The Water Dissensus – A Water Alternatives Forum

"How could anything non-controversial be of intellectual interest to grown-ups?" (Edward Abbey) This Forum is intended to provide space for critical debates and discussions about water issues. Existing dissensus, or antagonistic values and points of view, can be turned into a learning opportunity for the benefit of all and give way to reasoned debates that have the potential both to further understanding of complex water issues and to generate new ideas.
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Can the tide be turned?

vapour1000

Last month's contribution to this forum from two of the 6,500 participants in the recent UN water summit (Alan Nicol and Lyla Mehta) nicely summarised the changes that have, and more importantly, have not happened since the Mar del Plata meeting almost half a century ago. Here I look more closely at the "practical" recommendations that emerged.

The most substantive recommendations emanated from three interrelated reports. The first, Turning the Tide [1], was funded by the Dutch government, which co-sponsored the UN meeting. This flagship report was loosely based on a collection of technical contributions, summarised in The What, Why and How of the World Water Crisis [2].

Turning the Tide highlighted seven action points, each of which would merit thorough debate.

First, we must manage the global water cycle as a global common good, to be protected collectively and in the interests of all.

Second, we must adopt an outcomes-focused, mission-driven approach to water, encompassing all the key roles it plays in human well-being.

Third, we must cease under-pricing water.

Fourth, we must phase out some USD 700 billion of subsidies in agriculture and water each year.

Fifth, we should establish Just Water Partnerships (JWPs) to enable investments in water access, resilience and sustainability in low- and middle-income countries, using approaches that contribute to both national development goals and the global common good.

Sixth, we must move ahead on the opportunities that can move the needle significantly in the current decade.

Seventh, underpinning all our efforts, we must reshape multilateral governance of water, which is currently fragmented and not fit for purpose.

One wonders why a version of the second point did not emerge from Mar del Plata—perhaps it's just very difficult to get stakeholders to converge when their interests (and boundaries of concern) differ; the third proposal is perhaps the most repeatedly and thoroughly discredited approach to induce sustainable water use in agriculture; the fourth is actionable but politically toxic (hence the difficulties with the second proposal); and the sixth is surely a statement of the obvious: if it's a crisis, we should act promptly and effectively.

But it is the first and last proposals that may generate the most interest. These were elaborated in a Comment article in Nature, Why we need a new economics of water as a common good [3], whose authors included two of the Global Commission members. That article argues that scientists should have a seat at the table when decisions on water resources management are taken. Agreed. And that would have eliminated recommendation three, above.

But more seriously, and even if followed, in the case of water disputes, the politicians will hire scientists who support their case—all neutral science can do (for example via satellite data) is to limit the extremes of interpretation. Politicians will then adopt the most convenient science or law to suit their cause—thus countries argue for equitable distribution or no appreciable harm depending on their situation in the river basin, historic usage or disputed agreements. Having a scientist at the table may help WITHIN jurisdictions but is unlikely to clarify matters internationally let alone globally.

The final recommendation in the Comment article—starting locally and building globally—is correct. But then let's face the miserable fact that in most of the world we are failing locally, rendering the global strategy a redundant diversion of effort for the foreseeable future. While "local" is the priority, the perspective implied by the global water cycle framework will provide an excuse for countries that fail to manage water properly to claim that "someone stole my water vapour!", justifying local failure.

The first example of such interactions that is quoted in the Comment article (that ET in India is supporting flows in the Yangtze) is spectacularly revealing. India is over exploiting pretty much ALL its water resources. Is the recommendation to continue this process lest the Yangtze dries up?

It is politically rather unlikely that a country facing local water scarcity is going to further self-harm to support another country. Yet the Comment article recommends that "Governments must monitor soil moisture and vapour flows, and set policies that value these flows as natural capital. Water governance and management need to span all scales, connecting local watersheds, river basins, precipitation- and evaporation-sheds, and eventually the globe."

The extensive and inconclusive literature on how water that is actually under our control should be "valued" suggests that it will be some time before "soil moisture and vapour flows" that are predominantly the outcome of uncontrollable rainfall interacting with uncontrollable temperature, humidity and wind can be "valued".

Beyond such technicalities, recommendations for global oversight of the hydrological cycle are premature (even if plausible).First, climate change is the 600-pound gorilla in the room. Climate change will alter the disposition of precipitation across the globe, and that changing pattern will no doubt feed back into climate. Yet as noted in the Comment, "researchers need to better understand how these processes interact and how atmospheric flows of water vapour connect different regions." Until that understanding is in place, we don't even know what to recommend—as illuminated by the India-China example above. Self-interest suggests that India should limit excessive water consumption for the sake of India. Whether that strategy will exacerbate water scarcity in China is a matter of uncertain speculation (perhaps it is true that maintaining unsustainable levels of ET in Indian irrigation systems is to the benefit of China); whether either strategy is better or worse globally is entirely speculative at this point as the authors more or less admit in recommending "more research" to understand these issues.

Furthermore, to the extent that we already have research, the 600-pound gorilla that is climate change seems likely to overwhelm whatever changes we might make to irrigation systems, which comprise our most obvious example of "ET management". The GRACE mission (which tracks water status globally) recently reported that the extreme rainfall following the millennium drought resulted in so much accretion to aquifers in Australia that sea levels fell measurably [4]. Such variability in climate will have the proposed research institutes modelling well into the next century before concluding whether introduction (or elimination) of drip irrigation in Punjab will be good (or bad) for India, China, or the world.

Summing up these issues, our actual capacity to manage these changes (assuming we know what the changes will be, and apparently we don't) and assuming countries will sign up to export ET they cannot sustainably support, which they won't, is minimal when compared to the 600-pound gorilla. A new UN agency to manage the hydrological cycle is thus a premature proposal. Avoiding water waste and improving agricultural productivity will impact an imperceptible fraction of these processes globally, and substantially locally. Mixing these two impacts is a category error.We need to better understand the hydrological cycle and our capacity to "manage it", while focussing immediate action on local water resources management, which we know is poor and have clear ideas of how to improve it.

The first option, attempting to manage the global water cycle as a common good, will be expensive in terms of intellectual energy, conferences, CO2 emissions (6,500 attended in NY), research skills and more importantly diverting attention from the local issues that comprise the essential, practical element of sustainable water resources management. Sadly, it will also be the more appealing to researchers, conference organisers and donors.

Chris Perry


[1] https://watercommission.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/Turning-the-Tide-Report-Web.pdf

[2] https://watercommission.org/publication/phase-1-review-and-findings/

[3] https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-023-00800-z#:~:text=Excessive%20extraction%20for%20irrigation%20and,as%20a%20global%20common%20good

[4] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0123-1

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Comments 28

Jude Cobbing on Monday, 15 May 2023 16:48
States have a big role to play

Thank you Chris - I agree that climate change may far outweigh efforts to manage water better - we may have to run just to stand still. We water people are all climate change specialists now, whether we like it (or know it), or not. I believe that calls to end subsidies won't reshape large-scale irrigation, so much as bolster economic fundamentalism as it's applied to water supply and WASH schemes in e.g. Africa, where some still seek the perfect formula for local / endogenous long-term financial sustainability. In trying to reduce water management to a problem that markets can (or should) solve, we are relying on the same limited toolkit that got us into this mess in the first place - i.e. that somewhere out there, undistorted by subsidy, is a perfect market-driven world that will deliver even good management of the global commons. Climate change will need massive state intervention (and subsidy) if it is to be fixed in the remaining time - and by extension, so will water governance.

