Managing water resources sustainably

Srepok River, Vietnam. Efficient water use in coffee production.
Efficient water use in coffee production in the river basin of the Srepok, which feeds into the Mekong river. © Alisher Sharypau

Demand for water continues to grow while the total volume of water available on the planet is limited and increasingly exposed to pollution. The main challenge is to manage the water sustainably and achieve an equitable distribution of water between households, agriculture and industry as well as between countries. The SDC is working to promote sustainable water use between sectors and peaceful cooperation across borders.

SDC Focus

The SDC is committed to achieving sustainable management of water resources to ensure access to water and reduce the risks of environmental degradation and conflicts. It strives to link peacebuilding with sustainable management of water resources in regions where tensions exist, and promote the efficient use, reuse and proper management of water in areas where it is in short supply.

Background

Transboundary cooperation

The SDC promotes dialogue between countries, which rely on the same river basin for their water supply. Sharing policy frameworks and technical information can help deflate existing or nascent tensions and conflicts. Switzerland, as a neutral actor with experience in mediation and acknowledged expertise in water management, is ideally placed to facilitate such discussions. At the technical level, , the SDC also supports common methods of measurement for determining the quality of water available and the quantities of water used. This data enables decision-makers to speak a common language when it comes to the management of shared water resources, and thus work together to set and reach commonly defined objectives.

Water – a commodity to be valued

Water is not free. Its protection, distribution and treatment obey the same economic laws as any other consumer good. At the same time, water is a resource to which everyone should have access, including the poorest and marginalised populations. The SDC develops mechanisms for making better use of water and promoting the reuse of wastewater.  The mechanisms provide incentives to manage water sustainably and construct environmentally friendly infrastructure in a particular region or industry.

For example, the SDC is involved alongside major corporations in facilitating the transfer of knowledge in relation to the water footprint, an indicator that enables the water used in the whole manufacturing cycle of a product to be better managed. The SDC is also pursuing the development of the 'Water Stewardship Standard' which aims to encourage all actors from business, government and civil society to take responsibility for their particular impacts on this shared resource and to work together to achieve sustainable management. Payment mechanisms are also being developed for compensating populations in the river basin areas for protecting water resources.

Current challenges

By 2030, demand for water is expected to rise by 30% while the degradation in quality caused by pollution will reach unprecedented levels.  Worldwide, 80% of urban and industrial wastewater is discharged into the environment without prior treatment. The majority of the time, the self-purification capacity of aquatic ecosystems is largely insufficient to be able to cope with such large volumes. Furthermore, agriculture requires a great deal of water, accounting for almost 70% of global consumption.  However, water is often used inefficiently and can be contaminated by fertilisers and pesticides. In addition, industry currently uses 22% of water and as it continues to grow will put water resources under even greater pressure.

By 2025, half of the world's population will be living in regions suffering permanent water scarcity, which will have the effect of weakening local economies and force millions of people to relocate. That is why it is already especially important today to use water so as to preserve its regenerative capacity and allow it to be distributed equitably.

Current projects

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Sustainable Natural Resources Management (NRM) for Enhanced Pastoralist Food Security in the Borana Zone, Ethiopia.

01.01.2022 - 31.12.2027

Natural resources, particularly water and pasture, are among the key determinants of pastoralist livelihoods’ sustainability. The proposed Project contributes to the outcomes of the SDC’s Food Security Domain as stipulated in the Swiss Cooperation Strategy Horn of Africa. It aims at improving pastoralist food security and adaptive capacities in the lowlands of Borana Zone, Southern Ethiopia, through enhancing the sustainable management of natural resources.


Territorial water governance in the Gulf of Fonseca Region - phase II

01.04.2021 - 30.06.2024

The Program facilitates the empowerment of the Watershed Councils of the Nacaome, Choluteca and Sampile rivers in the Gulf of Fonseca Region in terms of their leadership and sustainable and participatory management of the water governance system. This contributes to collaborative processes and investments in the frame of the formulation and implementation of watershed plans, indirectly benefiting 500,000 inhabitants.


Resilience for Pastoralist Communities in Northern Kenya

01.03.2021 - 31.07.2025

Pastoralism is a millennia old livelihood strategy adapted to the marginal and harsh environ-ments of Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL). In order to support pastoralists, this programme contributes to strengthening public and private institutions in the water and livestock sectors, putting policy frameworks in place to ensure efficient county-wide and cross-border water and rangeland management systems, and to increase access to water and pasture.


Investing in UN-Water: accelerating progress on SDG 6

01.02.2021 - 31.12.2025

UN-Water is the ‘one voice’ of the UN system on all water and sanitation related issues. It is responsible for the monitoring and reporting of SDG 6 and strengthens the global water agenda. By maintaining its support to UN-Water, the SDC helps to reduce the fragmentation of the water sector and contributes to accelerating the achievement of SDG 6, thus keeping its global commitment towards the 2030 Agenda. 


