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  • 27 Sep 2016 - 10:56 - EDINBURGH, Scotland - OOSKAnews Correspondent

    OOSKAnews Voices is a series of guest “opinion columns” on water, written by senior participants in different parts of the international water community. The columns provide a global platform for organizations and individuals to promulgate their views and messages.

    In this column Adrian Sym argues for creativity in puruit of solutions.

    Sym is Chief Executive of the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS), a global membership-based collaboration that connects organizations dedicated to promoting responsible use of freshwater. The AWS Standard provides a globally-applicable framework for major water users to understand their water use and impacts, and to work collaboratively and transparently for sustainable water management within a catchment context. The AWS Standard system includes third party certification and a network of accredited professional service providers who support and assess the implementation of the Standard, overseen by a multi-stakeholder governance system. AWS regional partners engage local stakeholders and strive to establish localized networks, expertise and data sets that facilitate contextually-appropriate water stewardship actions within the globally-consistent framework of the AWS Standard.

    A development and sustainability professional, Adrian’s recent work has been in sustainability standards, aiming to drive change through voluntary market-based systems. Prior to this, Adrian spent seven years working on disability and development programs in Bangladesh and Nepal. This diverse experience, together with his academic background (Masters in International Policy and Diplomacy), has helped to shape Adrian’s view on sustainable development, believing that true development can only be achieved through effective partnerships amongst and between stakeholder groups. Adrian is based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

    As a frequent participant in water conferences, I am often struck by the multitude of “solutions” on offer to big and complex water-related challenges. Naturally, the solutions on offer are in response to perceived problems. For example, where the problem is perceived to be water scarcity, a solution may aim to increase water use efficiency. Where the problem is perceived to be water quality, the solution may be a piece of kit to treat or purify water. Financing “solutions” are often geared towards large-scale adoption of such solutions. Governments in many countries provide incentives for implementing solutions to perceived problems. However, the potential of these solutions is inevitably limited by the context in which they will be applied, and by the scale and characteristics of the change we are aiming to affect. How we approach a situation we are seeking to change needs to be compatible with the level and nature of change we are seeking to achieve.

    The dominant approach tends to be the “problem solving” approach. This is inherently a reactive approach that is based on stopping what we don’t want to happen. An alternative is the “creating” approach that is rooted in the future we want to have. Too often, we seek to achieve transformational change of complex systems by adopting the problem solving approach. Well-intended “solutions” will inevitably fail to take account of the complexity of water resource management and lead to disappointing outcomes – one man’s solution is another man’s problem.

    Where simple, incremental change is the objective then a problem solving approach can be useful. Incremental change situations are not complex and existing rules and power structures are likely to be preserved or strengthened. Adoption of water saving technology may be an effective solution for an individual user to reduce the water input per unit of output ratio. But even widespread adoption of such technologies is unlikely to catalyze transformative or systemic change on its own.

    Broader transformational or systemic change, as is the case with big and complex water challenges, needs to understand the actions and interactions of a complex system. New sets of rules will be needed to facilitate changes in the behaviour of multiple water users, each of whom has a different perspective, priorities and set of endowments. Transformational change must accommodate and reward progress, rather than focusing on success.

    Making a distinction between pursuit of solutions versus pursuit of progress is not just an overindulgence in semantics. How we approach things matters because it determines to a large degree the general trajectory and the range and roles of participants.The wrong approach can serve to reinforce the power imbalances that contributed to the situation in the first place. Ignoring politics and power has consequences at all levels, from major infrastructure projects to village-based initiatives. And in the ultimate analysis, complex water challenges are usually more political than hydrological, so neglecting this softer element is a good recipe for disappointing outcomes.

    This does not mean that progress is equal to the lowest common denominator. Indeed, understanding diverse needs and developing rules that are contextually-appropriate can be a great driver of innovation, both in technology and in softer approaches like governance and partnerships.

    Possibly the most critical of the softer elements is trust. Building trust is an essential component of collaboration, which in turn is essential to making sense of complex situations. Trust, like a good reputation, is hard to win and easy to lose. When building trust, one misplaced step forward often leads to several steps backwards. Building trust needs a safe place to understand and reconcile differences, and establish a pathway forward that meets different needs.

    The ability to provide a safe place to begin conversations and build trust is one of the less explicit, but most significant benefits of the AWS Standard. It achieves this primarily through the transparent multi-stakeholder processes through which it was developed and is maintained. As a neutral framework, the AWS Standard helps water users to understand context, build transparency and trust, and ask the right questions. Our members and partners are helping us understand the diverse range of settings in which the Standard can support efforts, not to solve short-term problems for individual water users, but to achieve to transformational change based on a shared vision for future sustainability.

  • 27 Sep 2016 - 10:56 - PRAGUE, Czech Republic - OOSKAnews Correspondent

    Czech Environment Minister Brabec wants the government to allot another $124.5 million USD by the end of the year to combat drought.

  • 27 Sep 2016 - 10:56 - LIMA, Peru - OOSKAnews Correspondent

    Peruvian officials on September 25th reported two new oil spills in the country's Amazon region.

  • 27 Sep 2016 - 10:56 - TAIPEI, Taiwan - OOSKAnews Correspondent

    The Taiwan Water Corporation (TWC) on September 26th once again urged residents of the island to start storing water as a precautionary measure in case the approaching Typhoon Megi causes water supply disruptions due to power outages or turbidity.

  • 27 Sep 2016 - 10:56 - SIBIU, Romania - OOSKAnews Correspondent

    Parts of Șelimbăr commune in Romania’s Sibiu County are currently without potable water supply; distribution was halted after residents contacted local utility SC Apă Canal SA to complain that the water had an unpleasant smell and color.