Thank you Chris - I agree that climate change may far outweigh efforts to manage water better - we may have to run just to stand still. We water people are all climate change specialists now, whether we like it (or know it), or not. I believe that calls to end subsidies won't reshape large-scale irrigation, so much as bolster economic fundamentalism as it's applied to water supply and WASH schemes in e.g. Africa, where some still seek the perfect formula for local / endogenous long-term financial sustainability. In trying to reduce water management to a problem that markets can (or should) solve, we are relying on the same limited toolkit that got us into this mess in the first place - i.e. that somewhere out there, undistorted by subsidy, is a perfect market-driven world that will deliver even good management of the global commons. Climate change will need massive state intervention (and subsidy) if it is to be fixed in the remaining time - and by extension, so will water governance.
David Zetland on Monday, 15 May 2023 17:02
Think global, act local... and make sure you have DATA!

I've not read Turning the Tide, so I thank Chris for summarizing why I should not.

The first point is a joke (and I'm a fan of the commons!), so I will not bother to reflect on the other points.

These reports seem to be written by and for global bureaucrats who do not have much in common with the ditch diggers who really manage water. Thus, they are a waste of time.

CC will indeed over-run all of these plans and reports, and the keys to adopting to CC will be held and turned by local hands. Let's help those folks with their work -- balancing aggregate demand and supply.

I've not read Turning the Tide, so I thank Chris for summarizing why I should not. The first point is a joke (and I'm a fan of the commons!), so I will not bother to reflect on the other points. These reports seem to be written by and for global bureaucrats who do not have much in common with the ditch diggers who really manage water. Thus, they are a waste of time. CC will indeed over-run all of these plans and reports, and the keys to adopting to CC will be held and turned by local hands. Let's help those folks with their work -- balancing aggregate demand and supply.
Guest
Guest - Vijay Jagannathan on Monday, 15 May 2023 19:39
Insights worth reflecting upon

Excellent comments Chris. The phrase "Just Water Partnerships" may very well attract policy makers' attention tomorrow as the phrase "Just Energy Transitions" has done today. However ensuring an "outcomes-focused, mission-driven approach to water" may be expecting too much from politicians to practice to as experience with the UN efforts at codifying international water rights have indicated.

Excellent comments Chris. The phrase "Just Water Partnerships" may very well attract policy makers' attention tomorrow as the phrase "Just Energy Transitions" has done today. However ensuring an "outcomes-focused, mission-driven approach to water" may be expecting too much from politicians to practice to as experience with the UN efforts at codifying international water rights have indicated.
Guest
Guest - John Matthews on Tuesday, 16 May 2023 05:39
more economics in water, or more water in economics?

A second "interim" report on economics and water was also released at the UNWC, though with less fanfare (despite being funded by some of the same parties). This group focuses on the climate issues that you mention, Chris, with the idea of beginning the process of translating resilience - especially what the IPCC calls "water-based adaptation - into an economic concept. Have a gander. In the words of one of the authors, the report and cases work to show how to bring water to economics, rather than economics to water. http://wr4er.org

A second "interim" report on economics and water was also released at the UNWC, though with less fanfare (despite being funded by some of the same parties). This group focuses on the climate issues that you mention, Chris, with the idea of beginning the process of translating resilience - especially what the IPCC calls "water-based adaptation - into an economic concept. Have a gander. In the words of one of the authors, the report and cases work to show how to bring water to economics, rather than economics to water. [url=http://wr4er.org]http://wr4er.org[/url]
Chris Perry on Thursday, 18 May 2023 06:53
Thanks, but…

John
Thanks for your comments. I read the report you reference, including the case study of Jordan.

For sure the approach is more practical (down to earth, one might say) than the cloud management proposed in the Dutch-funded report, but I struggle to identify what is new when compared to a couple of decades ago when I was slightly involved in Jordan.
Aquifers are over-exploited (still); water treatment plants are inadequate (still); water resources management is fragmented (still)…
What do I miss? Yes, these are the priorities and the Jordanians know it—with or without international expert studies.

John Thanks for your comments. I read the report you reference, including the case study of Jordan. For sure the approach is more practical (down to earth, one might say) than the cloud management proposed in the Dutch-funded report, but I struggle to identify what is new when compared to a couple of decades ago when I was slightly involved in Jordan. Aquifers are over-exploited (still); water treatment plants are inadequate (still); water resources management is fragmented (still)… What do I miss? Yes, these are the priorities and the Jordanians know it—with or without international expert studies.
Guest
Guest - Joseph Mtonga on Wednesday, 17 May 2023 05:24
REDUCING AGRICULTURE AND WATER SUBSIDIES IS IT NOT A CONTRADICTION?

I have asked this question because the world has set its goal to eliminate hunger by 2030 SDG2 and to make sure that all peoples of the water have clean water and sanitation by 2030 SDG6.Will this be possible in most developing poor countries who live on less than US$1 a day and you are there saying we should not subsidize water and agriculture? No wonder malnutrition and water borne diseases continue to ravage poor countries because they cannot access nutritious food and do not have good sanitation and clean water supply because it out of their reach because the governments of these poor countries are following the advice of their cooperating partners who fund agriculture and water and sanitation projects to remove subsidies on agriculture and water supply and sanitation. I agree a lot of debate is required. It is undisputable that food and water is life. In my opinion, any efforts to produce or access these two should not be expensive otherwise the end user will find it difficult to have them. The picture is what we see all over the world- disease burden because of lack of food and poor water supply.

I have asked this question because the world has set its goal to eliminate hunger by 2030 SDG2 and to make sure that all peoples of the water have clean water and sanitation by 2030 SDG6.Will this be possible in most developing poor countries who live on less than US$1 a day and you are there saying we should not subsidize water and agriculture? No wonder malnutrition and water borne diseases continue to ravage poor countries because they cannot access nutritious food and do not have good sanitation and clean water supply because it out of their reach because the governments of these poor countries are following the advice of their cooperating partners who fund agriculture and water and sanitation projects to remove subsidies on agriculture and water supply and sanitation. I agree a lot of debate is required. It is undisputable that food and water is life. In my opinion, any efforts to produce or access these two should not be expensive otherwise the end user will find it difficult to have them. The picture is what we see all over the world- disease burden because of lack of food and poor water supply.
Chris Perry on Sunday, 28 May 2023 12:33
Each policy objective needs a separate intervention...

