SPEECH BY MINISTER OF WATER AND HOUSING, HONOURABLE DONALD BUCHANAN AT THE FIFTH INTER-AMERICAN DIALOGUE ON WATER MANAGEMENT ON OCTOBER 9, 2005


It is a great honour for me to address this historic meeting of water specialists drawn from across the hemisphere and I must thank you for the invitation to deliver this address.
This evening I want to speak on the global water and sanitation crisis; the challenges to ensuring reliable water availability and improved sanitation; the focus of the international community over the years on water resources issues; the Millennium Development Goals and the status of meeting the targets; other major challenges to the water sector and in closing give you a charge that will focus your energies over the next three days of Dialogue.
Water is life for people and for the planet. It is essential to the well being of humankind, a vital input to economic development and a basic requirement for the healthy functioning of the world’s ecosystems. Clean water for domestic purposes is essential for human health and survival. Water is also critical to other facets of sustainable development – from environmental protection and food security, to increased tourism and investment, from the empowerment of women to reductions in productivity losses due to illness and malnutrition.
None of these facts are in dispute, yet we continue to take the availability of water for granted as if there is an infinite supply of this vital natural resource. The availability of, and access to freshwater, have been highlighted as among the most critical natural resource issues we face today.
The UN Environmental report, GEO 2000, states that global water shortage represents a full scale emergency where and I quote “the world water cycle seems unlikely to be able to adapt to the demands that will be made on it in the coming decades” end of quote. The Worldwide Fund for Nature also makes that emphasis and again I quote “freshwater is essential to human health, agriculture, industry and natural ecosystems but is now running scarce in many regions of the world” end of quote.
Complacency, ladies and gentlemen, is not an option. We stand on the brink of a global water crisis. The two major legacies of the 20th century – the population and technological explosions – have taken their toll on our water resources. More people lack access to potable drinking water today than they did two decades ago. More and more freshwater resources are being used up and contaminated.
Modern technologies have allowed us to harness much of the world’s water for energy, industry and irrigation – but often at a high social and environmental cost-and many traditional water conservation practices have been discarded. Most of the solutions to the crisis must be developed and implemented locally and always with the view that water is not to be taken for granted or unjustly appropriated by a particular group for particular needs.
Water resources can only be understood within the context of the dynamics of the water cycle. Water resources are renewable within limits; are variable over both space and time. The variability of water availability is one of the most essential characteristics of water resources management as most efforts are spent trying to overcome this variability and to reduce the unpredictability of water resource flows.
Both the use and availability of water are changing and the reasons for concern can be summarized in three key areas.
. Water availability/scarcity. Water quality; and. Water related disasters
The precipitation that the earth receives is the predominant source of water for all our uses. The fate of this precipitation is several fold. It may be taken up by the plants and soil and returned to the atmosphere as evapotranspiration; it may run off from the land to rivers and eventually to the sea; it may be diverted by dams for our use and it may infiltrate into the underground to become groundwater. Despite a withdrawal of only 8% of the total annual renewable freshwater resources, it has been estimated that 26% of annual evapotranspiration and 54% of accessible runoff is now appropriated by humans. As per capita use increases due to changes in lifestyle (leisure and domestic practices) and as population increases, the proportion of appropriated water will increase. This coupled with the spatial and temporal variability will reduce availability.
One change in lifestyle that is relevant to the Caribbean and other small island developing states is the explosive increase in tourism over the last 30 years. In the 1970’s only one in thirteen persons from an industrial country had traveled to a developing country as an international tourist. At the end of the 1990’s it was one in five. Cuba has seen a five fold increase in tourists since 1990. Jamaica has seen an 18% increase in tourist arrivals between 2000 and 2004. For Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, tourism receipts account for 50% of GDP.
The boom in tourism has multiple impacts including the disproportionate share of local natural resources of which water is often the most crucial. In Jamaica, tourists use 4 times more water than the local population and in Grenada, it is seven times. In Barbados, a significant volume of water is diverted for the irrigation of golf courses. One 18-hole golf course can use 2.3 million litres per day of water. In a 1994 study for the Caribbean Tourist Organization, it was disclosed that 80 to 90% of sewage from hotels and associated facilities was released in coastal waters and was thought to have adverse effect on coral reefs and mangrove swamps.
