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

Governments contribution to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals related to water

Date: 16 January 2015.
Location: Etopía. Avda. Ciudad de Soria, 8. 50010 Zaragoza
Coordinators: Seleshi Bekele Awulachew, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and Barbara Anton, ICLEI

The role of governments

The Rio+20 outcome document reaffirms the key role of all levels of government and legislative bodies in promoting sustainable development. It further acknowledges efforts and progress made at the local and sub-national levels, and recognizes the important role that such authorities and communities can play in implementing sustainable development, including by engaging citizens and stakeholders, and providing them with relevant information, as appropriate, on the three dimensions of sustainable development. It further acknowledges the importance of involving all relevant decision makers in planning and implementation of sustainable development policies.

Governments are making important commitments. In July 2014 the United Nations Member States in the Open Working Group (OWG) approved and committed to a set of proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including one on water (OWG, 2014). These were broader than water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), and also included water quality, water resources management and risks.

Governments play a key role in achieving the development goals and targets through, for instance, setting and implementing water quality policy frameworks and standards, and regulating the discharge of pollutants into the environment, and wastewater management, recycling and reuse.


  • For Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH): Human Rights to Water and Sanitation;
  • For water resources management: water scarcity;
  • For water quality: water quality control, regulations and wastewater reuse;
  • For risk: management and adaptation to extreme events.


a). Discuss Government roles and challenges in implementing the suggested Post-2015 targets;
b). Discuss measures to adopt and the most appropriate solutions to achieve the SDGs related to water;
c). Showcase and discuss the existing and proposed tools to address them;
d). Look into the specific role of government as enablers and implementers of the tools;
e). Exchange of practical advice and experiences on implementation;
f). Discuss Government views about the role of other stakeholders and how they can proactively encourage involvement and participation.


The sessions are designed to provide a space for dialogue. The sessions will have a 15-20 minutes overview presentation by the moderator/convener of the sessions. This overview will already include information on the specific cases prepared by the panellists. The panellists will not be making presentations during the sessions. The panel discussion will take place around some questions prepared by the session convener. In answering the panellists will make reference to their case study and will highlight those tools related to Finance and economic instruments, Capacity development, Technology and Governance that are more innovative/valuable for the SDGs implementation. The overall session duration is 2 hours. A reporter for the session will provide some final highlights/wrap-up of the session.


08:30- 09:00 Introduction to the sessions of the day

  • Barbara Anton, ICLEI

09:00-11:00 Water Resources Management: Water scarcity on the rise

Session Conveners:Tomas Sancho, World Council of Civil Engineers and CONAGUA

The issues addressed in this session will include

  • What are the challenges and issues that need to be addressed to deal with water scarcity? This include the need for substantially increasing water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater, and implementing integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate.
  • The actions for dealing with water scarcity and balancing water supply and demand need to consider avoiding the unsustainable over-abstraction of water. Water supply can increase through the development of new water resources. Water demand can be managed through conservation, increased water use efficiency, economic measures, and agricultural policies and practices. Achieving the optimal equilibrium between water supply and water demand, without compromising future water security. Apart from the traditional "hard path" solutions, the consideration of "soft path" measures, such as green infrastructures (such as wetlands and riparian buffers) is essential.
  • Achieving this requires adequate human and institutional capacities, as well as cooperation between stakeholders at the local, regional and international levels. There is an urgent need to increase cooperation on water by working together among water users, nations and types of stakeholders. Participatory processes and accountability are key to manage trade-offs, conflicts and inequalities among others.
  • •Some specific tools to be discussed would be: methods to prioritize and analyze the financial viability of investments, the role of subsidies, efficiency incentives, technologies/methods to analyze and account for resources and reserves as well as water uses, to increase water use efficiency, to obtain non conventional resources, to control water use and analyze ecological flows as a basis for improved decision-making.
  • The session will also focus on government's role in promoting formal education on water issues at all levels and raise capacities among key stakeholders and the general public. Improving water governance will be considered including the need for transparency, participation of local governments and enabling the participation of other actors, regulation, and negotiation of outcomes.

