Argentina’s National Water Plan has been in place for four years now, connecting policy on water supply and sanitation, climate change, expanding the agricultural frontier, and major infrastructure. “All of these four key aspects relate to water as a central issue for our sustainable economic development,” says Eng. Pablo Bereciartua, the country’s Secretary of Infrastructure and Water Policy.
This is why he sees value in sharing Argentina’s experience in developing its national public policy in a presentation during Amsterdam International Water Week.
Importantly, Argentina is a federal country, with 24 provincial governments. “They are very powerful in our institutional framework, so it is very important to be able to negotiate with them, and to set up a common agenda – not to impose anything – but at the same time, to be able to get them to implement reforms,” says Bereciartua.
Foundation for innovation
The four core areas of the plan have to account for some important points, he says. These include Argentina’s diverse climate, and the country’s potential to increase the area given over to agricultural production. Linked to both of these is the need and potential for large-scale infrastructure, including dams and aqueducts.
Bereciartua explains that proposals are being developed for a possible large canal in the centre of the country. “What we have there is an increasing problem with climate variability and climate change. This is a large-scale adaptation project, right in the core of our agricultural capacity,” he says.
The national plan is providing a foundation for developing and evaluating such options, explains Bereciartua. “It has shown that it is possible to negotiate on a political basis – and then review technically – new, larger scale ideas. So it is very, very important.”
Bereciartua sees that this aspect of the national plan, of providing a foundation for innovation beyond traditional approaches, is demonstrated well in the area of water supply and sanitation also, specifically in the potential for use of digital technologies. “This is a key aspect,” he says.
Agua y Saneamientos Argentinos (AySA)
By way of example, Bereciartua cites the potential for innovation at AySA, the water and sanitation utility serving over 10 million people living in the metropolitan area of Buenos Aires. Bereciartua explains that this is the second largest publicly-owned company in the country, the largest energy consumer in the metropolitan area of Buenos Aires, and the fourth largest energy consumer in the country. Widespread use of metering devices and digital technology has the potential to support great improvements in efficiency for the utility, but also deliver a “huge” wider benefit in the country’s energy sector, he says.
Such digital benefits could be achieved elsewhere, including the other ten large cities across the country. And Bereciartua sees the opportunity as something of a test case. “Digital water is a sort of paradigm in terms of including new technology and changing the way we are handling the whole system,” he says.
Argentina contributes at AIWW
Bereciartua sees that AIWW offers an important opportunity for Argentina to contribute in the water arena. “We see the Netherlands and Amsterdam as leaders in everything relating to infrastructure, sustainability, climate change and water,” he says. “We very much appreciate the possibility of being part of the event and also using the event to share our ideas, to listen to others, and to explore the possibility of partnerships worldwide.”
This involvement is significant also because it reflects a new outward looking time for Argentina, marked by its engagement with international forums such as the G20 and OECD. “This is a priority set by our President – that Argentina is coming back to the world,” says Bereciartua.
Bereciartua has other reasons too for looking forward to this year’s AIWW. He studied for a Masters degree in Delft. “It was a very significant experience personally for me,” he notes. And he has returned since, visiting in 2017 in an official capacity with President Mauricio Macri, when he signed formal agreements in the presence of the King and Queen of The Netherlands and his President and First Lady. “Those agreements between the two countries are the key institutional framework for more than 15 lines of collaboration that we are developing together,” he says, adding: “I am very glad at a personal level to visit again and to work with the Netherlands.”