22.03.2018 - UNESCO Office in Apia

World Water Day 2018 - Access to Safe Water: Nature-Based Solutions for Tackling Water Challenges in the Pacific

Nature-based solutions can play an important role in improving the supply and quality of water and reducing the impact of natural disasters, according to the 2018 edition of the United Nations World Water Development Report. The study was presented by Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, and Gilbert Houngbo, Chair of UN-Water, at the 8th World Water Forum in Brasilia (Brazil).

“We need new solutions in managing water resources so as to meet emerging challenges to water security caused by population growth and climate change. This Report proposes solutions that are based on nature to manage water better,” declared the Director-General of UNESCO. 

“For too long, the world has turned first to human-built, or “grey”, infrastructure to improve water management. In so doing, it has often brushed aside Traditional and Indigenous knowledge that embraces greener approaches. Three years into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it is time for us to re-examine nature-based solutions (NBS) to help achieve water management objectives”, writes the Chair of UN-Water and President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development in the foreword of the report.

Coordinated by the UN World Water Assessment Programme of UNESCO, the United Nations World Water Development Report is the fruit of collaboration between the 31 United Nations entities and 39 international partners that comprise UN-Water. Its publication coincides with World Water Day, celebrated every year on 22 March.

Nature-based solutions use or mimic natural processes to enhance water availability, improve water quality and improve water security in the face of water-related disasters and climate change. Examples can range from the landscape level—protecting and restoring wetlands—or the household level—dry toilets or green roofs.

Nature-based solutions for water in the Pacific

Across the Pacific, floods and droughts have caused over USD 500m worth of damage and threaten health, economic performance and human well-being1.With climate change, extreme precipitation events are projected to become more common and more severe. This, combined with deforestation, rising temperatures and increased groundwater extraction leading to increased risk of water-related natural disasters.

Nature-based solutions, such as restoring wetlands, aim to improve water storage capacity in landscapes. Wetlands act as natural barriers that soak up and capture rainwater limiting soil erosion and the impacts of certain natural disasters such as floods and droughts.

A number of Pacific Island Countries and Territories have also identified the pollution of groundwater as a major challenge for water security, especially in atolls. By working closely with local specialists and communities, Tuvalu, working with the GEF Pacific Integrated Water Resources Management project, designed an ecological sanitation system of composting toilets that not only reduced groundwater and coastal pollution, but also reduced water use in a country prone to severe water shortages. The key to the success of this project was the communities’ direct involvement in designing a system that met their needs, constraints and perceptions.

Making it happen: accelerating the uptake of nature-based solutions

Despite their potential, the use of nature-based solutions remains marginal and almost all investments are still channeled to grey infrastructure projects. The authors of the World Water Development report call for greater balance between the two, especially given that nature-based solutions are best aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations in 2015. 

More resources:

2018 UN World Water Development Report, Nature-Based Solutions for Water: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/environment/water/wwap/wwdr/2018-nature-based-solutions/

World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP): http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/environment/water/wwap/

UNESCO Apia's Work in Freshwater in Pacific SIDS: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/apia/natural-sciences/freshwater-in-pacific-sids/

Message from Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO on the World Water Day: https://en.unesco.org/commemorations/world-water-day/2018/message

World Water Day: http://worldwaterday.org/






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