Latin America & Caribbean
An introduction to the who, what, when, where, and why.
Co-author: Héctor Alexander Serrano, Water Resources Specialist, World Bank Water Global Practice
Also available in Español
Water Security is the new buzzword in the water sector… but what does it mean, really? And how is it applied to real life?
For countries and governments, the term national water security means having adequate water, both in quantity and quality, to meet all demands of the population, the productive sectors and the environment, but also dealing well with extremes, and overall managing the resource adequately and efficiently.
In Latin America, home for 650 million people, those changes are not an exception, and the term “Water Security” is becoming more and more relevant. In the most urbanized continent of the developing world, cities grow fast, vulnerability is latent in vast and fragile large peri-urban areas, and enhanced climate phenomena put high stress on water resources management, delivering of water services and means of production. About 227 million people still do not have access to safely managed water supply and more than 500 million do not have access to safely managed sanitation systems. In the Caribbean region, 26 million people fall into poverty each year because of natural disasters. Urban rivers and waterways in the region are among the most polluted in the world, since 70 percent of the wastewater discharged in the region receives no treatment.
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.
To achieve this goal, SUNASS, with the support of the World Bank, visited different WSS sector entities in Colombia which are responsible for the regulation, supervision and issuing policies regarding rural service provision. The objective of this South-South knowledge exchange was to gain valuable information from the Colombian counterparts about the challenges, lessons learned, and useful mechanisms for a successful reform process.
After spending several years in front of a computer every day, I began to feel removed from those people who were the real reason for my work, which aims to build a safer, healthier and more prosperous environment. But when people I knew were directly affected by the issues I was working on, my work took on more meaning and urgency.
Also available in Español
The 8th World Water Forum was held in Brazil a few days ago. What's ironic is that the more than nine thousand of us attending this Forum were discussing water-related issues in a city of three million grappling with a severe water shortage. After checking in at my hotel, the first thing I found in my room was a notice from the Government informing guests of this crisis and recommending ways to reduce water use. We recently learned of the predicament in Cape Town, South Africa, which was on the verge of running out of this essential liquid—a plight facing many cities around the world.
Argentina set ambitious targets of providing universal access to water and 75 percent access to sewerage services for its citizens. How can the country move toward this goal?
That was the theme of the discussion on “Argentina Day” at the recent International Water Association (IWA) Water and Development Congress and Exhibition held in Buenos Aires, where water professionals from around the world and Argentinian officials met to exchange knowledge, experiences, and strategies.
The region is also not homogenous. There is a large disparity in the levels of treatment per country: we see countries like Chile, which treats 90% of its wastewater, and countries like Costa Rica, which treats approximately 4% of its wastewater.
Senior Environmental Economist,
The Nature Conservancy
Water Policy Specialist,
The Nature Conservancy
Balneário Camboriú is both a famous Brazilian beach destination and a water supply management puzzle. The resident population of the city is just 170,000, but swells to over 800,000 during the tourist season. Like many water utilities facing growing demand and the effects of climate change, the local water company, EMASA, must invest carefully to secure water for its fluctuating customer base.
Unlike many water utilities, however, EMASA is investing in the natural system where its water comes from.