New Horizons: towards universal water access by 2030 // De nouveaux Horizons: vers l’accès universel à l’eau d’ici à 2030

by Ton Schouten, Chair of RWSN

Ton Schouten, Chair of RWSN

Ton Schouten, Chair of RWSN

The world has signed off on the Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 6 is the big water and sanitation goal and includes targets for water services and water resources: universal access to a safe and affordable water supply, but also targets for water quality, water use efficiency, water related eco systems and water resources.

Le monde s’est engagé sur des Objectifs de Développement Durable. L’Objectif 6 est le grand objectif pour l’eau et l’assainissement et inclue des cibles pour les services d’eau et les ressources en eau : accès universel à un approvisionnement en eau potable sûr et accessible financièrement, mais aussi des cibles sur la qualité de l’eau, l’usage efficient de l’eau, les écosystèmes reliés à l’eau et les ressources en eau.

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“Your challenges are our challenges”, reflections from Oklahoma, USA

Today I write from Oklahoma, USA, having just come to the end of the two and a half day University of Oklahoma 4th biennial WaTER Conference.  I had the honour of being one of the keynote speakers at this event, which was attended by over 170 people from 27 countries. It has been an extremely worthwhile experience on many fronts.

There is a growing interest in water supply and sanitation in “developing nations” in the USA.  The Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act 2005 seems be one of the catalysts for this change.  Over the past week I have engaged with numerous undergraduate and graduate students from the University of Oklahoma, Emory University, Mercer University and other US institutions. They are learning about the realities of millions without adequate water supply or sanitation as well as undertaking research. These students want to make a difference.

I was particularly touched by the opening speech of Dr Jim Chamberlain who reflected on the realities today in the USA, where there are people without adequate water supply.”your challenges are our challenges” he observed. He went on to mention common water quality and resource issues between here and other parts of the world.   And he was talking about Oklahoma today – a city that is expanding beyond the reach of its piped water supply network. I have learned about people in this State and more widely in the USA who are not connected to a piped water supply or sewerage system. They mostly rely on their own private boreholes, some hand dug wells, and septic tanks. What was particularly surprising though is that as in Lagos, Lusaka or Kampala, up-to-date statistics on the numbers of wells and population depending on them are lacking.  And private well regulation, including water quality testing falls between the cracks and is beyond the current remit of the US Environmental Protection Agency.

My keynote was entitled Sustainable Groundwater Development in Africa: More than Engineering. I tried to present an overview of some of the groundwater development opportunities and challenges of the African continent. The presentation was well received, in particular reflections on the diversity of the African continent, both above and below ground, as well as the size of Africa. Few people are aware that Africa is larger than the USA and China and a considerable part of Europe put together.

Dr David Sabatini of the Water and Technologies for Emerging Regions (WaTER) Centre asked all presenters to be mindful of a very broad audience, from anthropologists to engineers, from first year undergraduates to seasoned experts.  I tried my best, also aware that there would be people in the audience who had never been to Africa in their lives, alongside scholars and professionals from the continent.  And so we journeyed together from the phenomenal expansion of manual drilling in Nigeria and elsewhere, to the challenges of trying to escape poverty with irrigated agriculture to geology (including the continent’s mineral resources and resource curse), then onto hydrogeology, urban groundwater and finally a vision for future policy and implementation.

As a keynote speaker it was rather humbling to present the fact that the first continental estimates of the quantity of groundwater resources in African were only published three years ago; and to explain that very few African countries have good quality hydrogeological maps and studies. Having worked in rural water supply for seventeen years now, I scratch my head to find defendable reasons for the lack of organised and reliable drilling logs and groundwater data despite decades of development projects from the water decade through the MDGs.

However, I was relieved to present the work supported by UNICEF, WSP, UKAid and USAID over the past ten years to provide guidance for drilling in the form of documents and films; to share that UNICEF, together with WaterAid and Skat has an ongoing collaboration to try and raise the professionalism of both manual and mechanised drilling. And of course to recommend the ongoing UK-funded research to enable sustainable use of groundwater for the benefit of the poor – UPGro.

Undergraduate students ask very pertinent questions. The frankness of potential newcomers to the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Water Resources sector is very refreshing and I hope that they will join in solving some of the problems that those of us who have been around a bit longer are struggling with. But to do that, they need to be able to work in this field. Care’s Peter Lochery and winner of the 2015 University of Oklahoma Water Prize, talked of the importance of being a connector, rather than a leader. And so I close this blog with some questions.

How can better connections be made? What can we all do to enable new talent, whether from the USA, Nigeria, or anywhere else, to flow into the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Water Resources sector? Who can offer internships? What about apprenticeships or first jobs?  Where are the jobs? If we are to reach the Sustainable Development Goal targets for water supply we need an awful lot more skilled people – whether entrepreneurs, field staff, project managers or academics.  And we have to find ways of bringing them in to join us!  Do you have any tangible ideas? Or any offers for that matter?

The closer you are, the more sustainable it gets

by Jochen Rudolph, African Development Bank (AfDB)

Through its Rural Water and Sanitation Initiative (RWSSI) the African Development Bank (AfDB)  was the first donor to support the Senegalese initiative “PEPAM” (Programme Eau Potable et Assainissement du Millénaire) in 2004 and has maintained the close partnership ever since. Looking back at the PEPAM experience, we find that strong and sustained commitment to improving rural water supply and sanitation in Senegal has resulted in more facilities than were originally budgeted for being installed and, as a result, has improved the health and quality of life for a large number of beneficiary villages.

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Jordan reaches out for support at the World Water Week in Stockholm 2015 – a water crisis that needs action

In previous years that I have attended the World Water Week in Stockholm I have never shed tears.  This morning was the first time. Alongside the current media attention about Calais in France and the erection of fences to stop migration, or seeking of refuge in the UK, the people of Jordan face a situation on a completely different scale. Jordan’s problem deserves not only much more media attention, but also much more action – and not just short term action!

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RWSN Exchange

RWSN is at Stockholm World Water Week. We are at stand B9 and we have discussions and interviews with key experts going on all week. We will keep an up to date schedule here, so keep checking back here through the week.

    Wednesday 26 Aug

    • 9am “Future proofing rural water systems” with Susan Davies (Improve International)
    • 1pm “Human Right to Water handbook in the SDG era” with Virgina Roaf and Hannah Neumeyer
    • 2pm “Handpump standardisation” with Jess MacArthur, iDE
    • 3:30pm “Solar pumps and prepayment systems” with Craig Williams and Andre, Water Missions International

    Thursday 27 Aug

    • 11am “T-GroUP: Groundwater for the urban poor” with Dr Jenny Grönwall (SIWI)
    • 2pm “Reflections on household water treatment and universal water access” Maria Besteman (Basic Water Needs”

    Imagine there is access to improved water sources but people don’t use it? Imagine there is no water supply, what are people going to do?


     Blog on Self-supply by André Olschewski, Skat Foundation

    Self-supply are incremental improvements to access and water quality which are financed by own investments. The Self-supply approach and many more interesting topics have been presented and discussed at WEDC Conference 2015 which took place last week in Loughborough, UK.

    Apparently people’s needs and aspirations related to water supply and sanitation and hygiene (WASH) do not always match with the level of service provided by interventions of WASH programmes or to put it differently WASH programmes are not always designed and implemented in a way that they satisfy people needs and aspirations.

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