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

Action on… Water Resources Management (WRM)

Water is key to sustainable development and is critical for socio-economic development, healthy ecosystems and for human survival itself. It is vital for reducing the global burden of disease and improving the health, welfare and productivity of populations. Without appropriate water resources management, there will be increased competition for water between sectors and an escalation of water crises of various kinds, triggering emergencies in a range of water-dependent sectors.

Around 1.2 billion people, or almost one-fifth of the world's population, live in areas of physical scarcity, and 500 million people are approaching this situation. Another 1.6 billion people, or almost one quarter of the world's population, face economic water shortage (where countries lack the necessary infrastructure to take water from rivers and aquifers). Water scarcity is both a natural and a human-made phenomenon. There is enough freshwater on the planet for seven billion people but it is distributed unevenly and too much of it is wasted, polluted and unsustainably managed.

In a recent UN survey for the Rio+20 conference more than 130 countries confirmed the widespread adoption of integrated approaches to water management, but warned that significant challenges remain. Unless attention is paid to the sustainable use and development of water resources and the ecosystems that provide them, the difficulty of balancing water supply between multiple users and uses will become worse.

In June 2014, the intergovernmental Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted a global goal for water:

The Open Working Group adopted several targets related to WRM:
6.4 by 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity, and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity;
6.5 by 2030 implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate;
6.a by 2030, expand international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water and sanitation related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies;
6.b support and strengthen the participation of local communities for improving water and sanitation management.
Source: Outcome document OWG (2014)

Some of the challenges on the implementation of WRM that have been raised in different fora include insufficient financing and a need for improved financing in water resources management. Many countries already suffer an infrastructure deficit. Without a major increase in investment for infrastructure many countries will struggle to meet targets. Little progress has been made on payment for water resource services and ecosystem services.

There are also challenges for implementing appropriate technologies. In fact, in the lowest three HDI categories water efficiency is not integrated into water resources management. Few countries have advanced implementation for irrigation and rainwater harvesting. "Technology divides" could be addressed to ensure technology becomes an effective means to attain socially and ecologically sustainable development.

Insufficient capacity is also an issue. Typical problems relate to lack of human capacity both in numbers and knowledge, to plan and manage.

Water resources management programmes (including allocation systems, groundwater management, environmental impact assessment and demand management among others) are being implemented in more than 84% of the highest HDI group countries but only 40% of other countries. Strategic planning, national policies, transboundary agreements and integrated water resource plans are often non-existent or inadequate.

The implementation tools that will be discussed include:

  • Implementing integrated governance approaches to WRM by balancing conflicting demand with the health of ecosystems remain key to future development paradigms, coupled with participatory mechanisms, accountability, regulation and enforcement of agreed standards;
  • Innovative, inclusive and sustainable financing mechanisms for water need to be implemented. For instance, the protection, use and restoration of ecosystem services (including natural infrastructure) has often proven an effective and cost-saving alternative to conventional infrastructure as a solution to water resources management and pollution control;
  • Green technologies can create new business opportunities, markets and jobs. They can boost resource efficiency and contribute to achieving development goals. Innovative water technologies can increase the amount of water available for drinking, agriculture, and manufacturing and make water use more efficient;
  • Rio+20’s outcomes demand enhanced capacity building for sustainable development. Human resources development is vital, including exchanging experiences and expertise, technical assistance for capacity-building. Action on WRM means training technicians and experts to undertake and oversee work. However, water education should not be limited to specialists; it should be extended to the public from primary school level onwards including a focus on youth and women. This is vital for galvanizing support to achieve water aims.

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>> 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
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