There is an emerging gap between safe freshwater availability and water demand in many developing and fast-growing economies around the world. Recent analysis suggests that this gap will be about 40% globally by 2030 if business as usual water management approaches continue. The economic, environmental, social and political challenges that this water gap presents governments are very real. Agriculture is currently responsible for about 70% of annual global freshwater withdrawals and up to 90% in some parts of Asia; yet governments across Asia will also need on average 65% more freshwater withdrawals for their industry and energy sectors and household use by 2030 in order for their national economies to grow as forecast and for people to have access to water. With finite limits to freshwater availability (including for environmental sustainability) facing many governments across Asia, Africa and Latin America, and the Middle East how can water resources be organized to safely deliver the water needed to fuel growth, as well as for humans and the environment?

The scale of the water security problem makes it an interconnected global issue, not just a series of local or national ones. Global demand for food is projected to grow approximately 40% by 2030, yet some predict that due to potential shortages of water for agriculture there is a risk of a 30% shortfall in cereal production by 2030. Such a shortfall occurring at the same time as rising global demand makes it likely that an increasing number of local water challenges for agriculture would turn into a global crisis in our interconnected economy. Recent fluctuations in food commodity prices and the social, economic and political challenges they create offer some sense of the potential future. Consequently, the water resource challenge is a very real economic issue for the governments of many developing and fast growing countries, and a key risk to global economic stability. As a government in a water stressed region seeks to deliver on its economic growth plans, it need to make decisions on how to best manage competing demands for freshwater between its agricultural, energy and industrial sectors. It also needs to address how freshwater should be protected to ensure the sustainability of the freshwater resource base and adequate environmental flows, noting that increased climatic variability and demographic pressures such as urbanization will likely add extra stress on the system.

The water sector has historically been managed at the technical and sub-national level, and has not been considered an issue of national economic importance. The role of water as a public good imparts complexity into any government-led transformation of water management. While governments are the ultimate custodian of the national water resource and play a critical role in creating the enabling environment, other stakeholders also play a vital role in formulating and delivering actionable and inclusive solutions. There is in many cases a need for the formation of a broad multi-stakeholder platforms, that can help governments come up with innovative and “out of the box” solutions, that so far have not been considered in traditional water resource management. Such platforms need to be inclusive, open and transparent, and include representatives from civil society, NGOs and the business community. There is deep and wide technical expertise within the water resources community. The private sector can be a rich repository of knowledge and insights on how to address the water security challenge and on-the ground experience in innovating and implementing a range of practical solutions, such as in water efficiency and water supply. However an underpinning challenge is how to help the water community, including the private sector, create the wider political economy conditions and momentum for change in water reform, such that this expertise can be brought to bear in the design and implementation of a comprehensive set of policies, programs and projects. This is the role that 2030Water Resources Group (2030 WRG) seeks to fill.

The 2030 Water Resources Group (2030 WRG)

The 2030 Water Resources Group (2030 WRG) is a neutral platform that provides a partnership to help government water officials and other water sector specialists accelerate reforms that will ensure sustainable water resource management for the long-term development and economic growth of their country. It does so by helping to change the “political economy” for water reform in the country by convening new actors and providing water resource data in ways that are manageable for politicians and business leaders. 2030 WRG acts as an independent entity and offers no political, partisan or national nuance to the advice proposed. It works closely with in-country water professionals and engages with its government clients in a rapid, time-bound manner, by invitation only.

2030 WRG’s initial phase had been financed and nurtured during 2008-2011 through an informal collaboration between IFC, World Economic Forum (WEF) and some bilateral aid agencies, private sector companies and other organizations and was hosted at WEF.  The 2030 WRG works solely at the invitation of governments to undertake its in-country activities. To date 2030 WRG has responded to invitations from the Governments of India and the state of Karnataka, Jordan, South Africa, Mexico, Mongolia, Peru and Tanzania.  Following the Davos 2011 decision to transition the current 2030 WRG program into a scalable operation, IFC and various participants in the 2030 WRG have agreed to develop a more formal structure for 2030 WRG, to be hosted initially within IFC.  After the period of transfer between WEF and IFC, the 2030 WRG started its second phase in July 2012.