Managing water resources sustainably

Srepok River, Vietnam. Efficient water use in coffee production.
Efficient water use in coffee production in the river basin of the Srepok, which feeds into the Mekong river. © Alisher Sharypau

Demand for water continues to grow while the total volume of water available on the planet is limited and increasingly exposed to pollution. The main challenge is to manage the water sustainably and achieve an equitable distribution of water between households, agriculture and industry as well as between countries. The SDC is working to promote sustainable water use between sectors and peaceful cooperation across borders.

SDC Focus

The SDC is committed to achieving sustainable management of water resources to ensure access to water and reduce the risks of environmental degradation and conflicts. It strives to link peacebuilding with sustainable management of water resources in regions where tensions exist, and promote the efficient use, reuse and proper management of water in areas where it is in short supply.

Background

Transboundary cooperation

The SDC promotes dialogue between countries, which rely on the same river basin for their water supply. Sharing policy frameworks and technical information can help deflate existing or nascent tensions and conflicts. Switzerland, as a neutral actor with experience in mediation and acknowledged expertise in water management, is ideally placed to facilitate such discussions. At the technical level, , the SDC also supports common methods of measurement for determining the quality of water available and the quantities of water used. This data enables decision-makers to speak a common language when it comes to the management of shared water resources, and thus work together to set and reach commonly defined objectives.

Water – a commodity to be valued

Water is not free. Its protection, distribution and treatment obey the same economic laws as any other consumer good. At the same time, water is a resource to which everyone should have access, including the poorest and marginalised populations. The SDC develops mechanisms for making better use of water and promoting the reuse of wastewater.  The mechanisms provide incentives to manage water sustainably and construct environmentally friendly infrastructure in a particular region or industry.

For example, the SDC is involved alongside major corporations in facilitating the transfer of knowledge in relation to the water footprint, an indicator that enables the water used in the whole manufacturing cycle of a product to be better managed. The SDC is also pursuing the development of the 'Water Stewardship Standard' which aims to encourage all actors from business, government and civil society to take responsibility for their particular impacts on this shared resource and to work together to achieve sustainable management. Payment mechanisms are also being developed for compensating populations in the river basin areas for protecting water resources.

Current challenges

By 2030, demand for water is expected to rise by 30% while the degradation in quality caused by pollution will reach unprecedented levels.  Worldwide, 80% of urban and industrial wastewater is discharged into the environment without prior treatment. The majority of the time, the self-purification capacity of aquatic ecosystems is largely insufficient to be able to cope with such large volumes. Furthermore, agriculture requires a great deal of water, accounting for almost 70% of global consumption.  However, water is often used inefficiently and can be contaminated by fertilisers and pesticides. In addition, industry currently uses 22% of water and as it continues to grow will put water resources under even greater pressure.

By 2025, half of the world's population will be living in regions suffering permanent water scarcity, which will have the effect of weakening local economies and force millions of people to relocate. That is why it is already especially important today to use water so as to preserve its regenerative capacity and allow it to be distributed equitably.

Current projects

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Access to drinking water: a challenge in Tajikistan

Three children around a fountain.

01.03.2017 - 31.12.2021

In Tajikistan, the poorest country in Central Asia, half of the 8.5 million inhabitants do not have access to drinking water. In mountainous and rural regions, the figure reaches 80%. This situation poses a serious risk to public health. The SDC's project on 'Safe drinking water and sanitation management in Tajikistan' (SWSMT) focuses on access to drinking water and sanitation in the east of the country.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Tajikistan
Governance
Health
Water
Decentralisation
Infectious desease
Water supply
Health systems strengthening
Water sanitation
Public sector policy
Medical services

01.03.2017 - 31.12.2021


CHF 5'300'000



Blue Peace Central Asia Strengthening of the Regional Institutional Framework for Integrated Water Resources Management in Central Asia

01.09.2014 - 31.07.2022

In response to the explicit demand of the five Central Asian States, and building on over 20 years of cooperation in the field of water, SDC facilitates transboundary water resources cooperation consistent with the Blue Peace approach implemented in the Middle-East and at the global level through the establishment of a High Level Dialogue Platform, the promotion of sustainable water practices as well as capacity building of a new generation of water professionals and champions.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Central Asia
Water
Climate change and environment
Water diplomacy and security
Meteorological services
Water resources conservation
Water sector policy

01.09.2014 - 31.07.2022


CHF 6'000'000



Swiss Bluetec Bridge: Swiss start-ups benefit disadvantaged populations

01.04.2011 - 31.05.2024

The challenges involving water are creating opportunities for cutting-edgetechnological innovation. The SDC's Swiss Bluetec Bridge initiative supports these innovations to improve access to water for the poorest populations. The first start-up to benefit from a loan is the start-up company “Swiss Fresh Water” which has developed a low-cost system fordesalinating salty or brackish water.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Global
Water
Drinking water and basic sanitation (WASH) (til 2016)
Water sanitation

01.04.2011 - 31.05.2024


CHF 2'050'000



Sustainable Natural Resources Management (NRM) for Enhanced Pastoralist Food Security in the Borana Zone, Ethiopia.

