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Water Stewardship: Inspiring Leadership In Peru’s Ica Valley

EDINBURGH, Scotland

OOSKAnews Voices is a series of guest columns written by senior participants in different parts of the international water community. In this article, Adrian Sym, Chief Executive of the pioneering Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) describes, with focus on the agri-export sector in Peru's Ica Valley, how a robust and credible standard for water sustainability is a framework behind which diverse stakeholders can unite and, with strong leadership, can help to plot a pathway through complex and contentious situations.

Since joining AWS in 2011, Adrian has overseen the development of the Alliance into the a truly global network that ignites and nurtures leadership in credible water stewardship. Adrian leads a globally-dispersed team of experts who support this work and ensure that lessons from local contexts are shared across the network, inform the ongoing development of the AWS Standard, and inspire responsible stewardship of our freshwater resources. A development and sustainability professional, Adrian has extensive international experience ranging from Fairtrade International in Germany to grassroots NGOs in Nepal and Bangladesh. His 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 this can only be achieved through relationships built on trust and respect amongst and between stakeholder groups.
 

José Luis Camino runs Sun Fruits Export, a successful agro-exporting business in Ica Valley, Peru. As a major grower of table grapes, tangerines, avocados and blueberries, José Luis knows that year-round sunshine and favourable soil conditions are vital, but the most precious resource of all is the water that flows from the Andes Mountains into the Ica river and the region’s groundwater reserves.

José Luis’s business, and with it the employment of up to 2,000 people, depend on the sustainable management of Ica’s scarce water resources. The story of Sun Fruits is typical of many companies in Ica, fuelled by the ever-increasing demand for high-value export crops in Europe, North America and Asia. Data from Ica paints a picture of relative prosperity, compared to neighbouring regions of Peru, however this prosperity comes at a cost. There are long-standing concerns about groundwater levels and negative impacts on the upstream region of Huancavelica resulting from surface water transfers.
 
In 2010, Progressio published “Drop by drop: Understanding the impacts of the UK’s water footprint through a case study of Peruvian asparagus”, a report that was instrumental in capturing the attention of the mainstream media in Europe and raising questions about embedded water in international value chains. Further studies have added to this, notably Swedwatch which published “To the Last Drop: Water and human rights impacts of the agro export industry in Ica, Peru: the responsibility of buyers” in late 2018.
 
In Ica, as in many other locations worldwide, it is easy for an overall negative picture to obscure the positive action that many individuals and groups are taking to ensure the Valley’s sustainable future. General criticism tends to put everyone on the back foot, leaving little space for constructive and collaborative improvement.

As a globally consistent and stakeholder-endorsed framework, the AWS Standard helps to plot a pathway through such complex situations. Certification to the AWS Standard provides recognition for sites whose stewardship is "best in class". 

In December 2019, I had the opportunity to see first-hand how the Standard is helping to reconcile different interests in Ica. In contentious settings, the risk of taking positive action that involves greater transparency, and therefore potential criticism, can be very high. Taking the first step takes courage. It was inspiring to see the leadership of José Luis Camino and five other major growers in the region who have committed to seek AWS certification. Even in a location as apparently homogeneous as Ica, the actions adopted by different growers reflect their specific relationship with water. Sun Fruits’ water stewardship activities has a strong focus on access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for workers and local communities, building on their experiences in refurbishing a government-run wastewater treatment plant (pictured).
 
By contrast, Manuel Yzaga, CEO of Vanguard Peru, focuses on utilizing technology and data to improve water use on his Challapampa farm, and promoting all actors in Ica to share data, with the vision of achieving better integrated water management. Sun Fruits and Vanguard are improving their farms’ water use while, more importantly, bringing others with them by demonstrating that water stewardship makes good business sense and is vital for the prosperity of communities in a region as water stressed as Ica. This leadership and commitment to transparency and collective action has been brought into sharp relief by the way in which these and other AWS members have responded to community needs during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
 
The AWS Standard lends itself well to supporting collective action. Growers in Ica are sharing their commitment with peers, both local and further afield. This is complemented by strong endorsement by local agencies of a stewardship approach, including the JUSAVI, the Ica Groundwater Board, the Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and AGAP, the Peruvian Association of Agricultural Producers.

This type of constructive engagement is precisely the kind recommended by Swedwatch. It builds the trust and confidence needed to ignite local leadership and to break the negative cycle of blame. In a location that is so connected to international value chains, constructive engagement must also extend to international stakeholders.

AWS is engaging with supermarkets, importers, investors and NGOs to ensure their support for the work on the ground in Ica, and other sourcing hotspots in Latin America and beyond. Just as trust and confidence are needed locally, they are also essential for ensuring international stakeholders understand how they can best support water stewardship efforts. Shared learning helps to expand the scope of international interest and increase positive local impacts.

