Building partnerships to support and restore river ecosystems

By Sayef Tanzeem Qayyum, 2030 WRG Bangladesh Country Coordinator; and Ahmed Shawky, World Bank Senior Water Resources Management Specialist South Asia

as published on The Water Blog (view the original post here)


waste water


Located in central Bangladesh, the capital city of Dhaka attracts the majority of the area’s rural migrants and has grown to a population of 18 million. It is expected to become the third most populous city in the world by 2050. Dhaka’s landscape is dominated by five rivers and 200 canals, which all play a critical role in supporting the city – the rivers are an integral part of the lives of its inhabitants, as they provide transport, drainage, recreation, and fisheries. These rivers are also considered the lifeline of the environment and ecosystem of the Greater Dhaka area.

Despite its national importance, however, Dhaka is now the fourth-least livable city in the world, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Livability Index 2020. The mismanagement of the rivers is one of the contributors to this low ranking.  Due to pollution, the quality of Dhaka’s rivers is far below the national standards. Water pollution and overpopulation lead to poor drainage systems, which result in two extremes: reduced river flows in some places and waterlogging or flooding in others.

Fragmented government institutions have to strengthen their capacities to deal with the growing challenges exacerbated by rapid urbanization and population growth. The environmental, health, and economic costs associated with river pollution are estimated to be around $2.83 billion annually (World Bank Country Environmental Analysis, 2018).  And it has been estimated that without any action, the total financial loss due to river pollution would be $51 billion over the next 20 years (2030 WRG Bangladesh Dhaka Rivers Rapid Assessment Study, 2021). The major causes of water pollution that are degrading the city’s river ecosystems include:

  • Domestic wastewater: The current sewage network covers only 20% of the city and is inadequate and inefficient. Urban areas lack public wastewater management services and large amounts of untreated municipal wastewater are discharged into water bodies.
  • Industrial effluents: Daily discharge of industrial wastewater is huge due to the rapid growth of textile, leather, chemical, and pharmaceutical industries, and there are very few operational effluent treatment plants. Over 10,000 industries around Dhaka discharge untreated effluents into surface water (Department of Environment, 2018). Absence of proper enforcement of regulatory compliance according to environmental performance standards makes the situation worse.
  • Biomedical waste: Toxic liquid waste and infectious biomedical waste from hospitals, laboratories, and other healthcare facilities are often discharged into drains and sewage systems, posing serious hazards to public health and the environment.
  • Encroached structures: When structures are built encroaching along river banks, they add yet another source of pollution, as huge volumes of garbage are ultimately discharged into the rivers for landfilling purposes.

Unregulated use of water resources for economic and social activities creates an urgent need to protect and restore our ecosystems, which in turn, contributes to the achievement of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals by their 2030 target date. Hence in March 2019, the United Nations General Assembly declared the years 2021 to 2030 as the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, which aims to massively scale up the restoration of natural ecosystems that have been degraded and destroyed by human activities.

In reality, restoration of water ecosystems is a complex issue and requires partnership at many levels to achieve long-term water solutions. In practice, this means bringing together people from different groups – such as governments, business groups, civil society, academia, and the investor community – to build mutual trust that will translate into meaningful decisions and actions.

On this note, the 2030 Water Resources Group (2030 WRG) – through its Bangladesh Water Multi-Stakeholder Partnership (BWMSP) – is working together with the World Bank and Government of Bangladesh (GoB) partners on a project proposal to support the ecological restoration of the rivers and canals around Dhaka.   Preliminary discussions have focused on improving the water flows and navigability of five major rivers – Buriganga, Turag, Balu, Tongi, and Shitalakkhya – and their tributaries in and around the greater metropolitan region, as well as enhancing domestic wastewater management around Dhaka.

A project of this scale will require the involvement of multiple ministries, implementing agencies, and meaningful private sector engagement. This is where the 2030 WRG steps in. An innovative public-private platform, 2030 WRG analyzes, coordinates, and supports dialogue and collaboration among diverse stakeholders to help catalyze water sector transformations.  The global partnership has been working in Bangladesh since December 2015, following the Prime Minister’s approval, and gazetting of the BWMSP, and has developed partnerships between the government, private sector, and civil society to value water as a finite resource. This maturity, along with the quasi-legal status of the BWMSP, has resulted in a well-established and trusted program with the ability to attract funding for large, long-term projects to address complex water challenges.

With cross-sector collaboration and support from all stakeholders, it is possible to restore and protect degraded ecosystems, support resiliency, and bring life back to the rivers in and around Dhaka. We will continue to work with the Government of Bangladesh to turn this possibility into a successful reality.

50L Home Coalition: Ending our dependence on freshwater for urban sanitation systems

The world is facing an urban water crisis: 70% of the world’s 20 megacities are already experiencing water scarcity or droughts – disrupting business, exacerbating inequalities, and threatening health. Cities worldwide face the risk of looming “Day-Zero” – the day when water sources run dry. One example is Cape Town, South Africa, which had to ration its water consumption to 50 liters (L) per day per person. In contrast, the average per capita household water use is highly inefficient – at 150 L to 500 L per person each day, using drinkable water to flush toilets as well as drain water from showers and washing machines into sewages.

The world is also facing climate change because of increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Most domestic water is heated for showering, handwashing, dishwashing, shaving, and laundering. Heating the water is the second-highest source of GHG emissions after heating the home itself, contributing to 16% of total energy use.

50 Liter Home (50LH) is an inspiration and ambition to help solve two of the world’s most pressing challenges: water security and climate change. 50LH aims to reinvent sustainable home-living and make it an irresistible aspiration for all. It will do so right in people’s homes by creating innovative, sustainable solutions that bring down daily per capita water consumption in the home from as high as 500 L per day, while making 50 L of daily water use per person feel like 500 L. To this end, there have been several innovative technologies, regulations, and consumer campaigns over the last decade or so that aim to reduce or remove the need for water.

To take the example of toilet use, water efficiency product labeling plays an important role in informing consumers. A recent study highlighted that many well-established labels deliver quantifiable water and energy savings as well as reduce customer bills. The WaterSense label, a voluntary partnership program sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has shown how if inefficient toilets in the United States are replaced with WaterSense-labeled models, there could be savings of 360 billion gallons (or 1.6 billion m3) of water per year. From a technology perspective, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been instrumental in catalyzing innovation through their Reinventing the Toilet challenge, which has led to the commercialization of a number of no- to low-water toilets in developed and developing countries. And considering that today, 4.2 billion people are living without access to safely managed sanitation, we must ensure that urban systems are designed to meet these basic needs and at the same time reduce dependencies on good quality water.