Overview presentation

  • Tomas Sancho: President, World Council of Civil Engineers

Panel discussion

  • Capacity development: Htun Lwin Oo, Secretary of the National Water Resources Committee and Director General of the Directorate of Water Resources and Improvement of River Systems, Ministry of Transport, Myanmar
  • Technology:  Miguel Ángel Ródenas, President Segura River Basin Authority
  • Governance: Nelton  Friedrich, Itaipu, Maestro José Elías Chedid Abraham, Director General del Organismo de Cuenca Lerma Santiago Pacifico

Questions and Answers

Wrap-up and Closing

  • Victor Burguet, Director and Denise Soares, IMTA

>> Governments Contribution to Integrated Water Resource Management: The Scarcity on the RisePDF Document

>> Governments Contributions: Water Resources Management: Water scarcity on the risePDF document

11:00-13:00 Ways to realise the human rights to water and sanitation

  • Session Convener: Andre Dzikus, UN-Habitat, and Sarah Reng-Ochekpe,  (Minister of Water Resources, Nigeria, and former President of the African Ministers' Council on Water (AMCOW)

The session will focus on:

  • Key issues to realise the human right including non-discrimination and equality to reach equality of water and sanitation service provision; end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations; and supporting and strengthening the participation of local communities for improving water and sanitation management.
  • The session will highlight implementation challenges with regards to financing, governance, technology, capacity development. More specifically, issues of budgeting and cost efficiency, appropriate credit mechanisms, capacity development and new water and sanitation technologies that can boost the human rights to water and sanitation.

Questions for the panel discussion

  • Financing: What do the human rights to water and sanitation require from States in financing and budgeting?
  • Governance: What mechanisms are there for assuring good governance, participation, transparency and accountability? What are the remedies if the human rights to water and sanitation are not realized or are violated?
  • Technology: What new water and sanitation technologies can boost the realization of the human rights to water and sanitation?
  • Capacity development: realising the human rights to water and sanitation and requires awareness-raising and capacity building not just among civil society, but also with the government. What are the recent experiences and practical cases on this?
  • Stakeholders' roles: What is the view of governments about the roles of other stakeholders (academia, business, civil society, and the media)? What are the views from Governments about how participation can enhance the realisation of these human rights?

Overview presentation

  • Andre Dzikus, UN-Habitat
  • Léo Heller, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation

Panel discussion

  • Financing: Guy Hutton, Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP),World Bank
  • Governance: Sarah Reng-Ochekpe, Minister of Water Resources, Nigeria, Luis Simas, ERSAR, Portuguese Water and Waste Services Regulation Authority
  • Technology: Pirnazar Shodmonov, State Sanitary Epidemiological Surveillance Service, Tajikistan

Questions and Answers with participants

Wrap-up and Closing

>> Ways to realise the human rights to water and sanitationPDF Document

>> Governments Contributions: Ways to realise the human rights to water and sanitationPDF document

14:00-16:00 Risk Management in River Basins

  • Session Convener: Niels Vlaanderen, Dutch Government

The issues addressed in this session include

  • The main challenges of the global community created by water-related disasters, and their consequences for people and the economy, in particular for poor and vulnerable people. Water crises and extreme weather events such as floods and droughts have been identified as two of the top 10 global risks by the World Economic Forum community (WEF, 2014). While water's immediate impacts are generally local, water security is recognized as a global risk.
  • The main tools for risk management, such as risk assessments, need to be incorporated in development plans and programmes; accounting for disaster losses to identify trade-offs; horizontal and vertical coordinated action, including with local authorities; accountability and participatory mechanisms, particularly of the poor, indigenous peoples, youth and women.