It has been estimated by the United Nations that more than 2 billion persons are affected by water shortage in over 40 countries; 1.1 billion do not have sufficient water and 2.6 billion have no provision for sanitation.
Although population growth will essentially stabilize, the increase in the number of persons will be a major driver for water resources management. The population projections by the United Nations make the future for many parts of the world bleak. One projection is that some 7 billion people in sixty countries will live water scarce lives by 2050. At present, many developing countries have difficulty in supplying the minimum annual per capita water requirement of 1700 cubic metres and half the population of developing countries live in water poverty.
In addition to the general population growth, the changing demographics are affecting how water resources are used and managed. At the beginning of the twentieth century, only a small percentage of the population lived in cities but as the population increased so has the number living in urban areas. The United Nations Population Fund projects that 58% of the world’s population will live in cities in 2025. As the population in the urban centres grows, so does the demand for resources reflecting the numbers and the very different lifestyles and aspirations of city dwellers. One consequence has been the overloading of water supply and sanitation infrastructure and the over exploitation of fragile water resources such as groundwater.
Even where there is sufficient water to meet current needs, water resources are becoming increasingly polluted. The sources of pollution are human waste with over 2 million tons a day disposed of in waterways; industrial wastes and chemicals and agricultural fertilizers and pesticides. Key forms of pollution include faecal coliforms; industrial organic substances; acidifying substances from mining operations; heavy metals from industry; ammonia, nitrate, phosphate and pesticide residue from agriculture; sediments from bad land use practices and salinisation.
The situation is worse in developing countries where institutional and infrastructural arrangements for treatment are poor. Levels of suspended solids have risen in Asian rivers by a factor of 4 over the past 4 decades and the biological oxygen demand is 1.4 times the global average. They also have 3 times the global average of faecal bacteria and 20 times the lead concentration.
Between 1991 and 2000, over 700,000 people died in 2600 natural disasters, of which, 90% were water related. The majority of the victims, 97%, were from developing countries. Growing concentrations of people and increased infrastructure that contributes to runoff, in vulnerable areas and on marginal lands mean that more people are at risk.
The Asian Tsunami and the recent flooding in Louisiana and Mississippi as a result of hurricane Katrina shows the vulnerability many coastal areas face and the resulting adverse impact on water supply and sewage. The significance of disasters as a driver of water resources management should not be underestimated. What is important is not the specific impact of disasters, but the way in which they interact with other aspects of water management and the ways that resource management is adjusted to take account of the risks.
While we concentrate on water management and how to reduce the scarcity of water, we have not devoted the same level of effort to the issue of sanitation. We are now faced with an alarming sanitation crisis that impacts on health and life of our constituents.Official statistics suggest that somewhere in the order of 2.6 billion people do not have access to “improved” sanitation. Of this 2.6 billion, 75% live in Asia, 18% in Africa and 5% in Latin America and the Caribbean. Between 1990 and 2000, an estimated additional 1 billion persons have gained access to “improved” sanitation, but it has been difficult to keep pace with population growth. A study published in 2005 estimated the following impacts could result from improved sanitation facilities:
Improved water supply can reduce diarrhoea morbidity by between 6-25%Improved sanitation can reduce diarrhoea morbidity by 32%Hygiene interventions, including education and hand washing, can reduce diarrhoeal cases by up to 45%; andImproved drinking water quality can lead to a reduction in diarrhoea episodes by between 35% and 39%.
The governing target for sanitation was agreed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg and is to halve the number of persons without access to basic sanitation by 2015. It means that at least 1.5 billion additional people need to gain access to basic sanitation by 2015. The cost for meeting this target is estimated at US$9.5 billion. This means that resources in the sanitation sector would have to quadruple. Indeed, a very daunting task.
At the 2000 World Water Forum in The Hague, the Global Water Partnership Framework for Action stated that (and I quote) “The water crisis is often a crisis of governance” (end of quote) and identified making effective water governance one of the highest priority for action. The Ministerial Declarations of The Hague and the Bonn 2001 Freshwater Conference reinforced this view.
Water Governance refers to the range of political, social, economic and administrative systems that are in place to develop and manage water resources and the delivery of water services, at different levels of society.
