2030 WRG in the News

Water Brings People Together to Create a Better Planet

By Walter Staveloz

A report from the 2030 Water Resources Group (November 2009), Charting Our Water Future: Economic world, water demand will exceed supply by 50 per cent. This is an alarming figure and shows the importance of access to this essential resource. Quick, evidence-based decision-making by national and international policymakers is required to avoid dramatic consequences for the planet and its population.

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Desalination booms at 15% a year as world water dries up

In the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, 158 438 residents of the city of Copiapó suffered daily cut-offs of tap water last year as Anglo American and other companies helped suck nearby aquifers dry for their mines. With little water left for drinking or mining, the government of President Sebastián Piñera convinced the companies to seek a solution to the water crisis 60 kilometres away from Copiapó – on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

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Turning off the tap on water as a human right

by Shiney Varghese
EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT: Water policy must not be driven by corporations and global finance. In this photograph, villagers looking for water on the Maneeru riverbed near Singarayakonda in Prakasam district, Andhra Pradesh. Photo: Kommuri Srinivas

EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT: Water policy must not be driven by corporations and global finance. In this photograph, villagers looking for water on the Maneeru riverbed near Singarayakonda in Prakasam district, Andhra Pradesh. Photo: Kommuri Srinivas

The new draft National Water Policy (NWP) circulated by the Ministry of Water Resources to water experts suggests that the government is poised to withdraw from its responsibilities of water service delivery, and that multinational corporations and financial institutions might have too big a say in water allocation and policy.

At first glance, it appears as if the policy takes a holistic approach to water resources management, with a clear recognition of India’s water woes. It accords pre-emptive priority for safe and clean drinking water and sanitation to all and prioritises meeting the water requirements for ecosystems.

However, a closer look shows that some important points are missing. To begin with, water is not articulated strongly enough as a fundamental human right in this draft. This is despite India voting in favour of the United Nations General Assembly resolution on Right to Water, in 2010. But there are various suggestions to institutionalise the treatment of water as an economic good. In addition, the draft NWP proposes to limit the role for government in public services. When in other parts of the world water services are being brought back into public realm due to negative experiences with private sector water provision, this policy suggests that the government should function simply as a service facilitator, and that service delivery should be handed over to local communities or the private sector.

Crisis and conservation

While such proposals are not new, what is new is that these policies are justified in the name of dealing with the water crisis and in the name of conservation!

The draft also recommends “full cost recovery” of water used as the means for achieving efficient use of water. While full cost recovery will help meet the costs of water delivery, it does not deter water use among those who can afford to pay. In that sense it works particularly against lower income groups, and groups that use water for activities that have low economic returns. Full cost recovery needs to be accompanied by protection of the right to water for basic needs, including that for basic livelihood strategies.

Moreover, in the area of water quality conservation, the important “polluter pays principle” has disappeared. It has been replaced with “incentives” for effluent treatment and for reuse of water. While reclaiming wastewater is necessary to bridge the water deficit, in the absence of strong regulations to limit polluting activities, such incentives to polluters (to treat effluents), might work as a perverse incentive to pollute more. These are also opportunities for some of the worst water polluters to profiteer: companies such as Dow Chemicals are developing patented water purification technology. If these policies are unlikely to protect the basic right to water, it begs the question: who are the advocates and beneficiaries of these policies?

New report

It is likely that a recent report, “National Water Resources Framework Study: Roadmaps for Reforms,” might have had some influence on this draft NWP. There are striking convergences between sections of this report and parts of the draft water policy. This report, by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), was commissioned at the request of the Planning Commission of India to the 2030 Water Resources Group (WRG), via the International Finance Corporation. The report was commissioned even while several Planning Commission constituted working groups were preparing reports on various aspects of water governance.

The CEEW is one of the main Indian partners of the WRG, a high profile public-private partnership housed in the International Finance Corporation (of the World Bank Group). Financed by multilateral banks and bilateral aid organisations among others, the WRG’s strategic partners include the multinational firms Cargill, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Unilever and McKinsey & Company.

