After an intense and exciting week in Stockholm for World Water Week, it is time to look back at some conclusions of the conference and the way forward for next year. I was in Stockholm as a “Lead Rapporteur” and reported in the closing plenary session on “Cooperation to achieve equity by balancing competing demands”; other teams reported on “Managing waters across borders,” “Responding to Global Change,” and “Closing the science-policy-practice loop” (see closing plenary here). This is my attempt to summarize over 100 sessions, you can find all the sessions in the WWW website.
The cool thing about working in infrastructure is everyone knows your business.
We’ve all paid bills, lost power during storms, and worried about the quality of the water we’re about to drink. We’ve all been on a dead phone line sputtering, “Hello? Hello?” having just confessed, “I love you,” to a disconnected piece of plastic.
And if we in the professional world care about these basic services that are so fundamental to our lives, we know their reliable and affordable delivery is even more crucial for the poor. When a long wait for a new phone connection means no link to the outside world, no power means no study, and tainted water means sick children, then utility services are the difference between stagnation and growth, poverty and opportunity.
Everyone knows when services work and when they don’t. But infrastructure economists have long struggled to understand why some utilities work well and others don’t. Is there a package of reforms that will get us more connections, higher levels of efficiency, better quality service and cheaper rates?
If a year ago you told me that I would be able to speak authoritatively on the technical aspects of sanitation, I would have thought you were crazy! Kenya is my home; I am 130% Kenyan and have lived here my whole life. In all this time, I never fully realized the sanitation issues in my country. True, I knew the statistics but until recently I didn’t fully realize how the impact was hitting my home.
1) Water covers 70% of the Earth, but it’s only 1/1000th of the Earth’s volume
This image from the US Geological Survey shows what would happen if all the Earth’s water - everything from oceans and seas to ice caps, lakes and atmospheric vapor - was removed from the surface and combined into a single sphere.
By volume, the Earth is about 1 trillion or 1,000 billion cubic kilometers. All of the earth’s water comes in at a thousand times smaller, in a sphere with a volume of 1.4 billion cubic kilometers and about 1,400 kilometers in diameter - that’s about the length of Madagascar.
Imagine a busy metropolitan avenue crossing the length of Buenos Aires, Argentina, transited daily by buses and trains and lined with a large hospital, medical buildings, schools, shops and businesses.
Now imagine for 27 years this avenue flooding severely 37 times as if it were a river. During a flood, envision people being evacuated in motorboats, cars practically floating downstream, and cars and pedestrians on the bridge above it having to remain stranded there until the waters on the avenue below receded. It sounds implausible doesn’t it? Not for Buenos Aires residents it didn’t. The Juan B. Justo Avenue was such a thoroughfare.
- latin america
- World Water Week
- world bank
- buenos aires
- river maldonado
- Latin America & Caribbean
- Virgin Islands, British
- Venezuela, Republica Bolivariana de
- Trinidad and Tobago
- St. Vincent and the Grenadines
- St. Lucia
- St. Kitts and Nevis
- St. Helena
- El Salvador
- Dominican Republic
- Costa Rica
- Bahamas, The
- Antigua and Barbuda
It’s widely reported that most of the world’s population lives in urban areas. UN-Habitat estimates that 40% of urban dwellers live in slums, and that number is growing by more than 20 million people per year. Perhaps, less commonly reported is that while population is growing rapidly, urban sanitation coverage has only increased slightly.
While toilet access is generally higher in urban areas as compared to rural, sanitary conditions in urban areas are aggravated by high-density living, inadequate septage and solid waste management, and poor drainage. Recent analysis by WSP concludes that to make any significant impact it is essential to adopt a multi-dimensional approach to this complex problem. Here are five reasons why urban sanitation is about more than building a toilet.
In July, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released reports (see U.S. Energy Sector Vulnerabilities to Climate Change and Extreme Weather and Water-Smart Power: Strengthening the U.S. Electricity System in a Warming World) highlighting the energy sector’s vulnerability to future water constraints. The reports’ findings paint a worrisome picture: currently, 60% of coal power plants in the U.S. are experiencing water stress; hydropower is threatened due to more frequent and severe droughts; and energy infrastructure is endangered by water variability due to climate change.
Water is critical for producing power, and vice versa. Almost all energy generation processes require significant amounts of water, and the treatment and transport of water requires energy, mainly in the form of electricity. Even though the interdependency between water and energy is gaining wider recognition worldwide, water and energy planning often remain distinct. The tradeoffs involved in balancing one need against the other in this “energy-water nexus,” as it is called, are often not clearly identified or taken into account, complicating possible solutions.
Next week as thousands of practitioners gather at annual World Water Week in Sweden the focus is on cooperation, echoing the UN’s declaration of 2013 as the International Year of Water Cooperation.
Is there a model to track citizen experience of water services and present it in a ready-to-use manner for decision makers and the public? Would better articulation of citizen preferences encourage more meaningful engagement with service providers?