Water stewardship is no panacea, and the sustainability of water for the agri-export sector in Ica will need constant attention. But the experiences in Ica and elsewhere show that a robust and credible standard is a framework behind which diverse stakeholders can unite and, with strong leadership, can help to plot a pathway through complex and contentious situations.

The six growers in Ica who have publicly committed to pursue AWS certification are: Agrícola Chapi, Agrícola Valle del Sol S.A.C., Campos del Sur, Safco Perú, Sun Fruits Export, y Vanguard Perú.

AWS would like to acknowledge our partners who are supporting work in Latin America: Edeka, WWF-Germany, DEG (Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft mbH) and FMO (Netherlands Development Finance Company).

The AWS International Water Stewardship Standard (AWS Standard) is 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 Standard is intended to drive social, environmental and economic benefits at the scale of a catchment.

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Virus Risk In Arab Countries Exacerbated By Inadequate Water, Sanitation Systems

BEIRUT, Lebanon

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) has warned that inadequate acccess to water for hand-washing and drinking exacerbates risk of coronavirus infection in many Arab countries. In a 16 April policy brief the agency described an urgency “to ensure access to clean water and sanitation services to everyone everywhere, at no cost for those who cannot afford it, in order to avoid further spread of the coronavirus".

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Pope Links Coronavirus To Man-made Climate Crisis

ROME, Italy

On 9 April, Holy Thursday in the Catholic Church liturgical calendar, Pope Francis delivered his homily behind closed doors at St Peter's basilica in the Vatican, which has been closed to the public since early March. Among other topics, the Pope spoke about the novel coronavirus, suggesting that the global pandemic might be one of nature's responses to the man-made climate crisis.

Consistent with this messaging, the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development called last month for renewed efforts to confront water issues, to protect and care for water resources, and to provide clean water for all. (OOSKAnews)

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Management Of Plumbing Systems To Limit Spread Of Disease

EDINBURGH, Scotland

OOSKAnews Voices is a series of guest columns written by senior participants in different parts of the international water community. In this article, Dr Michael Gormley describes how management of plumbing systems within buildings can be deployed to limit transmission of infectious pathogens.

Gormley is Director of the Institute for Sustainable Building Design and Director of the Water Academy in the School of Energy, Geoscience, Infrastructure and Society at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland.. He is a Chartered Engineer and has worked in academia and industry for 35 years and currently holds several international patents. His main research interests relate to fundamental numerical modelling of fluid flows in water supply and sanitation systems applied to three broad areas – Infection spread dynamics, building wastewater plumbing system product development and water and sanitation (WASH) in an international development context.

 

Over the last 20 years or so, one of the areas I have focused on is research aimed at improving the performance and safety of building drainage systems, particularly tall buildings, which by their very nature are engineering challenges. Two facts about these systems are rarely understood, the first is that air is as important in a wastewater plumbing system as water, and second, that the small amount of water in the U-bends under sinks, baths, showers and toilets, is the main defense against the ingress of foul or contaminated air into the interior of the building from the wastewater plumbing system and sewer. The challenge for designers is to specify a system which will minimize air pressure fluctuations and protect the water in U-bends.

While foul smells are often a nuisance, the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus at the end of 2019 and the disease that it causes COVID-19 have given this a different level of importance, particularly in light of our research on infection spread in tall buildings which we recently reported in the Lancet Global Health. In particular we have identified a transmission pathway for bacteria and viruses (like SARS-CoV-2) through defects, like empty U-bends.

The identification of the wastewater plumbing system as a potential transmission pathway for pathogens goes back to the SARS outbreak of 2002-2003 and one building which raised concerns at the time. In 2003, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published a final report into a superspreading event of SARS within a housing block in Hong Kong. The 41-storey building had over 300 confirmed cases of SARS and 42 deaths. The report identified defects in the wastewater plumbing system as a transmission mode within the building which facilitated the transport of ‘virus laden droplets’ through empty U-Bends in bathrooms. This airborne transmission route was aided by bathroom extract ventilation which drew contaminated air into the room. Since then, our research group has been working on investigating mechanisms of cross transmission, improvements in system design, and innovations in system monitoring, including confirmation of the wastewater plumbing system as a reservoir for pathogens.

In 2017, we published results from an experiment on a full scale two-storey wastewater plumbing test-rig in which we used a model organism to represent pathogens flushed into the system. Viable organisms were shown to be transmitted between rooms on different floors of a building being carried within the system airflow, under defect conditions similar to those found in the SARS case in Hong Kong. Droplet fallout resulted in contamination of surfaces within the system and rooms.

