Given that World Water Day, March 22, is not even underway in a large part of the world, at the time of this writing, the amount of World Water Day coverage is no small thing. Here is how World Water Day (eve) has unfolded across the World Bank’s social media and websites.
This year’s World Water Day (March 22) focuses on cooperation around water, so it’s a good time to reflect on lessons that those of us working on cooperation in international waters can learn from the experiences and accomplishments in water cooperation in the Nile Basin.
1 basin, 9 countries, 1 vision was in a brochure of one of the Council of Ministers meeting of the Niger Basin. The first time I saw that brochure I smiled as I right away thought about 9-1-1, the emergency telephone number used to respond to emergency circumstances in North America. It made me think about the numerous challenges that the Niger Basin faces.
This large Basin of 2 million square kilometers with a complex hydrology, running through nine countries, including its central part in the Sahel, has significantly untapped potential (agriculture, energy, etc.) that represents high stakes for large groups of communities, environmental degradation, and frequent water shocks (drought and floods). The Basin territory is also home to numerous political challenges, including instability and terrorism activities as highlighted by the ongoing events in Mali. Quite daunting when you look at it from this perspective, and it does give a sense of urgency.
Looking at the financial status of your water utility, would you classify it as a struggling service provider, a developing utility, or a performing service provider? And then, once you decide where it falls on the financial sustainability ladder, what are the best actions to move it up?
In the World Bank we often discuss how important it is to integrate solutions across sectors. In Mombasa, Kenya, we have an example of how a comprehensive sediment management approach will allow the government to lower the environmental impact of a proposed dam and save tens of millions of dollars by reducing the amount of sediment that the dam traps. When too much sediment is trapped in a dam, the lifespan of the dam is shortened considerably so reducing sediment is key for long-term success.
Water management lies behind most of the great development challenges of the 21st Century. It's obvious but we too often forget that we won't be able to achieve food security, energy security, healthy cities and productive ecosystems without greatly improving how we manage water. In the global north, the challenges of basic access to water services are less pressing than they are in the south but -- as hurricane Sandy showed New York -- the challenges of making the right quantity and quality of water available where it is most needed still loom large.
More people today have access to a cell phone than to a clean toilet. At the current rate of progress the world will miss the global sanitation target for 2015 by over half a billion people. And while the drinking water global target was met last year, nearly a billion people still lack access to an improved drinking water source. Most of these statistics are well known by water and sanitation experts, and the wider development community. Perhaps, less known is the economic cost of the water and sanitation crisis.
The first Joint Sector Review and launch of the national Sector Investment Plan (SIP) for the Liberian water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector will take place on February 5-7. With improved sector coordination and a new, systematic plan to achieve national objectives, Liberia is well-positioned to successfully tackle its WASH challenges – if sufficient funding is found.
Water supply and sanitation services are important for a whole host of reasons – time saving, dignity, convenience, economic growth, – including of course, public health. Yet it remains difficult to evaluate the extent to which those services actually do change health outcomes. Public health is affected by many variables, which interact in complex ways.
While on its path to becoming the largest city in the Americas, Sao Paulo used its natural capital - water - to generate electricity, fuel industry, and satiate its ever-growing population. Natural infrastructure was traded for the concrete form and the city’s great rivers paid a high price for industrialization.
The result? Tremendous growth (averaging 5% per annum) that stimulated rapid and unplanned migration to the city and environmental pollution. Urban sprawl generated little to no infrastructure for managing water, sanitation and wastewater, or solid waste. Clearing the land for houses caused erosion and compacted soils, and the resulting increase in runoff has made an already wet city even more prone to floods.