Influencing policy

The WRG is systematically trying to influence how the world’s water will be allocated in future. It is seeking to influence the water policy in India, South Africa, Mexico, Jordan, China and Mongolia, where it is targeting public officials in water and environmental ministries. For India its targets were more ambitious: the states of Karnataka and Maharashtra, and “potentially the National Planning Commission.” In their efforts to make inroads into national and regional policy making arenas, they seem fairly successful. For example, in India, since 2010, the WRG has successfully been collaborating with the Confederation of Indian Industry and the CEEW to influence water policy in Karnataka, and now it appears, at the Centre.

The WRG is particularly interested in influencing agricultural policies, especially crop choices and agricultural water allocation in the countries they target. The reason for its focus on a “water-efficient,” “productivity-oriented” agriculture, and the importance they place on the role of food value-chain players is self-evident: the WRG is led by the transnational agriculture and food related businesses that constitute its main members. However, such water sector reforms will become yet another way to push already vulnerable peasant agriculturists further into poverty. Civil society groups in Karnataka are aware of and oppose the dangerous path their State is tempted to take.

But it is not going to be easy for them in Karnataka or elsewhere. For example, a quote ascribed to Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, suggests that he sees the WRG as an answer to the problems in international water governance: “The problem is that we have no coordinated global management authority in the U.N. system or the world at large. The World Economic Forum’s effort to develop the economic and geopolitical forecast on water is essential. For the first time, all the different perspectives and expertise required to define the full dimension of the problem are brought together.”

In many ways the draft national water policy epitomises not only what is being advocated in the area of water governance, but also the problems with the initiatives being pursued around the world. Multinationals are no longer content with profiteering from their traditional areas of businesses: they want to play a larger role in the allocation of the world’s natural resources, which have so far been in the public realm. The actual water users and their representatives are marginalised. In the context of the climate crisis that the draft policy seeks to address, it is important to remember that a large number of water users, farmers and local communities have been taking prudent decisions in the area of effective water management and adaptation. There is substantial practical knowledge that they can bring to the table that would completely change the way to look at issues. Rules governing the use of water, an essential part of life itself, must be the result of careful consultation with all stakeholders, especially the least powerful, and should not be driven by corporations and international finance. This is important not only in India, but for what it could mean for the future of water governance globally.

The writer is a Minneapolis-based analyst working on global water policy initiatives at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, a U.S. NGO. Email: svarghese@iatp.org

Source: The Hindu

Water at Davos 2012: launching a new model for partnership

By Dominic Waughray 

As the issue of freshwater scarcity becomes ever more pressing, a new partnership aims to help governments change their business as usual approach to water management

Awareness of risks from water scarcity is growing globally and driving innovation to find solutions. Photograph: AFP

Awareness of risks from water scarcity is growing globally and driving innovation to find solutions. Photograph: AFP

While much of the focus in Davos is on the macro-economic fault lines that are holding back global growth and job creation and promoting inequality, there is also a green thread addressing sustainability and natural resource issues running through the annual meeting. Indeed, since Davos 2008, the World Economic Forum has sustained a focus on one of the most immediate and pressing natural resource risks to delivering the growth we will need: sustainable access to freshwater.

According to the Water Resources Group (WRG), there may be a 40% gap between the required demand for, and the safe available supply of freshwater, by 2030 under business as usual practices.

The WRG is a pioneering partnership that the World Economic Forum has been helping to develop with the International Finance Corporation for the past two years. The scheme involves development institutions such as the World Bank Group; bilateral development agencies such as USAID, large water using companies from the food, beverage, construction and mining sectors and expert organisations, NGOs and think tanks.

The WRG helps governments of water scarce countries to accelerate their water reform agenda. It does so by bringing together influential people from government, civil society and business with global water experts. The organisation works with these experts to develop water resources analysis in formats that are digestible for politicians and business leaders.

For example, the WRG will help governments to see how, for growth to happen and for enough water to be available to meet society’s needs, business as usual water practices in thirsty economic sectors such as agriculture, energy and industry cannot continue. In many cases, agriculture utilises over 70% of the freshwater withdrawals of a country. If food production and energy demands are to increase, then trade-offs must be made to avoid acute water scarcity derailing growth. Adapting to less water under potential climate change scenarios also needs to be factored in.