Joseph
I am sure we all agree that we need food security, affordable food, and sustainable water use levels. The economist Jan Tinbergen pointed out that if we have multiple objectives we need multiple policy interventions--thus we might subsidise food with a negative tax, set physical water quotas to constrain water consumption, and enforce cropping patterns to ensure enough food is produced. (I don't specifically endorse these interventions, just point out that different types of intervention may suit different policy objectives).
Where many theorists go wrong (and the article I am commenting on certainly does) is to assume that a single intervention, such as pricing water, will solve multiple problems.
Regards
Chris

Joseph I am sure we all agree that we need food security, affordable food, and sustainable water use levels. The economist Jan Tinbergen pointed out that if we have multiple objectives we need multiple policy interventions--thus we might subsidise food with a negative tax, set physical water quotas to constrain water consumption, and enforce cropping patterns to ensure enough food is produced. (I don't specifically endorse these interventions, just point out that different types of intervention may suit different policy objectives). Where many theorists go wrong (and the article I am commenting on certainly does) is to assume that a single intervention, such as pricing water, will solve multiple problems. Regards Chris
Guest
Guest - S.A. Prathapar on Wednesday, 17 May 2023 06:25
USD 700 B subsidies to Agriculture and Water

Governments pretend that irrigated agriculture can ensure food security and alleviate poverty simultaneously. Land constraints, especially in South Asia, is the constraint to these two aspirations. With land holding less than 0.5 ha, even if a farmer could grow GOLD, he would still be poor. Pardon my pun.

Politicians tend to treat farming as an emotional issue (we must help the poor farmer) than an economic issue (Farming must be profitable). Subsidies buy the politicians votes and make urbanites feel good about their help to farmers, who supply them with cheap food.

There has to be a gradual shift of subsidies in Agriculture and Water to other sectors, which can provide gainful employment to farmers' children. The children do not want to be farmers.

This phase should see the unskilled elderly farmers cared for during this transition.

Governments pretend that irrigated agriculture can ensure food security and alleviate poverty simultaneously. Land constraints, especially in South Asia, is the constraint to these two aspirations. With land holding less than 0.5 ha, even if a farmer could grow GOLD, he would still be poor. Pardon my pun. Politicians tend to treat farming as an emotional issue (we must help the poor farmer) than an economic issue (Farming must be profitable). Subsidies buy the politicians votes and make urbanites feel good about their help to farmers, who supply them with cheap food. There has to be a gradual shift of subsidies in Agriculture and Water to other sectors, which can provide gainful employment to farmers' children. The children do not want to be farmers. This phase should see the unskilled elderly farmers cared for during this transition.
Chris Perry on Sunday, 28 May 2023 12:37
Each policy objective needs a separate intervention...

Hi Prathapar
See my above comment on the need for interventions of different types for different purposes.
You add the important point that farmers are often a "vote bank", which tends to result in some pretty crazy subsidies--for example of sugar cane in water short areas--though in fact the major beneficiaries of those subsidies are the owners of the cane processing factories.

It's hard to design a subsidy that doesn't have some unexpected or unwelcome impact.

best
Chris

Hi Prathapar See my above comment on the need for interventions of different types for different purposes. You add the important point that farmers are often a "vote bank", which tends to result in some pretty crazy subsidies--for example of sugar cane in water short areas--though in fact the major beneficiaries of those subsidies are the owners of the cane processing factories. It's hard to design a subsidy that doesn't have some unexpected or unwelcome impact. best Chris
Guest
Guest - Adam Loch on Thursday, 18 May 2023 03:33
We keep going round in circles

Thanks Chris, an excellent quick read. The dutch report provided an excellent set of points I agree, but basically we continue to cover the same old issues without breaking out of the groove, worn deep by reflecting on but never changing the basic operating activities and institutional arrangements for water management globally. Not easy granted, but we are headed for a massive cliff and the economic and social costs of change will be enormous, let alone the extraordinary human cost.

We clearly still don’t know what we’re doing / what practical changes may work effectively at the governance level. This is another reason why I feel increasingly comfortable with moving off to other research interests over water, where it appears we just go round and round the same political incapacity and research inadequacy to link required changes. Also agree CC will undo us all, as observed by some comments above, forcing required adaptations and change under highly inflated costs (again both economic and human). Highlights in my view the inadequacy of what we can offer to them that helps. Yelling doesn’t, and neither does the typical economics’ dismal approach that all to often involves stating ‘that won’t work’ either.

So where to from here? Round and round the mulberry bush it seems . . .

Thanks Chris, an excellent quick read. The dutch report provided an excellent set of points I agree, but basically we continue to cover the same old issues without breaking out of the groove, worn deep by reflecting on but never changing the basic operating activities and institutional arrangements for water management globally. Not easy granted, but we are headed for a massive cliff and the economic and social costs of change will be enormous, let alone the extraordinary human cost. We clearly still don’t know what we’re doing / what practical changes may work effectively at the governance level. This is another reason why I feel increasingly comfortable with moving off to other research interests over water, where it appears we just go round and round the same political incapacity and research inadequacy to link required changes. Also agree CC will undo us all, as observed by some comments above, forcing required adaptations and change under highly inflated costs (again both economic and human). Highlights in my view the inadequacy of what we can offer to them that helps. Yelling doesn’t, and neither does the typical economics’ dismal approach that all to often involves stating ‘that won’t work’ either. So where to from here? Round and round the mulberry bush it seems . . .
Chris Perry on Sunday, 28 May 2023 12:40
The periodic cycle of the "mulberry bush"

Water pricing seems to emerge about every 13 years. 1993 was a peak (World Bank policy paper), then again around 2006 (Morocco workshop), so we are due another now and here it is. The idea gets shot down each time, but re-emerges with each new generation of economists who think water is a pretty simple topic.

Chris

Water pricing seems to emerge about every 13 years. 1993 was a peak (World Bank policy paper), then again around 2006 (Morocco workshop), so we are due another now and here it is. The idea gets shot down each time, but re-emerges with each new generation of economists who think water is a pretty simple topic. Chris
Guest
Guest - Peder Hjorth on Thursday, 18 May 2023 09:00
Government won’t turn the tide


I can only agree with David Zetland. The Turning the Tide document is ridiculously poor. The UN has really underperformed for a long time. In his closing remarks, the UN Secretary General actually advised us to reconnect to “Our Common Future”. I agree. In that report, it was, for instance, claimed that sustainable development won’t happen, unless the international financing institutions, among them the IMF and the World Bank, are forced to honor the purposes for which they were originally set up. An issue, that has systematically been dodged in international fora.
The Secretary General also mentioned the ”Water Action Decade” That’s something that has been completely drowned by the flood of SDG discussions. In my view, this is another UN blunder
I agree with Chris Perry that we should forget about governments, and focus on immediate action on local water resources management, which is the very basis of any serious water governance effort. As he states, we know all too well, that it is in a poor state, virtually everywhere, and after the demise of the Dublin-IWRM idea, we have rather clear ideas of how to improve it. This also goes for adaptation to global warming, which is becoming increasingly urgent, and is also local and water related.
It is, however up to governments to realign the development aid institutions, which have increasingly fallen victims to marketization, and been outsourced to consultants. Such alignment is absolutely necessary, if we want to make good on our most shameful record this far, the neglect of the appallingly poor drinking water and sanitation services in most developing countries.