In that paper, published in PLoS One, we also suggest causes of the wastewater plumbing system defects and presented a basic qualitative risk assessment for disease spread in buildings. One significant factor identified was the interconnectedness of all parts of the building by the wastewater plumbing system and, therefore, the potential for contaminated air to travel throughout the building unhindered.

So, the potential for a substantial viral load within the wastewater plumbing system (and therefore the main sewer system), in combination with the potential for airborne transmission due to aerosolisation of the virus, calls for wastewater plumbing systems to be considered as a potential transmission pathway for COVID-19.The interconnectedness of the wastewater plumbing network can facilitate exposure to SARS-CoV-2 within, or even between, buildings. This is of particular concern in high-risk transmission settings such as hospitals and health-care buildings.

So, what is the long-term solution to this issue? Given that the industry has been aware of this for 17 years with little change, what should happen now? In my view the issue is one of regulation. There are virtually no regulations on internal plumbing systems once installed. This lack of regulation would be unthinkable in water supply systems in buildings, so now is the time to start thinking about how to overhaul codes and standards and introduce regulations for wastewater plumbing systems inside buildings - before the next inevitable pandemic.

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Water Supply, Sanitation Inadequacies During South Africa COVID Lockdown

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa

Basic water and hygiene supplies have been described as lacking in parts of South Africa during the country's COVID-19 lockdown, which is currently planned to extend to 30 April. Angry residents in the Eastern Cape told Sowetan Live that on 12 April "we heard that they [health workers] were coming and we decided to set dogs on them and also threw stones at them because they didn't come with sanitisers or water so that we can wash our hands regularly as required".

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Chile's Updated NDC Features Water Commitments

SANTIAGO, Chile

Chile has become the first country in Latin America to submit its updated climate action commitment (Nationally Determined Contribution, or NDC) as required by the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, under which every country agreed to prepare and communicate an updated nationally determined contribution (NDC) every five years to reflect progress toward its highest possible ambition. So far, seven nations have submitted updated NDCs.

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Investing In Water Access To Address Coronavirus

WASHINGTON DC, United States

The World Resources Institute (WRI), a global research non-profit organization, has called for immediate implementation of solutions to increase water supplies and access for the most vulnerable, to address the spread of coronavirus throughout the world.

An 8 April blog emphasises that nearly 1 billion people live in conditions that frequent handwashing is difficult or impossible, saying that governments must “take steps to not only expand water access now to control COVID-19, but to create resilient communities by addressing the root problems of water insecurity...what’s also needed to foster resilience to disease outbreaks and other disasters is better water management".

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Did China Mekong Water Hoarding Exacerbate 2019 Drought?

WASHINGTON DC, United States

Actions by China have been described as compounding a 2019 Mekong River drought that had severe impacts on livelihoods in downstream nations. China is accused in an April 2020 US government-funded study of restricting water flow from 11 upstream dams, affecting approximately 60 million people live in the Lower Mekong where agriculture and fishing are the principal sources of support. Ordinarily, seasonal drought in China eventually becomes a seasonal drought in Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, while abundant water in China causes floods in the Mekong basin, as water is released from dams.

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Tripoli Water Shut-Off Condemned

TRIPOLI, Libya

Water is expected to return to Greater Tripoli and many parts of Libya's Western region within the next two days, Tripoli's Central Municipality announced 14 April. Water has been cut off since a 6 April armed attack on the Shwerif pumping station when valves controlling flows of the country's Great Man Made River Project were disconnected, hitting supply to over 2 million inhabitants.

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UN-Water Collates Member And Partner Statements On COVID Pandemic

GENEVA, Switzerland

While there is no single United Nations entity dedicated exclusively to water issues, over 30 UN organisations carry out water and sanitation programmes, reflecting the fact that water issues run through all of the UN’s main focus areas.

UN-Water, which coordinates the efforts of UN entities and international organizations working on water and sanitation issues, has brought together water and sanitation-related information from UN-Water Members and Partners in the light of the coronavirus global emergency to ensure the most up-to-date information, resources and guidance as they become available.

It has collected and curates water and sanitation-related information from Members and Partners in an up-to-date overview of information, resources and guidance with respect to COVID-19 which will be adjusted as new information is available - LINKED HERE.

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UNHCR Accelerates COVID-19 Support For Displaced Persons In Africa, Asia

GENEVA, Switzerland

East, Horn And Great Lakes Region Of Africa

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has confirmed its new measures to increase capacity to prevent, treat and limit the potential spread of COVID-19 in refugee settlements in the East, Horn and Great Lakes region of Africa. Living in crowded conditions, without adequate access to water and sanitation facilities, and with precarious livelihoods and food security, refugees in the region are particularly vulnerable to the virus, both in refugee camps and in urban areas.

