World Water Week: Focus on the Americas 2022
*By María Augusta Olmedo, Anamaría Núñez, Raphaëlle Ortiz
Without water, there is no life. Without water, there is no health. Without water, there is no development. The true value of water will be in the spotlight at the Focus on the Americas sessions of World Water Week of the Stockholm International Water Institute, where participants will debate, raise awareness, and take joint action to understand just how precious this resource really is.
Latin America needs to focus on responsible, equitable and sustainable consumption, putting proactive behaviors into practice and generating innovative tools to avoid water scarcity. Society needs to undergo a fundamental shift in its understanding of how much issues like water quality, sanitation, and solid waste treatment will improve the quality of life of people today and in the future.
To overcome the water and sanitation challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean, while also mitigating climate risk, we have to share innovative experiences in water security, nature-based solutions, and effective public policy initiatives.
The Focus on the Americas delves into these issues in four theme-based sessions:
- Invest in the future: A paradigm shift in Latin America and the Caribbean.
- Better decision making for water security: WEFE nexus tools.
- Maximizing the development value of water.
- Valuing nature in Latin America and the Caribbean: Upcoming challenges and opportunities.
Here you can access the full agenda. We will be updating the content of this blogpost to reflect the evolution of the agenda. In this video (available in Spanish), we discuss the topics to be included in the program. After World Water Week, as soon as possible, we will include the recordings of the sessions.
Learn from success stories and deepen your knowledge of the value of water. See the details of each session below.
Wednesday, August 24, 12:30 – 1:50 p.m. (EDT)
Showcase. Powering development through water and art.
The Water Loops program co-creates solutions with/for/by the community that take the local culture and its uniqueness into account and enable development through the power of water and art. In this interactive session, Lazos de Agua explained its phased-based model for action.
Isabelle Viens, from the One Drop Foundation, presented the A-B-C Model for Sustainability and the Social Art for Behavior Change approach, which has benefited over 200,000 people in Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay and Nicaragua since it was launched five years ago.
She characterized the model using three key words:
- Fun: The model connects art with the memory of actions in a sensory way to prompt changes in behavior.
- Process: It generates the force of participation and empowerment. Artists involve people throughout the process as active voices of change, producing new skills, self-confidence, and collaboration.
- Systemic: Dynamic interaction through collective intelligence between actors and components that give a global perspective of actions at all scales.
The Lazos de Agua program, through the project Agua para ConvidArte in Tumaco, Colombia, designed a strategy to strengthen the water, sanitation, and hygiene sector and empower communities during the pandemic.
The idea was to create basic hygiene kits and deliver them to the families participating in the project, not as a donation or response to the health emergency, but rather as a marketing campaign for the first SMEs supported technically and financially by Agua para Convidarte Tumaco.
This allowed gave them tools to position themselves in the market, raise their profile, expand their client base, drive up sales — which also raises the quality of life of them and their families—all while providing a solution those affected by the health crisis.
The IDB is fully behind this type of initiative, as President Mauricio Claver-Carone explained in his speech.
“A water project really is not just about providing infrastructure. It also involves inspiring, prompting, and sustaining a set of behaviors. Washing hands, using and maintaining infrastructure properly, paying for utilities, connecting to utilities: these are all behaviors that also help make these services sustainable.”
Lazos de Agua is another chapter in the push to provide sustainable access to water and sanitation services, this time through the innovative use of social art to change people’s behaviors. It is an initiative of the IDB, IDB Lab, One Drop, Coca Cola, and the FEMSA Foundation.
Thursday, August 25, 12:30 p.m. – 1:50 p.m. (EDT)
Showcase. A more resilient water supply for the Valley of Mexico.
The Valley of Mexico suffers water shortages. The second Focus on the Americas case study at World Water Week examined integrated management plans, which include several measures to improve the social infrastructure to conserve the basin and address climate change and competition for water.
Victor Bourget, Director of the Mexico Valley Basin Organization (CONAGUA), summarized the basin’s main vulnerabilities: floods and droughts, climate change and its consequences, aquifer overexploitation, and population growth. To mitigate these challenges, people are working to change the vision for the Valley of Mexico through sustainable water plans with actions in strategic areas, as presented in the “Lake Xico Project.”
