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

Object 1 – 12 of 127

Research for action

01.01.2027 - 31.12.2030

The 2017 Joint Monitoring Report, published in July, states that serious efforts have been made since the Millennium Development Goals to improve access to safe water and sanitation around the world. However, disparities remain, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and for the rural poor, more drastic for sanitation. This project aims to reduce this gap, by supporting applied research, transformative innovations, capacity development and networking, which will answer to the needs and requirements of the targeted population.


Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership to achieve a water-secure world for all

01.07.2026 - 31.12.2030

The Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership (GWSP) of the World Bank Water Global Practice is a global partnership with the objective to address the water and sanitation challenge in an integrated manner, as set out by the Global Sustainable Development Goal 6. This SDC support will promote innovative global knowledge production and exchange, dialogue and partnerships, as well as country-level support across regions at global scale.


UN-Water: Strengthening the Global Water Architecture for the effective achievement of the 2030 Agenda

01.01.2026 - 31.12.2030

UN-Water has now firmly established itself as a major actor in water and in coordinating UN agencies to speak as one voice for water. SDC’s support to UN-Water’s core budget is crucial to ensure that the political ambition of the 2030 Agenda for water and its related targets has an efficient institutional setting allowing an integrated monitoring and an efficient follow-up and review and strong coordination between UN agencies. UN-Water will be key to bring a more effective, integrated and coordinated approach to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda with regards to water and sanitation and to review progress.


Solar Irrigation for Agriculture Resilience (SoLAR)

01.07.2024 - 31.07.2027

To adapt to climate change farmers rely increasingly on irrigation, ultimately depleting groundwater resources and raising energy demand. The project aims to address these challenges by promoting solar irrigation, water efficient agriculture and groundwater governance. The project will harness Swiss expertise on hydrogeology and technical innovations to contribute to climate resilient agriculture and facilitate knowledge sharing in South Asia and at the global level.


Sustainable water management for food security and nutrition in agriculture and food systems

01.07.2023 - 31.03.2027

Agriculture accounts globally for 70% freshwater use. Inefficient water use, water pollution, climate change and increasing global water demand puts agriculture under pressure, as well for smallholders. SDC can build on successful experiences in this domain and will support projects in Africa in ecologically sustainable water management in smallholder agriculture and food systems, improve smallholders’ economic and social situation and increase the resilience of their livelihoods.


Blue Peace: Unlocking the value of transboundary, multisectoral and transgenerational investments

01.07.2023 - 31.12.2029

In order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals government efforts do not suffice, large private capitals deployed towards development are needed. Switzerland has a comparative advantage as innovative finance hub. Building on this, SDC contributes to the development of innovative financial products that enable transboundary, multisectoral and transgenerational investments with aim to contribute to sustainable development and peace.


JOR Sanitation Solutions for Underserved Communities in Jordan

01.01.2023 - 31.12.2028

In Jordan water supply from conventional water sources has come to its limits. Appropriate sanitation solutions will minimize the risks for public health and reduce the hazards of environmental pollution. Additionally these will cut the costs for sanitation operations and free resources for other purposes. Thus the project will contribute to the much needed decoupling of population and economic growth from resource consumption and pollution of the environment.


Sustainable Natural Resources Management (NRM) for Enhanced Pastoralist Food Security in the Borana Zone, Ethiopia.

01.10.2022 - 31.12.2027

Natural resources, particularly water and pasture, are among the key determinants of pastoralist livelihoods’ sustainability. The proposed Project contributes to the outcomes of the SDC’s Food Security Domain as stipulated in the Swiss Cooperation Strategy Horn of Africa. It aims at improving pastoralist food security and adaptive capacities in the lowlands of Borana Zone, Southern Ethiopia, through enhancing the sustainable management of natural resources.


Research for action: Water, Behavior Change and Envi-ronmental Sanitation: Sustainable Solutions to Research, Knowledge and Professionalization (WABES)

01.08.2022 - 31.12.2026

Equitable access to safe water and sanitation facilities and services is by far not achieved and a stronger push on multiple levels will be necessary over the next decade to reach SDG 6.  This includes developing and using innovative technologies, based on applied research, to foster affordable and sustainable solutions for increased access to safe water and adequate sanitation. To this aim, the SDC continues its fruitful collaboration with the Swiss Research Institute Eawag.


Phase 1 Solidarit'Eau Suisse 2022-2027

16.07.2022 - 15.07.2027

Access to safe water and sanitation affordable for all by 2030 according to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 is substantially off track. The so-called SDG 6 Acceleration Framework adopted in 2020 by the UN, calls for fast results through increased efforts at all levels and by all relevant actors. Solidarit’Eau Suisse helps in mobilizing support from Swiss municipalities and other water-related public actors to implement Swiss projects in the water sector of the Global South.


Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership (GWSP)

01.07.2022 - 30.06.2026

The Global Water Security and Sanitation Partnership (GWSP) of the World Bank Water Global Practice is a global partnership on water and sanitation security as set out in the global water goal (SDG 6). This SDC support will advance innovative global knowledge production and exchange as well as building capacity through country-level support with a focus on the population excluded most from water investments and services.


Potable Water Management Programme (PWMP) in Upper Egypt Phase 2

01.05.2022 - 31.12.2025

Egypt has critical needs in better managing water resources and reducing water losses as well as consumption, especially in Upper Egypt (climate change impact, lack of infrastructure, high poverty level). Switzerland provides innovative solutions for improved potable water management and service provision to the vulnerable population. The mixed approach based on strengthening capacities of the water company, improving the infrastructure for potable water provision and on engaging the communities will serve as model for nationwide replication.

Object 1 – 12 of 127