This Friday, March 22nd is World Water Day 2019. This year’s theme is “Do not Leave Anyone Behind”, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which promises the benefit of sustainable development progress for all. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 6, aim to guarantee the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030. Among its targets one can find: the substantial increase in water use efficiency in all sectors; the implementation of integrated water resources management at all levels; the expansion of international cooperation and the support to developing countries for water and sanitation related capacity-building activities and programs; the support and strengthening of local communities participation in improving water and sanitation management; and the protection and restoration of water-related ecosystems, including rivers, aquifers and lakes, among others.
Thinking about all this, concepts and key words necessary to leave no one behind become evident: On the one hand, the importance of the inclusion of the beneficiary populations associated with sustainable water management and provision programs and activities and the need for the participation of civil society as a whole, including vulnerable and / or marginalized populations, in integrated water resources management. Unfortunately, factors such as ethnicity, social status, gender, sexual orientation and disability are frequently related to exclusion and / or lack of participation in terms of water access and management. On the other hand, the importance of promoting efficiency in the use of water and its sustainability.
Worryingly, if countries maintain their “business as usual” approach to water management, a 40% gap between freshwater supply and demand can be expected by 2030. So how can we apply these concepts of inclusion, participation, efficiency and sustainability to water management? Let’s look at an example!
The Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), and its Agriculture sector, has a history of more than 20 years of joint work with the Government of Bolivia on irrigation for rural agricultural households’ income increase. This long trajectory includes the approval of the National Irrigation Program (PRONAR) in 1995, followed by three additional credit operations: The National Irrigation Program with a Watershed Approach (PRONAREC I), PRONAREC II and PRONAREC III, which was approved in 2016. The total amount of financial resources allocated to these four operations, whose beneficiaries are predominantly indigenous populations, amounts to US $ 341.7 million. The sequence of design and implementation of these irrigation and water resources management programs includes a strategy based on evaluating and incorporating the lessons learned from previous operations. This is how PRONAR stands out in terms of community participation in project identification, preparation and execution. And how PRONAREC I incorporates, as an additional element, a watershed approach to irrigation water management with activities such as the allocation and/or registration of water use rights and conflict resolutions, and the availability of a watershed geographical information which includes climate information, water balances and records on water use rights.
Likewise, PRONAREC II deepens its actioning in terms of watershed approach to water resource management and irrigation projects by including incentives for the preservation and efficient use of water (via e.g. the promotion of technified irrigation systems), and it incorporates an specific gender approach to ensure: a) equal access for women throughout the project cycle and b) their participation in the boards of directors of the irrigation associations. Finally, it is in this learning from the past and going further manner, that PRONAREC III complements previous programs through the mainstreaming of the watershed and gender approach and the impulse of water and irrigation systems’ sustainability via: (a) consideration of the watershed approach in projects from the beginning through water use plans and the inclusion of measures for the protection, rehabilitation and conservation of water and soil, and (b) provision of technical assistance to beneficiaries with a focus on watersheds, trade and gender that e.g. takes into account the needs and workload of women.
In summary, in the case of the Irrigation Programs in Bolivia, the “Do not Leave Anyone Behind” and its alignment with SDG 6, is being carried out with the notions of inclusion, participation, efficiency and sustainability – efforts and concepts that nowadays are even more critical than ever in a context of adaptation to climate change. We encourage you to let this World Water Day inspire you even more to continue to work towards “Not Leaving Anyone Behind” when it comes to access to and sustainable management of water.