In the Valley of Mexico, CONAGUA is working to:
- Increase capacity to regulate water flows
- Reuse water
- Clean up reservoirs
- Modernize irrigation
- Reduce leaks
Sarah St. George Freeman of the University of Massachusetts Amherst explained the Decision Tree method they used in the Valley of Mexico for decision-making outside of traditional planning. This approach uses simulation models that assume uncertainty. She further stated that “understanding the vulnerability of the system, with the assumption that there are various uncertainties, helps identify robust solutions that improve the system today and under future climate scenarios.” Her viewpoint illustrates the changing paradigms for planning that favor solid and robust resilience strategies made up of preventive rather than reactive actions. Her research clearly demonstrates the importance of working with open information and simulation for decision making.
The panelists agreed on the importance of planning and shifting to science-based approaches, with models and research that contribute to decision making and help communities shift from a reactive to proactive model.
Thursday, August 25, 2:00 p.m. – 3:20 p.m. (EDT)
Showcase. The forest-water nexus in Latin America.
Knowledge about how sustainable forest management can improve water-related ecosystem services is limited, so the third case study at World Water Week presented interesting and innovative tools about this issue.
Sara Casallas Ramírez, a member of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and an expert on forests and water, explained that preserving forests is a nature-based solution. A total of 35% of Latin America and the Caribbean is covered by forest, and forests are strategic allies in the water cycle. They help capture, maintain and purify water and supply two thirds of urban areas’ water, to name just a few benefits.
The forest-water nexus is based on the premise that forests are the recyclers of water. Casallas shared the “forest and landscape restoration approach, which allows us to restore, plan and manage landscapes, while balancing ecological, social, and economic priorities. The end goal is functional landscape mosaic that can be managed with multiple aims, such as protecting watersheds, soils and crops.”
To disseminate this work, several tools can close gaps in the protection of forests, soil, and water: forest management tools; water harvesting tools; and tools on the economic and hydrological services of forests and landscapes.
So anyone interested could receive training, this session also included a presentation on the e-learning Course on Forests and Water in Spanish developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Stockholm International Water Institute.
The “Water Harvest” project presented by Laura Benegas of the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE in Spanish) is a clear example of the forest-water nexus, with a systemic approach through climate change adaptation practices. This nexus promotes reforestation, repopulation, and food security actions, with an emphasis on protecting water recharge and catchment area. The project has benefited more than 2,500 families in Nicaragua’s Dry Corridor.
Ariel Yépez García, Infrastructure and Energy Sector Manager at the Inter-American Development Bank, closed the session with these words:
“Fortunately, forums like this are spaces for collective action and initiatives shift this issue from nobody’s problem to everybody’s responsibility.
Our natural capital — our rivers, streams, wetlands, floodplains, and, as we have seen today, forests – provide fundamental ecosystem services. We therefore have to consider them essential components of our water infrastructure.”
Monday, August 29, 9:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. (EDT)
Talk show. Welcome to Focus on the Americas at World Water Week – LIVE
The first in-person session of Focus of the Americas at World Water Week opened with a live webcast moderated by Anamaría Núñez, a communications specialist at the IDB.
María Julia Bocco, a specialist at the Water and Sanitation Division of the IDB, together with Ernenek Durán, Program Director of the One Drop Foundation, shared the vision and mission of the Focus on the Americas program at World Water Week.
What is the current situation of water in Latin America and the Caribbean?
Bocco described a paradox in the water sector in Latin America and the Caribbean: “Latin America is rich in water resources. It contains 30% of the world’s freshwater reserves and yet only 10% of the population. More than 140 million people have no access to drinking water, and over 400 million live without adequate sanitation.
She also analyzed the intense droughts parching region, citing Mexico, São Paulo, La Paz and Kingston as cities where drinking water is being shut off and service suspended. This reinforces the paradox, given the region’s abundant water resources.
Anamaría Núñez mentioned a recent IDB study, Speaking of Water, which showed we are used to taking action for water only after it runs out. “We only recognize the value of water when we no longer have it,” she added.
- Water Security (available in Spanish)
- Infrastructure Gap in Latin American and the Caribbean
What needs to be done to make services sustainable?
