Water as an Agent of Change

Image: RiverSustainable management of water and the hydrological cycle is a necessary part of achieving sustainable development (as defined by the targets in the UN SDGs). Water is a major agent of change; it can both enhance and detract from achieving sustainable development goals. It is therefore both a threat and an opportunity. The timing, quantity and particularly the quality of water are all major factors in whether water is an enhancer or detractor for achievement of sustainable development. Adopting a ‘water -lens’ supports a more integrated perspective on the role of water. In particular, this theme will explore the water,  energy and food security nexus, the water-carbon (energy) link and interfaces with water and health, as well as water and biodiversity (ecosystem services) issues.

It will highlight the role of water as an agent transmitting global change effects and its critical role in the development agenda. Climate change, population growth, changes in land use patterns influence the hydrological cycle, water related services and risks with wide ranging implications for humans and the environment. While similar perspectives were embedded within the Global Water System Project agenda [GWSP 2005], Water Future will advocate for attribution studies that are viewed from the perspective of sustainable development.

Understanding the interlinkages between water management, policy and governance is a proxy for understanding the linkages inherent in the targets contained in the SDGs (SDG6 in particular). There is an increasing demand for the robust frameworks that can explain and show how organisations (government, non-government and corporates) can contribute to the achievement of the SDGs. These frameworks commonly acknowledge that there are genuine tensions that exist between some of the targets; i.e. the way in which one target is achieved likely influences the costs of achieving others.

Therefore, evaluation of water solutions designed to meet the ambitious goals in the SDGs need to account for both the positive contributions to some targets and the potential negative impacts on others. Furthermore, these positive and negative contributions are highly likely to be spatially and demographically distinct, suggesting equity issues need to be addressed in any project evaluation.