From 29th October to 2nd November the 7th African water week was held in Libreville, Gabon, South Africa. 1000 participants from governments, regional institutions, international partners, the private sector, the scientific community and civil society discussed different approaches to achieve Water Security and Safely Managed Sanitation for Africa.
On 22 October, the working group on the cross-cutting topic “Incentive mechanisms in the context of governance” met in Frankfurt to continue its work on key issues identified at its first meeting earlier this year.
At that meeting, which took place in March 2018, the group identified three sub-themes for its future work: a mechanism for turning research into practice, agricultural irrigation, and measuring governance. The second workshop aimed to examine these topics in more depth in order to share knowledge, achieve a common understanding of associated concepts, and pinpoint opportunities for harnessing synergies across the projects.
The workshop began with three keynote presentations. One examined how to bridge the water governance gap between the macro and the micro level, another examined the institutional framework of irrigation systems, and the third looked at indicators and measurements for assessing water governance structures.
After these presentations, the project representatives shared insights into their work on legal frameworks in the context of irrigated agriculture. There was broad consensus on the relevance of analysing legal mechanisms and frameworks in order to assess the potential value of the projects’ technical outputs.
The participants continued their exchange within two parallel working groups. One examined irrigated agriculture, and the other was about measuring governance and turning governance research into practice. Focusing on social innovation, digitalization and legal frameworks, the irrigated agriculture group was primarily interested in analysing legal frameworks, particularly with regard to deficits of implementation and respective solutions, and considered a joint publication on this issue. The second working group discussed the links to governance that exist in the GRoW projects. It identified potential principles of good governance (separation of powers, enforcement, and appropriate monitoring methods) and talked about the outcome of the session: a collection of aspects of good governance from the projects and a potential position paper with condensed information on water governance.
The next workshop on the cross-cutting topic will be organized in spring 2019.
The presentations and workshop minutes are available here.
The GRoW community’s work on cross-cutting topics is entering its second round. With a lively and successful workshop on 27 September, the “water footprint” cross-cutting topic continued its work on key issues identified during its first meeting in March this year.
This second workshop was about further investigating the issues and identifying possible synergies within the GRoW projects.
After hearing three input presentations, the group discussed the possibilities and limitations of water footprints by focusing on three questions:
- How can water footprints be linked to economic and social impacts (e.g. consumer health, consumer/societal costs)?
- How can trade affect water stress – and vice versa - in certain regions, and what are the links to mitigation strategies?
- How can water footprints address water quality and water pollution?
There was broad consensus amongst participants on the importance of assessing water footprints beyond their volumetric environmental outcomes. It also became clear that the approaches to using water footprints differ widely across the different projects, and that there is no “one size fits all” solution. To collect and disseminate their findings, the participants decided to develop a position paper. The paper aims to critically discuss the quantitative approach to water footprints, highlight which factors should be included and how this can be done, and analyse the potentials and limitations of water footprints based on scientific discussions from the perspective of GRoW.
The next workshop on the cross-cutting topic will be organized in spring 2019.
The presentations and workshop minutes are available here.
Pakistan is the world’s fourth largest producer of cotton, and a major exporter of textiles to Germany. The industry consumes and pollutes an immense amount of water. Within InoCottonGROW, 14 German partners from research and industry are working with 13 Pakistani partners to make water consumption more efficient and productive along the entire cotton-textile value chain. The goal is to optimise the water footprint as a steering instrument to help Pakistani decision-makers manage scarce water resources, and to give German consumers criteria for making informed purchasing decisions.
In collaboration with Pakistani partners, the project is initially analysing current water consumption and pollution in the Punjab province. The work will combine satellite remote sensing, hydrological and hydraulic modelling, surveys of cotton farmers, audits of textile companies, and measurements of irrigation channels and groundwater. Demonstration projects will show possible solutions for reducing the cotton textile industry’s water footprint.
The demonstration project on textile wastewater treatment has made significant progress in recent months. Of roughly 220 textile businesses in the Faisalabad textile region, only around ten have treatment plants and several of those are not in use because of high energy costs. Yet with global brands under increasing public pressure to keep a closer eye on the environmental impacts of their producers, more and more Pakistani textile companies are being forced to invest in wastewater treatment. Cost pressure, improper planning and operation, and insufficient monitoring also lead to unsatisfactory treatment results. InoCottonGROW therefore wants to present an economic addition to the exclusively aerobic processes currently in use – by investigating the feasibility of anaerobically treating selected streams of easily degradable starchy wastewater from desizing.