When asked about the importance of infrastructure for delivering services, Ernenek Durán emphasized that sustainability derives from programs that work to change communities’ behaviors. He highlighted the work of Lazos de Agua, which uses social communication campaigns to reach people with simple, creative and direct messages. These campaigns cover topics like paying utilities bills, health and hygiene, and gender. They empower people to take the lead and speak out for change to make services and infrastructure sustainable, bringing about a lasting shift in people’s attitude for the good of all.
Relevant publication: Water and Gender in Paraguay (available in Spanish).
Focus on the Americas is part of the IDB Group’s Vision 2025, which outlines five areas of opportunity for the bank’s work: regional integration, digital economy, support for SMEs, gender and diversity, and action against climate change. Water is a common thread in each of these areas and is fundamental to the goals of recovering resources, creating jobs, and generating sustainable growth in Latin America and the Caribbean.
More on water and sanitation:
- Sustainable Infrastructure (MOOC).
- Water for Cities of the Future (MOOC).
- Water in the Midst of Scarcity (MOOC).
- Water for the Utilities of the Future (MOOC).
Session 1. Investing in the Future: A paradigm shift in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Monday, August 29, 10:00 – 11:30 (EST)
The central theme of the first Focus on the Americas session was how to stimulate investments in the future through a paradigm shift in Latin America and the Caribbean, within the circular economy.
Sergio Campos, Division Chief of Water and Sanitation at the IDB, kicked off the session by reflecting on the pandemic and on how important it is to mitigate the effects of climate change, which are causing increasingly severe droughts and floods throughout the region. “Droughts should not be synonymous with water scarcity; floods should not be synonymous with loss of life or material losses, particularly in a sector that is so central to the sustainable development agenda, where water is goal number six and is important for health, education, gender equality and poverty reduction,” he said.
In this context, Focus of the Americas structured its sessions around five challenges:
- Access, quality, and inequality: Access to good sanitation and safe drinking water, as well as gender inclusion.
- Water security to explore the nexus between food, water, and energy: Reducing agricultural and industrial pollution and managing untreated wastewater.
- Financing, governance, and information: Information transparency, anti-corruption policies and gender inclusion in management positions.
- Service management and private-sector investment: Micro-metering, technology, and mechanisms to encourage private investment in nature-based solutions.
- Innovation and digital transformation: Social and financial innovation and how to measure its
Partners of Focus on the Americas shared their experiences and knowledge to contribute to change through the circular economy.
Ángel Cárdenas, Director of Urban Development, Water and Creative Economies at the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF), explained how to identify the factors that can accelerate policies, plans, standards, and institutional arrangements to promote the reuse of water and the exploitation of by-products, especially in agriculture, energy and health. Examples include the circular economy and new techniques for combined financing, such as green bonds.
Fernando Emilio Calatroni from Agua y Saneamientos Argentinos (AySA), the largest water utility in Argentina and one of the largest water treatment providers in the world, presented the indicators of the utility. He elaborated on the challenges the utility faces as well as the innovative steps it has taken to move from a treatment plant to a sustainable production plant in a circular economy.
Silvia Saravia, from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL in Spanish), discussed opportunities for the circular economy in wastewater treatment in the region based on a recent study conducted with GIZ. She emphasized the importance of wastewater as a resource to meet the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Currently, only half of all wastewater is treated in Latin America, primarily in big cities due to infrastructure costs. Therefore, CEPAL is working to define the economic and financial costs of treating wastewater in medium-sized municipalities. Their GIZ-funded study demonstrated that most of the selected treatment plants can be converted to capture methane in a cost-efficient way.
Diego Rodriguez, from the World Bank, emphasized the importance of providing inclusive services, designing strategies for waste and pollution management, and preserving and regenerating natural systems, all in order to move from linear financing to circular economic models.
Haydee Villalta Rojas of Bolivia spoke about SAGUAPAC, a non-profit drinking water and basic sanitation cooperative that serves customers in the city of Santa Cruz de la Sierra. It implemented circular economy policies to provide optimal services and mitigate the effects of climate change in the area.
Felipe Rath Fingerl of Igua discussed the state of sanitation in Brazil and how IGUA secured green bond financing to improve the conditions of its treatment plants: “The first sustainability bond for sanitation projects in Brazil gives ESG-driven investors an opportunity to participate in the development of Brazilian sanitation” and thus generate projects that help the environment.
