World Water Week highlights

World Water Week highlights

Did you miss World Water Week 2013? The theme of this year’s conference, held September 1-6 in Stockholm, was water cooperation. More than 200 organizations presented their ideas about how to build partnerships to tackle water crises around the world. Here are Impeller’s highlights from the week.

“I call on all concerned to do their part. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.” So said Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the UN during his opening speech of World Water Week, as he described the water and sanitation issues that still affect billions of people around the world. Below are seven highlights from the week showing how organizations are working together to make a difference:

1. Managing water resources in textile industries

Together with several large Swedish clothing companies and 39 of their Indian suppliers, the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) has launched a program to develop Sustainable Water Resource Management (SWAR) for the Delhi and Jaipur textile industries. In a country where the textile industry engages 35-45 million people and contributes 4 percent to the GDP, it is crucial to address the issue of rapidly falling underground water resources and to find ways to improve the management, use and conservation of water.

2. New tools for tracking water costs and sustainability

At a meeting on life-cycle costing tools, the beta version of the WASH Cost Calculator was launched by the IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre. This online tool allows users to assess the anticipated revenues and expenses for specified water systems, plus sustainability checks based on its life-cycle costs. At the same meeting, Water For People presented its AtWhatCost tool, an Excel-based tool for calculating revenues and expenses in water systems. The Sanitation Investment Tracker was also presented, which can be used to track investment in sanitation at the household level.

3. Sharing water resources in Africa

Over 60 percent of African countries share water resources, and organizations such as Invest Africa and the Nile Basin Initiative have been set up in recognition of the need for shared responsibility. “Africa is leading the way in terms of cooperation,” said Bai-Mass Taal, Executive Director of the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW). “We established the African Water Facility and with the support of the African Development Bank, we are developing and improving infrastructure.”

4. Looking for opportunities across sectors

Conservation International (CI) led a seminar on how the agriculture, conservation and WASH sectors can work together to create cost-effective and sustainable outcomes. Recent CI initiatives include the wide-reaching Tonie Sap Program in Cambodia where 1.2 million people benefited from a conservation and food security program and the Ocean Health Index, the world’s first comprehensive assessment of ocean health.

5. Educating about cleaner hands for better health

Merri Weinger and her colleagues from USAID also tackled the cross-sector issues of WASH, diarrhea and under nutrition in Bangladesh. Part of the Bill & Melinda Gates-funded Alive And Thrive Initiative aimed at reducing stunting in children, the campaign focused on increasing mothers’ understanding of nutrition and the need for regular hand-washing. Upon completion of the campaign, the awareness of effective diarrhea prevention had increased by 37 percent to 70 percent. “While we have no magic bullet,” said Weinger, “these are promising examples of water inclusive interventions which can reduce malnutrition and diarrhea.”

6. Setting a standard for international water stewardship

The Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) has created the world’s first International Water Stewardship Standard, which is intended to act as a roadmap to more sustainable water usage. It aims to provide water users with a credible means to evaluate water impact and implement joint solutions across all sectors and regions. Since releasing the Beta AWS Standard in March 2013, AWS has secured commitments to apply the Standard at 14 sites in nine countries. Read more about the AWS International Water Stewardship Standard.

7. Securing sanitation and safe drinking water in the workplace

In an initiative aimed at drawing together the support of global businesses, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) launched the WASH pledge with an aim to secure access to sanitation, hygiene and safe drinking water in the workplace. Nestlé, Greif, Borealis, EDF, Deloitte LLP and Unilever are among the businesses who have already pledged their support.

by Jane Christie-Smith