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Water Agenda for the Americas Presented

4 April 2012: Over 40 governmental, inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations presented "Americas' Water Agenda" to the March 2012 World Water Forum, a roadmap to guide Western Hemisphere decision makers on the primary actions to improve water management.

Developed through a two-year dialogue among regional stakeholders, the Agenda diagnoses the current situation and principal challenges facing water management, and proposes 11 time-bound targets for action under six themes: access to water and sanitation for all; climate change adaptation; integrated water resources management (IWRM); food security; energy and water; and the quality of water resources and ecosystems..

Among the challenges identified in the Agenda is "implementing the human right to water and sanitation," as declared by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in 2010. The Agenda proposes the target of an additional 25% of countries in the region having a formal roadmap for implementation of those rights by 2015. A second challenge identified is lags in the quality of water and sanitation service, to which the Agenda proposes that at least half of the region's countries halve by 2020 their current gap in access to water services and to wastewater treated.

To address challenges posed by climate change to water management, the Agenda proposes that, by 2015, 25% of new or existing national and local adaptation plans in the Americas specifically include water resources. On IWRM, the Agenda identifies the need to improve governance. It proposes creating a network of legislators in 2012, and to identify institutional reforms implemented by countries in the Americas that consider financial, environmental and social sustainability for water management.

Another challenge identified is how the global food crisis increases demand for farmland and irrigation water. Here the Agenda proposes, by 2015, to increase by 15% the productivity of rain-fed and irrigated agricultural lands in the Americas, and by 2020 to increase the use of treated wastewater and/or low quality water in agriculture by 25%.

Another challenge identified is managing the water-energy nexus, to which the Agenda proposes creating in 2012 a Water-Energy Nexus Collaboration Network for the Americas to coordinate the development of subregional policies, guidelines and best-practices that promote the interdependency between water and energy. The Agenda further proposes carrying out by 2015 an inventory of significant water and energy technologies, management systems and practices to develop a roadmap for addressing infrastructure gaps and sustainability concerns.

To address growing environmental degradation, the Agenda proposes that for 2015 all Latin American countries recognize and implement strategies that sustain ecosystem services from which water stewardship obtains direct benefits, such as conservation of critical recharge areas, and those that water stewardship needs to maintain in order to assure provision of benefits to both society and ecosystems, such as environmental flows.

The Agenda also discusses challenges to water management in the Americas for which specific targets are not proposed, including: achieving universal coverage of water services in the context of a high rate of urbanization and marginality; urban water integrated management; over-exploitation of subterranean water resources; transboundary water management; growing conflict for water resources within countries; and the implications of investment treaty protections for water utilities regulation.

The Agenda was prepared by over 40 organizations organized into six work groups corresponding to the thematic priorities selected. These included national water authorities of Brazil and Mexico, as well a several international organizations, including UN-HABITAT, the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Andean Development Corporation (CAF). [UN-HABITAT Press Release (in Spanish)] [Publication: Americas' Water Agenda]