I can only agree with David Zetland. The Turning the Tide document is ridiculously poor. The UN has really underperformed for a long time. In his closing remarks, the UN Secretary General actually advised us to reconnect to “Our Common Future”. I agree. In that report, it was, for instance, claimed that sustainable development won’t happen, unless the international financing institutions, among them the IMF and the World Bank, are forced to honor the purposes for which they were originally set up. An issue, that has systematically been dodged in international fora. The Secretary General also mentioned the ”Water Action Decade” That’s something that has been completely drowned by the flood of SDG discussions. In my view, this is another UN blunder I agree with Chris Perry that we should forget about governments, and focus on immediate action on local water resources management, which is the very basis of any serious water governance effort. As he states, we know all too well, that it is in a poor state, virtually everywhere, and after the demise of the Dublin-IWRM idea, we have rather clear ideas of how to improve it. This also goes for adaptation to global warming, which is becoming increasingly urgent, and is also local and water related. It is, however up to governments to realign the development aid institutions, which have increasingly fallen victims to marketization, and been outsourced to consultants. Such alignment is absolutely necessary, if we want to make good on our most shameful record this far, the neglect of the appallingly poor drinking water and sanitation services in most developing countries.
Chris Perry on Sunday, 28 May 2023 12:48
Where did IWRM go wrong?

Peder
Thanks for these insightful comments. I agree with you.

IWRM is an interesting topic. It began in the 1990s, and was (as I understood it) a recognition tf the hydrological reality that when water is fully exploited at the basin level, the system IS integrated in the sense that water availability at any point is the "integral" of all that happened above that point.

Unfortunately, this simple yet critical insight was quickly buried in claimants who wanted "their" agenda to be one of the integrated perspectives. In the course of that still ongoing effort, the simple original concept has rather got lost and we still debate whether drip irrigation "saves" water without just looking at the flows of water before and after installation of drip. Sometimes it does; sometimes it doesn't.

The Dublin principles seemed to me to comprise one fact and three political perspectives. Discuss...

Peder Thanks for these insightful comments. I agree with you. IWRM is an interesting topic. It began in the 1990s, and was (as I understood it) a recognition tf the hydrological reality that when water is fully exploited at the basin level, the system IS integrated in the sense that water availability at any point is the "integral" of all that happened above that point. Unfortunately, this simple yet critical insight was quickly buried in claimants who wanted "their" agenda to be one of the integrated perspectives. In the course of that still ongoing effort, the simple original concept has rather got lost and we still debate whether drip irrigation "saves" water without just looking at the flows of water before and after installation of drip. Sometimes it does; sometimes it doesn't. The Dublin principles seemed to me to comprise one fact and three political perspectives. Discuss...
Guest
Guest - Adel Zeggaf Tahiri on Friday, 19 May 2023 19:02
Some insights from the Maghreb

First of all, I would not like to generalize the entire subject because I believe subsidizing may have different objectives, tools and procedures depending on different geographic locations, political systems, regimes...etc. However, I think everyone will find the following narrative very cohesive with the reality of water irrigation in the Maghreb region.

1/ A mother asks her kids: be good, behave well for all the daytime. If you do so, you will be rewarded with a candy, a gift or whatsoever.

2/ By the end of daytime, she makes sure if her kids behave well and then decides whether or not to reward them.

3/ In this process, the mother never gives the reward at first and then hopes her kids will behave well.

Now, coming back to my reference region "the Maghreb", I have the following remarks:

a/ All Maghreb countries are heavily subsidizing the agricultural sector by setting irrigation water tariffs very low. This is comparable to the situation 3 listed above.

b/ Water administrations at large scale irrigation schemes don't have the material capacity nor the human force to control, check and enforce efficient use of irrigation water. In most cases, farmers refuse water counter' installment, in some cases destroy them, and in other cases simply refuse to pay for irrigation water used. This situation is opposite to situation 2 listed above. Consequently, the percentage investment recovery of such heavy irrigation schemes investments are very low. The result is a vicious circle where decision makers must thoroughly choose where to act to improve the situation instead of blindly subsidizing all farmers without any control measures.

c/ The fixed tariff system is not suitable at all for instigating farmers to efficiently use irrigation water, which is the opposite situation 3 listed above. Instead, a progressive tariff system which offers low tariffs for farmers who efficiently use water according to their cropping system and penalise wastage with higher water tariffs is more suitable. A good water tariff system is imperative to good governance.

d/Subsidizing is not always the best solution. For technical problems, we need technical solutions:

- Water conveyance systems generate tremendous losses. It's up to public bodies to repair and improve the system so that water losses are reduced and the overall water efficiency is increased.

- Field water application efficiency by farmers is very low according to the low irrigation water valuation in the Maghreb overall. In addition to technical improvements, Maghreb farmers need more training, need to acquire consciousness about the vital role of water in arid and semi-arid areas as well as the economic background behind use of irrigation water.

First of all, I would not like to generalize the entire subject because I believe subsidizing may have different objectives, tools and procedures depending on different geographic locations, political systems, regimes...etc. However, I think everyone will find the following narrative very cohesive with the reality of water irrigation in the Maghreb region. 1/ A mother asks her kids: be good, behave well for all the daytime. If you do so, you will be rewarded with a candy, a gift or whatsoever. 2/ By the end of daytime, she makes sure if her kids behave well and then decides whether or not to reward them. 3/ In this process, the mother never gives the reward at first and then hopes her kids will behave well. Now, coming back to my reference region "the Maghreb", I have the following remarks: a/ All Maghreb countries are heavily subsidizing the agricultural sector by setting irrigation water tariffs very low. This is comparable to the situation 3 listed above. b/ Water administrations at large scale irrigation schemes don't have the material capacity nor the human force to control, check and enforce efficient use of irrigation water. In most cases, farmers refuse water counter' installment, in some cases destroy them, and in other cases simply refuse to pay for irrigation water used. This situation is opposite to situation 2 listed above. Consequently, the percentage investment recovery of such heavy irrigation schemes investments are very low. The result is a vicious circle where decision makers must thoroughly choose where to act to improve the situation instead of blindly subsidizing all farmers without any control measures. c/ The fixed tariff system is not suitable at all for instigating farmers to efficiently use irrigation water, which is the opposite situation 3 listed above. Instead, a progressive tariff system which offers low tariffs for farmers who efficiently use water according to their cropping system and penalise wastage with higher water tariffs is more suitable. A good water tariff system is imperative to good governance. d/Subsidizing is not always the best solution. For technical problems, we need technical solutions: - Water conveyance systems generate tremendous losses. It's up to public bodies to repair and improve the system so that water losses are reduced and the overall water efficiency is increased. - Field water application efficiency by farmers is very low according to the low irrigation water valuation in the Maghreb overall. In addition to technical improvements, Maghreb farmers need more training, need to acquire consciousness about the vital role of water in arid and semi-arid areas as well as the economic background behind use of irrigation water.
Chris Perry on Sunday, 28 May 2023 12:52
Agreed... up to a point

Adel
I agree that interventions can have perverse outcomes, as you nicely set out. But don't be so sure that "water conveyance systems generate huge losses"!