While these approaches to reducing and removing the need for water have led to incremental reductions in household water consumption, it is reuse in the home that offers transformational opportunities. A recently published paper from research funded by the Gates Foundation demonstrated the effectiveness of technologies to recycle water from hand washing and toilet flush water in real-life applications. But as is often the case, while the technology is effective, there are broader systemic issues that need to be addressed for widescale deployment, and these are the kind of issues that 50LH is tackling. There are several critical perspectives to look at:

  • With lower flows into and out of homes, what is the impact of low- or no-water products on existing centralized urban water supply and sewerage systems?
  • What are the key value drivers for consumer behavior change for the widespread adoption of products that reuse water or use less water?
  • What is required in terms of standards, regulations, norms, and product labeling for reusing water in the home?
  • How to incentivize real estate developers and investors to adopt 50LH concepts in construction projects?
  • How do we connect and reuse water across the home: laundry, bathroom, and kitchen?

Responding to these questions requires unusual partnerships, new thinking, and in situ testing, all things that 50LH aims to facilitate. It is a desperate fact that two-thirds of the global population does not have access to safely managed sanitation, and we echo calls made by world leaders to prioritize water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions.

As such, 50LH is backed by a coalition to help turn it into reality. Launched on October 27, 2020, 50LH is spearheaded by Procter & Gamble and supported by the World Economic Forum (WEF), 2030 Water Resources Group, and World Business Council for Sustainable Development. The Coalition is led by a pioneering group of private sector, public sector, and civil society representatives, including Arcadis, Electrolux, Kohler, and Suez.

The Coalition aims for a transformation and system-change over the entire water value chain, behind 4 key deliverables:

  • Education: reshaping people’s relationship with, and the value of, water
  • Innovation: developing solutions to make 50L feel like 500L inside the home and within the wider urban water system
  • Regulation: advancing policy, regulatory, and industry frameworks
  • Implementation: launching pilots in water-stressed cities that mobilize local stakeholders and financing

50LH was selected by WEF as one of the top 100 Lighthouse Projects in 2020 for Social, Environmental, and Governance Impact. It works toward United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 6 (clean water and sanitation), 11 (sustainable cities and communities), 12 (responsible consumption and production), and 13 (climate action).

While many projects focus on rural access, 50LH is unique in tackling the urban conservation of water, at a worldwide scale, and as a system-change, recognizing that cities will host 60% of the population by 2030 and generate 70% of CO2 emissions worldwide.*

Most importantly, 50LH is novel in its 100% user-centric design approach, inventing for circular residential water consumption starting from the very inside of our homes, stemming from people’s needs and desires across the various points of use (showers, faucets, appliances) – all the way to the outside sewages, municipal treatment, and re-treatment infrastructures.


International Women’s Day: Highlighting the importance of women in water resources management

By Neema Ndikumwami

While checking in on partner Nestlé, Neema from the 2030 WRG Tanzania team took the opportunity to co-lead a discussion on women professionals in water management.

A partner visit turned out to be an important meeting on highlighting women as key stakeholders in water management.

It was meant to be a routine partner update visit. I was visiting Nestlé Tanzania’s office in Dar es Salaam to give an update on the progress of the Private Sector working group to Ms. Marsha Macatta-Yambi, Nestle’s Scientific and Regulatory Affairs Manager, and a team of sales and nutrition specialists. Instead, the meeting turned into a discussion about the importance of involving women in water projects and policy planning.

The inspiration for what I shared came from a 2018 article entitled “Women are the secret weapon for better water management” by Ayushi Trivedi, a Gender and Social Equity Research Analyst at the World Resources Institute. In the article, Trivedi gives examples of water projects that have been saved after women were given the opportunity to take a leading role in their management and implementation. While traditionally women have been excluded from decision-making roles, “a growing body of evidence shows that water projects can become more effective when women participate.” The article reports that when women are involved in water committees and provided with training, they can “influence water management” and “their communities get measurably better outcomes – including better-functioning water systems, expanded access and economic and environmental benefits.” A UNDP study referenced in the article, which looked at 44 water projects across Asia and Africa, found that “when both men and women engage in shaping water policies and institutions, communities use water services more and sustain them for longer.”

This is also true in my own experience. In 2009, the Tanzanian government built a community water infrastructure in a neighborhood in Mwanza, a port city on the shore of Lake Victoria, in northern Tanzania. The water user committee in charge of the construction and maintenance of the project involved predominately men. After just six months, the project was failing – water revenues were not being collected, and the project was forced to close due to poor maintenance. Before the project shut down, women from the nearby villages volunteered to take over its management. After three months, the water revenues collections were up-to-date, the water source was in good working order, and once again, the community was able to access clean water.

A dominant perception that a woman’s place is in the home means that their potential contributions to community projects are often overlooked. More effort is required – from the government, NGOs, and their male counterparts – to ensure that women are given an opportunity to participate in projects that target their community.

During the meeting, I welcomed others to share instances they have come across where women’s participation impacted the success of a water project. Many shared stories from their communities, where women have become critical in managing community water and agricultural projects. The common theme across the stories shared was that once women were given the opportunity to participate in decision-making, they were able to provide critical management skills.

The meeting ended with each participant pledging their commitment to women and gender equality. The participants were requested to make true their pledges as they will be required to report them in next year’s International Women’s Day event. My pledge is “to contribute ideas and actions toward addressing women equality in my household and my community, in particular in water-related issues.” What is your pledge?




Neema is the Partnerships Coordinator of the 2030 WRG in Tanzania. Feel free to contact her at

Lessons from the field: A conversation with the 2030 WRG Ethiopia team

As 2030 WRG enters an exciting new expansion phase, it is an opportune time to reflect on the experience of setting up multi-stakeholder partnerships (MSPs) in other countries. How did expectations differ from the reality on the ground? What lessons can be taken forward and applied in new engagements?

For this article, 2030 WRG sat down with members of the 2030 WRG team in Ethiopia to discuss the challenges of engaging with a nascent private sector.

Background: In September 2016, the Ethiopian government invited 2030 WRG to explore opportunities for establishing an MSP to support sustainable water management. In December 2017, the Planning and Development Commission (PDC and formerly National Planning Commission) formally invited 2030 WRG to jointly coordinate and undertake analytical work in the form of a hydro-economic analysis (HEA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy (MoWIE) to provide insights into the 10-year planning strategy for Ethiopia. The HEA is currently under review and is expected to be published later this year.

Rain clouds gather over Tigray, Ethiopia. Rod Waddington, 2018.

