Managing water resources sustainably

Srepok River, Vietnam. Efficient water use in coffee production.
Efficient water use in coffee production in the river basin of the Srepok, which feeds into the Mekong river. © Alisher Sharypau

Demand for water continues to grow while the total volume of water available on the planet is limited and increasingly exposed to pollution. The main challenge is to manage the water sustainably and achieve an equitable distribution of water between households, agriculture and industry as well as between countries. The SDC is working to promote sustainable water use between sectors and peaceful cooperation across borders.

SDC Focus

The SDC is committed to achieving sustainable management of water resources to ensure access to water and reduce the risks of environmental degradation and conflicts. It strives to link peacebuilding with sustainable management of water resources in regions where tensions exist, and promote the efficient use, reuse and proper management of water in areas where it is in short supply.

Background

Transboundary cooperation

The SDC promotes dialogue between countries, which rely on the same river basin for their water supply. Sharing policy frameworks and technical information can help deflate existing or nascent tensions and conflicts. Switzerland, as a neutral actor with experience in mediation and acknowledged expertise in water management, is ideally placed to facilitate such discussions. At the technical level, , the SDC also supports common methods of measurement for determining the quality of water available and the quantities of water used. This data enables decision-makers to speak a common language when it comes to the management of shared water resources, and thus work together to set and reach commonly defined objectives.

Water – a commodity to be valued

Water is not free. Its protection, distribution and treatment obey the same economic laws as any other consumer good. At the same time, water is a resource to which everyone should have access, including the poorest and marginalised populations. The SDC develops mechanisms for making better use of water and promoting the reuse of wastewater.  The mechanisms provide incentives to manage water sustainably and construct environmentally friendly infrastructure in a particular region or industry.

For example, the SDC is involved alongside major corporations in facilitating the transfer of knowledge in relation to the water footprint, an indicator that enables the water used in the whole manufacturing cycle of a product to be better managed. The SDC is also pursuing the development of the 'Water Stewardship Standard' which aims to encourage all actors from business, government and civil society to take responsibility for their particular impacts on this shared resource and to work together to achieve sustainable management. Payment mechanisms are also being developed for compensating populations in the river basin areas for protecting water resources.

Current challenges

By 2030, demand for water is expected to rise by 30% while the degradation in quality caused by pollution will reach unprecedented levels.  Worldwide, 80% of urban and industrial wastewater is discharged into the environment without prior treatment. The majority of the time, the self-purification capacity of aquatic ecosystems is largely insufficient to be able to cope with such large volumes. Furthermore, agriculture requires a great deal of water, accounting for almost 70% of global consumption.  However, water is often used inefficiently and can be contaminated by fertilisers and pesticides. In addition, industry currently uses 22% of water and as it continues to grow will put water resources under even greater pressure.

By 2025, half of the world's population will be living in regions suffering permanent water scarcity, which will have the effect of weakening local economies and force millions of people to relocate. That is why it is already especially important today to use water so as to preserve its regenerative capacity and allow it to be distributed equitably.

Current projects

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UNICEF, EMOPS Geneva, Core Contribution 2024-2025

01.01.2024 - 31.12.2025

The Office of Emergency Programmes (EMOPS) ensures that the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) role in complex emergencies is clearly defined, the organization properly equipped and prepared to deliver its mandate to support the needs of children. SDC’s support to EMOPS in Geneva enables UNICEF to lead inter-agency humanitarian coordination, response and standard setting in Water and Sanitation (WASH), Education, Nutrition and Child Protection.


Humanitarian assistance to people affected by the protracted crisis in Venezuela

01.09.2023 - 31.12.2024

Despite a moderate recovery in some economic indicators during 2022, the Venezuelan economy continues to contract during 2023. Meanwhile, there is no improvement in the structural causes of the humanitarian crisis. As a result, the needs of the most vulnerable are still high. Therefore, Caritas aims to facilitate access on health, nutrition, food security and livelihoods, for vulnerable families in eight states according to the Guidance Note for Venezuela 2022-2024. 


Peru, SEDAPAL: Emergency Water Supply in Lima

01.08.2023 - 31.12.2027

Lima with a population of over 12 million is subject to the highest seismic vulnerability in Peru. Hence, ensuring Lima’s water supply continuity in case of a major earthquake is crucial. The initiative aims at contributing to strengthened preparedness capacities of Lima’s water service provider (SEDAPAL) by improving its technical, financial and logistical capacities, knowledge exchange and inter-sectorial coordination together with key partners from government, academia, and the private sector.


