Delia Paul - Thematic Expert for Poverty Reduction, Rights and Governance (Malaysia/Australia)
11 July 2017
July 2017: UN agencies have reviewed the impacts of forestry and hi-tech irrigation technologies on water, and are urging governments and other responsible actors to resolve conflicts, and take control of water resources and allocations. The World Water Council (WWC) has issued its 2016 report, which calls for mainstreaming water in a variety of global agendas, including infrastructure financing, climate action and sustainable development.
The UN Educational and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) reports on the experiences of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), India, Malaysia, Peru, Romania, South Africa, Spain and the US in a publication titled ‘Forest Management and the Impact on Water Resources: A Review of 13 Countries.’ The report, which is based on research conducted in partnership with universities and other partners in those countries, discusses countries’ laws and policies on forestry, plantations, and environmental management, evaluates the effects of climate change, and recommends ways forward. The research shows that many countries are experiencing water quality problems caused by deforestation and soil degradation. Australia, Spain and the US are experiencing longer and more extreme fire seasons due to climate change.
The researchers note that many countries still fail to connect knowledge about the degradation of water resources with effective forest management policies. They warn that conflict between forestry management and watershed protection is on the rise everywhere, and recommends that future research focus on addressing the competing demands of water for agriculture, mining, cities and forest-related products, with the need to ensure healthy watersheds.
Many countries still fail to connect knowledge about the degradation of water resources with effective forest management policies.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), meanwhile, has examined the impacts of hi-tech irrigation technology in water-scarce countries of the Near East and North Africa (NENA) region. While project developers usually assume that such technology will result in water savings, the research published in the report ‘Does improved irrigation technology save water?’ finds that achieving sustainable water use requires more far-reaching action. They recommend that government or other agencies first take physical control of water resources and provide users with quotas that reflect a sustainable level of water use. They note that within such a regulatory framework of sustainable water allocation, users will take advantage of hi-tech irrigation “to the extent that it makes sense for the farmer.”
In its annual report, the WWC describes actions undertaken to make water a global priority. For instance, the Council has engaged with various international processes, including contributing as an observer in the UNFCCC, providing recommendations to the New Urban Agenda adopted at the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) and convening a one-day seminar on financing water infrastructure at World Water Week in Stockholm, Sweden, in August 2017. It has also undertaken preparations for the 8th World Water Forum, which will be held in Brasilia, Brazil, in March 2018. The WWC also describes its work with the High-Level Panel on Water (HLPW) to help deliver on the Sustainable Development Goal on clean water and sanitation (SDG 6). To this end, it has supported increased investment in water-related services and a globally-coordinated approach to water issues. [FAO Publications Webpage] [UNESCO Press Release] [Forest Management and the Impact on Water Resources: A Review of 13 Countries] [World Water Council Annual Report Web Page] [Mainstreaming Water in Global Agendas: WWC Annual Report 2016]