2030 WRG: Let’s start by setting the scene. What are the major water challenges in Ethiopia?

Mekuria Tafesse, Ethiopia Country Coordinator: The challenges are many and interdependent. For example, rainfall variability in the country is high, which could be managed through sufficient storage capacity, but per capita storage is very low. Likewise, if we look at policy, the regulatory provisions are largely in place, as are the institutional arrangements, but enforcement capacity is limited. The result is the unconstrained use of water and unmanaged effluent disposal.

Nina Clara Jansen, Program Advisor: And there are exacerbating factors as well. Climate change, worsening instances of drought, and low resilience in combination with the unregulated abstraction of water results in inequality around water usage. For example, there are cases where factories have access to water, but the communities next to them do not.

Girum Bahri Tegegn, Industry Workstream Coordinator: Yes, agreed. And linked to that is the challenge around valuing water and wastewater treatment services appropriately. There is a flat rate for water, and therefore no incentive for the private sector to economize usage.

Joy Busolo, Senior Water Resource Management Specialist: Industrial production in Ethiopia is almost exclusively reliant on groundwater, so although it is less susceptible to the fluctuations in water availability that are commonplace given extreme rainfall variability, there are concerns around long-term sustainability if abstraction is not managed appropriately. But industry accounts for just around 1 percent of total water withdrawals. By comparison, the agricultural sector accounts for over 75 percent, and agricultural output is highly sensitive to variations in water availability. Reports show that accounting for knock-on impacts in other sectors, a drought in the Awash basin – which hosts a large concentration of agricultural and industrial production – could cause GDP to decline by 20 percent. So like Mekuria said, Ethiopia’s water challenges are interconnected.

2030 WRG: What type of barriers exist to multi-stakeholder cooperation in a setting like Ethiopia where economic growth has been driven largely by the public sector over the last decade?

MT: There is a strong desire from the public sector to engage the private sector, but there is not yet an established framework for private sector engagement.

Deborah Mekonnen Kefale, Program Coordinator: The private sector in Ethiopia has primarily participated in the water sector as a supplier to big infrastructure projects. In this sense, they have acted exclusively as service providers contracted through the public sector, unlike in other contexts where there is a robust private sector with established firms that deliver services directly to the population. The private sector, in general, has not been very active in many sectors of the economy.

NCJ: Within the private sector there is a varying appetite for partnership. Where firms have easy access to water, the business case for engagement is not obvious. But in cases where companies are dealing directly with issues around availability for their operations or for the communities around them, they are keener.


2030 WRG: So the context in Ethiopia differs significantly from many of the countries in which 2030 WRG operates, with the major standout factor being a fledgling private sector. Perhaps unsurprisingly, as a result, the timeline for launching the MSP in Ethiopia has been much longer than what has been the average across other 2030 WRG countries. How have expectations differed from experience on the ground?

NCJ: The expectation was that by now there would be an active national MSP with several workstreams operational. The reality is that we are not there yet.

MT: Typically the first step of the 2030 WRG workflow is the HEA, which is the primary advocacy tool for driving interest and participation in the MSP. Setting up the MSP is the second major milestone. In Ethiopia publication of the HEA has been delayed. When it first became apparent that we would not be able to launch the HEA according to the original timeline, we decided to shift the strategy and develop the MSP in parallel to the HEA, but this turned out not to be possible, so we had to shift our strategy again. In the end, we were able to adapt the original HEA advisory group into two standalone private and public sector forums. In Ethiopia’s unique context, these separate groups enabled us to build trust among the stakeholder groups first, which has led to increased trust between both groups.

DMK: There is now more openness to the private sector, especially with the recent political changes. We are seeing the public sector take initiative to engage with the private sector, which is a very big step forward.

MT: The next step now is creating a framework for constructive engagement, which will require a shift in mindset as to what constitutes the private sector. Typically, they are viewed only as service providers and not as water users. This is especially relevant when we look at water efficiency measures. Where water availability is not a problem, the focus has been on building new infrastructure rather than managing existing supplies and curbing demand.


2030 WRG: It sounds like a factor underpinning the future success of a national MSP is shifting attitudes and perceptions around water risks and private sector cooperation. Is that accurate?

GBT: The aggregate numbers don’t show the water stress, the stress is localized. Consequently, people are not worried about managing the resource. This is contrary to the 2019 World Economic Forum’s Regional Risks to Doing Business assessment, which counts water as one of the top 10 risks to business. In Ethiopia, water was rated as number two. As business and consumerism grow, so will demand for water.

NCJ: In areas where the stress is being felt, companies are well aware of the water risks. Likewise in cases where demand is quickly increasing, there are calls for a more stringent regulatory framework to address issues of water availability and quality. For example, in locations where increased industrial activity is planned, there is a trend towards urbanization as work-force settle in the surrounding towns. Regulatory frameworks are required to allocate water for both industries and citizens.

JB: In some cases that shift is already happening but on an individual basis. As 2030 WRG we can leverage these opportunities to move to accelerate the transition from ideas to action. As an example, off the back of the consultations we were doing as part of the HEA development, a coalition of beverage companies approached 2030 WRG with a desire to improve their water management practices. Working together with these companies, we were able to create a national Beverages Alliance for Water to help raise awareness of water scarcity, stimulate collective action to lower the sector’s water footprint and drive dialogue around policy frameworks.

DMK: In this regard, the HEA will be an important tool to help raise awareness about the risks and build the business case for demand management.


2030 WRG: What lessons do you think can be drawn from Ethiopia’s experience in terms of launching an MSP?

DMK: MSP development can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach. We have learned that what works in one country won’t necessarily work in another. There are always alternatives. And most importantly, the approach and even the MSP itself must be responsive to local needs and capacities.

MT: There needs to be careful planning around identifying key stakeholders, being mindful of frictions that may exist. It is also a good idea to work closely with those entities that will be involved in clearing any research for publication. Be aware of the workflow and clearance process, and plan accordingly.

NCJ: Scope out what could be a goal – is it realistically an MSP? Every country has a different environment and approach. Identify which partners to put in the driver’s seat and for what. What could their contribution be? Create a clear agenda and vision.

GBT: Until such a time as the HEA is done and there is a systematic way of identifying constraints, look for low-hanging fruit and quick wins that can help build relationships and trust.

JB: Successful multi-stakeholder partnerships are effective because those that participate are dedicated and share a mutual understanding of the challenges and priorities. That isn’t something that happens overnight. Taking the time to align incentives and build collaborative, trust-based relationships is crucial.