01.01.2022 - 31.12.2027

Natural resources, particularly water and pasture, are among the key determinants of pastoralist livelihoods’ sustainability. The proposed Project contributes to the outcomes of the SDC’s Food Security Domain as stipulated in the Swiss Cooperation Strategy Horn of Africa. It aims at improving pastoralist food security and adaptive capacities in the lowlands of Borana Zone, Southern Ethiopia, through enhancing the sustainable management of natural resources.


Resilience for Pastoralist Communities in Northern Kenya

01.03.2021 - 31.07.2025

Pastoralism is a millennia old livelihood strategy adapted to the marginal and harsh environ-ments of Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL). In order to support pastoralists, this programme contributes to strengthening public and private institutions in the water and livestock sectors, putting policy frameworks in place to ensure efficient county-wide and cross-border water and rangeland management systems, and to increase access to water and pasture.


Water and Integral Sanitation Project in Rural Areas (ASIR – SABA), Phase III

01.06.2020 - 31.07.2022

The ASIR-SABA Project aims to contribute to the sustainable management and governance of water and sanitation, as well as public health, as a contribution to the consolidation of peace in rural areas of the country. To achieve its objective, the project promotes dialogue between the different actors of the WASH sector in Colombia. It also aims to strengthen the capacities at the community and institutional level (national, departmental and municipal) for the co-management of water and sanitation in rural areas of the country.


Contribution to the VII Regional Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction in the Americas and the Caribbean

01.02.2020 - 31.07.2021

Financially support the Regional Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in Jamaica 2020 (RPDRR 20) co-convened by CDEMA and UNDRR with a non-earmarked contribution to the overall costs and thereby assist implementation of the Sendai Framework in the Americas. Accompany this contribution by providing assistance in the preparations relying on the experience from previous platforms and the GPDRR 19 and support the participation of key stakeholders in the Americas that exhibit their activities in collaboration with SDC.


Contribution to IFRC Emergency Appeal: Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak

31.01.2020 - 31.12.2020

As of 06. February 2020 a total of 28’292 infections and 565 deaths have been reported with the majority of the cases occurring in China.

The preliminary Emergency Appeal from the IFRC is seeking Swiss Francs 3 Million to support Red Cross Red Crescent Societies globally, to contribute to stopping transmission of the virus, and helping to ensure the health and dignity of communities affected by the outbreak. IFRC will work closely with National Societies in countries where transmission has taken place, and on preparedness measures for all countries. The main area of focus for this response is Health and WASH, which will include risk communication and community engagement, psychosocial support, capacity building of NS on epidemic response and support. Other areas of focus are protection, gender and inclusion and migration. While at the moment the response is largely in the Asia Pacific region, the IFRC is supporting National Societies in at risk countries with preparedness activities. The IFRC at global, country and regional level is coordinating with other agencies including WHO, UNICEF and CDC in information sharing and guidance.


Solar Irrigation for Agriculture Resilience (SoLAR)

01.01.2020 - 31.07.2027

To adapt to climate change farmers rely increasingly on irrigation, ultimately depleting groundwater resources and raising energy demand. The project aims to address these challenges by promoting solar irrigation, water efficient agriculture and groundwater governance. The project will harness Swiss expertise on hydrogeology and technical innovations to contribute to climate resilient agriculture and facilitate knowledge sharing in South Asia and at the global level.


Philippines: Typhoon Phanfone - Contribution to IFRC Emergency Appeal

28.12.2019 - 31.12.2020

This Emergency Appeal seeks 2 million Swiss francs (CHF) to enable the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to support the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) to deliver assistance for 12 months and support to 20,000 people affected by Typhoon (TY) Phanfone/Ursula. The appeal focuses on the following sectors: shelter; livelihoods and basic needs; health; WASH; protection; gender and inclusion (PGI); migration; community disaster preparedness and risk reduction; and National Society capacity enhancement. Therein, SDC favours humanitarian assistance to Shelter and WASH sectors.


IDB Migration Initiative (Clean drinking water and sanitation program for la Guajira)

01.10.2019 - 30.09.2022

Switzerland supports to the newly created Migration Initiative of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) that was created in support of Latin American and Caribbean migrants and their host communities and accordingly contributes to deter grave development crisis by empowering communities to foster integration and consequently to strengthen stability of the region and Colombia in particular.


Capacity Building for Low Carbon and Climate Resilient City Development in India (CapaCITIES)

16.07.2019 - 15.07.2023

India is rapidly urbanizing. The growing Indian cities are affected by climate change but are also important emitters of greenhouse gases. Phase 2 of CapaCITIES aims at enabling climate responsive urban planning in eight cities and two states. Swiss expertise in waste management, transport, water and climate finance will support development of solutions for low-carbon and climate resilient cities. The results of the project in India will be shared through global reporting mechanisms and city coalitions.

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