can these challenges be addressed and what are the tools that have been implemented in the region which have had positive outcomes?
  • How can the current institutional frameworks overcome the gaps in the provision of services in rural areas and smaller municipalities (how to draw the focus away from big urban settlements to smaller communities?)
  • What have been the most notable advancements in the region in terms of water governance and what lessons can be drawn from them?
  • What opportunities can be identified to advance the post-2015 development agenda?


Overview presentation

  • Caridad Canales, UNECLAC
  • Gonzalo de Castro, CAF


  • Claudia Vargas, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, La Paz, Bolivia
  • Carlos Narváez, Universidad Americana, Nicaragua
  • William Carrasco, Expert consultant, Colombia
  • Diego Fernández, Universidad del Valle de Colombia
  • Pablo Lloret, FONAG
  • Franz Rojas, Expert consultant, Bolivia
  • Roberto Ramos, Puerto Rico State Secretary, Puerto Rico

Wrap-up and Closing

  • Inmaculada Paniagua, AECID

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About the Conference

>> Conveners and partners
>> Objectives and expected outcomes
>> Conference flyerPDF Document
>> AgendaPDF Document
>> StructurePDF Document
>> ParticipantsPDF Document


>> Accommodation
>> Travelling to Zaragoza
>> Your stay in Zaragoza
>> Map

The vision

>> Rio+20
>> Water and sustainable development
>> Global commitments on water
>> A post-2015 global goal for water
>> Water and the Open Working Group (OWG)
>> The role of actors involved

The action

>> Capacity development
>> Financing and economic instruments
>> Governance frameworks
>> Technology

Action on…

>> Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)
>> Water Resources Management
>> Water Quality
>> Risk management

14 January: Pre-Conference Side events and Technical Visits

>> Technical visit: La Cartuja
>> Technical visit: The Ebro River Basin Authority and its Automatic System for Hydrologic Information (SAIH)
>> Technical visit: Expo + Water Park
>> New sources: Wastewater reuse
>> Local level actions in decentralized water solidarity towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals
>> Water Footprint Assessment
>> Technological advances and Water Policy
>> Cultivando Agua Boa Programme
>> CODIA and water and energy in LAC
>> The fulfillment of the human right to water and sanitation

15 January: Setting the scene and the context

>> Achieving sustainable water for all in LAC
>> Achieving water security for Asia and the Pacific
>> Ensuring implementation of the water-related SDGs in Europe
>> Setting the scene

16 January: Whose action?

>> Academia
>> Business
>> Civil society
>> Governments and local authorities
>> Media and Communicators

17 January: Integrating knowledge and the way forward

>> Multi-stakeholder dialogue on tools for implementation


>> Cases
>> Conference daily
>> Conference Communications ReportPDF Document
>> Discussion forum
>> Information briefs on Water and Sustainable Development
>> Interviewing conference participants
>> Overview Papers
>> Presentations from participants
>> Session Reports
>> Tool Papers
>> Toolbox
>> Twitter Activity Report
>> Video recording of sessions
>> Video interviews with conference participants

Promotional materials

>> Conference banners
>> Conference posterPDF document