A paradigm shift within a traditional technical model is challenging, but it can be achieved through innovative initiatives based on nature, with financing tools focused on the circular economy and water security, and tools to improve planning by taking into account interactions between food, water, and renewable energy. This shift will allow us to become more proactive, resilient, and environmentally friendly.
Tuesday, August 30, 4:00 a.m. – 4:30 a.m. (EDT)
Talk show. Water funds in LAC: 11 years of learnings and perspectives
For their 11 years of existence, the Water Funds’ mission has been to highlight the opportunities and challenges of regional and local multi-sector collaboration. At Focus on the Americas, the latest talk show called “Water Funds in Latin America and the Caribbean: 11 years of lessons and the outlook for the future” emphasized the value of water and the need to transform our relationship to it.
The Latin American Water Funds Alliance is an agreement created in 2011 between the IDB, the FEMSA Foundation, the Global Environment Facility, the International Climate Protection Initiative, and The Nature Conservancy. The alliance aims to boost water security in Latin America and the Caribbean by creating and strengthening water funds.
The discussion opened with the lessons learned over the 11 years of the partnership. Sergio Campos, Division Chief of Water and Sanitation at the IDB, explained that the Water Funds grew out of a governance scheme to use nature-based solutions to address water resource needs and conflicts and recover and conserve this precious resource.
Lorena Guille, Executive Director of Fundación FEMSA, stressed the importance of collective action, of cultivating synergies between institutions working toward a single purpose, and of understanding that connectedness is achieved by putting into practice lessons learned and through coordinated actions. In her speech, she remarked: “TNC contributes its knowledge, the IDB its vision of development and resource management, and FEMSA its understanding of the industry from the corporate side.” The relationship between partners allows them to secure more resources and seek nature-based solutions through innovation, and the Water Funds are the valuable result of collective action.
Hugo Contreras, Director of Water Security in Latin America at TNC, highlighted the importance of implementing nature- and science-based solutions, as several studies demonstrate how important it is to use nature to mitigate climate change instead of traditional solutions. Indeed, one of the Water Funds’ contributions is to draw attention to practices already being used by water operators and municipalities, like conservation, preserving wetlands, and protecting riverbanks.
Sergio Campos spoke about some of the challenges the Water Funds face. He reiterated the importance of collective action and also focused on how to adopt technology to accelerate the impact of the Funds.
Lorena Guille presented a vision of the corporate sector in a leading role, since it is part of both the problem and the solution. It can contribute by optimizing resources and seeking innovative financing mechanisms for investments, with nature-based solutions. She asserts that the alliance needs to work to incorporate micro-enterprises to ensure a more visible and sustainable outcome. FEMSA is committed to inspiring a shift towards a culture of saving water and to using the resources to its full potential.
Hugo Contreras explained the five pillars of the Water Funds’ work:
- Technology, to better understand how to benefits ecosystems, with satellite monitoring to measure watersheds
- The market, since the private sector can deploy its value chains to benefit conservation;
- Public policies, through overhauling the regulatory environment
- Financing mechanisms tied to science and public policies, with repayment mechanisms for well-designed projects to raise capital
- Knowledge, and sharing lessons learned from innovation to train new experts and send clear messages to society.
Since their inception, the Water Funds have managed to implement effective, profitable, nature-based strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change. The alliance has made great strides as it pursues its mission to bring stakeholders together and raise awareness on water security in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Tuesday, August 30, 8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. (EDT)
Session 2. Better Decision-Making for Water Security: WEFE Nexus Tools..
When there are competing demands for finite water resources, communities need mechanisms to allocate those resources in an efficient, fair and sustainable way.
“Current governance policies, good practices and action protocols were developed for a reality that no longer exists,” said Sergio Campos, Division Chief of Water and Sanitation at the IDB. He commented on all the problems caused by climate change around the world, such as floods and severe droughts. But he ended on a positive note: in a world where the sustainable development goals seem increasingly unattainable, discussions like these – that seek solutions – are cause for hope, especially with changes in technology and governance policies.
María Heloisa Rojas Corradi, from Chile’s Ministry for the Environment, presented her country’s water security model. This model uses tools that incorporate climate change projections and evaluate soil erosion and losses in biodiversity and precipitation. This information allows users to analyze risks and make key decisions on droughts, leading to a paradigm shift in governance. She also mentioned Chile’s water code, which regulates the use of water in the country and gives human consumption priority.
