Since 1993, every year on 22 of March the world celebrates World Water Day bringing attention to the water crisis and the necessity of taking action. There are still 663 million people without access to a safe water supply close to home, whereas access to safe drinking water is key in eradicating extreme poverty, combating hunger and disease, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and promoting gender equality. Being crucial topics to the integrated nature of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, water issues are particularly well enshrined in SDG 6 “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.”
In this regard, it is important to remind that many competences regarding the management, conservation and distribution of water resources and waste water fall directly under the competence of local and regional governments. Moreover, landscape and territorial planning play a fundamental role in the protection of water sources, as rivers, lakes, springs and ground water. Therefore, we would like to take the opportunity of this day to call the attention to the need of supporting and addressing water management at the subnational level.
Additionally, water and climate change are inextricably interconnected, since climate risks associated with excess or scarcity of water, as well as risk to water supply systems are manifold. The RegionsAdapt 2016 Report: “An assessment of risks and actions” showed that most regional governments face substantive risks to water supply within their territories, in the short or long term. In order to increase the resilience of their water supply systems, contributing to the progress towards SDG 6, regional governments implement a variety of adaptation actions.
“Water resources and management” is one of the seven key priority areas of the RegionsAdapt initiative addressing the challenges related to water. The initiative, promotes cooperation and knowledge exchange regional governments aim to develop common standards and methodologies for climate change adaptation in the water sector. In the context of RegionsAdapt Working Groups, exchanges confirm the commitment of regional governments with the subject
The province of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa) for example, experienced below-normal rainfall for a prolonged period. Some areas face severe poverty due to the water scarcity and in 2015 the province was declared as a “drought province”. Water quality is also a challenge associated with regular flood events. In RegionsAdapt working group, the province shared regional strategies like water conservation measures, increased water use efficiency and water loss management. In the spirit of this year’s topic of the World Water Day “Why waste water?”, the province is currently carrying out a feasibility study on treating domestic sewage to potable standards and returning it back into the distribution system.
Another good practice shared in the context of RegionsAdapt working groups is the one from the state of Tocantins in Brazil. The government aims to minimise the effects of drought events through the construction of small dams to catch rainwater. A total of 22 municipalities representing more than 100,000 inhabitants are benefitting from this measure. The dams ensure that the rainwater can infiltrate into the soil, thus contributing to a higher groundwater table, ensuring the permanence of springs, streams and ponds. This contributes to food security and income generation and decreases the rural exodus in the state.
With their unique perspective on issues of water supply, regional governments play a crucial role in tackling the water crisis, and on the World Water Day we would like to congratulate them on their achievements and progress made!