Multisectoral response to the humanitarian needs and protection risks of children, adolescents, and their families in the Orinoco Mining Arc.

15.06.2023 - 31.12.2024

The NRC intervention seeks to provide assistance in the sectors of Protection, Education, Food Security and Livelihoods, and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, to 6,483 direct beneficiaries, including children, adolescents, and their families in communities and schools of the Orinoco Mining Arc; a hotspot area for illegal mining and high levels of violence in Bolivar state, near the border between Venezuela and Brazil, a priority area for the SDC Guidance Note for Venezuela 2022-2024.


Sanitation Solutions for underserved Communities in Jordan

01.06.2023 - 31.05.2026

Switzerland will build a decentralised wastewater treatment plant in Azraq. Proven Swiss know-how in wastewater management will be applied to increase the efficiency of the treatment plant and to demonstrate how wastewater can be converted into physical and financial resources. The chosen approach for reducing freshwater consumption in agriculture by replacing it with safely treated waste water, in one of the most water-scarce countries, will be promoted based on the implementation of this flagship project.


Provide support to multi-sectoral needs for vulnerable families in the states of Bolivar and Sucre States

01.06.2023 - 31.12.2024

In cooperation with national and international stakeholders, RET will provide multi sectorial assistance for a total of 7’331 direct beneficiaries in Sucre and Bolívar states, by addressing their basic needs and strengthening opportunities in the sectors of food security and livelihoods, nutrition and health services, as well as in water, sanitation and hygiene; in line with the Humanitarian Response Plan for Venezuela 2022 – 2023 and the SDC Guidance Note for Venezuela 2022 – 2024.


Multisectoral response to the humanitarian needs of vulnerable people in Amazonas, Zulia and Bolivar states

01.06.2023 - 31.12.2024

Amid the protracted crisis in Venezuela, Action Against Hunger will provide humanitarian assistance in the sectors of Food Security and Livelihoods, Health and Nutrition for a total of 15’961 direct beneficiaries, identified as the most vulnerable population in Amazonas, Bolívar and Zulia states – border states with Colombia and Brazil; in line with the United Nation’s Humanitarian Response Plan for Venezuela 2022 – 2024 and the SDC Guidance Note for Venezuela 2022 – 2024


Climate-sensitive Water Resources Management in Central Asia

01.06.2023 - 31.05.2027

The Climate Sensitive Water Resources Management in Central Asia project strengthens national and regional organisations responsible for water resource management in Central Asia to implement climate-sensitive integrated water resources management in a regionally coordinated manner. Switzerland will contribute to this initiative which is designed in the frame of the German led, GIZ implemented Green Central Asia High-Level Platform. 


Nigeria, Action Contre la Faim, Provision of life-saving nutrition and WASH services to reduce morbidity and mortality in Northwest Nigeria

01.06.2023 - 31.05.2024

Nigeria’s Northwest region has the highest rate of food insecurity and malnutrition in the country, with more than half of local government areas classified as food insecure and nearly 3.9 million children aged 0-59 months expected to suffer from acute malnutrition by April 2023. With this contribution, the SDC supports Action Contre la Faim to provide life-saving nutrition and WASH services to reduce morbidity and mortality attributed to acute malnutrition in Northwest Nigeria.


MOZ HA SI Nexus Water Supply System CD

01.06.2023 - 30.06.2025

To address the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Cabo Delgado Province in northern Mozambique, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) will support the provision and improvement of basic water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services, more specifically the N’tamba Water Supply System Network (NWSSN) rehabilitation, ensuring resilient infrastructure for internally displaced and resident population.


Swiss Water and Sanitation Consortium (SWSC)

01.03.2023 - 31.12.2027

The Swiss Water and Sanitation Consortium includes 10 non-governmental organizations and contributes to improving the livelihoods of the most vulnerable communities in least developed countries in West and East Africa and Asia by increasing drinking water, sanitation and hygiene coverage in schools and health care facilities. It also contributes to triggering innovation and knowledge sharing between the Swiss NGOs as well as strengthening the Swiss profile in advocacy and policy.


Support to WASH Road Map 2025

01.01.2023 - 31.12.2025

Too often, WASH responses has failed to meet defined humanitarian or sectoral standards owing to a lack of capacity, preparedness and funding. Through strengthened collective commitments and strategic engagement by all stakeholders active in the WASH sector, the implementation of the Road Map will roll out innovative approaches to save lives, reach better public and environmental health outcomes and build synergies between acute and complex emergencies, humanitarian crises and long-term development.

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