Her presentation concluded with these key quotes:
- “The path to water security must connect efforts by multiple sectors.”
- “Sustainable development and social stability cannot be achieved by simply considering water, energy, food and ecosystem management as separate resources.”
- “Innovation, science, production, and tools for managing water under changing conditions are critical to achieving water security goals.”
This session included two panels that further explored this topic:
The first was on how to efficiently use meteorological data for the water-energy-food-ecosystem (WEFE) nexus.
Pedro Coli, from RTI International, presented on the decision support system designed to automate processes for simulating water resources and draw evidence from different sources to ground decisions. He explained that they developed this system in Lima and centralized information in a model that analyzes basins’ water supply and availability. Each step has a management system to reach the final process, which is making decisions based on information that is clear and easy to interpret.
The second panel discussed cross-border WEFE security, exploring tools to strengthen inter-sectoral coordination in multi-country basins in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Alexandra Moreira, from the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (composed of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela), shared how members agreed to a program of strategic actions for the integrated management of Amazon Basin water resources. One such action was to create The Amazon Regional Observatory, which makes sure that information from studies on the Amazon flow freely between the institutions and inter-governmental authorities of member countries. The Observatory has a growing reputation as a center of scientific, technological, and socio-cultural information about the Amazon.
Tuesday, August 30, 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. (EDT)
Session 3. Maximizing the development value of water.
Session three of Focus on the Americas centered on how to drive innovative and participatory changes in communities’ behaviors. It explored different tools and mechanisms to increase the impact and sustainability of domestic water and sanitation investments.
In his opening remarks, Ernenek Durán of One Drop Foundation highlighted the tasks at hand for water development: creating innovative mechanisms, fostering behavioral changes, improving infrastructure, and building climate change resilience. He argued that these challenges are opportunities for growth in which communities play a fundamental role and take the lead on a sustainable vision for the water service.
Anna Zisa, from One Drop Foundation, shared proven ways to promote handwashing and good hygiene behavior, with focus on the Social Art for Behavior Change approach. Key takeaways were:
- Understand key behavioral barriers and enablers to bring about change.
- Engage the community at various stages to empower action.
- Have a change leader, a facilitator who is part of the community and representative of it.
- Include elements of psychosocial theory with recreational and easy-to-understand activities.
- Move beyond one-way messages in communication to create inclusive atmospheres of integration.
Move beyond one-way messages in communication to create inclusive atmospheres of integration.
Next, Yusuke Teraoka, from the Japan International Cooperation Agency, presented a project in Peru called “Water Supply Administration for the Management of Water Supply Services in Remote Communities.” He shares the project’s direct actions with people, with a focus on the most vulnerable. He explained how delivering basic drinking water services, along with training with visuals, empowers the community in a tangible way. He summarized some of the project’s achievements:
- Improved drinking water quality.
- Less time spent hauling water.
- Anticipated gains in AIDS and COVID-19 prevention, which benefit the State.
- An expected drop in acute diarrheal diseases with the distribution of potable water.
Edgar Fajardo, UNICEF, presented SAHTOSO, a comprehensive community-led method for blocking (almost) all fecal-oral contamination pathways. The method consists of delivering basic, safe, and hygienically managed toilets; promoting hand washing with soap and water; properly disinfecting, storing and managing water; and building capacity among the community, including women, to instill an appreciation of the value of water in households in Guatemala.
Gisella Murrugarra, from Water for People, presented the “Commitment to National Rate Regulation in Peru” initiative.
Because of Peru’s complex geography and rural political organization, local governments have to be involved in designing scaling and monitoring strategies. Initiatives local governments to raise rates, get more people to pay their bills on time, and foster an appreciation for the service are successful when the leaders of the initiative share relevant and sufficient information and get the community on board to achieve results that benefit all parties.
Myriame Dorfeuille, of DINEPA in Haiti, shared about the SIRWASH technical cooperation, which generates innovation by developing and implementing digital tools to identify needs for investment in water and sanitation in rural areas. The cooperation aims to strengthen SIEPA, the technological tool designed to provide information for making decisions about water and sanitation, rural and urban areas, managing water utilities, and developing water resources so the service can be provided in an equitable way.
