• Water cooperation is key to poverty eradication, gender equality and environmental sustainability / Auke Lootsma (Blog)

    22 Mar 2013

    Decentralization and Environmental Management Project phase two - DEMPII. (Photo: Gisele Nyampinga/UNDP)

    World Water Day is held annually on 22 March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

    The fulfilment of basic human needs, our environment, socio economic development and poverty reduction are all heavily dependent on water.

    Rapid urbanization, pollution and climate change threathen the resource while demands for water are increasing in order to satisfy the needs of a growing world population for food, energy, industrial and domestic uses.

    In designating 2013 as the UN International Year of Water Cooperation the UN recognized that cooperation is essential to deal with these challenges. Promoting water cooperation implies an inter-disciplinary approach bringing in cultural, educational, and scientific factors, as well as religious, ethical, social, political, legal institutional and economic dimensions.

    Here are the facts:

    ·       85% of the world population lives in the driest half of the planet.

    ·       783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation.

    ·       6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases.

    ·       Water availability is expected to decrease in many regions. Yet future global agricultural water consumption alone is estimated to increase by ~19% by 2050, and will be even greater in the absence of any technological progress or policy intervention.

    ·       Water for irrigation and food production constitutes one of the greatest pressures on freshwater resources. Agriculture accounts for ~70% of global freshwater withdrawals (up to 90% in some fast-growing economies).

    ·       The cost of adapting to the impacts of a 2°C rise in global average temperature could range from US$70 to $100 billion per year between 2020 and 2050 (World Bank, 2010). Of this cost, between US$13.7 billion (drier scenario) and $19.2 billion (wetter scenario) will be related to water, predominantly through water supply and flood management.

    ·       There are 276 trans-boundary river basins in the world (64 trans-boundary river basins in Africa, 60 in Asia, 68 in Europe, 46 in North America and 38 in South America). Africa has about one-third of the world’s major international water basins – basins larger than 100,000 km2. Virtually all sub-Saharan African countries, and Egypt, share at least one international water basin.

    Clearly international cooperation is required to solve international, regional, and national waters issues.

    In Rwanda, Rwanda holds every year a ‘National Water Week from March 18th to 24th March 2013’.  The national theme of 2013 is  “ Duteze imbere ubufatanye mu gucunga neza umutungo kamere n’ibikorwa remezo by’amazi, (Cooperation in management of water resources and water supply infrastructure).

    The Government of Rwanda is making steady progress in improving access to safe water and sanitation services. However, 25% of the population is still unable to access a safe drinking water source, while 26% of the population have no access to improved sanitation facilities. Rural areas are more affected.

    Few Rwandans have running water in their homes. Some families can access water through community water points, where they are charged a nominal user fee for the water, according to either container size or monthly consumption. However, many cannot afford clean tap water and collect water from local streams and ponds, which puts them at risk of contracting waterborne diseases. According to WHO about 28%, mainly women and children, walk nearly two hours every day to access clean water.

    As part of its efforts to achieve the MDGs, Rwanda targets to attain 100% service coverage of water and sanitation by 2015.