Call for action: invest in water security to reduce financial risks

Carbon Disclosure Project and others call for urgent action

10 Mar 2023 by The Water Diplomat

Growing global water insecurity

Investing financial resources in nature based solutions for water is an essential means to avoid financial risk. In February, the Carbon Disclosure Project sent an open letter to governments  with the message that water insecurity poses a significant financial risk to the global economy. They point to the 2022 assessment by the Stockholm Resilience Centre that the safe limits for freshwater have been transgressed, posing a threat to life support systems. In the light of the slow progress on the implementation of SDG 6, CDP is calling for a reduction in exposure to water  risk through the strengthening of national sustainable development strategies, commitment to short term and ambitious targets on water, the development of water secure roadmaps, incentivizing private sector participation, pricing water risks, and other measures.

Previously, over 50 countries, organizations, and businesses had signed the Water and Nature Declaration ,  committing to protecting and restoring global freshwater and nature systems. To implement the declaration, a comprehensive action plan is needed, involving multiple stakeholders and sectors.

In 2021, the World Water Council (WWC), the International Office for Water (OiEau), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and the International Network of Basin Organisations (INBO) launched an initiative for signatures of the declaration “No water security without ecological security / No ecological security without water security”.

The declaration calls for a reinforced dialogue between the water and nature communities. “There is a new emerging obligation to share water between man and nature. This initiative will help us respond to the requirements of human development and at the same time to the respect of nature, by maintaining biodiversity and protecting ecosystems,” said Loic Fauchon, President of the World Water Council during the launching.

One promising model for such partnerships is the water funds approach

water funds approach, which has been successfully implemented in several African countries. Water funds bring together diverse stakeholders, including government agencies, non-governmental organizations, farmers, and businesses, to invest in sustainable land management practices that protect watersheds and enhance water security.

"The water funds approach is an excellent example of how we can use nature-based solutions to address some of the world's most pressing environmental challenges," said Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, former Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica when he was interviewed at COP26. "By working together, we can create a more sustainable future for all," he added.

In Kenya, for example, the Upper Tana-Nairobi Water Fund has helped reduce soil erosion and sedimentation in the Tana River Basin, which supplies water to Nairobi, Kenya's capital. The fund has provided incentives to farmers to adopt conservation agriculture practices, such as terracing and agroforestry, which reduce soil erosion and improve soil health.

"The Upper Tana-Nairobi Water Fund has been a game-changer in our efforts to protect the Tana River Basin and enhance water security for Nairobi," said Judi Wakhungu, Kenya's former Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Water, and Natural Resources. "The fund has shown that by working together, we can achieve more than we can individually."

Similar success stories can be found in other African countries, such as Tanzania, Uganda, and Ethiopia, where water funds have helped improve water quality, reduce erosion, and enhance biodiversity.

Interviewed by Waterfront Daily during the World Water Week 2022, SIWI’s Executive Director Torgny Holmgren said “There is no quick fix to the climate and water crisis or any of the other problems we are facing. We need profound transformations of all sectors of society – food, energy, water – and that will require new kinds of innovations. World Water Week 2023 will be about fostering this new thinking about what innovation really is and what it can be.”