Clean water and sanitation: Integrated Pathways to Achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 6

Clean water and sanitation
Clean water and sanitation

Clean Water and Sanitation: Integrated pathways to ensure access to clean water and achieve global sanitation goals 

The availability of clean and accessible water for all is an essential part of the world in which we want to live. There is enough fresh water on the planet to realize this dream. But as a result of poor economic programs or poor infrastructure, millions of people - mostly children - die every year from diseases related to water supply, sanitation, and hygiene.
The researchers of International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) have found new ways of development to demonstrate how the world can develop water and energy infrastructure in line with both the UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6) and Paris Agreement - UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), ensuring the sustainable management of water, availability, and sanitation for all.

Clean water and sanitation

Access to safe and clean water and adequate sanitation is a fundamental human right and emphasizes success in development areas such as agriculture, energy, resilience to disasters, human health and the environment, and ultimately economic growth. In many countries, economic and population growth, as well as urbanization, have led to increased demand for water, while supply has remained unchanged and even declined due to climate change.
Water scarcity affects more than 40 percent of the people worldwide, due to climate change it is expected to grow bigger. Although 2.1 billion people have access to better sanitation facilities since 1990, the decline in the drinking water supply is a major problem affecting every continent of the world.
Although the number of people worldwide without access to an improved water source has halved over the past 25 years, the poorer countries are struggling to provide safe and clean water and sanitation for all their citizens in a sustainable manner. Slightly more than one-quarter of the population in low-income countries had an improved sanitation facility compared with just over half of the population in the lower middle-income countries in 2015.

UN Sustainable Development Goal-6 (SDG-6)

UN sustainable development goal 6 recognizes that sustainable water management goes beyond mere safe water supply and sanitation services (targets 6.1 and 6.2) to addressing the broader water context such as water quality, wastewater management, water scarcity, efficient use, water resource management, ecosystem protection and restoration associated with water. The delivery of water supply and sanitation is no longer a service challenge but is intrinsically linked to climate change, water resource management, water scarcity, and water quality.

Paris Agreement - UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

The Paris Agreement is an agreement adopted by consensus on 12 December 2015, under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which addresses the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation, and finance, and that will start in 2020. As of November 2018, 195 Members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) signed the agreement, and 184 became the party to it. The long-term goal of the Paris Agreement is to maintain the increase in global average temperature to above pre-industrial levels and below 2 ° C; limiting the increase to 1.5 °C, as this would significantly reduce the risk factors and effects of climate change.

How to achieve clean water and sanitation: Integrated pathways

The new analysis is one of the important modifications to develop such global routes. Compared with pre-industrial levels, to reduce global warming by 2 ° C, the Paris Agreement climate targets is important to avoid destructive climate change. However, the Paris Agreement also demands that mitigation decisions should be considered on the impact on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The objective of SDGs agreed in 2015, is to eliminate poverty and protect the environment as well. The SDGs cover many areas, including food, hunger, education, equality, and health as well as water and energy.
Water and energy targets are interdependent. Energy is important to water supply and sanitation provision, for example in treatment and water pumping, while the energy sector is itself a major consumer of water, for example in fuel processing and power plant cooling. Reducing emissions from energy is essential to achieve the Paris Agreement, and therefore the research that identifies the interactions between the Paris Agreement and SDG6 will be useful to policymakers who develop joint implementation strategies.
This research was the collaboration between researchers from the Energy, Water, and Transitions to New Technologies research programs organized by the IIASA and implemented as part of the Integrated Solutions for Water, Energy, and Land (ISWEL) Project. The researchers took the relationship, integrated approach or a ‘nexus’, considering all the different elements in water, energy and climate objectives in an attempt to balance their needs.
International Group reinforced the MESSAGEix-GLOBIOM integrated assessment model to account for changes in global water usage as a result of the SDGs and social economic change and to link the energy, the projections to water availability, cost, and emissions impacts of future infrastructure systems. The scenario for population and economic development was taken from the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) so that different ways of the progress of the world and society can be seen. Policies similar to the Paris Agreement and SDG6 were also included in the analysis.

Three water sector development scenarios have been developed to compare costs and impacts - Baseline, which implies the name, "business as usual", SDG6-Supply, which includes basic projections for water use but includes expanding technologies to mitigate the growth of water demand, and SDG6-Efficiency, where the community is making significant progress in reaching sustainable water consumption in all sectors.

The model showed that, under the middle-of-the-road human development scenario, about US $ 1 trillion per year would be required to achieve the goals of SDG-6 by 2030. Incorporating climate targets consistent with climate change reduction to 1.5 ° C will increase these costs by 8 percent. 
The cost of operating and converting power systems increases by 2.9 percent when the sustainable development goals 6 are added, compared with the baseline situation and basic position where the targets of  SDG6  are not included. This is largely due to the need for intensive water treatment processes and the costs of water conservation measures.

Simon Parkinson, a researcher from IIASA and the University of Victoria, who led the study, said in a statement "the results of our analysis show that combining clean water and climate policies may increase implementation costs, but these increases are considered relatively small in comparison to the cost of implementing each policy on its own.”

Improving and finding synergies between water efficiency and decarbonization is critical for minimizing joint policy implementation costs and uncertainties. For example, treatment plants and water pumping could be operated flexibly to provide important on-demand services to the electricity grid, which supports the integration of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

The researchers say that water and energy planners need to work more closely together to ensure that the development of energy systems and water taps into these and other opportunities and is consistent with the SDGs.

Yoshihide Wada, deputy director of the Water Program and coauthor on the study, said in his statement, "the results emphasize water conservation across sectors is important to reduce the potential trade-offs,  especially in water-stressed regions where the SDG6 targets might require the use of energy-intensive water technologies, such as wastewater recycling and desalination".
“Similar research needs to be expanded to other sustainable development goals (SDGs) to understand how climate objectives affect broader sustainable development. This research shows a very vital role of integrated assessment models and "nescus" approaches in finding low-cost global transformation paths consistent with multiple SDG objectives, said Keywan Riahi, director of the IIASA Energy Program and study co-author.

Water scarcity, poor water quality, insufficient hygiene, and inadequate sanitation are factors that negatively impact food security, nutrition, livelihood choices and educational and economic opportunities for poor households around the world. Some of the world's poorest countries suffer from drought, leading to increased hunger and malnutrition. By 2050, at least one in four people is likely to live in a country with chronic or recurrent freshwater shortages.
Crops and livestock are already 70 percent of all water withdrawals and up to 95 percent in some developing countries. The world's population growth and economic development will increase the water shortage for irrigation and livestock. Food trends point to a global increase in food consumption that requires more water production. 
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) works with countries to ensure that the use of water in agriculture is more efficient, productive and environmentally friendly. This includes the production of more food using less water, the implementation of clean water technologies and capacity building in agricultural communities to adopt integrated pathways to floods and drought. FAO also supports countries for monitoring the use of water resources and water stress levels.
Ensuring that by 2030 everyone has access to safe and affordable drinking water, we have to invest in adequate infrastructure, sanitation facilities, and hygiene at every level. If the water shortage is to be overcome then it is necessary to protect and restore the ecosystem related to water such as forests, mountains, wetlands, and rivers. Further international cooperation is also needed to promote efficient water usage and support for water treatment technologies in developing countries.

Journal Reference: Environmental Research Letters, 2018; Balancing clean water-climate change mitigation trade-offs

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