This sort of national analysis often illustrates to a government that there is a difference between the water that is safely available for a country, and the quantity of water it would need to meet its economic growth aspirations by 2030 under business as usual water management approaches. Consequently, a strategy is required to close this gap.

An important feature in these strategies is often to manage the connections between water, food and energy. Related to the work of the WRG, the World Economic Forum published a book on the Water-Food-Energy-Nexus in 2011. It is safe to say that the nexus has now become a broadly adopted framework for looking at the interconnected natural resource management challenges of food, energy and water.

With government, civil society and business in agreement that an integrated plan is required, cost effective options need to be considered. Key political and economic figures, as well as water specialists, now recognise that a water reform plan is important to both a country’s economic growth and its social and environmental wellbeing.

The WRG has provided support to the governments of Mexico, India (the State Government of Karnataka) and Jordan. Substantive and well supported reform programs have been developed and are underway in each location. The multi-sector expertise on offer from the WRG partnership helps the governments to deliver best practice approaches, drawn from NGO projects, research organisations and business solutions.

Discussions in Davos will hear from the governments who have been engaged in the work so far. A next stage in the development of this new water partnership will also be launched. The International Finance Corporation, on behalf of the World Bank Group, will host the next stage of development of the WRG.

It will become a new global entity aiming to help developing countries who are challenged by water scarcity. Aid agencies and leading global companies are coming together to support it. The ambition is to have the WRG help the governments of eight to 10 developing countries over the next two years, representing a variety of geographies and economic contexts. If successful then this could be a new model for development that can be replicated in other areas.

Dominic Waughray is senior director at the World Economic Forum, where he is also head of environmental initiatives

Prince Feisal participates in World Economic Forum Special Meeting on water

Dead Sea, October 21 (Petra)— His Royal Highness, Prince Feisal bin Al Hussein joined Jordanian and international experts at the World Economic Forum Special Meeting on Economic Growth and Job Creation in the Arab World at the Dead Sea to consider how water management in Jordan can be transformed into a system that will guarantee job growth and health for decades to come. At a private session, entitled “Collaborative Pathways for a Water Secure Future,” experts discussed how the looming water crisis will affect economic, social and political life in Jordan, and how government, business, and civil society can make water use as productive as possible. In his keynote address, His Royal Highness Prince Feisal described the need for all sectors of Jordanian and international society to come together to determine the best way to modernize water management in an effort to ensure meaningful growth and future prosperity of the country. To support such efforts, His Royal Highness announced that he had re-convened the Royal Water Commission to up-date the Kingdom’s national strategy, “Water for Life.” “Water impacts on all pillars of our economies. Agricultural production, energy generation, industry and manufacturing. If we are unable to provide sustainable water resources to enable such economic activity, we are essentially limiting the growth potential and associated job prospects and livelihoods of our people.” Secretary General of the Ministry of Water and Irrigation Maysoon Zoubi noted a collaboration and analysis sponsored by USAID and the Water Resources Group last year, that concluded that the demand for water resources Jordan requires in 2030 will exceed its available supply. To minimize this water “gap”, the analysis identified efficiency and allocation options that would save money for the government and water users while delaying the need for new sources. The WRG analysis also identified water uses that cost the government more money than they contribute to the national economy requiring high level Ministerial debate to address the issues. The WRG collaboration and work has supported the development of existing initiatives and is currently being discussed between the government and key partners to structure and agree on a long term multi-stakeholder programme to take forward the analysis.

Director of USAID in Jordan Kevin Rushing called water efficiency the “win-win response to scarcity,” adding that “there is no doubt that water use will change The question is whether we have the foresight to adapt to change or if we will be forced to react in the face of crisis.” Drawing from the conclusions of the WRG analysis and the work of other existing programmes such as USAID’s Institutional Strengthening and Support Programme, the session considered themes for the new national strategy that the Ministry of Water and Irrigation aims to submit to a new National Water Council. The themes include Supply and Demand, Water, Energy and Food ,Economic and Financing, Institution and Legislation, Water Quality in the Natural Environment and Transboundary and Shared Water All speakers emphasized the importance of cooperation among all sectors for reform. As His Royal Highness Prince Feisal stated, “We need a public-private- civil society and also academic coalition working in harmony to address this monumental challenge. And it falls on all of us to ensure its success.”