2030 WRG: Ethiopia team, thank you so much for sharing your insights.

-END –

Financing the Water Sector – An Alternate Approach

By Kavita Sachwani*

Water – the universal solvent

With a strong causal relationship between water security and economic growth already evident, investments in the water sector are key for sustainable development and inclusive growth, leading to the realisation of multiple SDGs, including those on food security, health, and clean energy. Water-related investments address a multitude of inter-related needs viz., irrigation for food security, providing drinking water and sanitation services, and reducing pollution by promoting wastewater treatment services.  In the emerging spectre of climate change, water has moved centre-stage as improving its efficient use as a resource holds promise for sustaining farm-based rural economy towards bringing about urban stability. Given that there is either too little water, too much water, or too polluted water, lack of investment at the desired level hampers water security.

Investment in water security

Large, long-term investments are required in resilient water infrastructure, climate-smart agricultural systems, improved drainage, nature-based flood protection, etc.  Stringent regulations around water quality and the need to promote a circular economy are forcing water users across sectors to invest in newer cutting-edge technologies to meet these standards. For example: (i) emerging contaminants are accumulating in water and require innovative technologies for efficient removal, (ii) digitization is rapidly penetrating the water industry (such as smart real-time sensors, AI, ML, smart metering, leak detection, satellite imaging, large efficiency gains, and increased water security), and (iii) water infrastructure around the world is ageing and so require replacement coupled with incorporating new technologies to increase efficiency.

The financing gap

However, there is a big financing gap that exists between investments required and current investments flowing in these key areas. The UN estimates the gap in financing to achieve the SDGs at USD 2.5 trillion per year in developing countries alone.[1]  For irrigation, the FAO estimates that some USD 960 billion will be required between 2005/07 and 2050 to ensure water for agricultural production in 93 developing countries (Koohafkan et al. 2011). For water supply and sanitation, an estimated USD 1.7 trillion will be needed (Hutton and Varughese 2016). Failure to address investment in the water sector could diminish growth rates by as much as 6 percent of GDP by 2050.[2]

Aligning the financial case for water with the social, environmental, and economic case for water

The economic argument for water is often weak on account of its public good nature and the tragedy of the commons, leading to a disregard for sustainability. Even where investment in water security makes economic sense, the economic argument has not translated into a compelling financial case for investment, and water continues to be an under-valued and underpriced resource. Aligning the financial case for water with the economic case for water towards bridging the investment gap requires a multi-stakeholder financing approach towards maximizing finance for development and systematically leveraging all sources of finance, expertise, and solutions to support developing countries’ sustainable growth. This can be done by improving the enabling environment, developing regulatory conditions, building capacity, putting in place standards financing a first mover or innovator, and reducing risks.

Alternative financing for the water sector

Investments in innovative approaches to finance water security require appropriation of inter-institutional spaces to mobilize resources going beyond traditional financing and subsidy-driven models. The following Alternative Financing avenues can be explored through structures and products that reorient markets and investors away from short-termism and encourage greater sustainability in performance, while also developing domestic capital markets.

(1) Blended Finance

Blended finance is a structuring approach using “catalytic capital from public and philanthropic sources to increase private sector investment in sustainable development.”[3] Catalytic capital bears higher risk and/or seeks lower returns than the market would accept. This framing distinguishes finance by purpose rather than by source and highlights it in terms of development and commercial finance, rather than public and private actors. Blended finance transactions have three signature markings – (1) Development impact & SDGs: Contribute towards achieving the SDGs, (2) Return: Expected positive financial return, and (3) Leverage: Philanthropic parties are catalytic – improve the risk-return profile to mobilize/attract “additional” private sector investment.

(2) Impact bonds

Impact investing is replacing the approach to investing from one based on risk and return, to risk, return, and impact; and seeks to create social or environmental benefits, directing capital to enterprises that accomplish impact goals that traditional business models cannot. In impact investing, social and environmental considerations are not lenses for rejection of opportunities; they are front and centre in the decision-making criteria for investors. Impact bonds monetize social/development outcomes by capturing the value between the cost of prevention now and the price of remediation in the future. Outcome payers in case of DIBs are generally DFIs / private sector, who pay the upfront funders / risk investors of the project along with returns based on the outcome of the project. In SIBs, the Government is the outcome payer.

(3) Pension funds

There is growing consensus among institutional investors including pension funds, on infrastructure as an asset class, and these investors are participating in the financing, building, and operating of infrastructure through PPPs. Investments in infrastructure[4] are characterised by long-term contractual arrangements and regulation, and a means to reduce portfolio risks through diversification and to access higher risk-adjusted returns.

(4) Green bonds

Green bonds are fixed-income financial instruments, where the proceeds are earmarked for financing green projects with a potential to attract capital that can generate a positive investment cycle for green projects. In India, SEBI has introduced certain guidelines for green bonds[5] and has allocated 8 high-level categories as “green projects”: renewable energy, clean transportation, sustainable water management, climate-change adaptation, energy efficiency, sustainable waste management, sustainable land use, and biodiversity conservation. (i) Agriculture – Under the SEBI guidelines, organic farming, Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF), and sustainable irrigation practices come under sustainable land use and sustainable water management. Some capital intensive technologies such as drip irrigation can be linked with Green Bonds to fast track fund-raising[6].  (ii) Water Infrastructure and Management – The RBI has recognised the need for funds in this sector, at both household and enterprise levels. WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) has been included in priority-sector lending.

The need to change the way we “treat” water

Tapping into these alternative sources has the potential to create a transformation in financing the water sector, but that in turn requires a transformation in the way we “treat” water. As an ecosystem, we need to move from “hunting for water to cultivation of water” and from “pricing water to valuing water,” and we need to look at “water not just as a sector, but a connector” on which human survival and well-being depends. Water is virtually the docking station for all SDGs, and removing water from the equation would render all our efforts in moving the needle on other SDGs useless.

[1] UNCTAD 2014

[2] World Bank Report on Financing the 2030 Water Agenda December 2016 and World Bank report High and Dry: Climate Change, Water and the Economy

[3] According to global group Convergence

[4] Irrigation Infra, STPs are given ‘infrastructure’ status per notification on Harmonised Master List of Infrastructure subsectors by DEA, Ministry of Finance.

[5] Securities and Exchange Board of India, Disclosure Requirements for Issuance and Listing Green Bonds, 2015

[6]Kumar, Neha; Vaze, Prasant; Kidney, Sean, Moving from Growth to Development: Financing Green Investment in India, ORF Special Report, April 2019


* Kavita Sachwani is a Chartered Accountant by qualification and a public policy and development sector professional and works with the 2030 Water Resources Group, World Bank.

