How can partnerships with business increase access to safe, clean water for all?

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In many countries both the quantity and quality of water are in decline as populations – and associated demand from agriculture, energy generation, industry and households – grow. The Water Resources Group (WRG) estimates that the shortfall between freshwater supply and global demand could reach 40% by 2030, an average that conceals even more acute shortfalls in certain water-stressed countries.   Goal 6 of the proposed SDGs calls for the “availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”.

 

All those whose demand for water puts pressure on supply, and all those who feel the impact when supply falls short, share the same risks. It is now recognised that this interdependency requires a collaborative response.

 

As a result, partnerships are becoming increasingly central to strategies for delivering Goal 6 and securing shared water resources for business, local communities, and ecosystems.  Companies, governments, donors, and civil society organisations, often in multi-stakeholder alliances, are joining forces to increase water use efficiency, to improve water management and governance, and address the root causes of water risk. 

 

Questions:

  1. What are the most promising partnership models designed to tackle shared water risks, and what impacts are we starting to see on the ground?
  2. What are we learning about how to develop and sustain successful water partnerships on the ground, particularly the role of governments, and what are the greatest barriers to progress?
  3.  How can we build, strengthen and scale up partnerships that aim to tackle shared water risks?

 

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That's brings us to the end of the live segment of this discussion.  We'll leave the discussion open, so please do feel free to continue to post your comments!  Thanks to all our panelists and to all of you for participating.  A summary of the discussion will be published shortly.

If you would like to read more about the issues discussed today, be sure to read the blogs published this week as part of our Access to Water Series:

 

This discussion and blog series is part of our on-going Business and Sustainable Development Goals programme which aims to build understanding of how business can contribute to the SDGs, and is supported by the UK's Department for International Development (DFID).   Visit our SDGS Zone here: http://sdgs.businessfightspoverty.org

 There are very few good examples in our experience but we are increasingly looking for the opportunities to align our work on freshwater conversation with WASH considerations. For example we recently released a joint statement with Wateraid supporting the recognition of the links between the two issues in Goal 6.
 
Nathaniel Mason said:

Totally agree that the interconnections between WASH and water resources are plain to see, and are being reinforced by SDG 6 - which is really positive. Our team here at ODI tries wherever possible to work on the intersection of WASH and water resources management - we've been frustrated by the siloes that get created in the water sector (as well as between water and other sectors). 

I do think that the conversations on business engagement in water resources management on the one hand, and water supply, sanitation and hygiene on the other, have tended to be a bit separate. Any more examples of where water resources and WASH issues are being approached together, through multistakeholder partnership?



David Grant said:

Absolutely agree with this point. There is the tendency to focus on one or the other when in fact the entire system needs to be taken into consideration in order to function properly. 

Lucy Lee said:

It's also worth noting here that WASH development efforts and freshwater conservation reinforce each other and are mutually dependent on each other to succeed. Well-planned sanitation programmes ensure wastewater is treated and disposed of properly which protects freshwater and coastal ecosystems downstream, as well as safeguarding the local communities’ health. Freshwater conservation measures ensure a continued supply of good quality water that communities can access.

It's great to see that the SDG Goal 6 recognises the interconnected nature of these issues.



Katherine Rostkowski said:

Excellent points.  Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) is an example of a global partnership of over 90 developing country governments, donors, civil society organizations and other development partners working together to catalyze political leadership and action, improve accountability and use scarce resources more effectively. Partners work towards a common vision of universal access to safe water and adequate sanitation, including national level sector planning and monitoring.


Nathaniel Mason said:

I'd highlight transparency from that list. It can be in tension with building trust within the partnership, But for long term success it's key to address external concerns about capture of the resource or the policy influence that controls the resource, from getting the businesses involved in managing water. Need for transparency applies to everyone, not just those in business – people in governments, NGOs and donor agencies have their own interests. Ultimately transparency means not just sharing with partners, but incrementally opening up to wider scrutiny and sharing information and decisions with the public.

Lucy Lee said:

There are a number of lessons that WWF has learnt from our water stewardship work about the ways to develop and maintain successful partnerships to support sustainable water management including the need to:

  • Identify water risks hotspots and target actions at these key locations

  • Include all stakeholders in a collective action process, not just a small number of organisations in partnership
  • Collectively identify the drivers of risks with key stakeholders in the catchment

  • Raise awareness of the risks and the potential impact on the local economy

  • Develop a shared vision of how to address them

  • Respecting the different motivations of stakeholders

  • Compromise on timescales to ensure work can be delivered to meet the needs of different stakeholders

  • Be transparent about actions taken

  • Develop simple clear communication, harmonising language across the value chain

I agree with your point - and also think we also have a role to work in a co-ordinated way with government -  I have seen a few instances of multiple partnerships in one watershed trying to pull government in different directions, which ultimately can lead them to disengage completely.
 
Neil Jeffery said:

I would very much agree with you David - governments have a long term role to play in the oversight of the management of water resources in a country. The challenge is helping them to develop their understanding of and response to the multiple, and cross cutting, responsibilities associated with that their mandate - and assisting them to develop a pragmatic mechanism to manage those responsibilities - i.e. through delegation of regulatory authorities, or building of specialist skills or areas of expertise. This process may involve helping them to develop specific priority areas for focus, ....for example we worked with the Kenyan authorities to develop additional KPIs for urban water delivery to enhance the quality of the regulatory framework and improve oversight and assessment of service delivery in that country.     
 
David Grant said:

I think that any partnership that is hoping to achieve success needs to engage with government for long term sustainability. I say this due to the fact that whatever is being considered on the ground will invariably have some relationship with government (for example national, local, catchment management agencies) policy, strategy, action plans, projects etc and to not include them does place the partnership in jeopardy. Ultimately government is the custodian of the water resources in a given country.

Thank you for an engaging discussion.  Partnering is a core part of USAID's Mission: We partner to end extreme poverty and to promote resilient, democratic societies while advancing our security and prosperity. 

For additional information on partnership opportunities at USAID, visit: http://www.usaid.gov/partnerships

Please see our report on Partnering for Impact: USAID and the Private Sector: http://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/15396/usaid_part...

For USAID’s Water and Development Strategy, visit: http://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1865/USAID_Water...



Zahid Torres-Rahman said:

That's brings us to the end of the live segment of this discussion.  We'll leave the discussion open, so please do feel free to continue to post your comments!  Thanks to all our panelists and to all of you for participating.  A summary of the discussion will be published shortly.

If you would like to read more about the issues discussed today, be sure to read the blogs published this week as part of our Access to Water Series:

 

This discussion and blog series is part of our on-going Business and Sustainable Development Goals programme which aims to build understanding of how business can contribute to the SDGs, and is supported by the UK's Department for International Development (DFID).   Visit our SDGS Zone here: http://sdgs.businessfightspoverty.org

Thank you for the opportunity to engage, it has been a great conversation.

David

Thanks all - I've really enjoyed the discussion today!

Lucy

Belated thanks from me too - great to connect and discuss.

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