Non-paper on water and sanitation
Steering Committee of the Group of Friends of Water
The Steering Committee of the Group of Friends of Water was launched by the Permanent Missions of Finland, Hungary, Tajikistan and Thailand to discuss water resources management and drinking water supply and sanitation related issues in the context of sustainability and the upcoming Rio+20 Conference. The group has organized five thematic discussions during the spring of 2012 with the goal to bring added value to the sustainable development discussions through pragmatic and result-oriented approaches.
There is a genuine consensus that water resources management and drinking water supply and sanitation are essential for future human life on Earth, as well as for economic development, social equity/poverty reduction and environmental sustainability. However by 2025 nearly two-thirds of the countries are expected to be water-stressed. Freshwater will be under additional strain from climate change and population growth. More than 2.4 billion people are likely to face absolute water scarcity – the point at which the lack of water threatens social and economic development.
Even though the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water has been met well ahead of the 2015 deadline, the fulfilment of the sanitation aspect of the goal is still lagging behind and some 2.5 billion people live without basic sanitation. In addition, 780 million people do not have access to drinking water. Virtually all domestic wastewater in most countries is still discharged untreated directly into rivers, lakes or oceans thus jeopardizing human health, polluting freshwater resources and clearly undermining the sustainability of future water supplies, with negative effects for many water uses, such as irrigated agriculture, as well as for the environment and biodiversity. Wastewater treatment therefore requires special attention. Work remains to be done.
Effective management of natural resources requires a common strategy in order to ensure quality of life, protection of natural resources as well as sustainable economic development and competitiveness in the long term. Major policy decisions in the next decades will have to provide a different balance between current use of water (water services management) and water related ecosystem resources (water resources management). At the discussions of the Friends of Water the focus was on possible ways of bridging these gaps.
The aim of this non-paper is to highlight the findings of the five meetings and underline the concerns identified by the group. The non-paper echoes the main outcomes and messages of the meetings held. The non-paper outlines the shaping idea of global goal on drinking water supply and sanitation, and emphasizes the importance of social involvement in reaching the environmental and economic goals. Strong regulatory capacity as well as the participation of the private sector and civil society is essential for achieving any objectives.
General messages and outcomes of outreach meetings:
Ø The improvement of the drinking water supply capacity is increasingly unmatched by the sanitation target lagging behind. This may lead to a potentially dangerous bubble, indicating the unsustainable character of the current trend of development.
Ø The growing infrastructure-gap and environmental degradation gives rise to a wide range of public health, environmental risks and lost development opportunities. It may even generate social conflicts and tensions.
Ø Access to safe drinking water supply, sanitation, (particularly in urban areas) wastewater treatment and water resources management should be regarded as inseparable. This must be matched in policy making, regulation, planning, choice of technology, investment, financing and implementation.
Ø Sustainability requires integrated water resources management, which includes trans-boundary cooperation in many areas
Ø A rigorous regulatory basis and clear enforcement is of vital importance for successful water resources management and efficient provision of drinking water supply and sanitation services at the national, regional and international levels.
Ø Cross-sectorial cooperation and consensus-building on all drinking water supply and sanitation related issues are necessary in order to achieve sustainability.
Ø Sustainability requires adaptation of production and support systems to global environmental and social changes through development and implementation methodologies and technologies for efficient water use and ecological-based resource management in all sectors.
Ø Stakeholders’ engagement and contributions must be recognized; private sector and civil society involvement can have an immense impact in achieving current and future goals on water resources management and drinking water supply, sanitation and water resource management.
Ø Access to drinking water supply and sanitation is regarded by GA Res. of July 28, 2010 as a human right. However, this right can only be realized as a result of well-organized and consistent economic, regulatory and social activities, which have their costs. Water pricing has pivotal role but is also a sensitive and complicated question in many parts of the world.
Ø In many cases, water reuse and recycling will be unavoidable in order to stop deterioration of water resources as well as address soil acidification and salinity, particularly in rapidly growing urban settlements.
Ø Low cost, low energy consumption and alternative technologies in water use and provision of drinking water supply and sanitation services can help address service expansion needs, water pollution control and mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions more effectively.
Ø In the new paradigm of green economy, integrated and efficient water resources management and provision of drinking water supply and sanitation services would be a catalyst for change.
Ø Risk preparedness and emergency response needs special focus. Not only the natural disasters, but also industrial accidents require us to put in place appropriate measures with emphasis on risk reduction and adaptive management as part of relevant national or local plans.
Ø Ensuring long term sustainability of water use and drinking water supply and sanitation services requires proper educational and awareness raising programs. Thorough participatory education materials, interactive methods are needed to bring policy close to the people.
Water and sanitation in the future development agenda
- There is a need for a future goal that addresses water and sanitation. Water and sanitation hit the core of the future socioeconomic development, security, prosperity, social peace and environmental sustainability in all societies.
- Water and sanitation should be addressed as an individual goal. It could include targets related to water resources management, access to and quality of drinking water supply and sanitation, water efficiency and treatment of wastewater discharges, the reuse of water, and its integrated management, all within the rationale of a functioning and sustainable economy.
- Water and sanitation might be one of the areas that could lead thinking and efforts towards future sustainability goals. The timing is essential: Rio +20 may indicate the direction or even concrete contents of this goal. During the follow-up of the Conference, including the International Year of Water Cooperation, we may elaborate all necessary details of these goals and more specific targets, ensuring coherence with other key human development objectives and United Nations processes.