Achieving effective water governance can be done through an open social structure that enables broader participation by civil society, private enterprises and the media, all networking to support and influence government. There are a number of principles for effective water governance. All principles lead to Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), which eschews politics and the traditional fragmented, and sectoral approach to water and make a clear distinction between resource management and water service delivery functions. The establishment of the Ministry of Water and the Water Resources Authority, the preparation of a National Water Policy, new and amended water legislation, together with stakeholder participation are a few of the steps that have been taken by Jamaica to achieve effective governance.
The issues I have discussed above have been gradually coming into prominence since 1992 and attention has been given to them in the international debates on water policies and management issues. We can use the Dublin Conference of 1992 as the starting point. From this conference emerged the Dublin Statement on Water and Sustainable Development that was a contribution to the preparation of Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
This statement contained the four Dublin Principles that have become the cornerstone of the debate on international approaches to water policies. The principles are:
Water is a finite and vulnerable resource essential to sustain life, development and the environment
Water development and management should be based on a participatory approach
Women play a central role in the provision, management and safeguarding of water
Water has an economic value in all its competing uses and should be recognized as an economic good.
The focus of these principles on issues of environment, gender, governance, and sustainability are still relevant today. They are included in Chapter 18 of Agenda 21 prepared at the Rio Summit.
The Commission for Sustainable Development in its second (1994), sixth (1998) and eighth (2000) sessions and the 1977 UN General Assembly called for a concerted effort to develop more integrated approaches to water management. Subsequent international meetings have re-emphasized and demonstrated the links of Integrated Water Resources Management and sustainable development. Most importantly, in 2000 at the second World Water Forum, the outcome was the “World Water Vision: Making Water Everybody’s Business” and which identified 7 challenges for the global community.
The UN Millennium Declaration in 2000 saw World leaders agreeing to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with targets set mostly for 2015.
The 2001 International Conference on Freshwater emphasized that water is key to sustainable development. The 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development has as outcomes the Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development and the Plan of Implementation for the MDGs. The Third World Water Forum in 2003, the International Year of Freshwater, identified that water is likely to become a growing source of tension and fierce competition between nations if present trends continue, but can also be a catalyst for co-operation.
This Fifth Inter-American Dialogue on Water Management comes in the Water for Life Decade, launched on March 22 of this year, and which aims to promote efforts to fulfill international commitments made on water and water related issues by 2015. The Dialogue will pull together the successes and needs of the Americas for presentation at the Fourth World Water Forum to be held in Mexico City in March 2006.
The theme for the Dialogue “Strengthening Local Capacity to Achieve Global Challenges” re-emphasizes the integrated approach to water management and the solution to many of our problems being achieved at the local level.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and targets were adopted by 189 countries at the Millennium Summit of 2000. The goals commit the International community to an expanded vision of development, one that vigorously promotes human development as the key to sustaining social and economic progress in all countries. There are eight goals with eighteen targets. Goal 7 – Ensure Environmental Sustainability and target 10 – halve by 2015 the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation is explicit to water resources management.
A review of progress towards achieving the MDGs indicates the following with respect to Goal 7 Target 10 as of 2005.
In East Asia and the Pacific, the region is off target and is unlikely to meet the target.
In Europe and Central Asia, while the area appears to be doing well with access to improved water, there has been little investment in water infrastructure, so water quality is becoming a serious issue.
The Middle East and North Africa region has over 85% of its population with access to improved water sources. But with internal freshwater resources of less than 800 cubic metres per capita, meeting the target will be difficult.
The South Asia region is home to 40% of the world’s poor but the region has experienced rapid GDP growth averaging 5.3% since 1990. They are ahead of the target and will most likely meet the target before 2015.
The Sub-Saharan Africa region has seen slow growth and is lagging far behind in meeting the target. Sub-Saharan Africa alone is anticipating further deterioration in health services and health outcomes that are related to water and sanitation.
The Latin American and Caribbean region, while lagging on meeting the poverty goal, is ahead of the other regions in access to safe water and is most likely to meet the target in or before 2015.
In Jamaica, a recent review of the country’s likelihood of meeting the MDGs indicate that we are ahead of Goal 7-Target 10 and with the strong supportive environment in place, will most likely meet the target before 2015. In fact, we have set 2010 as our target date for all Jamaicans to have access to safe drinking water. While urban centres have a high level of access, the rural area lags with less access to water and sanitation. The Government will concentrate on raising access in rural areas over the next 5 years by the establishment of the “Rural Water Supply Company” and the preparation of Parish Plans outlining areas of deficit and how these will be supplied.