After facing numerous logistical challenges in Pakistan, the FiW researchers commissioned the pilot plant, which was shipped as a container, in July 2018 at the Kohinoor Mills Ltd. textile factory in the district of Kasur, south of Lahore. The plant was planned and built in collaboration with the company A3 Water Solutions GmbH and the University of Stuttgart. After just a few weeks, the plant was producing biogas from the heavily organically contaminated wastewater. A high point was when the researchers used the biogas to boil a pot of tea in front of the factory employees. This was proof that wastewater can produce energy. The researchers then optimized the process to assess the economic viability of a large-scale plant under local conditions. Thanks to the close collaboration with the National University of Science and Technology in Islamabad, a local doctoral student will continue to operate the plant. In addition, initial offers have been made for providing textile companies with expert advice on wastewater. With the help of a documentary film about the project and the development of a water footprint label, InoCottonGROW is working to raise awareness among local decision-makers and German consumers.
The upcoming midterm conference 6 to 10 November 2018 at the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad) will present interim results from all the work packages. These will also be discussed extensively in workshops and training sessions with Pakistani partners.
One of the greatest challenges for reservoir management in many regions of the world is a lack of the input and validation data needed for today’s highly complex models. The MuDak-WRM project aims to develop a globally applicable hydrological model for predicting mid- to long-term changes in the water quality of reservoirs. It will do this by simplifying the complexity of the underlying scientific approaches and therefore the required data. It is establishing key parameters to describe the characteristics of basins and bodies of water, and developing methods for minimum on-site monitoring.
In its first year, MuDak-WRM focused on collecting the necessary local data and developing the hydrological model. It set up the gauging stations in Brazil and conducted the first measurements in Brazil (at the Passaúna reservoir) and Germany (at the Great Dhünntal reservoir). It has also integrated the first results of the various measurements into a real-time data network called Sensorweb.
MuDak-WRM has been benefitting from great local support in Brazil. Right from the beginning, the project attracted wide-ranging interest in the Brazilian community. The kick-off event was very well-attended and interest in the project from local PhD students was exceptionally high. This led to the intensification of a joint graduate project between universities in Germany and Brazil, and the project now has ten Brazilian PhD students on board. MuDak-WRM also signed a memorandum of understanding with its local partner SANEPAR, the dam operator of Passaúna reservoir, at the start of the project. This cooperation resulted in a highlight for MuDak-WRM: SANEPAR provided a fully equipped research ship tailored to performing the measurements in the Passaúna basin. To prepare the ship for its mission, a number of challenges had to be overcome, including providing sufficient space for the measurements on board while taking account of the shallow draft in several parts of the lake, protecting the crew from the elements, and installing a power supply for laptops. Another highlight for MuDak-WRM is that the international environmental protection organization The Nature Conservancy is interested in the project. An MoU will soon be signed.
However, it hasn’t all been plain sailing. The team encountered some delays in the transport of lithium-ion batteries, and were confronted with vandalism and theft. Buoys for the sediment traps were stolen, though the sediment traps themselves were found with the help of divers. In addition, setting up the drones used for data acquisition involves a number of technical challenges. Despite these issues, though, nothing has so far caused any major delays to the project’s progress.
MuDak-WRM is currently planning and working on the land use survey and on integrating local, drone and satellite data. It is also implementing the hydrological and MoRE models in both reservoirs and is planning a general meeting with its German and Brazilian partners in Brazil in February 2019.
Estimating the past, present and future availability of freshwater resources is essential to human life – especially in dry regions. However, the parameters are often prone to high levels of uncertainty due to factors such as insufficient local observations. The SaWaM project is therefore developing a prototype for an online decision-support tool for seasonal reservoir planning and management in semi-arid regions in Brazil, Sudan and Iran. The tool uses refined global seasonal forecasts, ecosystem and hydrosystem modelling, and satellite-based monitoring of key hydrological parameters in near real-time.
In its first year, SaWaM conducted initial tests of hydrological, atmospheric and ecosystem models and regionalized remote-sensing data. It also analysed the performance of seasonal predictions. One of the challenges turned out to be finding the right balance between the accuracy of the modelling/results and their transferability to other regions. SaWaM has also been busy conducting a series of workshops in the case study regions to involve local water managers from the outset and ensure that they transfer the findings into everyday practice.
One of the highlights of the workshops was the participation of Sudanese state minister Hon Khidir M Gasm Elseed at the kick-off event (which welcomed over 50 participants) in Khartoum, Sudan. The minister stressed the importance of seasonal water management across national borders. Other workshop attendees included important local partners such as representatives of the Dams Implementation Unit and the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation Sudan, who also greatly supported the organization of the event. One of the clear messages at the workshop was that the transboundary water management of the Nile and its tributaries across the countries of Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt is one of the major tasks in the region. It was also stressed that contributions from interdisciplinary projects (like SaWaM) are urgently needed in order to maintain the sustainable and fair distribution of water resources.
