Demand for drinking water continues to grow while the total volume of water available on the planet remains the same. The main challenge is therefore to achieve an equitable distribution of water between households, agriculture and industry as well as between countries. The SDC promotes the valuation of water in economic activities and advocates transboundary cooperation on water management.
The SDC is committed to achieving the sustainable management of water resources. It develops solutions to give poor populations access to water, to preserve the environment and avoid conflicts. The SDC works in pursuit of a dialogue based on good governance. It strives to:
- link the promotion of peace to the sustainable management of water resources in certain regions where tensions exist
- place a value on water, its reuse and good management in areas where it is in short supply
Switzerland promotes dialogue between countries which obtain their water supply from the same basin. Its actions are based on the conviction that political exchanges of this kind can help deflate existing or nascent tensions relating to access to shared resources and their usage. The SDC provides a framework for these discussions. By adopting a technical approach, it also wishes to develop common methods of measurement for determining the quantities of water available and quantities of water used, for example. This will permit the decision-makers to speak a common language when it comes to water management and thus to set and attain joint 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, it constitutes a resource to which everyone should have access. The SDC is committed to developing mechanisms for valuing water, to promoting the reuse of wastewater and also to rewarding efforts to manage water sustainably in a particular region or by a particular industry.
For example, the SDC is involved alongside fifteen or so major corporations in facilitating the transfer of knowledge in relation to the water footprint, an indicator that enables the water consumed in manufacturing a product to be better managed. It additionally provides scientific assistance in developing an ISO standard. The SDC has also worked to establish a mechanism for compensating the populations in upper river basins for protecting water resources. This mechanism is currently mobilising some 10 billion US dollars per annum worldwide and has a very broad application: it functions just as well in megacities like New York as in the villages of Bolivia.
By 2030, demand for drinking water is expected to rise by 30% while the degradation in quality caused by pollution will reach unprecedented levels. Each day, two million tonnes of wastewater and other effluents are discharged into the environment without prior treatment. The majority of the time, the self-purification capacity of aquatic ecosystems is largely insufficient. By 2025, half of the world's population will be living in regions subject to water stress, which will have the effect of weakening the local economies and forcing millions of people to relocate. The major challenge lies in using water within the scope of its capacity for regeneration and in distributing it equitably.