Country Innovation Story | Mongolia: Strengthening Urban Water Management

Strengthening Urban Water Management

By Bulgan, General Director, Department of Green Policy and Strategic Planning, MET; and Mr. L. Erdenbulgan, Head of Water Resources Division, MET on behalf of the MSP members

The Challenge

Mongolia receives only 378 mm of rainfall annually, which is a mere fraction of a global average of 900 mm. The country also has limited surface water sources, making its management a critical aspect in supporting economic activity. The effects of water scarcity are felt exponentially in urban areas where growth is concentrated. This is especially so for Ulaanbaatar, which alone represents about 70 percent of total potable water consumption in the country. Limited treatment of wastewater and low water use efficiency further diminish water availability. Studies by 2030 WRG indicated that the city will likely face a water demand-supply gap by 2030, with industry bearing the brunt1. This will not only hurt companies that depend heavily on water for their businesses, but also the people whose livelihoods are tied to the operations of those companies.

The Solution

In response to this situation, 2030 WRG partnered with Mongolia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the private sector, and civil society stakeholders to initiate a series of integrated regulatory and governance interventions to improve urban water management. Instead of treating urban water management challenges as isolated issues, this series of interventions addressed key bottlenecks throughout the entire water value chain. Until then, there had been no attempts to use such a comprehensive approach to urban water management.

The first phase of work sought to improve urban water management issues through the Water Pollution Fee Law (WPFL). However, successful implementation remained elusive five years after the law was established. This was largely due to an overly complex model for estimating pollution charges, especially within a context of limited technical and implementation capacity. While the private sector supported WPFL in principle, it had serious concerns about its feasibility precisely because of such limitations.

To help the Mongolian government improve the implementation of WPFL, the Mongolia 2030 WRG team shared best practices from relevant countries, highlighting simple water pollution fee models that incorporate economic incentives for pollution reduction and employ a simpler methodology to measure pollution in wastewater discharge. Based on this exercise and extensive analysis of local data to inform applicable charges, a preferred model was identified and contextualized for Ulaanbaatar. Once agreed with the private sector, the model was embedded in a revised license and discharge permit for water use and wastewater discharge. This model would be applicable to all consumers in the city.

The second phase of work addressed the issue of low water use efficiency. While potential reuse of treated wastewater in large industry and power plants in Ulaanbaatar was recognized as an effective means of optimizing freshwater use, the lack of standards to support reuse had been a hurdle in implementation. Working closely with the Ulaanbaatar Mayor’s office—and drawing upon established international practice—appropriate standards were proposed for large industrial water users that can potentially reduce their freshwater consumption by using treated wastewater. It is expected that the adoption of the WPFL will further promote the practice of water reuse among large water users such as power plants and beverage companies. It will also encourage them to treat wastewater on site for supply to willing off-takers, thereby avoiding not only network discharge fees, but also pollution fees. To complement the wastewater reuse measures, sector stakeholders have recently initiated a review of water tariffs, which is a key regulatory instrument to incentivize wastewater reuse and promote the judicious use of freshwater.

Progress to Date

The revised WPFL, which incorporates the proposed fee model, has been approved by a working group of Mongolia’s national cabinet. Adoption is expected to avoid discharge of over 61.2 million cubic meters of inadequately treated effluent into the Tuul river annually. Meanwhile, it has catalyzed innovation in small-scale onsite wastewater treatment systems. A model of institutional settings and engineering solutions that enables normal operation of wastewater treatment that is contextualized to Mongolia’s conditions is currently being piloted in the market. 

The Mongolian Agency for Standard and Metrology approved the “National Standards for Treated Wastewater Reuse” in June 2018, paving the way for the offtake of 50 million liters of treated wastewater daily from Ulaanbaatar’s central wastewater treatment facility, including wastewater from two nearby power plants. An investment of approximately US$300 million is planned for the development of infrastructure that will enable the reuse of wastewater for power plants.

Key Lessons

  • Adapting regulatory and governance instruments to locally relevant conditions can remove hurdles for the effective implementation of legislation and institutional systems necessary for effective urban water management. 
  • Alignment of incentives and a clear demonstration of impacts are key to driving implementation. 
  • Inclusive dialogue that involves the government at all relevant levels, the private sector, and civil society representatives are necessary for forging consensus on difficult and complex issues like building institutions and policies for effective urban water management.
Water Contaminants Blue

Opportunities in creating robust wastewater treatment regime in India with co-benefits of restricting antimicrobial resistance

By Anjali Parasnis, Ajith Radhakrishnan and Mahesh Patankar (2030 WRG India team)

Emerging standards in wastewater treatment and monitoring:

Globally, wastewater treatment is now perceived to be at par with the imperative to treat freshwater for human consumption. However, levels of contamination and treatment of water bodies still significantly vary across regions. Among other countries in South Asia, the state of contamination and treatment of water bodies in India is still evolving. According to the 2018 report of the Government of India’s (GOI) think tank Niti Ayog, 70% of India’s water resources is contaminated.[1] Additionally, out of the 122 countries assessed for the water quality index, India is ranked number 120. This is mainly due to the raw sewage and unprocessed industrial effluent water flowing into the country’s major rivers and water bodies. Fortunately, the GOI’s initiatives are moving in the right direction as seen in recent efforts to assign economic value to treated wastewater. Progress is likewise reflected in the January 2018 tariff order of the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority, as well as in the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) recent order[2] insisting on stringent standards for wastewater treatment. The NGT order in particular marks the first time that standards related to key parameters (e.g. biological and chemical oxygen demand, suspended solids, nitrogen (ammonia and nitrates), phosphorus, and fecal coliform) were made strict. In summary, the GOI is poised to offer a substantial boost to efforts toward wastewater treatment and reuse.

AMR – an emerging global threat and its link with the water sector:

All around the world, a new threat to water bodies and human health has been identified. Specifically, the contamination of water bodies due to residual antibiotics found in sewage and industrial effluents, has been determined as the next priority area in need of immediate attention. Antibiotics used for human consumption and for applications in animal husbandry, as well as effluents disposed from drug manufacturing facilities enter into ecosystems, water sources, and food chains. In several emerging economies, the poultry industry uses high amounts of antibiotics in bird feed that is used to raise broilers. The presence of these residual antibiotics in turn develops antimicrobial resistance (AMR) among the microbial organisms present in wastewater and soil. This phenomenon poses a serious threat to human health. Meanwhile, recently published media reports warn that the world’s water bodies are contaminated with dangerous levels of antibiotics.