Look at the hydrology and you discover that those same losses are the source of much of the recharge in over-exploited aquifers. This is not to say that losses are "good" (though if they occur when water is plentiful, say in the monsoon, they certainly are), but rather to urge caution in your assumptions.

Chris

Adel I agree that interventions can have perverse outcomes, as you nicely set out. But don't be so sure that "water conveyance systems generate huge losses"! Look at the hydrology and you discover that those same losses are the source of much of the recharge in over-exploited aquifers. This is not to say that losses are "good" (though if they occur when water is plentiful, say in the monsoon, they certainly are), but rather to urge caution in your assumptions. Chris
Guest
Guest - Adel Zeggaf Tahiri on Monday, 29 May 2023 15:57
Re Agreed...up to a point

You're right. But it's not again the case for coastal large scale irrigation schemes. In some of these cases, water losses are lost forever to the sea.
Adel

You're right. But it's not again the case for coastal large scale irrigation schemes. In some of these cases, water losses are lost forever to the sea. Adel
François Molle on Thursday, 25 May 2023 08:35
Rediscovering (water) politics

This report certainly came with much hype and fanfare and its proposal that a "just water future" can be achieved through "transforming the economics and restructuring the governance of water" attracts curiosity.

On the economics side, we are back to the issues of water pricing and subsidies. The agricultural water pricing policy bubble burst in the 2000s but the natural ebb and flow of ideas (and ideological blindness) is seemingly bringing it back again. Reducing inappropriate and excessive agricultural subsidies has been the standard recommendation for at least 50 years. The many (good and bad) reasons for their stickiness is still being treated as a temporary 'political' nuisance delaying the advent of a rationale and efficient world with full cost pricing and unfettered markets. Without such subsidies a good number of countries would see their rural societies collapse or explode. But going back to water, if these subsidies "tend to generate excessive water consumption and other environmentally damaging practices", everything is in the "tend". It would be nice to hear about studies which have further explored the link between subsidies and water consumption.

One that I am aware of runs counter to the report's standard call for a "greater use of micro irrigation and smart agriculture, which is a win-win for both ordinary farmers and the environment." A growing literature (the latest coming from FAO) is making increasingly clear that subsidies (up to 100% in some countries!) for drip irrigation have unwittingly fostered patterns of agricultural intensification and expansion that increase water consumption rather than generating the water savings that served to justify these policies and investments.

Regarding the global governance issue, very little is proposed by way of "reshaping multilateral governance of water" beyond "working towards the right institutional framework", more and better data, and strengthening UN mechanisms or their partnerships with multilateral financial institutions. And then there is the global interconnectedness issue: "We must also recognise that communities and countries are interconnected through the global water cycle (…) We need to value and govern the water cycle as a global common good because every country needs a stable water cycle, climate system and healthy ecosystems".

That "countries are interconnected via atmospheric moisture pathways directing evaporation through the atmosphere to precipitation in downwind areas", is hardly a revolutionary discovery. Indeed clouds do… travel, and climatologists have long been busy exploring preferential vapour and ocean streams routes. Maybe the concepts of precipitation-sheds and evaporation-sheds are useful in emphasizing some of these routes, in particular that evapotranspiration in the Amazon basin affects neighboring countries and the Mato Grosso downwind.

To "govern the water cycle" is an intriguing and conspicuous concept that is little explored in the report. The comment paper 'Why we need a new economics of water as a common good' provides additional hints at what is intended. The quote reported by Chris Perry is mindboggling: "Governments must monitor soil moisture and vapour flows, and set policies that value these flows as natural capital. Water governance and management need to span all scales, connecting local watersheds, river basins, precipitation- and evaporation-sheds, and eventually the globe." Associated measures include the need for governments to "reshape water markets" to manage both blue and green water as a global common good, "establishing an obligation under international law to protect the global water cycle for all people and generations", while "nations might pledge to ensure that the supply of green and blue water in the hydrological cycle inside their borders remains within a manageable range".

Even with the heroic assumption that we could somehow quantify and intentionally modify these fluxes to achieve a 'healthy water cycle' in a context of overwhelming climate change, the idea of transforming such knowledge into international agreements or trade mechanisms strikes me as completely impractical utopian. It is certainly a quixotic idea in the face of the dismal record of transboundary water management and niceties such as carbon markets or REDD+ mechanisms.

Finally, what is even more striking is the depoliticized vision conveyed by the report and its 70 occurrences of "we must". A statement among others: "We have the scientific knowledge. We have most of the technologies. We have the policy knowhow and ability to learn from best practices and adapt and spread them widely. And we have the finance." Money, technology, expertise, would all be there!? And yet…
Maybe an invitation to realize that the solutions to (water) problems are more complex than just lining up money, experts and technology…