Towards effective Global Water Governance (Core contribution to the Global Water Partnership)

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2025

Sound and integrated water resources management is needed more than ever to respond to the global water crisis and to translate the agenda 2030 on water into action. Multi-stakeholder networks such as the Global Water Partnership (GWP) play a crucial role in supporting inclusive decision-making and in moderating between different interest groups and perspectives to enable the creation and maintenance of momentum for coordinated action.


Hands4health Hand hygiene, water quality and sanitation in primary health care facilities and schools not connected to a functional water supply system

01.12.2020 - 31.12.2024

Current technologies and approaches to improve water, sanitation and hygiene are fragmented. Hands4health focuses on the development, testing, evaluation and scaling up of new water efficient hand washing technologies as well as on a holistic approach to hand hygiene, water quality and sanitation. To leave no one behind, the project works in primary health care facilities and schools not connected to a functional water supply system in in four target countries and beyond. 


RésEAU cum Aguasan (formerly SDC Water Network RésEAU’)

01.10.2020 - 30.09.2025

Water security is a key prerequisite of sustainable development and for achieving the Agenda 2030. Herein SDC’s Water Network ‘RésEAU’ plays a key role in supporting efforts towards a water secure world by strengthening the required thematic expertise, helping to better capitalize key learnings and supporting transformational change in line with the new Bill 2021-2024. The next phase of the RésEAU will allow to be ‘fit for purpose’ and to better respond to future challenges and opportunities.


Sustainable and Innovative Rural Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (SIRWASH)

01.10.2020 - 31.12.2024

The Sustainable and Innovative Rural Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (SIRWASH) initiative improves enabling policy, innovation and knowledge environments and fosters the required capacities to provide sustainable quality water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services to rural communities – in particular poor households and vulnerable people – in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Haiti and Peru. It builds on Switzerland’s over 20 years of experience in strengthening rural WASH systems in Peru and Colombia.


Contribution au Mécanisme de réponse rapide (MRR) pour la riposte CoVID-19

01.09.2020 - 30.04.2021

La COVID-19 a impacté la capacité des acteurs humanitaires à conduire leurs activités alors que le pays est frappé par des mouvements de populations sans précédents. Suite à une demande du consortium du Mécanisme de réponse rapide (MRR) – dont Action contre la Faim (ACF) est le chef de file –, cette proposition de crédit a pour objectif de contribuer à atténuer les effets négatifs de l’épidémie sur la capacité des acteurs humanitaires à porter assistance aux personnes impactées par la crise actuelle.


Water and Comprehensive Sanitation Project in Rural Areas (ASIR – SABA), Phase III

01.06.2020 - 31.07.2022

The ASIR-SABA Project aims to contribute to the sustainable management and governance of water and sanitation, as well as public health, as a contribution to the consolidation of peace in rural areas of the country. To achieve its objective, the project promotes dialogue between the different actors of the WASH sector in Colombia. It also aims to strengthen the capacities at the community and institutional level (national, departmental and municipal) for the co-management of water and sanitation in rural areas of the country.

Based on the achievements capitalized by the project in its first and second phases and the challenges and opportunities identified with the different governmental actors of the WASH sector in Colombia, the SDC implements the third and final phase of the ASIR-SABA project.


"Swiss Bluetec Bridge" - mettre la technologie des start-up suisses du secteur de l'eau au service des pauvres

01.02.2020 - 31.05.2024

Si les défis auxquels sont confrontés le secteur de l'eau ouvrent un large champ aux innovations technologiques, notamment dans l'approvisionnement en eau potable, ces innovations servent rarement les populations démunies. Le Swiss Bluetec Bridge rempli le vide entre soutien public aux PME et investissements privés afin que les entreprises suisses innovantes mettent de manière durable leurs technologies de pointe au service des pauvres.


Contribution to IFRC Emergency Appeal: Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak

31.01.2020 - 31.12.2020

As of 06. February 2020 a total of 28’292 infections and 565 deaths have been reported with the majority of the cases occurring in China.

The preliminary Emergency Appeal from the IFRC is seeking Swiss Francs 3 Million to support Red Cross Red Crescent Societies globally, to contribute to stopping transmission of the virus, and helping to ensure the health and dignity of communities affected by the outbreak. IFRC will work closely with National Societies in countries where transmission has taken place, and on preparedness measures for all countries. The main area of focus for this response is Health and WASH, which will include risk communication and community engagement, psychosocial support, capacity building of NS on epidemic response and support. Other areas of focus are protection, gender and inclusion and migration. While at the moment the response is largely in the Asia Pacific region, the IFRC is supporting National Societies in at risk countries with preparedness activities. The IFRC at global, country and regional level is coordinating with other agencies including WHO, UNICEF and CDC in information sharing and guidance.

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