Equity in water sharing – a key focus at World Water Week

Thursday, 5 September, 2019

In Stockholm last week, World Water Week opened with a call for action in addressing the inequity in how water is managed, and came to a close with speakers urging everyone to take the water crisis and global warming more seriously.

Organised by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), the five day event (25-30 August), is a focal point for global water issues, providing an opportunity for participants to engage in conversations with a broad range of countries and NGO’s striving to improve lives through better water management.

Peter Eriksson, Minister for International Development Cooperation, from the Government of Sweden, advocated for better water governance and warned that with current trends, 52 per cent of the world’s population and 40 per cent of global grain production could be put at risk by 2051.

“Poor and marginalized populations will be disproportionately affected, which will further worsen the rising inequalities,” Mr Eriksson said.

Under the theme of Water for Society: Including All, over 250 sessions were offered to 4000 participants from 138 countries. The Asia Water Pacific Water Forum put a spotlight on the state of water in Asia by providing a session with its partners Water cycle management: towards water security in Asia and-Pacific. This session highlighted the critical role of political leadership in shaping sustainable policies and practice.

ICE WaRM’s Chair, the Hon Karlene Maywald, presented at this session on Transboundary Water Management – principles, policies and politics, explaining how lessons learnt from the Australian Water Reform Journey can be valuable for other countries who are grappling with the complexities of improving water management.

“In countries like Nepal, ICE WaRM has used the Australian Story – the good and the bad – to help develop the capacity of Government officials to craft their own water story with a new National Water Policy and then progress towards legislation.,” Ms Maywald said.

Also contributing to this session, Mr Neil Lazarow, Group Leader for CSIRO’s international integrated water resource management program, provided a presentation Towards inclusive water management: taking action for South Asia. Neil drew on case studies from Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh where both CSIRO and ICE WaRM have been supported under the Australian Aid investment through the Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio (SDIP) to support initiatives that address the nexus challenges; water, food and energy security.

He highlighted the need to make conversations on the nexus inclusive in considering the dynamics beyond trade-offs influence decision-making in the nexus. This requires detailed intelligence to clarify options and risks in planning, and an understanding of institutional frameworks and social values at different scales to inform policies, strategies and plans.

During the Q&A session, Ms Maywald referred to the  Renmark Irrigation Trust in South Australia, as an exemplary of collaboration between farmers (irrigators), water user cooperatives and the River Basin Organisations (MDBA and Environmental Water Holder), to achieve efficiency in water use, and support the transfer of water for environmental assets.

Representatives of the Trust and community were part of the Australian delegation sharing experiences of innovation in conversations on the water-food-energy nexus and water stewardship.

General Manager of the Trust, Rosalie Auricht, said, “World Water Week has highlighted the urgency for the world to act to improve water quality, use our scarce water efficiently, apply good governance and care for our natural water ways.”

“The Renmark Irrigation Trust’s partnership with the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder to rehabilitate the adjoining floodplains through the delivery of environmental water is a win/win example of what can be achieved when organisations aim to achieve balanced economic, social and environmental outcomes.”

ICE WaRM would like to acknowledge the Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio, funded by the Department for Foreign affairs and Trade, and the support from SDIP partner CSIRO, for making the opportunities possible. Karlene Maywald is the Strategic Adviser to the Government of South Australia for International Water Opportunities.