Summary of workshop on exchange of experiences in water resources management from Europe, China, Africa and Latin America.

Submitted by Water Team on 7 November, 2012 - 15:58


Workshop on exchange of experiences in water resources management from Europe, China, Africa and Latin America. Joint Research Centre, Ispra Italy. October 15-18, 2012.

This event was organised in the framework of a European Commission (EC) project implemented by the EC Joint Research Centre (JRC) to support the African Union/NEPAD Networks of Water Centres of Excellence. The aim of this project is to strengthen the link between policy, research and higher education by enabling these African institutions involved in water science and  technology to better contribute to the water sector development through south-to-south cooperation and capacity building.

The objectives of the workshop were to exchange experiences and lessons learned on the application of innovative technologies, to disseminate the results of successful projects that defined sound science-based policies, and to establish international partnerships. To this end, the JRC held a three-day workshop in Ispra (Italy) to which they invited partners from NEPAD (the African Network of Centres of Excellence on Water, the main beneficiaries of this activity), RALCEA (the Latin America Network of Centres of Excellence on Water), and representatives of the China-Europe Water Platform and the Chinese scientific community.

The following themes were addressed: Water Sector Stakeholder Analysis and Participation; Water Balance and water resources assessment; Water quality and sanitation.

On the first day, the Water Sector Stakeholder Analysis and Participation theme was addressed. A consensus was reached that stakeholders are an important part of the foundation of a water sector. The role of financial partners and the media were highlighted, especially the latter for promoting good practices for water resources management and in conflict resolution. Some of the key solutions to stakeholder participation in water resource management were identified, including issues of good governance and accountability that must be addressed to improve participation, as well as better coordination between institutions, and information targeted and adapted to user needs and understanding. It was proposed that the scientific community can address these challenges by setting up protocols and tools for disseminating science and the role of technology in managing the water sector.

The second day addressed water resources balance and assessment, including elements of climate variability and knowledge management. It was agreed that water resource management policies are well developed in certain regions of the world but their implementation still requires big efforts by the national governments with the support of the scientific community. Challenges identified included poor availability of and access to sound datasets. In order to overcome the challenge of poor data availability it was suggested that local stakeholders be involved in collecting and generating data from alternative sources such as water consumption estimates derived from areal images of vegetation and agriculture.  In order to address the challenge of access to data, a more open data governance position that promotes the sharing of important data should be adopted. This would require providing incentives to share the data (monetary, scientific, etc.) and/or adopting a strong political stance that makes it obligatory to share data at regional and international level.

On the third and final day of the workshop, discussion focused on water quality and sanitation.  A range of commercial, industrial and natural sources of water pollution and contamination were explored, including links to water quality and the provision of sanitation services. The challenges discussed included the lack of technologies, data collection and monitoring, appropriateness of technologies for developing countries, reluctance of industries to invest in new technologies, a clear normative framework, socio-economic and cultural issues, inadequate preparation of end users and unaffordable technologies. Proposed solutions to these challenges focused on technology, management and policy responses. They included enhancing scientific support to policy making, with a focus on linking long term research to immediate needs (political considerations), providing tailor-made solutions for developing countries, requiring a high level of compliance and self-regulation, giving communication and training courses, and providing various kinds of incentives for waste management and recycling and disincentives to pollute.

Overall, in addition to sharing knowledge on activities from projects from the various participating partners and countries, the greatest added value of this workshop has been the sharing and exchange of experiences, lessons learned and in some cases solutions to common problems. This came about through discussions during presentations, a more open exchange in the roundtables and the equally important networking and informal discussions and exchanges that took place around the programmed events. The sharing of experiences between Africa, Latin America, China and Europe was extremely valuable to all of the participants in that it exposed the great differences in the challenges faced by these regions as well as the common challenges shared by all. The sharing of lessons learned in dealing with these common challenges allowed participants to identify some solutions to these challenges and to explore ways of identifying new ones.