Water Policy and Regulation, Untapped Opportunities
Economies run on water. According to a study published by UNESCO’s World Water Assessment Programme, “78% of the jobs constituting the global workforce are water-dependent”, yet current human resources and educational systems are grossly insufficient to deliver the SDGs water agenda. For one thing, the water sector has traditionally been dominated by engineers, and so, our water challenges have largely been addressed through better infrastructure. No doubt job opportunities in the water sector have been shaped around such projects and all its hardware. Careers leading to a position in regulatory institutions or public administrations, seem less ‘attractive’ for many young water professionals trying to set a foot in the world of water.
These are actually the roles that aim at providing the enabling environment and necessary support to the engineering – based water projects. With little or no focus on training and capacity building for professionals that can carry such tasks, we risk jeopardizing the presumed benefits of any investment in water. These skills and capacities conform what’s needed to address most of the “hidden part of the Iceberg”, as represented by Catarina Fonseca (Director Watershed: empowering citizens – IRC).
Figure 2 Fonseca et al (2017). ‘Why are we so far from reaching the SDG6?, What we know and what we don’t know’ [PowerPoint presentation].
According to Fonseca, most of us think that capital and minor expenditure (the top of the iceberg) are the main burden for any water project to succeed, but understanding the life cycle of water projects – from planning until their implementation and operation –, it appears that major maintenance as well as factoring in the human element represented by regulation, policy, institutions and people could make or break our investments in the water sector, and future water security for many communities in both developing and developed countries for that matter.
Water governance: an old-new concept
Proactive steps and active engagement is a key step towards better water governance through a Water – Wise approach. “As the water-food-energy nexus blurs traditional lines of resource allocation, collaborative thinking becomes a matter of survival. [….] Water professionals must employ social innovations to hack into society’s often faulty mindset and memory in order to instill collective resilience,” said Yang Villa during the last IWA Water and Development Congress & Exhibition in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The need for networking and sharing experiences is vital for success and will open the door for young water professionals to get more involved in the water sector; innovation and creativity will be an important outcome that will enrich the sector and help tackle new challenges. “Since nature produces the water humans need, all water users must go beyond the mindset of “let’s fight for our portion of water”, to discuss how we can more sustainably invest in the source of our service supply. There is no one to champion this call to action than a generation that has risen up against the status quo,” said Rianna Gonzales, keynote speaker at the last year addressing a senior crowd to flag the essential role of policies and regulations for more resilient and efficient water and sanitation systems.
Note: This paper is reproduced from the IWA website.