2 March 2016

17/03/2016 - 17/03/2016
Integrated urban water management, a global and sustainable approach to the water cycle

Flashback on the workshop on innovative approaches for water management in urban areas, the integrated urban water management (IUWM), which recently gathered water experts from around the world in Abidjan. This global approach to the water cycle sees used water – domestic and industrial – and fecal sludge as resources to be exploited.

Lack of sanitation costs 2% of GDP. The interim coordinator of the African Water Facility, Jean-Michel Ossété emphasized the importance of running concrete experiments to serve as examples: “We have to rely on integrated urban water management projects to extend this approach more broadly across the continent.” For François Brikke, senior network manager at the Global Water Partnership (GWP), levers to reach this goal do exist: “One should never forget that failing to take action in the sanitation sector costs a country from 0.9% up to 2% of its GDP, depending on the sub-Saharan country. This evidence is a true game changer to win over our stakeholders on the need to invest in the sector.”

Changing mentalities and behaviors. “We need to change mindsets. One of the most important current changes is the way we consider wastewater. It is being perceived much more positively, as an opportunity with potential value… We should now find ways to gain back that value, that biomass, in order to produce commodities like electricity or plastic, organic fertilizers for soil amendùent,” explains Kalanithy Vairavamoorthy, from the International Water Management Institute (Sri Lanka). An opportunistic approach which invites new questions: Which business models could we use out of water? Who could be the client for this product? What would make this product more attractive and less costly? How could we provide this product to the client with guaranteed profits? For Kalanithy Vairavamoorthy, all these questions call for the design of new models able to generate more funding.

A decision-making tool to raise awareness. Participants also held in-depth discussions about a new decision-making software application for IUWM. “This simple planning tool allows you to run simulations based on data such as the nature of soils, tap water consumption, living conditions, rain and underground water, population growth... Designed for rapid implementation, it not only helps address the symptoms of a given situation – it also seeks to identify the causes of the problem. Designed like a dashboard, it can be used by experts or decision-makers,” points out Seneshaw Tsegaye, from the University of Southern Florida. Viewing this data helps to raise awareness. Produced by the GWP in collaboration with the World Bank and the Patel College (University of Southern Florida), this software solution will be launched during the World Water Week, from 27 August to 2 September 2016 in Stockholm (Sweden).

The challenge of the cities of the future. According Teun Bastemeijer from the Water Integrity Network (WIN), “one of the consequences of the rapid and uncontrolled growth of urban population is that poor governance issues related to water supply and sanitation in developing countries can greatly increase the risk of corruption, especially when the effects of the gap between rich and poor in the provision of services become more patent." He noted in this regard that the WIN, with its experience in this area, had identified a number of essential aspects of governance to reduce corruption risks in the urban water sector. This improved governance will enable Africa to take full advantage of its strong growth, as Seneshaw Tsegaye suggests. At the end of the day, concludes Seneshaw Tsegaye, “Africa is growing while its sanitation infrastructure is not yet developed. Here, we have a virgin field on which to act, an unprecedented opportunity to build and manage resources with our experience and knowledge, to create the cities of the future in Africa.” Indeed, the IUWM approach provides a fitting solution to the rapid urbanization taking place on the continent and the effects of climate change.

Participants also assessed IUWM projects in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Seychelles, Zimbabwe and Madagascar. In particular, this session allowed participants to identify the right reactions to adopt and methodologies to implement, in the face of recurrent situations. The event brought together participants from the African Water Facility (AWF) and the Water and Sanitation Department of the African Development Bank (AfDB) on one hand, and on the other hand from the Global Water Partnership (GWP), the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the Florida Patel College of Global Sustainability (PCGS) and the Water Integrity Network (WIN).

Categories: Integrated water resources management, Water knowledge, Water governance

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