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Water Diplomacy Talks - - Professor Souleymane Bachir Diagne

New York, United States
Professor Diagne is based at Columbia University in New York where he is Director of the Institute of African Studies. His teaching stresses the importance of the relationship that humans have with natural resources, including water, and that this should not be a relationship of exploitation, dictated by short-term interest, but of harmony based on the human sense of our own inscription on nature, recognizing that natural resources are finite. In this conversation, the Professor expands upon water’s place in the founding myths of humanity’s origins and the symbology of water; describes how philosophy can inform humanity's relationship with water and other natural resources; the COVID-19 pandemic and lessons to be learned; Ubuntu thinking around human togetherness; water-related conflict and river basin cooperation in the Sahel; hopes for the 2021 World Water Forum in Dakar, Senegal.
 

The conversation makes reference to the film and musical presentation Water and Peace at the Heart of the "Festival à Sahel Ouvert" which sheds a local, philosophical and cultural light on the challenges of water in the Sahel LINKED HERE

FURTHER READING - "Cultural Activities Connecting People To Water In The Sahel" is LINKED HERE

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Deterioration In Weather Data Gathering Due To Coronavirus

GENEVA, Switzerland

The COVID-19 pandemic will have an impact on quantity and quality of weather observations and forecasts around the world, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Large parts of the global observation system are fully automated but crucial maintenance functions may be delayed, causing a gap in the ability to gather information.

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Submissions Open For New "Water ChangeMaker Awards"

STOCKHOLM, Sweden

A 60-day submission period, commencing 6 April, for the new Water ChangeMaker Awards, opened this week. The new awards, targeted to those who have shaped water decisions that have helped to build climate resilience, is an initiative of about 20 partner organisations, convened by the Global Water Partnership (GWP).

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Newly Accessible Satellite Maps Track Global Drought

LINCOLN NE, United States

Global maps of dry/wet conditions developed by NASA researchers have been made avavilable, and are now accessible online through the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

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World Water Week 2020 Cancelled Due To COVID-19

STOCKHOLM, Sweden

The Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) has cancelled its World Water Week scheduled for 23-28 August 2020 in Stockholm, Sweden.

After monitoring the spread of COVID-19, the institute’s Board came to the conclusion that holding such a major event “would pose a critical threat to the health of visitors and result in an unacceptable risk of spreading the disease.” The annual World Water Week attracts over 500 co-convening organisations and 4,000 participants from more than 130 countries.

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Pandemic May Contribute To The Collapse Of Already Fragile States

DELFT, Netherlands

The Water, Peace and Security Partnership (WPS), a coalition which develops tools and services that help identify water-related security and conflict risks, has described how “a perfect storm of poverty, growing natural resource scarcity, and pandemic may lead to the collapse of already fragile states", while severely impacting many others.

A 1 April statement from the partnership examines how the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic adds another threat-multiplier to the “explosive mix of conflict and instability drivers that many individual countries and the world as a whole are facing”, identifying  sectors that will be affected and putting some context around specific issues and specific countries.

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Tailings Dam Overflow Contained By Chinese Authorities

HARBIN, China

The 28 March overflow of a Molybdenum mine tailings dam in China's north east Heilongjiang Province has been curtailed, after the second highest level of environmental emergency response in China had been triggered, but contaminated water has been detected up to 110 km downstream, environmental authorities in the province said 1 April.

A senior government environmental team was sent to the site to guide local officials in the management of the incident, and no casualties have been reported.

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Mexico Protesters Succeed In Blocking Plan To Transfer Water To United States

MEXICO CITY, Mexico

Following protests, The National Water Commission of Mexico (CONAGUA) appears to have backed down on a plan to divert water to the United States under terms of a 1944 bi-lateral treaty. The company tweeted 26 March that it had taken the decision to stop the additional water diversion from the La Boquilla dam in the nothern Chihuahua State due to farmers’ rejection of the move.

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Large Corporations Commit To New "Water Resilience Coalition"

NEW YORK NY, United States

The CEO Water Mandate platform has announced a new industry-driven, CEO-led Water Resilience Coalition. Endorsing companies of the CEO Water Mandate (currently over 150) commit to action across six key elements and report annually on progress.

Working with CEO Water Mandate, the new Water Resilience Coalition, corporates AB InBev, Diageo, Dow Inc., Ecolab, Gap Inc., Microsoft, PVH Corp, The Coca-Cola Company, Heineken, Levi Strauss & Co., and Woolworths, have now pledged a new commitment to collective action and issued a call to action for other companies to join them.

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