The session’s closing remarks were delivered by Grisel Medina of CONAGUA. She referenced data collected by the United Nations that shows that approximately 160 million people live in rural areas and 20 million lack drinking water and sanitation, which causes high mortality rates from untreated water. Medina said, “As the panelists have shared, there are many different ways to raise awareness about water and sanitation: through the social art approach of Lazos de Agua; by delivering educational brochures and water supplies to isolated communities, as the Japan International Cooperation Agency did in Peru; through the community monitoring approach UNICEF took in Guatemala; or using the method for rate adjustments proposed by Water for People.” Equally important is the work of the SIRWASH technical cooperation in Haiti, which provides resources for technological innovation to benefit rural communities.
This session leaves us with the conclusion that to achieve big and powerful results, we have to start with the basics. To empower protectors of water, we have to work hand in hand with communities, always listening to their needs and constantly supporting them.
When there is education, there is change, and that change will help people realize just how essential water is for life.
Wednesday, August 31, 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. (EDT)
Session 4. Valuing Nature in Latin America and the Caribbean: Future challenges and opportunities.
Session four of Focus on the Americas spotlighted possible solutions for investing in natural water resources and achieving sustainable economic growth in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The session opened with a positive reflection on the progress already achieved on nature-based solutions (NBS). With encouraging data, Todd Gartner of the World Resources Institute explained strategies and models that projects are currently implementing to become more resilient. He reminded us that valorization and monetization are not synonymous when it comes to NBS.
To analyze challenges and opportunities, the session had two panels of experts share lessons and examples from the region that future NBS can build on.
Maria Julia Bocco, specialist at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), commented on three obstacles to securing financing from financial entities for investments that use NBS: “The first is the lack of data and market maturity; the second has to do with how to valuate and understand projects; and the third is institutional arrangements.” She illustrated her point with an example from Colombia, where NBS could not be implemented as part of programs for using water more efficiently because of a gap between science and practice: operators were not able to implement the solutions because they lacked specific capabilities.
Eduardo Ovejas, spokesperson for RRG Solutions Mexico, showed how to invest in water through collaborative models that have been coordinated with agricultural communities. “The intervention in several areas of Mexico seeks to develop the value chains of agave-mezcal in Oaxaca, cacao in Tabasco, and others, with the objective of creating more sustainable means of production for families,” he said. This strategy is based on regenerative agriculture, where the soil is remediated to keep it productive for as long as possible and avoid aggressive expansion into new areas.
The second panel explored ways to turn challenges into opportunities. Speakers advocated for using technology to overcome barriers and for using active spokespersons, such as academia, industry, and the public sector, to replace traditional concepts with new ones that truly impact the environment.
Laura Ballesteros, from the Municipality of Monterrey (Mexico), presented on the Monterrey Green Agreement, a participatory governance instrument that lays out a roadmap to a sustainable, competitive and resilient city. It aims to connect and share climate knowledge with citizens, forge a collective path towards decarbonization in Monterrey, develop climate solutions, and implement those solutions by designing a climate action plan and municipal climate change regulations. Ballesteros explained that they are seeking private investment to develop green infrastructure for improving Monterrey’s air quality.
Kari Vigerstol, from The Nature Conservancy (TNC), asserted that technology creates new opportunities. TNC is constantly researching models for motivating operators, investors, and experts to use NBS. She showcased the WaterProof platform for getting stakeholders to explore solutions to local water challenges and prioritize locations for potential NBS water security programs (such as Water Funds). This resource is user-friendly, reliable, customized, and open access.
Lorena Guillé-Laris, from FEMSA Foundation, concluded by highlighting that NBS are the path to building the future of water. She posed questions like: Are we progressing at the right speed? How much more are we willing to invest? She closed with these words: “Love until it hurts, and if we love our planet, we have to put our money where our mouth is. Today the planet is sending us numerous signals that we have to invest in a more committed way, not just to turn a profit in a system that continues to perpetuate poverty and inequity.”
Thursday, September 1, 8:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. (EDT)
Showcase. From ideas to solutions: Innovation for better services in LAC.
Innovation plays a key role in increasing and improving access to quality water, sanitation, and solid waste services. World Water Week further explored innovation’s importance by presenting case studies from Source of Innovation, a joint effort to close gaps in the coverage and quality of water, sanitation, and solid waste services.