We attempt to evaluate what recent global studies inform us regarding the vulnerability of the Indian agriculture sector, which is a major consumer of water. The agricultural practices and irrigation in drought-prone areas mainly depend on water sourced from nearby rivers or streams, or else from groundwater. Due to the contamination of water bodies, toxins such as heavy metals, residual pesticides, organic chemicals, and antibiotics are carried, through water, onto agricultural areas and food chains, thus introducing serious threats to human health and to the environment. There is hence a need to sensitize stakeholders to the threats of using unprocessed wastewater for agricultural applications. Equally necessary is a call for action to define the problem in the Indian context. Monitoring of antibiotic and drug residues in wastewater as well as their further processing using modern technologies are essential to India’s development process.

Presence of drugs like antibiotics, pharmaceutically active compounds (PhACs), and endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) in the aquatic environment is a global concern. These compounds, reported to have adverse impacts on the health of humans, animals, aquatic life, and the wider environment, have been detected in various quantities from treated wastewater, surface water, and groundwater. More importantly, through exposure to antibiotics from wastewater, natural microorganisms have acquired resistance to many antibiotics, which occurrence is regarded as a threat to modern medicine (Box 1).

Global efforts to identify the extent of AMR
Given the growing global problem of drug-resistant infections and its implications, the UK Prime Minister commissioned the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance in 2015.[3] According to the WHO, 490,000 people around the world developed multi-drug resistant tuberculosis in the year 2016, and drug resistance is starting to complicate the fight against HIV and malaria, too.[4] Furthermore, the treatment failure of the drug of last resort (DoLR) for gonorrhea (i.e. third-generation cephalosporin antibiotics) has been confirmed over the last few years in at least 10 countries (Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Japan, Norway, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland). It is estimated that AMR may reduce world gross domestic product by 2-3% per year, imposing trillions of dollars on the already crushing global economic burden.[5]

Global production and use of antibiotics is increasing considerably. Around 20 years ago, annual antibiotic usage was estimated to be between 100,000 and 200,000 tons globally.[6] An assessment conducted in 76 countries from 2000 to 2015 also indicated a 65% increase in trends in and drivers of antibiotic consumption, expressed in defined daily dosage (DDD). Assuming the Business As Usual (BAU) scenario, consumption of antibiotics in 2030 has been projected to be up to 200% higher than the 42 billion DDDs estimated in 2015.[7] Now besides human consumption, there are diverse applications of drugs in veterinary practices, animal husbandry, aquaculture, fisheries, agriculture, and medical research. The large quantities of used and unused drugs from all such applications are released into natural ecosystems in various forms, like parent compounds, derivatives, degradation intermediates, and/or a combination of all these forms. Only a few compounds are degraded in the ecosystem, but many are persistent and take a substantial amount of time to degrade completely.[8]

Policy imperatives / Key action points:

In several emerging economies such as India, sectors like food processing, pharmaceuticals, and animal husbandry are identified as contributors to high growth and profits. Still and all, relevant policy interventions that are implemented at an early stage would be highly beneficial to circumventing the risks of AMR, and to instilling best practices for the protection of ecosystems in the process of development. A shortlist of priority policy directions are:

  1. Stringent regulation of the production and usage of antibiotics, drugs, and their precursors
  2. Restriction of the sale and overuse of drugs in human as well as veterinary applications: A strategic transition of antibiotic usage from over-the-counter (OTC) marketing status to strictly prescription-based (Rx) availability would be required.
  3. Early detection through integration of (Internet of Things) IoT for monitoring of antibacterial/drug contents in natural ecosystems, as well as of components of potable water resources and food chains
  4. Treatment and stringent periodic assessment of sewage water, industrial effluents, and sludge for presence of residual drugs as well as microflorae
  5. Budgetary provisions for establishing anaerobic treatment reactors, constructed wetlands, settling tanks, and/or other relevant treatment techniques
  6. Awareness among stakeholders regarding the concept of AMR and its causes and implications








[6] Richard Wise, Antimicrobial resistance: priorities for action, Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, Volume 49, Issue 4, April 2002, Pages 585–586,

[7] Global increase and geographic convergence in antibiotic consumption between 2000 and 2015, Eili Y. Klein, Thomas P. Van Boeckel, Elena M. Martinez, Suraj Pant, SumanthGandra, Simon A. Levin, Herman Goossens, Ramanan Laxminarayan, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Apr 2018, 115 (15) E3463-E3470; DOI:10.1073/pnas.1717295115

[8] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2001. Handbook on Advanced NonPhotochemical Oxidation Processes. EPA/625/R-01/004. EPA Office of Research and Development, Washington, DC.


Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

Tanzania – Collective action unlocks water for all: the SUWAMA Usa-River Partnership

Climate change, population growth, deforestation, growing numbers of livestock, and the expansion of cultivated land are increasing pressures on the water resources of Tanzania’s Pangani River Basin. A stakeholder-led catchment stewardship initiative launched by 2030 WRG is working to change that narrative.

The first harvest of 2017 was disastrous for Ernest Pallangyo, a farmer and father of two from Kiwawa Village, in Usa River, Northern Tanzania.

Ernest, a smallholder farmer from Kiwawa Village in Usa-River, stands in front of the irrigation canal that supplies his village with water.

Like many small-scale growers, Ernest shares the water allowance allotted under a single water-use permit with neighboring farmers. Back in 2017, when it was his turn to irrigate his small plot of cucumbers, he often found the canal totally dry; others upstream from his village had diverted so much water that there was not a drop left for those downstream.

Eventually, the harsh Tanzanian sun took its toll. His crop withered and died.

To pay for the seeds, the fertilizer, and his portion of the permit, Ernest had taken out a loan. But when his crop failed, he was unable to repay it. In a desperate bid to maintain his relationship with the local creditor, he sold his family’s two goats. The animals that had once been an important source of income – as is custom, his wife reared livestock and sold milk and meat at the local market – and provided his family with milk – an important source of protein in a predominantly plant-based diet – were now gone. There would be no income until the next harvest. Ernest would have go into more debt in order to afford new seeds for the next planting season. The intervening months would be a struggle.

“We are farmers. Our livelihoods depend on water. Without it, we can’t survive,” he explained.

Ernest’s case is typical of the 2.7 million smallholder farmers residing in Tanzania’s Pangani Basin.

As the breadbasket of Tanzania, over three million people derive their livelihoods from the 500 km-long river and the 43,650 km2 of fertile land surrounding it. It is also a vital resource for national economic development. Commercial agricultural interests are growing while three hydropower schemes, located along the main river, have the potential to generate up to 17 percent of Tanzania’s electricity.

But the basin and people who rely on it are in trouble.

Climate change, population growth, deforestation, growing numbers of livestock, and the expansion of cultivated land are increasing pressures on the basin’s water resources. Water flows are decreasing, leading to more intense competition among water users and dire consequences for families whose livelihoods depend on the land—families like Ernest’s.