This report certainly came with much hype and fanfare and its proposal that a "just water future" can be achieved through "transforming the economics and restructuring the governance of water" attracts curiosity. On the economics side, we are back to the issues of water pricing and subsidies. The agricultural water pricing policy bubble burst in the 2000s but the natural ebb and flow of ideas (and ideological blindness) is seemingly bringing it back again. Reducing inappropriate and excessive agricultural subsidies has been the standard recommendation for at least 50 years. The many (good and bad) reasons for their stickiness is still being treated as a temporary 'political' nuisance delaying the advent of a rationale and efficient world with full cost pricing and unfettered markets. Without such subsidies a good number of countries would see their rural societies collapse or explode. But going back to water, if these subsidies "tend to generate excessive water consumption and other environmentally damaging practices", everything is in the "tend". It would be nice to hear about studies which have further explored the link between subsidies and water consumption. One that I am aware of runs counter to the report's standard call for a "greater use of micro irrigation and smart agriculture, which is a win-win for both ordinary farmers and the environment." A growing literature ([url=https://www.fao.org/3/cc1771en/cc1771en.pdf]the latest coming from FAO[/url]) is making increasingly clear that subsidies (up to 100% in some countries!) for drip irrigation have unwittingly fostered patterns of agricultural intensification and expansion that increase water consumption rather than generating the water savings that served to justify these policies and investments. Regarding the global governance issue, very little is proposed by way of "reshaping multilateral governance of water" beyond "working towards the right institutional framework", more and better data, and strengthening UN mechanisms or their partnerships with multilateral financial institutions. And then there is the global interconnectedness issue: "We must also recognise that communities and countries are interconnected through the global water cycle (…) We need to value and govern the water cycle as a global common good because every country needs a stable water cycle, climate system and healthy ecosystems". That "countries are interconnected via atmospheric moisture pathways directing evaporation through the atmosphere to precipitation in downwind areas", is hardly a revolutionary discovery. Indeed clouds do… travel, and climatologists have long been busy exploring preferential vapour and ocean streams routes. Maybe the concepts of precipitation-sheds and evaporation-sheds are useful in emphasizing some of these routes, in particular that evapotranspiration in the Amazon basin affects neighboring countries and the Mato Grosso downwind. To "govern the water cycle" is an intriguing and conspicuous concept that is little explored in the report. The comment paper [url=https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-023-00800-z#:~:text=Excessive%20extraction%20for%20irrigation%20and,as%20a%20global%20common%20good]'Why we need a new economics of water as a common good'[/url] provides additional hints at what is intended. The quote reported by Chris Perry is mindboggling: "Governments must monitor soil moisture and vapour flows, and set policies that value these flows as natural capital. Water governance and management need to span all scales, connecting local watersheds, river basins, precipitation- and evaporation-sheds, and eventually the globe." Associated measures include the need for governments to "reshape water markets" to manage both blue and green water as a global common good, "establishing an obligation under international law to protect the global water cycle for all people and generations", while "nations might pledge to ensure that the supply of green and blue water in the hydrological cycle inside their borders remains within a manageable range". Even with the heroic assumption that we could somehow quantify and intentionally modify these fluxes to achieve a 'healthy water cycle' in a context of overwhelming climate change, the idea of transforming such knowledge into international agreements or trade mechanisms strikes me as completely impractical utopian. It is certainly a quixotic idea in the face of the dismal record of transboundary water management and niceties such as carbon markets or REDD+ mechanisms. Finally, what is even more striking is the depoliticized vision conveyed by the report and its 70 occurrences of "we must". A statement among others: "We have the scientific knowledge. We have most of the technologies. We have the policy knowhow and ability to learn from best practices and adapt and spread them widely. And we have the finance." Money, technology, expertise, would all be there!? And yet… Maybe an invitation to realize that the solutions to (water) problems are more complex than just lining up money, experts and technology…
Guest
Guest - Peder Hjorth on Saturday, 27 May 2023 13:32
Reality starts on the ground

It doesn't take much of a reality-check to understand that the seven point agenda is sheer nonsense. The closest the world has ever come to global governance of any kind, is the establishment of the WTO.
What would it take to make rainfall egalitarian. For sure, we are really impacting the global rainfall characteristics, but the current trends point towards more unequity. Cloud seeding could potentially make rain fall in a more equitable way. should it be up to WTO regulate such actions?
Otherwise, we can't start governing our rainfall until it has fallen to the ground. The UN may think that we have the knowledge to do that, but the sad fact is, that water governance is in limbo, virtually everywhere.
The water sector has simply been impenetrable to the the new understandings of natural processes, that has been developed during the past 100 years.
Any change to the better must start with a massive capacity development, and developing a better understanding of what actually goes on on the ground.

It doesn't take much of a reality-check to understand that the seven point agenda is sheer nonsense. The closest the world has ever come to global governance of any kind, is the establishment of the WTO. What would it take to make rainfall egalitarian. For sure, we are really impacting the global rainfall characteristics, but the current trends point towards more unequity. Cloud seeding could potentially make rain fall in a more equitable way. should it be up to WTO regulate such actions? Otherwise, we can't start governing our rainfall until it has fallen to the ground. The UN may think that we have the knowledge to do that, but the sad fact is, that water governance is in limbo, virtually everywhere. The water sector has simply been impenetrable to the the new understandings of natural processes, that has been developed during the past 100 years. Any change to the better must start with a massive capacity development, and developing a better understanding of what actually goes on on the ground.
Chris Perry on Sunday, 28 May 2023 12:55
YES!

I fully agree... just add that a lot of the failure to grasp these issues over decades has been deliberate "ignorance" by those who often do know better.

The donors continue to fund "water saving" investments because if you want to shift money in the irrigation sector, drip is easy, quick and costly. Policy reform (as alluded to above by Francois) is difficult, slow and cheap.

Chris

I fully agree... just add that a lot of the failure to grasp these issues over decades has been deliberate "ignorance" by those who often do know better. The donors continue to fund "water saving" investments because if you want to shift money in the irrigation sector, drip is easy, quick and costly. Policy reform (as alluded to above by Francois) is difficult, slow and cheap. Chris
Guest
Guest - Adel Zeggaf Tahiri on Monday, 29 May 2023 14:41
Re Yes!

I fully agree with you Chris.
In my region, huge subsidies are intended for drip irrigation system adoption. To my understanding, this option was privileged upon others because it leaves everyone satisfied: Material dealers, farmers receiving equipment, consultants and hence politicians. However, the main problem is elsewhere, It's "training farmers for irrigated agriculture". In the context of my region, irrigation has never been so widely developed as is it is right now (from before colonization where irrigation was limited to oases and some few irrigation communities limited again in area, to the millions of hectares actually irrigated). In a sense, I want to point out that farmers in this region had consistent knowledge about dryland farming but less about irrigated agriculture. However, training farmers will not benefit to commerce, dealers...etc and is slow to put in place. This is why I stated, "to technical problems, technical solution".

One other thing I want to pinpoint is the dichotomy between agricultural science and economy. This is harming a lot of the evolution of our irrigated agriculture in the sense you are either agronomist or economist. However, to succeed we have to adopt a holistic approach which explains the process from sowing to selling. In this sense, I would like to mention quickly an anecdote:
Few months ago, I made a presentation about water economy in agriculture in front of international students in agricultural sciences. I had a drinking water bottle with me. I asked the students about the price of it. They answered correctly. My second question was "how much is the cost of a m³ of irrigation water?". At this time, no one answered. This is to say that we need to incorporate the economic constraints into our agronomic approach at both education and research levels.
Adel

I fully agree with you Chris. In my region, huge subsidies are intended for drip irrigation system adoption. To my understanding, this option was privileged upon others because it leaves everyone satisfied: Material dealers, farmers receiving equipment, consultants and hence politicians. However, the main problem is elsewhere, It's "training farmers for irrigated agriculture". In the context of my region, irrigation has never been so widely developed as is it is right now (from before colonization where irrigation was limited to oases and some few irrigation communities limited again in area, to the millions of hectares actually irrigated). In a sense, I want to point out that farmers in this region had consistent knowledge about dryland farming but less about irrigated agriculture. However, training farmers will not benefit to commerce, dealers...etc and is slow to put in place. [b]This is why I stated, "to technical problems, technical solution".[/b] One other thing I want to pinpoint is the dichotomy between agricultural science and economy. This is harming a lot of the evolution of our irrigated agriculture in the sense you are either agronomist or economist. However, to succeed we have to adopt a holistic approach which explains the process from sowing to selling. In this sense, I would like to mention quickly an anecdote: Few months ago, I made a presentation about water economy in agriculture in front of international students in agricultural sciences. I had a drinking water bottle with me. I asked the students about the price of it. They answered correctly. My second question was "how much is the cost of a m³ of irrigation water?". At this time, no one answered. This is to say that we need to incorporate the economic constraints into our agronomic approach at both education and research levels. Adel
Guest
Guest - Julio Berbel on Monday, 29 May 2023 06:51
Thank you for the debate

Thank you, Chris, for summarizing the report.
FIRST ACTION (manage the global water cycle). I am experiencing here a strong sense of "déjà vu". I remember a nice paper from Chris >. This action is probably an unpractical and time-consuming implementing excessive bureaucracy and regulations without clear objectives or tangible benefits. This could involve creating lots of useless papers in academic journals and leads to a dead-end research question.

