It is always hard to frame any experience into words because it will decrease the worth of the journey. However, I will try in this piece to discuss what I learnt about the water management as a concept which is only a certain aspect of my Erasmus Mundus joint master program in Water and Coastal Management experience.
Water management has hit the headlines of the water sector mainly because it is a requirement of SDG 6 2030, but is this concept feasible to apply on each level of governance (local, national, regional, and global)?
The answer may vary around the world and sometimes even in the same country itself due to its complexity, the characteristics of the water resource and its areas, the political stability, the availability of resources including financial, institutional and technical. Although, a new factor is added to this complexity recently which is climate change. This factor is becoming lethal. It determines the importance of water management on any level and becomes the main driver for the urge of applying water management practices. This situation is perfectly illustrated in the transboundary water resources where each state affected by climate change is asking for cooperation and equal share of water.
I started my journey from Syria to my program with two key points. The first point was I am a master graduate who finished her thesis about groundwater vulnerability assessment providing recommendations for policymakers who will never work by them. Syria or the Middle East where the poor management and lack of it is clearly demonstrated. Yes, we have drinking water and its infrastructures but we also lack planning, monitoring, and the ability of managing any urgent event such as a pollution incident or in certain cases like the case of my country losing a key water resource. The second point in my head was that the water resources in Europe are just perfect. The knowledge obtained through my studies contradicts my second point. It showed me that these water resources have all sorts of issues which vary among Europe mainly according to the area and its characteristics. Italy has a different reality regarding the water sector from Spain and so is Portugal. Thus, where is the magic behind the story of having healthy water bodies with good functions? The answer is simple: applying and committing to the water management concept. To be realistic, the situation is challenging and varied among Europe, however, the existence of the Water Framework Directive and UNECE Water Convention make the commitment something that no country can compromise on. Furthermore, the availability of resources and the different institutions on different levels decreases the complexity of the water management concept.
Here comes the question, what does any country miss to have a good water management and the ability to control and solve any issue of water? We need to remember the above mentioned factors and let’s start with the complexity of the concept because it is related to the good infrastructure of sanitation, irrigation and the industrial aspects. This integrated factor shows the importance of realizing that water is a crucial component and outflow of many aspects of our life, so we need to regulate these sectors and their wastes as the main foundation of good water management.
Furthermore, each water body is different which is a principle that we need to work with. The main river and its tributaries are different stories that we need to analyse and assess one by one then link the stories together. The Euphrates river presents a good example as some tributaries are suffering from the climate change impacts and the lack of management which is reflecting on Euphrates characteristics. This case needs massive efforts to study and analyse to provide some water security to the region. Meanwhile, there is Rio Tinto, a unique case in Spain and the world. Rio Tinto and its tributaries have different stories but massive efforts and financial resources and continuous research are utilized for the service of controlling the pollution despite the difficulty and complexity of solving this case. This commitment is linked to Spain’s commitment to the European Water Framework Directive. This shows the importance of not only having the water policies and regulations but also committing to them due to the existence of penalties.
Politics plays a major role worldwide and even interfere with the water sector. Having a stable environment reflects on the water management because it will allow financial resources to reach. On the other hand, it will give the possibility to reach the water bodies to make field assessment without any problems. Moreover, the integral role of political stability is well illustrated in the cases of transboundary water resources. In Syria, we witnessed this case with almost every transboundary case including Eurphrates and Yarmouk.
The availability of several resources is a key factor to reach good water management. Providing money to purchase field equipment and establishing labs is essential to start the journey towards good water management. Also, building the capacity of the water team is vital to create a technical staff that functions well by providing continuous training, workshops and international experience.
Moreover, the institutional component is critical to establish the national water standards, organizing the management plans under different scenarios and providing continuous support on the ground.
Reaching good water management is not done by answering 33 questions or preaching about the concept without applying it on ground. It is a long way of continuous efforts, building capacities and massive investment to reach it. It is a must in a world of climate change!
Blog by Rasha Hassan