“Agriculture is the backbone of Tanzania’s economy” explained Angelina Nyamsambo, Agri-Finance Officer with the Tanzania Horticultural Association.

Agriculture generates around 30 percent of GDP, accounts for 28 percent of exports, employs 66 percent of the population, and is the mainstay of 80 percent of livelihoods in the country.

“Poor access to water reduces farmers’ productivity, limits their income, threatens food security and ultimately results in lower GDP” stressed Angelina.

But effective water management is a complex and volatile issue. Increasing competition for water among riparian stakeholders, each with varying degrees of access to water infrastructures like irrigation and storage, is complicated by the local politics of water allocation.

Weak monitoring and enforcement of regulations designed to control and protect water resources, alongside a general lack of awareness about efficient water use and sustainable farming practices and ineffective coordination among stakeholders further compound the challenge of fair and equitable water delivery in the sub-catchment.

Sustainable water resource management is a challenge nationwide. A recent Tanzania Economic Update, published by the World Bank, found that sub-optimal water management is already having a negative impact on Tanzania’s economy.

To strengthen collaborative approaches to water management in the country, Tanzania 2030 Water Resources Group (2030 WRG) – a public-private-civil-society partnership hosted by the World Bank Group – has been working with government and businesses to identify, develop and scale innovative solutions to the country’s water management challenges since 2013.

The Sustainable Water Management (SUWAMA) Usa-River Partnership is a stakeholder-led catchment stewardship initiative launched under one of Tanzania 2030 WRG’s flagship initiatives—the Kilimanjaro Water Stewardship Platform (KWSP)—that has been carrying out successful joint initiatives among public institutions, community organizations, and businesses to address water-related challenges in the sub-catchment since 2016.

Led by the Pangani Basin Water Board (BWB), in partnership with KWSP, the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) through the International Water Stewardship Programme (IWaSP), the Upper Kikuletwa Water User Association (WUA), the Tanzanian Horticulture Association (TAHA), and Kiliflora Limited, SUWAMA engages water users all the way down to the village level.

The partnership focuses on improving water governance, water use efficiency, and water quality and supply, and works with the community to collectively identify priorities and strategies to do so.

“Our approach is based on the recognition that working separately is a risk for all users because they share the same water source. This means that all the different users need to get together and act collectively in order to help each other and themselves,” said Abraham Yesaya, Community Development Officer with the Pangani BWB, who manages the SUWAMA partnership.

Richard Johannes, Project Officer for the Kilimanjaro Water Stewardship Platform, believes that community ownership is key to SUWAMA’s success.

According to Abraham, the most challenging aspect of the partnership was the initial period of community mobilization and coordination. But it has also provided the biggest payoff. “People need to own the project, otherwise nothing will ever be completed,” he said. “In this case, they do [have ownership], and it shows.”

The collaboration is a model of community-scale public-private cooperation, with private sector partners providing over half of the total financing. Other private sector partners have provided in-kind assistance, such as farming inputs, trees for rehabilitating damaged riparian land, and supplies for the reconstruction of dilapidated irrigation systems. Meanwhile, community members contribute their time and skills. Information placards placed at project sites recognize the contributions of local village associations alongside those of donors and private sector partners. Everyone is in it together.

After two years in operation, satisfaction with SUWAMA’s collective action approach is high.

Rogers is a transplant from South Africa who lives on a lush 90-acre piece of land that used to be a coffee plantation. Of those residents receiving water from the Usa-river, he is among the furthest downstream to be connected to its system of irrigation canals and farrows. Before SUWAMA, he recalled periods of up to six months during which no water flowed to his farm. Today, it flows without disruption.

“It doesn’t matter how much money or what kind of sophisticated technology you throw at the problem; it’s about people,” emphasized Rogers. “You need to get people together and get disciplined.” He hopes to see the model replicated in other communities.

To date, the partnership has succeeded in improving water security for more than a quarter of a million people living around Usa-River in the Kikuletwa Catchment, Pangani Basin: 25,000 people have received direct assistance through SUWAMA, while a further 800,000 have benefited from improvements in water access as a result of the partnership’s initiatives.

Back in Kiwawa, a project to address the source of the village’s water challenges is nearing completion. As part of its good water governance workstream, SUWAMA convened water users from upstream and downstream to collectively assess why there was insufficient water during certain parts of the year. They found that in addition to illegal abstractions occurring upstream, a significant amount of water was lost because the canals, and especially the farrows and abstraction points, were in a state of disrepair.

Since then, a community task force that was created to address these issues has been overseeing efforts to improve monitoring of water use in coordination with the Pangani BWB. The task force, part of the local Water Users Association, has also developed a constitution and bylaws to govern water use and launched a canal rehabilitation project that will prevent future water losses.

Members of a community task force convened by SUWAMA work together to improve the canal infrastructure leading to their village.

With funding from a consortium of water users from the community, a reconstruction of the primary diversion point from the main Usa-river canal has already been completed. Next-up is the abstraction point from which Kiwawa draws its water. Overseeing construction is Ernest, who now serves as Chairman of the Kiwawa Irrigator’s Association.

The reconstruction of the primary diversion point from the main Usa-river canal was among the first projects completed by SUWAMA.

He is looking forward to what he and his neighbors will be able to achieve with consistent and reliable access to water. For him and his family, he envisions green irrigated plots and abundant harvests. Maybe even a greenhouse for himself, with two goats tied up out front.

Women at the Heart of Innovation in Agriculture

By Karishma Gupte, 2030 WRG Partnerships Coordinator, Maharashtra Program

A study by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reveals that women could improve agricultural yields by 20-30 percent if given access to the same productive resources, such as modern inputs, technology, financial services, and training, that are available to men. In the Amravati district of Maharashtra, 1,900 women from two talukas (administrative divisions of a district) are gradually transforming the agricultural landscape by improving agricultural production and post-harvest processing. Several of the women I recently met in Amravati had interesting stories to share.

Through Mahila Arthik Vikas Mahamandal (MAVIM), a government-funded program, women across Maharashtra, including the Amravati district, were encouraged to form Self Help Groups (SHGs) where they could be trained to cultivate a habit of saving and receive access to group credit through bank linkages. In such a way, several women in the district were able to secure loans for their family farms and personal use. MAVIM further encouraged these women to form consortia of SHGs at the taluka level that could support capacity building in areas such as social and leadership skills. As a result, women found the confidence to venture out of their homes, consider possibilities to start their own businesses, and apply for bank loans. The United Nationals Development Programme (UNDP), with the goal of empowering women through Project Disha, trained women in the SHG consortium of two talukas in the Amravati district on post-harvest management, which led to increased income opportunities for them. Through diverse partnerships and support from the private sector which procured produce from these women farmers, these women became knowledgeable about potential business opportunities for them in the agricultural value chain.