Overview presentation

  • Niels Vlaanderen, Dutch Government

Panel discussion

  • Raimund Mair, International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River
  • Henk Ovink, U.S.A. Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Pedro Domaniczky, Director,  Coordinación de Itaipu Binacional in Paraguay
  • Mohamed Elrawady, CEDARE

Questions and Answers

Wrap-up and Closing

>> Water-related risk reduction: tools to implement a preventive approachPDF Document

>> Governments Contributions: Risk Management in River BasinsPDF document

16:00-18:00 Tools of implementation to deal with water quality: Governments' roles and challenges

  • Session Conveners: UN-Water Decade Programme on Capacity Development (UNW-DPC) and the Government of Germany
  • Facilitator: Jens Liebe (UNW-DPC)

The issues addressed in this session will include:

  • The Post-2015 development goals and targets recently proposed by the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals make clear reference to “water quality” as an important issue to ensure sustainable development. Most directly, “water quality” is noted in target 6.3 “by 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater, and increasing recycling and safe reuse by x% globally,” but implicitly, water quality aspects are also relevant in targets related to the protection and restoration of water-related ecosystems (target 6.6), reducing the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities (target 11.6), the prevention and significant reduction of marine pollution of all kinds, particularly from land-based activities (target 14.1) and ensuring the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services (target 15.1).
  • Governments play a key role in achieving these development goals and targets through setting and implementing water quality policy frameworks and standards, and regulating the discharge of pollutants into the environment, and wastewater management, recycling and reuse.
  • The session will discuss tools for the implementation of the proposed water quality goals and the challenges governments and governmental institutions may face in implementing them, but also political will. In particular, issues of financing, governance, technology, and capacity development will be addressed, and possible solutions will be identified.

Questions for the panel dialogue

Institutional frameworks/Governance (incl. monitoring)

  • What are the requirements and challenges to establish a feasible water quality monitoring scheme at the national level, and how far is this from the current state of water monitoring?
  • What kind of institutional framework is required to achieve the reduction of pollution and increased wastewater treatment and reuse?
  • What are the key challenges and sustainable solutions to water quality governance? How may ecosystems and the environment therein be considered?


  • What financial implications will the water quality targets have on governments?
  • Flourishing industries are important for the economic development of nations. What incentives can governments, particularly in developing countries and economies in transition, set to encourage industries to reduce their environmental impact?
  • For countries to be able to achieve water quality goals will require major investments in infrastructure for wastewater collection, treatment, and water quality monitoring. Apart from the challenges to generate these funds for the establishment, what can be done to ensure the maintenance, improvement and continued operation of these systems? Is the “polluter pays” principle implementable in developing countries, economies in transition, and the developed world alike?


  • What appropriate technologies can developing countries and economies in transition use to reliably develop their wastewater treatment?
  • What solutions may be available to address non-point source pollution such as through agriculture and urban runoff?
  • What role can ecosystems and green infrastructure play in achieving water quality targets?

Capacity Development

  • What capacities will governments need to implement, monitor and enforce water quality regulations? Which needs are already apparent?
  • What institutional capacities will governments need to coordinate water quality targets with other sector goals, such as industrial and economic development, energy and agriculture?
  • What role can capacity development play to help generate political will to address water quality and reuse issues, and what are the major challenges?


  • Jens Liebe, UNW-DPC

Overview presentation

  • Johannes Cullmann, German Federal Institute of Hydrology (BfG)

Panel discussion

  • Financing: Monica Scatasta, European Investment Bank, Luxemburg
  • Governance: Rosa Huertas, Duero River Basin Authority, SpainTechnology: Jong Ho Ahn, Korea Environmental Institute (KEI), Korea
  • Capacity development: Antonio Felix Domingues, Agência Nacional de Águas, Brazil            

Questions and Answers

Wrap-up and Closing

  • Wrap-up: Monica Scatasta, European Investment Bank, European Commission

>> Tools of implementation to deal with water quality: Governments' roles and challengesPDF Document

>> Governments Contributions: Tools of implementation to deal with water quality: Governments' roles and challengesPDF document

18:00-18:30 Wrap up of the day – inputs to the multi-stakeholder tables

  • Reporter on Technology: Roger Falconer, President of IAHR
  • Reporter on Governance: Victor Burguet and  Denise Soares, Mexican Institute of Water Technology  (IMTA), Mexico
  • Reporter on Financing and Economic instruments: Monica Scatasta, European Investment Bank; Niels Vlaanderen, Dutch Government, The Netherlands
  • Reporter on Capacity Development: Jens Liebe, UNW-DPC

>> Conference Home

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