Partnerships and resource sharing needed to provide safe water for all

Water is a common good and it is our common future. It sustains life, but for many people, it is neither safe to drink nor readily available. [iStockphoto]

Water is a common good and it is our common future. It sustains life, but for many people, it is neither safe to drink nor readily available. According to the World Meteorological Organisation, only 0.5 per cent of water on Earth is useable and available.

We mark World Water Day on Friday amid the intensifying impact of climate change, increased demand for water, urbanisation, water pollution, and challenges to successful water resources management, making the commodity even more scarce. The interplay of these factors results in millions of Kenyans struggling to access safe water for drinking and other uses.

The theme for this year’s World Water Day is 'Water for peace'. Goal Six of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) focuses on ensuring availability and management of sustainable water and sanitation for all. One of the goal’s targets is to implement integrated water resource management at all levels, including through trans-boundary cooperation.

This target is particularly important because the impact of water scarcity is far-reaching and often contributes to inter-communal and international conflicts as communities compete for the available water. This is besides the more proximate issues such as children missing school to go and look for water, or staying at home to take care of their siblings as their mothers go to look for water.

Well-functioning and sustainably managed water resources and services are necessary to address these challenges.

In addition to strong partnerships, there is a need for collective action from governments, the private sector, humanitarian organisations, researchers, and communities to sustainably provide, manage and share water resources.

Core to these partnerships is ensuring government and community level water resource-sharing arrangements are established especially where water resources are inadequate. This works particularly well for water resources that transcend political boundaries, which may potentially trigger communal and inter-communal conflict.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) works with communities in Isiolo, Marsabit and Turkana counties, where resource-based conflicts mainly revolve around grazing and water resources. Water management services in these counties are largely community-led.

CRS works collaboratively with county governments to establish community water management arrangements that are performance-oriented, accountable, and compliant with regulatory requirements.

This is helping the communities to realise their right to safe and accessible water. This support also strengthens the participation of local communities in improving water management. Among pastoralist communities, this is critical for addressing their livelihood preservation, which in turn can help minimise conflicts.

Even as we focus on water services infrastructure, we must draw attention to the relationship among water resource availability, groundwater recharge, and sound management.

Protection and restoration of water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers, and lakes is critical for quality water availability.

Adopting water efficient technologies also contributes to increased availability of safe water for the well-being of humans, animals and the environment.

Mr Ngure is Water and Sanitation Sector lead at CRS

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