SECOND polity correct, no new policy around.

THIRD (water pricing) Water pricing is a significant aspect of water management, but it should not be seen as a cure-all solution for all water-related issues. Groundwater is a strategic resource that poses challenges in terms of monitoring and control. The emerging trend of "solar irrigation" with a flat-rate and zero marginal cost raises concerns about the future of groundwater. It becomes crucial to prioritize monitoring, control, and quota enforcement to ensure sustainable groundwater management. These measures are more critical than pricing alone in safeguarding this vital resource.

FOURTH (subsidies) Obviously some subsidies (sugarcane, maize, rice…) induce water consumption but remember that 80% of agriculture is rainfed and subsidies are aimed to increase farmers income, it is not a question of ‘votes’, also is a question of poor rural areas and global markets. This question is complex.

5th, 6th and 7th nothing to add.

Thank you, Chris, for summarizing the report. FIRST ACTION (manage the global water cycle). I am experiencing here a strong sense of "déjà vu". I remember a nice paper from Chris >. This action is probably an unpractical and time-consuming implementing excessive bureaucracy and regulations without clear objectives or tangible benefits. This could involve creating lots of useless papers in academic journals and leads to a dead-end research question. SECOND polity correct, no new policy around. THIRD (water pricing) Water pricing is a significant aspect of water management, but it should not be seen as a cure-all solution for all water-related issues. Groundwater is a strategic resource that poses challenges in terms of monitoring and control. The emerging trend of "solar irrigation" with a flat-rate and zero marginal cost raises concerns about the future of groundwater. It becomes crucial to prioritize monitoring, control, and quota enforcement to ensure sustainable groundwater management. These measures are more critical than pricing alone in safeguarding this vital resource. FOURTH (subsidies) Obviously some subsidies (sugarcane, maize, rice…) induce water consumption but remember that 80% of agriculture is rainfed and subsidies are aimed to increase farmers income, it is not a question of ‘votes’, also is a question of poor rural areas and global markets. This question is complex. 5th, 6th and 7th nothing to add.
Chris Perry on Wednesday, 31 May 2023 07:05
One more point on pricing…

Thanks, Julio
An important distinction in the debate about the role of pricing:
If we SET prices, we will get them wrong and demand will be too high or too low because the weather is dry or wet.
If we set quotas and allow trade, appropriate prices emerge from the market.

The first scenario will have an impact on demand, the second will not (quotas define demand)
Chris

Thanks, Julio An important distinction in the debate about the role of pricing: If we SET prices, we will get them wrong and demand will be too high or too low because the weather is dry or wet. If we set quotas and allow trade, appropriate prices emerge from the market. The first scenario will have an impact on demand, the second will not (quotas define demand) Chris
Guest
Guest - David McDonald on Thursday, 01 June 2023 13:12
Private finance is not interested in WASH

The biggest problem with the Commission’s report is its insistence on a long-standing neoliberal trope about “crowding in private companies, banks and institutional investors.” In reality, the private sector is not interested in investing in water and sanitation in low-income countries because it is too risky for them. Blended finance and other forms of de-risking have not made any difference. Here is a great quote from the World Bank acknowledging the failure of this model:

“Since the World Bank published its 2016 study on the costs of meeting the SDG targets, national governments, development partners and regional bodies have focused on mechanisms to attract private capital to the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector. Much of this effort has gone into creating mechanisms to attract private finance to the sector, either through blending, leveraging, or guaranty facilities. Yet few of these well-intentioned, and often generously financed efforts, have met with success. Despite mechanisms that promised to leverage private financing at the national or regional level, or within sub-sectors (e.g., sanitation), there is not one internationally recognized financing instrument that has facilitated significant, sustainable private financing into the WASH sector in the last decade” (….see https://blogs.worldbank.org/water/how-improve-water-sector-financing-developing-countries).

The biggest problem with the Commission’s report is its insistence on a long-standing neoliberal trope about “crowding in private companies, banks and institutional investors.” In reality, the private sector is not interested in investing in water and sanitation in low-income countries because it is too risky for them. Blended finance and other forms of de-risking have not made any difference. Here is a great quote from the World Bank acknowledging the failure of this model: “Since the World Bank published its 2016 study on the costs of meeting the SDG targets, national governments, development partners and regional bodies have focused on mechanisms to attract private capital to the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector. Much of this effort has gone into creating mechanisms to attract private finance to the sector, either through blending, leveraging, or guaranty facilities. Yet few of these well-intentioned, and often generously financed efforts, have met with success. Despite mechanisms that promised to leverage private financing at the national or regional level, or within sub-sectors (e.g., sanitation), there is not one internationally recognized financing instrument that has facilitated significant, sustainable private financing into the WASH sector in the last decade” (….see https://blogs.worldbank.org/water/how-improve-water-sector-financing-developing-countries).
Guest
Guest - Russell Cloyde Crawford III on Friday, 02 June 2023 00:09
Inventions are available that resolve the problems the world has created.

The water shortage problem is serious but is capable of resolution via invention and innovation. Remote sensing, AI and database manipulation and aggregation can give the data required and innovations in drilling can resolve the water crisis before 2030. There is sufficient water for man's needs available currently in the rivers and alluvial areas of earth. Proof of that fact is found in the evidence that shows more water is discharged into the oceans, via rivers, than is required for all the human needs both now and in the future. Drilling in alluvial areas can furnish water to be piped to other locations. The key is to avoid drilling in areas that are not suitable, thereby wasting time and money.
I am a winner of the Patents for Humanity Award and can show mathematical proof and back up data that shows that by using exponential training methods, mankind can resolve the water shortage problem before 2030. The resolution lies in the fact that if more people are trained in an exponential fashion, using newly developed tools and limited resources. Enough drillers can be trained, and enough wells can be drilled such that the water crisis will turn into a water boon. By using remote sensing to locate shallow aquifers, establishing databases of those aquifers, training exponentially, and depending on the natural desire to find water of the human race, one will have the key to resolution of this problem. Currently we train drillers and they train other drillers and all trained have the desire to start businesses and furnish water to their neighbors.
Solving the water problem will require an enormous mastering of data showing areas that can handle reinjection of water, drilling of wells, aquifer storage, training facilities as well; yet will require minimal funding. Please see my "Action Agenda" plan I proposed to the United Nations. If there are questions, please let me know. https://sdgs.un.org/partnerships/gamechanger-water-access

