The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) as regional coordinator, jointly with UNESCO-IHP, ANEAS (National Association of Water and Sanitation entreprises), Global Water Partnership Central America, IICA, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and ASCE/WRI (The Environmental & Water Resources Institute at the American Society of Civil Engineers) brought together all focal points designated by the Governments of all countries of the region, representatives of the Forum Secretariat from the sustainability, thematic and citizen processes, and representatives from other civil society and sector entities such as CLOCSAS (Latin American confederation of water and sanitation community services) and IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and members of the academia who are responsible for drafting the reports for the Americas.

This workshop served as a milestone to agree on a work plan and begin to consolidate important contributions for the regional document that will serve as the main input to the 8th World Water Forum.

The workshops focused on consolidating the inputs delivered by the Governments of the region and discuss commonalities in the topics and issues identified by the focal points as relevant for their countries. The reports will be elaborated in collaboration with top Universities of the region, and they will also include inputs from the regional call for proposals launched with the objective of selecting good practices, and the results of a survey with the civil society survey.

“This is our opportunity, to exchange experiences, and to include the water agenda as a top priority in our countries”, assesses the coordinator of the Americas for the 8th Forum, Sergio Campos.

Also, the event provided the opportunity to exchange experiences and joint initiatives with other processes of the Forum.

“Hurricanes like Irma remind us that flood is threatening our water resources and also the wellbeing of our populations. In that sense, the World Water Forum comes very timely...” – Sergio I. Campos, IDB.

“The World Water Forum is not the end or the final objective of this workshop, but to actually develop a plan that will assist all the countries of the region to develop the water sector in a more strategic way and optimized the resources” Shanta King, CDB.

Interview with Sergio I. Campos G., Water and Sanitation Division Chief at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)

Q. Latin America and the Caribbean is one of the most water rich regions in the world, however the situation varies greatly between the sub-regions. What are the main opportunities for the region?
We are very fortunate to have an abundance of water, but at the same time we have very dry areas, like the Atacama desert in Chile, where accordings to historical records it has never rained ever since the humans set foot there. There are some other areas like Northeastern Brazil, Northeastern Argentina, the North of Chile, the coastal areas in Peru or Northern Mexico that are very dry and some of those areas concentrate an important share of the population in those countries. We have to consider also the effects of climate change; we have experienced droughts in recent years in La Paz, Sao Paulo, Panama and the Caribbean, among others. This not only affects the water supply for domestic use but also causes energy outages, food shortages. And on the other hand we have the hurricanes, of which we have had plenty this season. So, if you combine the present and futures threats of climate change with the population growth projections, and the figures of water availability, you will see that the most populous areas in the world will face increased shortages in the coming decades. That is not the case of Latin America and the Caribbean. What we are foreseeing here are more and more prolonged droughts and the floods will be more intense but in average we will have the same amount of water. In that scenario, if we get to manage our water resources in a more holistic manner, our region can have a great opportunity to take advantage of the abundance of water resources in sectors like agriculture and livestock farming.           

Q. Speaking of water abundance, under the SDGs, there is an emphasis on not only the availability but que quality of the services and in that regard, Latin America and the Caribbean faces great challenges. What is being done to tackle those challenges?
We have 200 million people who need better access to water and for that we need to to implement smart water infrastructure that will allow us to conduct micro measurements, reduce the amount of non revenue water and reduce waste in general. In terms of sanitation two thirds of the population of our region, over 400 million people, do not have access to adequate fecal management and less than 18% of wastewater is being treated before reintroducing it to the environment. The solutions to our challenges cannot be conventional; we will have to work on various types of alternatives at the short, medium and long term, which is what we at the IDB call optimum sanitation. There options like condominial sanitation that can improve the quality of life of our people. Another emphasis is the integrated water resources management. We will have to use the existing technologies to improve the planification of our water resources and try to manage the connection between water, food and energy with a more holistic approach. When it comes to the situation in the rural areas, we have made big improvements in terms of access to services, there still a lot to do in terms of behavioral change regarding the efficient use of infrastructure. Having access to water doesn’t necessarily mean that we are using it efficiently. For example, there are houses where latrines have been built but are being used for grain storage, the lack of hygiene practices is also impacts the quality of life in some areas even if water and soap are available. Also in urban and peri urban areas the perception that tap water is bad, people use bottled water for tasks like bathing their babies or washing their dishes. In terms of wastewater treatment we are also behind and we need to step in and start adopting circular economy models in our sector, especially in the countries or areas where water is scarce, we cannot afford not to reuse the wastewater. For all of this we need to combine gray infrastructure with green infrastructure, to make better use of what we already have and what we need to build to tackle these challenges in a sustainable way.

Q. One of the topics that is at the center of the debate right now is the human right to water. How is the IDB integrating that discussion in the Regional Process?
The IDB has always helped the countries in the region to achieve universal access to water and sanitation. What we understand now as the human right to water, includes notions like dignity, privacy and equality, so when we speak of human rights to water and sanitation, we are speaking of an orderly structure of parameters. And we are taking into consideration, gender equality, poverty reduction, education, health, among others. Fortunately, these definitions and encompassed by the SDGs, that include of course water and sanitation for all and an adequate management of water resources.

Q. What are the main objectives for the IDB in its role as coordinator of the Americas regional process?
Our objective is to have an inclusive, technically solid process and the documents that will come out as part of that process contain all the challenges and the points of the view that have been shared during the whole process. We are working with all the sector authorities from the governments in the region so we can have all the diagnostics for each country and sub-region. We are completing the input from the governments with knowledge from universities and the academic world. We have also incorporated the civil society, we have an ongoing online survey in all of Latin America and the Caribbean so they can also have a voice in this process. We also launched a very successful call for proposals open to the public, so all the stakeholders -from academics, leading experts, community leaders to final users- in water and sanitation in the Americas can express their thoughts and propose avenues for research to tackle the main challenges in our sector.

Q. Why is it important for the IDB to play the role of coordinator the Regional Process for the Americas?
This is the second time that the Forum comes to our region, the first time was in 1996 in Mexico, and it’s the first time that it is held in South America, and we are the leading source of funding for development in Latin America and the Caribbean. We have specialists in almost all of the countries in the region, not only water and sanitation experts but from a wide range of  disciplines. In that sense, we consider this opportunity as key to elevate the importance of water and sanitation through the regional process with solid research that reflect the situation in our region.

*Source: Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) press team.

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