Jamaica chairs the Group of 77 and China at the UN Commission for Sustainable Development. The thirteenth session of the Commission (CSD-13) met at UN Headquarters in New York from 11 to 22 April 2005. As the policy session in the first implementation cycle, CSD-13 built upon the outcomes of CSD-12 and adopted policy decisions on practical measures and options to expedite implementation of commitments in water, sanitation and human settlements.
What are the other major challenges we now face in ensuring access to safe drinking and improved sanitation? There are several and I have already discussed some of these but I will now discuss the following two:
. Climate change; and. Impact of poverty/poverty reduction
I had earlier touched on the challenges of water availability/scarcity, water quality and water related disasters. However, all the evidence points to further negative impacts as greenhouse gases are likely to cause changes in the global climate. While there is no precise definition of the impacts, the various scenarios indicate that water resources will be severally impacted,-possibly irreversibly. There is a general consensus that this change is already taking place and several regions are experiencing water stress which will increase. Arid and semi-arid areas of developing countries, that are already poor and have great problems in water resources management, will be severally affected. The project now being implemented by UNESCO – Mapping of Arid Zones, will assist in a definition of the existing situation and the changes that will take place in an effort to identify possible mitigative strategies.
Climate change is also likely to lead to increased magnitude and frequency of precipitation related disasters.- floods, droughts, hurricanes, mudslides and debris flows. In the Caribbean, we are seeing an increasing number of hurricanes, as well as hurricanes of increasing magnitudes. In July, we had back to back hurricanes, – Dennis and Emily, which, while not a direct hit on the island, left flood damage totaling over US$35 million. In Grenada, Emily’s damage was US$200 million.
The countries of Central America and the Caribbean have experienced about 20% of the world’s hydrometeorological disasters of the past decade. Although this represents only 1% of all people affected worldwide, it nevertheless adds up to 36,000 deaths that is, one third of all deaths worldwide due to flooding.
Poverty has impacted on water resources management through squatting (illegal settlements) and deforestation.
Squatting or the creation of illegal settlements by the poor, who do not own land, has resulted in deforestation, increased flood risk, increased turbidity of runoff and streams, reduced recharge to aquifers and a degradation of water quality through the lack of appropriate sewage systems.
In many instances, squatting occurs around urban centres and centres of employment, such as tourist areas. The high population density and low income leads to a large amount of illegal connections to existing pipelines from which no revenue is derived that can be used to maintain and manage the system.
The United Nations Millennium Declaration and resolutions at the end of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development gives a high priority to poverty reduction in the international agenda for the next decade. It is now recognized that “Water Resources Development and Management” play a fundamental role in sustainable development and poverty reduction. The term “Water Resources Development and Management” is used to mean the actions required to manage and control freshwater to meet human and environmental needs. Investments in agriculture and other areas will be required for meeting the goals. The investments in water resources development by aid agencies have fallen drastically and Governments alone cannot provide the financial resources. The involvement of the private sector and community-based organizations in water resources development and management will be critical to alleviating poverty. It is argued that there is not one silver bullet to reduce poverty through water resources development or management. The best chance for a lasting and sustainable impact on poverty is likely to be achieved through a combination of sustainable water resources development projects and the development of appropriate pro-poor institutions and technologies.
While participants to the Dialogue are drawn from across the hemisphere where there are cultural differences the water resources problems may be similar and the solutions common. The Dialogue should seek to review the success cases and where possible transfer the technology to areas where similar problems need solutions. Cases that were not successful must also be reviewed and analyzed to determine why so that the same mistake, which could be costly, is not made again by another country or agency. The outcome of the Dialogue must be a Programme of Action to solve the challenges I have outlined in my presentation this evening. This programme of Action must be realistic with measurable outputs that will be supported by the Ministers of each country and favorably received in Mexico by the International funding agencies to ensure that the Region of the Americas remain ahead of the rest of world in the development and management of its water resources to ensure sustainable development that will bring about an improvement in the quality of life of our people. As technocrats and representatives of the people of the Americas we dare not fail.
I hereby declare the Fifth Inter-American Dialogue on Water Management open.
Thank you.

JIS Social