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"Transformational" Change In Water Focus Post-pandemic

LONDON, United Kingdom

The 2020 Covid-19 pandemic could increase developing countries and development partners’ focus on water and WASH and trigger transformational change in some countries, according to a report commissioned by the United Kingdom government.

“Water security beyond Covid-19”, produced by The Knowledge, Evidence and Learning for Development Programme (K4D) for the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), synthesises recent expertise and thinking to relate that “As the Covid-19 pandemic is still unfolding, it is not clear what the impact on developing countries or their water security will be...Consequently, there is a need to monitor how the pandemic unfolds and assimilate lessons learned. Interventions to strengthen water security should focus on four key areas: adequate water availability, acceptable water quality, water resource management, and affordable access to WASH (Water, Sanitation and Health)”.

Recommended Interventions (Read Full Report):

Adequate Water Availability: preventing or suppressing potential pandemics is likely to increase water demand for domestic and health uses. Supply and storage solutions are needed to ensure there is adequate water available and to manage trade-offs upstream (competing demands from other sectors) and downstream (wastewater production). In some ways ensuring water availability is the most obvious need, particularly in context of quantities of acceptable quality water for sustaining livelihoods, human well-being, and socio-economic development, for ensuring protection against water-borne pollution and water-related disasters, and for preserving ecosystems in a climate of peace and political stability”.

Acceptable Water Quality: water quality is deteriorating across developing countries due to discharges from agriculture, industry, human waste, and wastewater. Both surface and groundwater are affected. Climate change will also negatively affect water quality.

Water Resources management: ensuring sustainable access to adequate amounts of acceptable quality water and resilience will require strengthening water resources management so that water is available where and when it is needed to suppress and prevent future pandemics.

Affordable Access To WASH: 2.2 million people globally lack access to safely managed drinking water (defined as drinking water from a source located on the premises, free from contamination and available when needed), and 4.2 billion people do not have access to safely managed sanitation services. This hampers efforts to suppress or prevent pandemics. Investments in extending access to WASH can have co-benefits, such as job creation and improved health.

Transboundary Processes, River Basin Planning, And Moving Beyond Sectoral Thinking

The K4D report suggests that medium term responses will involve moving beyond sectoral thinking to understanding and managing the links between upstream and downstream water resources and users, and the links between water resources and WASH.

It will also be important to consider transboundary issues as many rivers, lakes and aquifers cross national borders..."River basin planning processes and the co-management of surface and groundwater could lead to more resilient systems and increase a region’s overall. Strengthening water security will have a number of positive benefits, beyond public and human health, including increasing resilience to climate change, supporting livelihoods, food security and economic productivity".