WaterAid rallies water industry to shape the future of water

3 min read
Image: WaterAid/Eliza Deacon

The international water sector must play an active role if everyone, everywhere is to have sustainable access to water and sanitation services by 2030.

This was the message WaterAid delegates shared with participants at the International Water Association’s World Water Congress in Tokyo last month. The 6-day conference, which focused on ‘Shaping Our Water Future’, brought together 8000 water professionals from across the world and was attended by WaterAid staff and Board members spanning three continents.

Among them was WaterAid Australia Chief Executive Rosie Wheen, who saw the conference as an opportunity to “work together with the water sector more and share experiences, so that we can accelerate progress towards achieving goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals.” Goal 6 is defined as “ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”, a target which the global water sector is increasingly recognising as a top priority.

The conference was talking about the challenges we face in the water sector while also recognising that nobody can solve any of these challenges alone,” Rosie said.

WaterAid delivered six presentations at the conference, using its platform to drive home a number of key messages to its peers in the water industry:

  • Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals needs to be accelerated, and partnership with the water industry is central to that.
  • It’s important to invest in the individual people who make up the water industry
  • We need to look for solutions that leapfrog progress; how can the water industry work in a global way so that developing countries can leapfrog towards solutions rather than follow the same paths as others?
  • As all countries respond to the Sustainable Development Goals and the impacts of climate change, we have to be thinking about sustainability.
  • The importance of diversity is paramount. We must focus on fixing organisations – changing structures and dismantling barriers – so that they are more inclusive of women and minority groups.

One of the unique ways that WaterAid works is through sector strengthening - an approach to international development that focuses not just on implementing services, but on improving systems and making them sustainable. Rosie sees WaterAid’s ongoing partnerships with the water sector as an important part of this. “Our distinctive role is in sector strengthening and all the people that were at the conference are from the sector.”

WaterAid has existing partnerships with many of the water companies that attended the conference, as well as the International Water Association (IWA) itself. “We’re so excited about our partnership with IWA and it was great putting it into action,” Rosie said. “We’re looking forward to the next work we do together, towards our joint areas of focus: progressing the human right to water and sanitation; capacity building; and water security in West Africa.”