Amina and her family had recently moved to their new house on the outskirts of Dakar, Senegal. It was built by the government to relocate families from low-lying and flood-prone neighborhoods in the city. The house was small for her extended family of ten, but it was water that she worried about. I was puzzled. Usually people complain that water connection costs are too high, but she received that connection for free—the meter and tap were right there in her front yard.
Niger is one of the world’s poorest countries (44.5% of poverty incidence in 2014). The country faces a number of challenges in meeting the national (PROSEHA, the National Program for sustainable development) and global targets to increase access to sanitation and potable water, particularly in rural areas where the access to water is 44.2% and 7% for sanitation (2015 Ministry of Water and Sanitation data).
Overcoming these challenges while satisfying increasing demands for better or expanded service, the government began investigating options that bring in the know-how of the private sector. This has led to a growing domestic private sector provision of services in Niger.
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 targets “universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all”. However, in Africa’s fast-growing cities, just accessing water is a daily struggle for many poor families. While Africa’s urban population is expected to triple by 2050, the proportion of people with improved water supply has barely grown since 1990, and the share of those with water piped to their premises has declined from 43 percent in 1990 to 33 percent in 2015. Poor families bear the brunt of these inadequacies through poor health, the long time required to collect water, and higher costs when purchasing from on-sellers’.
Today, 2.4 billion people still live without access to improved sanitation; about one billion people defecate in the open; and more than 640,000 people lack improved drinking water sources.
With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals on water and sanitation (SDG 6), countries of the world committed themselves to change this situation by achieving universal access to safe water and sanitation while addressing issues of water quality and scarcity to balance the needs of households, agriculture, industry, energy, and the environment over the next 15 years.
At present, most water sector actors in developing countries rely on government lending and concessional financing from national, bilateral or multilateral development banks (MDBs) to mobilize financing for capital investment. These financial sources alone will not be sufficient to finance investments on the scale that is called for by the SDGs. It is therefore essential to mobilize up-front financing from commercial sources as well.
National governments and donors must use their funds in a catalytic manner, as part of broader financing strategies that mobilize funding from sector efficiency gains, tariffs, domestic taxes, and transfers to crowd in domestic commercial finance. If they are able to do so, countries will be much more likely to access the resources they need to improve and expand the infrastructure needed to deliver and sustain universal coverage of water and sanitation services and achieve SDG 6.
Two years ago, during the 2014 SIWI World Water Week, key international experts discussed the need for a paradigm shift in water consumption: the move from a linear to a circular economy—an economy that is restorative and regenerative by design, and which aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times.
These previous SIWI World Water Week discussions allowed raising awareness about the adoption of a circular economy as a viable sustainable development strategy; its particular relevance to the water sector, in view of the fundamental and cross-cutting role it has across all sectors; and the combination of regulations and incentives, and strong multi-stakeholder approach, required to allow the market to transform. The need for a “paradigm shift” in the water sector—moving away from traditional linear water consumption patterns of “take-make-dispose” and heading towards a circular economy approach where wastewater is no longer seen as waste or an environmental hazard, but rather as a valuable resource that contributes to overcome water stress and imbalances between supply and demand —is particularly relevant to the Latin American region, and the 2016 SIWI World Water Week event of this year will take this conversation forward.
The global water community is gathering in Stockholm for World Water Week 2016. This year’s theme, “Water for Sustainable Growth,” comes at a critical time, as we are mobilizing to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in which water plays an essential part.
Over the next two decades and beyond, ‘thirsty agriculture’ and ‘thirsty energy’ competing with the needs of ‘thirsty cities’ will place new and increasing demands on the water sector. Over 4 billion people currently live in areas where water consumption is greater than renewable resources for part of the year – a number that will continue to increase.