The water shortage problem is serious but is capable of resolution via invention and innovation. Remote sensing, AI and database manipulation and aggregation can give the data required and innovations in drilling can resolve the water crisis before 2030. There is sufficient water for man's needs available currently in the rivers and alluvial areas of earth. Proof of that fact is found in the evidence that shows more water is discharged into the oceans, via rivers, than is required for all the human needs both now and in the future. Drilling in alluvial areas can furnish water to be piped to other locations. The key is to avoid drilling in areas that are not suitable, thereby wasting time and money. I am a winner of the Patents for Humanity Award and can show mathematical proof and back up data that shows that by using exponential training methods, mankind can resolve the water shortage problem before 2030. The resolution lies in the fact that if more people are trained in an exponential fashion, using newly developed tools and limited resources. Enough drillers can be trained, and enough wells can be drilled such that the water crisis will turn into a water boon. By using remote sensing to locate shallow aquifers, establishing databases of those aquifers, training exponentially, and depending on the natural desire to find water of the human race, one will have the key to resolution of this problem. Currently we train drillers and they train other drillers and all trained have the desire to start businesses and furnish water to their neighbors. Solving the water problem will require an enormous mastering of data showing areas that can handle reinjection of water, drilling of wells, aquifer storage, training facilities as well; yet will require minimal funding. Please see my "Action Agenda" plan I proposed to the United Nations. If there are questions, please let me know. https://sdgs.un.org/partnerships/gamechanger-water-access
Chris Perry on Friday, 02 June 2023 16:13
Refer to data from GRACE

The problem is not shortage of wells (in most places there are too many); the problem is aquifers to drill into.
Most are already being irreversibly depleted. Look at the data from NASA’s GRACE mission.
And the fact that enough water flows into the sea to meet all our needs misses the issue of spatial and temporal mismatch. Fine if a billion or so people can move to the mouth of the Ganges/Brahmaputra for a few months each year. But really not practicable.

The problem is not shortage of wells (in most places there are too many); the problem is aquifers to drill into. Most are already being irreversibly depleted. Look at the data from NASA’s GRACE mission. And the fact that enough water flows into the sea to meet all our needs misses the issue of spatial and temporal mismatch. Fine if a billion or so people can move to the mouth of the Ganges/Brahmaputra for a few months each year. But really not practicable.
Guest
Guest - Dr Marc van Loo on Friday, 02 June 2023 08:26
The big miss: bringing the available finance to where it's needed – and this is feasible!

The seven points miss one of the most important points that repeatedly was mentioned during the UNWC:

There's enough money, but the money cannot find the right projects to get the job done.

We were exhibiting at the UNWC at the innovation pavilion with the Safe Water Garden, a solution that can bring safe WASH (Water and Sanitation) to village families in (sub)tropical countries for under USD 400 per family (a one-off cost!).

The money is there: villages have their own annual funds worth typically USD 200 per family and they are very keen to spend that money on WASH, plus village people are ready to take out microloans for the rest – as our detailed and extensive surveys have convincingly shown.

Our problem: as an organisation we need some modest funding (only USD 1.5M) but the many asset managers who approached us at the UNWC with an obvious interest in funding us all have minimum ticket sizes that typically exceed 5M.
Organisations like ToiletBoard, Water.org, Waterplan, Aqua for All etc know all about this "funding gap":
The most promising local projects typically need much less than 2M but they cannot get funding, while the WASH asset managers have funds between 140M - 20B which they cannot spend.

Solution:
Those with money must realise that the way to go forward is to cater to these successful smaller entrepreneurs. That means more manpower and less profit, but it doesn't mean no profit.

  • Governments could easily fill this funding gap since we're talking about small investments with big social impact return.
  • Asset managers should, as part of their ESG, set funds aside to cater to such small projects while tempering their expectations of profit.
  • Lastly, since the sums are so small, philanthropists should jump in this market.


But continuing as we are doing now is not working and will not work.

The seven points miss one of the most important points that repeatedly was mentioned during the UNWC: [b]There's enough money, but the money cannot find the right projects to get the job done[/b]. We were exhibiting at the UNWC at the innovation pavilion with the Safe Water Garden, a solution that can bring safe WASH (Water and Sanitation) to village families in (sub)tropical countries for under USD 400 per family (a one-off cost!). The money is there: villages have their own annual funds worth typically USD 200 per family and they are very keen to spend that money on WASH, plus village people are ready to take out microloans for the rest – as our detailed and extensive surveys have convincingly shown. Our problem: as an organisation we need some modest funding (only USD 1.5M) but the many asset managers who approached us at the UNWC with an obvious interest in funding us all have minimum ticket sizes that typically exceed 5M. Organisations like ToiletBoard, Water.org, Waterplan, Aqua for All etc know all about this "funding gap": The most promising local projects typically need much less than 2M but they cannot get funding, while the WASH asset managers have funds between 140M - 20B which they cannot spend. [b]Solution:[/b] Those with money must realise that the way to go forward is to cater to these successful smaller entrepreneurs. That means more manpower and less profit, but it doesn't mean no profit. [list] [*] Governments could easily fill this funding gap since we're talking about small investments with big social impact return. [*] Asset managers should, as part of their ESG, set funds aside to cater to such small projects while tempering their expectations of profit. [*] Lastly, since the sums are so small, philanthropists should jump in this market. [/list] But continuing as we are doing now is not working and will not work.
Chris Perry on Friday, 02 June 2023 16:25
Interesting…

I’ve looked at your website, which essentially describes a septic tank system. They are still widely used in rural areas of the U.K. and elsewhere. Perhaps better described as “safe sewage” systems than “safe water”, as the outflow is not potable water. But still a good idea in places where water is available and faecal pollution is a danger.

I’ve looked at your website, which essentially describes a septic tank system. They are still widely used in rural areas of the U.K. and elsewhere. Perhaps better described as “safe sewage” systems than “safe water”, as the outflow is not potable water. But still a good idea in places where water is available and faecal pollution is a danger.
Guest
Guest - marc van loo on Tuesday, 06 June 2023 00:50
Safe Water Garden is not a septic tank, but a safe sanitation system that is based on liquefying the waste

Hi Chris, the SWG is NOT a septic tank; our tank is a liquefier instead (it liquefies all wastewater, both grey and black), which makes the system so cheap (3 - 7 times cheaper than existing systems), single-sized, and maintenance-free. The system is only guaranteed to work in warm and wet countries though.

Authorised by the standards board in Indonesia, the system falls under the UN classification of "safe" sanitation, hence the name "Safe Water Garden"

Hi Chris, the SWG is NOT a septic tank; our tank is a liquefier instead (it liquefies all wastewater, both grey and black), which makes the system so cheap (3 - 7 times cheaper than existing systems), single-sized, and maintenance-free. The system is only guaranteed to work in warm and wet countries though. Authorised by the standards board in Indonesia, the system falls under the UN classification of "safe" sanitation, hence the name "Safe Water Garden"
Guest
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