The workshops in Iran and Brazil also attracted a great deal of interest among local stakeholders. The kick-off meeting in Iran, which included training sessions on hydrometeorological methods, was hosted with Khuzestan Water and Power Authority (KWPA) and welcomed over 100 participants. KWPA also organized a tour of dams and reservoirs in the region for the SaWaM researchers. The kick-off meeting in Brazil was supported by local partner Agencia de national de aguas (ANA, which is responsible for managing the larger Brazilian rivers), and by Fundação Cearense de Meteorologia e Recursos Hídricos (FUNCEME). Along with ANA and FUNCEME, the SaWaM project was presented at the 8th World Water Forum in Brazil.
SaWaM is currently focusing on combining satellite and model-based datasets. There are also plans to integrate the results into models and tools currently used in Brazil to monitor reservoir levels, precipitation and seasonal forecasts. In addition, a second workshop in the Lake Urmia region of Iran is being arranged. Since SaWaM aims to guarantee that the results will be transferrable to other areas once the project has finished, it is working to increase the exchange of information between the three pilot regions by setting up an online platform for sharing experiences and results between the local partners.
To read more about the project or keep up to date with its progress, please visit the website.
Interview with Graham Alabaster of UN-Water’s GEMI initiative on how the scientific community can engage in the SDG 6 monitoring process
Monitoring the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a complex issue involving many UN organizations. In 2014, UN-Water launched the Global Expanded Monitoring Initiative (GEMI) to bring together the different UN organizations tasked with monitoring the SDG on water (SDG 6). GEMI’s aim is to present the whole water sector and to bring together the many different initiatives that monitor the various SDG 6 targets. We spoke to Dr Graham Alabaster, one of the initiators of the GEMI initiative, about how the scientific community can engage in the SDG 6 monitoring process.
GRoW: Where do you currently see the greatest deficits in terms of SDG 6 monitoring?
Alabaster: For me, the main issue is that the countries haven’t yet taken sufficient ownership of the monitoring process. They still see it as something which is external and to be supported by multilateral or bilateral organisations. This might be for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the national statistical offices have to deal with considerable gaps in technical capacity due to the complexity of SDG 6 monitoring compared to other SDGs. At our meeting in March, representatives from the statistical community, the Inter-agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators, who approved the SDG methodologies, clearly acknowledged the challenges of SDG 6 monitoring and asked for technical support. Besides the gaps in technical capacity at the national statistical offices, another challenge is that the institutional responsibility for the water indicators is divided across different ministries. But still, for me, our biggest challenge is to ensure that countries appreciate the need for monitoring. If they don’t, they just won’t do it – or they’ll do it grudgingly and it won’t be useful. So we have to work much harder to anchor the ownership of SDG 6 monitoring in sustainable development and encourage the countries to recognize it to a greater degree.
GRoW: The GRoW research projects work on different levels to support the SDGs. This ranges from local solutions to global analyses. Where do you see the greatest potential for a research programme like GRoW to support SDG 6? How could the scientific community and GRoW in particular support the monitoring process around SDG 6?
Alabaster: There are two aspects of SDG monitoring to which I think the scientific community can best contribute. One concerns providing improved and affordable methods of data collection and data modelling techniques where these are not available. For many of the countries, particularly in Africa where capacities are rather weak, collecting the data is still a huge challenge. One solution is to look at modelled estimates as an interim solution until better data becomes available. This could be done through a variety of methods and approaches, such as using remote sensing data, developing methods to compute wastewater inflows from water consumption, doing mass balances, or adopting model approaches that tap into existing knowledge and data in the countries. The other area where the scientific community can contribute is building national and regional data observatories for SDG 6, building capacities for data collection and related issues, and providing assistance for modelling data. These kinds of observatories must be interministerial. In most countries, an SDG 6 observatory would have to involve a combination of the ministries responsible for issues such as water, health, urban development and the environment.
The scientific community could also use SDG 6 monitoring to promote a resource conservation perspective. Looking at local solutions, there is a need to develop dedicated approaches for managing water demand and reusing wastewater. The scientific community should also help develop tools for assessing opportunities and approaches.