  • 27 Sep 2016 - 10:56 - HAVANA, Cuba - OOSKAnews Correspondent

    Ongoing drought is affecting 239 water sources and 816,000 people in Cuba, according to a report by the country’s National Water Resources Institute (INRH).

  • 26 Sep 2016 - 08:09 - SEOUL, Korea - OOSKAnews Correspondent

    The United Nations is beginning full-scale aid efforts to North Hamgyong Province in North Korea after historic flooding.

  • 26 Sep 2016 - 07:29 - KERCH, Crimea - OOSKAnews Correspondent

    Water levels in the reservoir supplying Kerch have dropped to 6.3 million cubic meters -- only enough to meet the city’s needs for another 20 days, Anzor Borlakov, director of regional utility "Water of Crimea,” said last week.

  • 26 Sep 2016 - 07:29 - NEW YORK, NY, United States - OOSKAnews Correspondent

    Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski last week became a member of the High-Level Panel on Water, an initiative of the United Nations and the World Bank tasked with taking action on water around the world.

  • 26 Sep 2016 - 07:29 - KHARTOUM, Sudan - OOSKAnews Correspondent

    Sudan’s Federal Ministry of Health last Friday declared the country’s Blue Nile State free of watery diarrhea.

  • 26 Sep 2016 - 07:29 - BEIJING, China - OOSKAnews Correspondent

    Some 237,000 people in the cities of Shiyan and Yichang, in China’s central Hubei province, are facing drinking water shortages due to ongoing “severe drought,” according to the provincial flood control and drought relief office.

  • 26 Sep 2016 - 07:29 - KYIV, Ukraine - OOSKAnews Correspondent

    Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers has laid the groundwork to launch a $224.4 million USD European Investment Bank (EIB)-funded program in conflict-ridden eastern Ukraine.

  • 23 Sep 2016 - 10:40 - KARACHI, Pakistan - OOSKAnews Correspondent

    Tensions between India and Pakistan have heightened in recent days following a September 18th incident in which an attack on an Indian army installation at the border town of Uri resulted, after a gun and grenade battle, in 13-14 Indian casualties in addition to the deaths of four assailants, described as terrorists associated with Pakistan.

  • 23 Sep 2016 - 10:28 - BENGALURU, India - OOSKAnews Correspondent

    A special session of the Legislative Council of the Indian State of Karnataka on September 23rd resolved with cross-party support that "in this state of acute distress" the government will ensure that no water from the present storage could be drawn, "save and except for meeting the drinking water requirements of the villages and towns in the Cauvery [River] basin and for the entire city of Bengaluru (Bangalore).”

  • 23 Sep 2016 - 10:28 - WASHINGTON, DC, United States - OOSKAnews Correspondent

    US President President Barack Obama, on 21st September, issued a directive memorandum to heads of the nation’s executive departments and agencies instituting a framework to ensure that climate change-related impacts are fully considered in the development of national security doctrine, policies and plans.

  • 23 Sep 2016 - 10:28 - ALEPPO, Syria - OOSKAnews Correspondent

    Airstrikes in war-torn Aleppo on September 22nd destroyed the city’s main water pumping station and killed 20 people according to CNN and other media outlets, including the Aleppo Media Center (AMC), which is sympathetic to the rebel forces occupying the eastern part of the city.

  • 23 Sep 2016 - 10:28 - WINDHOEK, Namibia - OOSKAnews Correspondent

    Namibian Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa this week announced nine of the 11 members of the country’s first ever Water Advisory Council.

  • 23 Sep 2016 - 10:28 - SINGAPORE - OOSKAnews Correspondent

    OOSKAnews Voices is a series of guest “opinion columns” on water, written by senior participan

  • 22 Sep 2016 - 08:39 - WASHINGTON, DC - OOSKAnews Correspondent

    OOSKAnews Voices is a series of guest “opinion columns” on water, written by senior participants in different parts of the international water community. The columns provide a global platform for organizations and individuals to promulgate their views and messages.

    In this column, John Oldfield, CEO of Water 2017, looks at the US Presidential election through a global water security lens.

    Water 2017 is a one-year philanthropically-funded advocacy effort to encourage the next US President and Congress to prioritize global water security as never before, and to position this issue as a leadership opportunity for the United States and its partners across the globe. Myriad water challenges provide Americans the opportunity to collaborate with countries across the globe to help them solve current problems, and get ahead of future water challenges before they become crises. Across the “Three Ds” of donor countries’ foreign policy - Development, Diplomacy, and Defense - there are meaningful opportunities to engage further with water. How can the US and its partners best strengthen the capacity of countries across the globe to solve their own unique water challenges? What limited, yet leveraged inputs from the donor community would have the most positive, systemic impact?

    Prior to Water 2017, John Oldfield led the efforts of WASH Advocates (2011 – 2015) to increase awareness of global water and sanitation challenges and solutions, and to increase the amount and effectiveness of resources devoted to those solutions throughout the developing world. John previously founded two implementing nonprofits in the water sector, and served as Executive Vice President of Water Advocates, an advocacy group in Washington, DC dedicated to increasing financial and political support for worldwide access to safe, affordable and sustainable supplies of drinking water and sanitation. 

  • 22 Sep 2016 - 08:39 - MELBOURNE, Australia - OOSKAnews Correspondent

    Mining giant BHP Billiton Ltd. warned this week that the coming rainy season in Brazil could create more environmental problems at the Germano iron ore mine in Minas Gerais state.

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