While anecdotes of transformation may be catchier, the gradual absorption of the work of experts and practitioners is frequently how one’s thinking evolves. I left the recent 2018 Global Water Summit not feeling transformed or possessed by the idea that blended finance is THE solution for bridging the humongous financial gap required to meet SDG6, but more convinced than ever it has a key role to play. I was also positively surprised that this financial solution is no longer an exotic stranger to our sector and that a significant number of water supply and sanitation (WSS) practitioners are implementing blended finance schemes.
What does it take to finance sustainable water supply and sanitation? The World Bank Group takes this question very seriously indeed. That’s why during the recent Global Water Summit, the World Bank Group partnered with the organizer, Global Water Intelligence, to present the key concepts of Blended Finance to participants from all over the world.
But what is blended finance and why is the World Bank talking about it?
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Access to a safe, sustainable water supply is a growing concern in every region of the world. In many communities, groundwater is being pumped by diesel fueled systems, which are both expensive and can be difficult to maintain. In communities where electricity is scarce, solar can be a part of the solution.
The highest demand for solar pumps is among rural off-grid areas, currently underserved, or served by costly fuel-driven pumps. Solar pumping is most competitive in regions with high solar insolation, which include most of Africa, South America, South Asia, and Southeast Asia; but the technology can operate successfully in almost any region of the world.
It’s now 2010 and I’m still in Honduras, now amid the reform implementation when reality kicks in. Three new municipal utilities have been established, with catchy logos and new staff and management. Operating costs, salaries in particular, have been slashed, and there’s a sense of opportunity – but also challenges. Those elected mayors are thinking about the next election and not very keen on adjusting tariffs to where they need to be. Installing water meters, a cornerstone of the modernization strategy, is facing a huge backlash from those very customers who are making direct use of the shorter accountability route to make their concerns heard. And services aren’t really getting better as fast as we would want…
Forward to 2014 – I’m now in Croatia. I’m sitting in a non-descript conference hall in Zagreb, Croatia, trying to inform a diverse set of local and central government stakeholders about the pros and cons of merging municipal water utilities into regional operators, as everyone else seems to be doing in the region. In fact, since my transition to Europe & Central Asia the year before, I observe what appears to be a serious case of reformitis: consultants and policy advisors are dutifully preaching the regionalization of just recently decentralized service providers to help implement the European Union’s stringent and costly environmental regulations.
. Poor source water quality, non-existent or insufficient treatment, and defects in water distribution systems and storage mean these consumers use water that often doesn’t meet the WHO’s Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality.
The crowdsourcing framework develops a strategy to engage citizens in measuring and learning about the quality of their own drinking water. Through their participation, citizens provide utilities and water supply agencies with cost-effective water quality data in near-real time. Following a typical crowdsourcing model: consumers use their mobile phones to report water quality information to a central service. That service receives the information, then repackages and shares it via mobile phone messages, websites, dashboards, and social media. Individual citizens can thus be educated about their water quality, and water management agencies and other stakeholders can use the data to improve water management; it’s a win-win.
A challenging area in agricultural water management is the assessment of policy and investment options in irrigated agriculture for conserving water and adapting to increasing water scarcity, in particular when the linkages to groundwater resources and their management are to be considered and incorporated.
However, this is an increasingly important area of research for a number of reasons. First, and is a major contributing factor to the water scarcity situation in many countries. Second, with almost a quarter of freshwater withdrawals for irrigated agriculture being made up of groundwater supplies—corresponding to 70% of total groundwater withdrawals—, And, third, with groundwater discharge contributing to the base flow of streams and surface water contributing to groundwater recharge, and these interactions are intensified by human action, in particular water withdrawals for irrigated agriculture. Even in cases where irrigated agriculture depends mostly on surface water, groundwater impacts therefore need to be accounted for when assessing water conservation efforts (and vice versa).
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.
Ask your child: “Where does our water come from?” And many of them might roll their eyes at being asked such a silly question, and tell you: “Water comes from the tap.”
But how? What is the name of the company that provides the service to you? How much does your water service cost? Is it expensive? Where does your wastewater go? Is it treated prior to discharge? How many people get water from the utility in your town?
You can find answers to these and many other questions on our global website www.ib-net.org. Go to its performance database or its separate tariff database and get your answers! You can be one of nearly 8,000 people that visit the site each month to access a set of standard reports for a range of comparisons, benchmarking and assessments for more than 5,000 water utilities from 150 countries.
This post by Laura Tuck originally appeared on Project Syndicate’s website on May 4, 2016.
Today, actual wars between countries over water resources are uncommon, owing to improved dialogue and cross-border cooperation. But, within countries, competition for scarce water is becoming a more common source of instability and conflict, especially as climate change increases the severity and frequency of extreme weather events. As we detail in our new report “High and Dry: Climate Change, Water and the Economy,” limited and erratic water availability reduces economic growth, induces migration, and ignites civil conflict, which fuels further potentially destabilizing migration.