Natalia Laguyas, from IDB Lab, explained that “the existing water coverage gap in LAC is equivalent to no access for the entire population of Mexico and Central America. […] 443 million people do not have this service, mainly due to gaps in wastewater treatment, posing major health risks for 2 out of every 3 people. What’s more, only 56% of waste ends up in adequate landfills; the rest […] is not treated.”
She reflected that “with this data, it is impossible to reach Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 by 2030, despite daily advances in technology. At this rate, part of the SDGs won’t be met until 2075.” To address this issue, Source of Innovation was created as a set of actions promoted and co-financed by the Water and Sanitation Division of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and IDB Lab, in coordination with key partners like the Government of Switzerland through its State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, the FEMSA Foundation, and the Government of Israel. Its aim is to help service providers in Latin America and the Caribbean develop and adopt innovative solutions for water, sanitation and solid waste to achieve smart, inclusive and sustainable services.
Source of Innovation has an initial portfolio of $8 million to finance projects with four aims:
- Strengthen the innovation capacities of water, sanitation, and solid waste service providers;
- Create alliances between the public and private sectors to promote innovation, technology and entrepreneurship;
- Promote innovation in the region, with new products, suppliers, and specialized actors that serve as intermediaries between service providers and innovators;
- Develop an internal culture of innovation and entrepreneurship at water, sanitation, and solid waste service providers.
To share the scope of Source of Innovation, Ori Shabat from the Government of Israel was invited to present an innovative example of how his country implemented regulatory tools with new technologies. He spoke about:
- Rate recognition to install automated meter reading with 100% coverage in the municipal sector by 2026.
- Remote smart metering of households, and government subsidies for weak local authorities.
- Real-time management: smart remote metering at each production site and direct government support.
- The Water Metering Law: all water, from raindrops to irrigation, must be measured.
- The Water Law: “The country’s water resources are public property, controlled by the State, and are to be used to meet the needs of its inhabitants and development.”
Gabriela Maldonado, from the drinking water division of Quito’s Empresa Pública Metropolitana de Agua Potable y Saneamiento (EMAPS), said that Source of Innovation helped the company move from ideas to solutions. EPMAPS is a groundbreaking utility in the region, implementing AquaRating processes and certifications that helped it better analyze data to obtain indicators on water quality, moorland conservation, and water source protection.
The session then featured a panel with companies from the region to underscore the importance of working on various facets of innovation. Adriana Rosas, from Empresa de Acueducto y Alcantarillado de Yopal, explained how corporate agreements between 34 companies public and private enhanced operators’ business efficiency so they could provide better service and make operations more valuable from a social perspective. She asserted that business efficiency is part of process innovation. Salomé Limongelli, from Agua y Saneamiento (AySA), shared how his company put in place management mechanisms for innovation, transformation, and data science to develop tools and management models based on data analysis with multidisciplinary teams that constantly drive innovation with internal and external stakeholders.
The audience also contributed a key insight: For innovation to be sustainable, there first has to be a cultural shift and an open environment that allows for the trial and error inherent to creating effective and innovative tools.
During the session, the IDB unveiled a conceptual and practical guide to help water and sanitation service providers make assertive decisions to promote and/or deepen innovation, according to each provider’s specific characteristics.
About the Focus on the Americas
The Focus is coordinated by the Inter-American Development Bank, in collaboration with: Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (OTCA), Water For People, the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF), World Resources Institute (WRI), FEMSA Foundation, Water .org, RTI International, PepsiCo Foundation, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Latin American Alliance of Water Funds, Organization of American States (OAS), United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), National Water Commission (CONAGUA), Anheuser -Busch InBev (AB InBev), Fundación Chile (FCH), Hydronia, Municipality of Santa Fe (Argentina). The Focus is partially sponsored by AquaFund, the IDB’s multi-donor fund for investments in water and sanitation, financed with its own resources and from donor partners: the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), the Swiss Government through the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the Government of Austria and the PepsiCo Foundation.
This program is partially sponsored by AquaFund, the IDB’s multi-donor fund for investments in water and sanitation, financed with its own resources and from donor partners: the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), the Government of Switzerland through the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the Government of Austria and the PepsiCo Foundation.