News headlines often feature stories of water scarcity challenges and increasing competition for water. So it is clear that we need to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of water systems globally – especially in the realm of irrigation management, the water we use to grow our food. However, a data gap exists about evapotranspiration (ET) which, if fixed, would help us understand the amount of water available and used in irrigation and would help us to have more accurate water balances at the basin level.
Perhaps one of the most exciting developments coming out of the SIWI World Water Week in Stockholm at the end of August was the large number of sessions and debates around the financing issue. In essence, the discussion on how we will collectively raise enough funds to close the financing gap was prominent in many discussions.
It is worth noting that some progress has been made. The issue is now prominent in all the major policy discussions with stakeholders. There is an acknowledgement that domestic finance, rather than international resources, are key to addressing the issue.
In many countries, women walk over six kilometers to collect water. Between 2006 and 2012 in Niger, women traveled an hour, on average, to fetch water. Worldwide, 4.5 billion people lack access to safely managed sanitation services and 2.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water services.
Yet even these large numbers and stunning statistics cannot fully reflect the reality for pockets of societies which bear the brunt of inaccessibility. Marginalized groups and low-income communities often lack basic water and sanitation to a staggering degree - a recent World Bank study found that in Guatemala only 33 percent of the indigenous population have access to sanitation, compared to 77% of the non-indigenous population.
So, what does this mean for the water sector? As people are excluded based on facets of their identity - such as ethnicity, social status, gender, sexual orientation, or disability status – their obstacles to safe and accessible water remain unchanged and overlooked. With the previous numbers in mind, these cases make it all too clear that women and other marginalized groups are absent from decision-making roles. They reveal that water and sanitation all too often become conduits of exclusion and disparity. It is time for the water sector to fully recognize and scrutinize the overlap between inclusion and water.
Social inclusion can involve one or a combination of factors that exclude people from markets and services. It is the path to ensuring that marginalized groups are given a seat at the decision-making table. To this end, inclusion is an important component of the work of the World Bank’s Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership (GWSP). The GWSP aims to deepen social inclusion in water through knowledge generation and curation, country engagements, learning, and stronger partnerships. Moving into its second year, GWSP has supported a number of initiatives and projects to help advance the inclusion agenda:
The latest news about the finance world usually involves stories of blockchain technology, acquisitions and mergers, and stock market fluctuations. But the world of finance is also central to the Sustainable Development Goals and particularly the objective of universal access in the water and sanitation sector.
That’s why scaling-up finance for water is crucial if we are to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the water sector. The SDGs call upon the world to achieve universal WSS access that is safe, affordable, and available to all by 2030. In addition, the SDGs include targets for increasing efficiency of water use across all sectors, protecting and restoring water-related ecosystems, and improving water quality. And water is a fundamental prerequisite to the achievement of all 17 of the goals – water flows through and connects all the other SDGs.
However, many people still live in areas where WSS systems are inadequate or even unavailable. Although drinking water is essential to life, across the world today 2.1 billion people lack reliable access to safely managed drinking water services and 4.5 billion lack safely managed sanitation services. In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, 42 percent of people lack improved water sources within a 30-minute roundtrip.
The World Bank Group’s Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership (GWSP) understands that additional finance for water infrastructure is absolutely critical to achieve the SDGs. The WSS sector alone requires six times more financing than governments, the private sector, and donors are currently funding.
What motivates poor policy and investment decisions? Why do supposedly good policies not translate into practice? And how can we avoid perpetuating pitfalls between policy and pipes?
Our new paper ‘Aligning Institutions and Incentives for Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation Services’, produced with the support of the Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership (GWSP), examines precisely these issues. Through research, analysis, and case studies, the report posits that genuine, sustainable progress in water supply and sanitation service delivery is complex, iterative, and multi-faceted. Whether it’s expanding access, improving efficiency, or providing better services – all reforms require their own unique blend of policies, institutions and regulations and all take place in the context of their own unique enabling environment.