One of the woman farmers who started their own businesses is Rekha Sarodayay. Rekha is a sourcing manager for one of the SHG consortia from the Wakiraipur village of Amravati. She oversees the sourcing of pigeon peas from three villages, dealing primarily with men; traditionally, such interactions are restricted. In addition to her work as a sourcing manager, Rekha also trains women from the villages in best practices for post-harvest management. Drawing upon the training she has received through various programs, Rekha formed her own small enterprise of making wheat noodles three years ago. Along the way, Rekha had to overcome many difficulties, including getting access to finance to buy the machine she needs to make noodles. She borrowed Rs.25000 (US$370) from her SHG at an annual interest rate of 24 percent and invested her savings to start her business. With access to productive resources, Rekha built a thriving business in less than two years and was able to return the funds she borrowed while contributing to the household income. Today, there are over 150 small businesses owned by women like Rekha in the two talukas. These women, who manage complex households while pursuing multiple livelihood options, continue to inspire confidence in other women of the district.

In support of women farmers like Rekha, Reema Sathe left her comfortable corporate job to build a women-friendly supply chain, offering new markets to 15,000 women smallholder farmers. Her team supports a women-run cooperative factory by training them to make baking products using less water-intensive grains like barley, buckwheat, and oats. Through her online platform, Happy Roots, these women were able to sell directly to consumers, thereby eliminating the costs that comes with using middlemen.

Women entrepreneurs like Rekha and Reema, are leading some of the most exciting agri-innovations on the ground, and they are a source of inspiration for those who are passionate about empowering women in rural areas. Today, organizations are keen to invest in women with the aim to close to gender gap, improve rural livelihoods and income, and make rural families and communities more food secure. To highlight such examples, 2030 WRG worked with UNDP India on a compendium of case studies from Maharashtra that exemplify women-centric partnership models that have positively impacted agricultural value chains and have the potential to scale. By challenging gender stereotypes, these case studies could catalyze transformative change in the role of women in Maharashtra and beyond.

The publication, ‘Gender and Water in Agriculture and Allied Sectors’ was jointly developed by 2030 WRG and UNDP India and was launched on 26 February 2019. Read or download the publication here.

For more information, contact Karishma Gupte,

Blue Certificate Awarding_CFonseca

Rewarding Water-Responsible Companies is Key to Success in Addressing Global Water Security

Karin Krchnak

By Karin Krchnak, 2030 WRG Program Manager

Over the past fifteen years, I have seen a rapid evolution in corporate actors in recognizing water risks to their operations. In response, some have taken measures to ensure that all water is returned to its originating watershed while making sure that returned water is as clean or cleaner than it was before. But to keep the momentum going, we need to think about how we can encourage and motivate companies that will push them to collaborate more with governments, other companies, and civil society toward realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Equally as important, we need to bring forward those companies that unfortunately have yet to prioritize water.

The positive feelings that come from rewarding good behavior are natural in humans. In fact, such feelings can do wonders. I see it every day with my own daughter; when she does well and gets recognition, she feels like she wants to, and can, do more.

In 2016, the 2030 Water Resources Group (2030 WRG) and its partners created the Blue Certificate, an initiative that is one of the workstreams of Peru 2030 WRG’s multi-stakeholder platform (MSP). Led by Peru’s National Water Authority (ANA), the program encourages companies in the private sector to assess the water footprint of their processes and become water-responsible companies.

Peru is a beautiful and amazing country with lush mountains and forests. But you do not have to go far out of Lima to see that it is water stressed. In fact, Peru ranks among the top 30 countries that suffer from chronic water stress. Approximately USD45.7 billion in investments are required by 2035 to meet Peru’s water needs. As is the case everywhere in the world, public finances can only do so much, and the private sector can play a transformational role in closing this infrastructure financing gap. It is therefore unsurprising that many governments stood up in 2015—when the SDGs were being adopted in New York City—and said that companies in the private sector are needed if we were to meet the SDGs by 2030.

It makes me so proud that in 2016 the Peruvian government and 2030 WRG co-developed the Blue Certificate program, whereby companies are awarded the Blue Certificate if they fulfill three criteria: (1) develop a Water Footprint Assessment following ISO 14046; (2) commit and accomplish water footprint reductions; and (3) set out and implement a program of shared value with the communities in the watersheds they work in.

I had the honor of joining the recent Award Ceremony in Lima, Peru, on 7th November when Compañía Eléctrica El Platanal S.A., Compañía Minera Coimolache S.A. (Buenaventura Group), Nestlé Perú, and Mexichem Perú were awarded the Blue Certificate. Four additional companies also received recognition for applying for the certification process. Fabiola Munoz Dodero, Peru’s Minister of Environment, spoke at the event, and highlighted the role the program plays in driving action for healthier watersheds in Peru. It is this kind of recognition by governments of the private sector’s role in improving water resources that gives me hope that we can make progress toward the SDGs.

But recognition must fundamentally be about results if we want to ensure that our water resources will, in fact, be better in 2030 in comparison with our current situation. To date, the Blue Certificate has resulted in a reduction of approximately 79 million liters of freshwater use per year and a reduction of approximately 137 million liters of non-treated wastewater discharge. Thirteen companies have already presented their Shared-Value Projects in: (i) efficient domestic water use; (ii) rural irrigation improvement; (iii) wastewater reuse in public spaces; (iv) and promoting a water conservation culture. The projects are expected to reach approximately 9,000 direct beneficiaries and 20,000 indirect beneficiaries. In addition to a focus on results, there needs to be a way for companies to keep active and motivate others. At the 7th November Awards Ceremony, Mexichem—the first company to be awarded the Certificate—renewed their commitment. Through this renewal process, I hope other companies will see that they too can make a difference in making their country more water secure and thereby their own operations more sustainable.

In the past, I have heard people say that there are too many competing initiatives in water. My first thought is often “really?” For a challenge as big and complex as water resources management, it makes sense to welcome the participation of every company—and other stakeholders—that wish to become better stewards of our shared water resources.

There is no silver bullet to solve our water problems. But if we can find a way to harness the passion and energy of everyone and bring together our efforts in true collaboration, we can create meaningful change. In closing, I would like to invite every company that wants to become more water responsible to learn more about what 2030 WRG can do to help them achieve that goal.

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Photo credits: COSUDE