While the SDG monitoring looks at national data, it’s also important to consider intranational differences to better understand the challenges and potential solutions. We need disaggregated data to understand things like differences and inequities in service levels across different urban areas, between the rich and the poor. We also need it to understand pollution sources and their impact on ambient water quality. In Mexico, for example, the volumes of wastewater from industry and domestic sources are equal. However, the organic load from industry is five times higher than from domestic wastewater. This is probably the case in many rapidly industrializing countries. Bangladesh is another example. Its huge textile industry is almost secretly polluting water resources in a very harmful way, while SDG 6 monitoring and related efforts are focussing on sanitation provision.
GRoW: How do you think research projects likes those in the GRoW programme could engage in ongoing processes in GEMI or other political processes related to the SDGs?
Alabaster: I’m always a fan of a good crisp paper that highlights relevant research results in a way that is accessible. That type of paper could be shared with the GEMI partners, mainly the seven UN agencies that are the custodians of SDG 6 monitoring. As for more direct involvement, we are planning a partnership platform within GEMI, where we could work much more closely with initiatives like GRoW and other partners to bring other sources of knowledge and information into the GEMI process. Within the process of developing SDG 6 monitoring, the custodian agencies have convened expert working groups, but on a rather ad-hoc basis. These doors shouldn’t be closed. Depending on the research areas that the GRoW projects are working on, we could help establish bilateral relations between the GRoW organisations and the GEMI members, which include UNEP, UN-Habitat and FAO.
GRoW: Thank you very much for talking to us.
GRoW position paper is well received by participants at HLPF events
From 9 to 18 July, the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) convened at the UN Headquarters in New York to conduct and in-depth review of several SDGs, including the SDG for water (SDG 6). GRoW was involved in several events, represented by steering committee member Dr Ursula Eid, who acted as a moderator and keynote speaker.
In preparation for the HLPF, GRoW prepared a Position Paper on on SDG 6, emphasising the need for an evidence-based approach to achieving SDG 6 and calling for a science platform on water that will bring together relevant actors. The paper and its key recommendations were brought into the discussion at several side events and thereby contributed to the review process. The paper was of particular interest at the side event “Are Women meaningfully involved in implementing SDG 6+ in National Plans?”, during which there was a discussion about data insufficiencies and the need for better empirical data on SDG 6. Consequently, the proposed international science platform was well-received by the audience.
The GRoW position paper was also introduced at the side event “Sustainable Use of Waters – Precondition for a World without Hunger / The implementation of SDG 6.4 Water use and scarcity and its link to the Human Right to Food”. The session focused on the link between virtual water exports and food security in water-scarce countries. The GRoW research projects working on water footprints therefore played a prominent role in the discussions at this event.
The HLPF’s Ministerial Declaration adopted at the meeting’s closing identifies water pollution, water scarcity and insufficient financing as key challenges for the water sector. Aiming at successfully implementing SDG 6, the declaration points to the International Decade for Action on Water and Sustainable Development and calls for greater international cooperation among stakeholders, political leadership to raise awareness of the urgency of SDG 6, and concrete actions to meet the global water targets.
GRoW researchers have identified key challenges to achieving SDG 6
Agreeing on the SDGs was a tremendous accomplishment for the international community, and continuing on this path is essential for our joint future. To achieve the targets, we will have to make ongoing efforts, adopt new approaches and examine multiple challenges. In preparation of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and the in-depth review of SDG 6, the partners in the research program Water as a Global Resource (GRoW) produced a position paper highlighting key scientific challenges to achieving the ambitious SDG 6.
The GRoW research programme primarily aims to contribute to achieving SDG 6. GRoW brings together more than 90 institutions active in research, business and practice. They are working together in more than 20 countries worldwide to develop new approaches for improving sustainable water resources management and water governance systems.
A stronger evidence base for the SDGs
In its position paper, the GRoW partners emphasise the need to build a better evidence base for achieving and monitoring SDG 6. They call for a global platform that would bring together science, policy and practice to bundle key water topics, consolidate knowledge on achieving the SDGs and thereby strengthen evidence-based decisions.
Download the position paper here.
In preparation of the up-coming High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in July and the comprehensive review of the UN sustainability goals on water (SDG 6), UN-Water has published the “SDG 6 Synthesis Report 2018 on Water and Sanitation”. Based on data on SDG 6 global indicators the joint position from the United Nations on the progress of reaching the aims of SDG 6 is represented in the report. For the upcoming six months a publicly accessible dialogue process has been initiated.
The dialogue process consists of three phases:
- Collecting overall feedback (2 May – 16 May)
- Preparing main messages for the HLPF-Meeting (25 June – 9 July)
- Looking forward and next steps (31 August – 14 September)