Water is arguably the most precious resource on Earth. However this fact is yet to be captured when we begin to value water. The price of water traditionally reflects a limited set of costs to treat and transport water, but the value of water is far greater. From the human rights perspective low and subsidized water prices are essential to ensure that the human right to water is met, however keeping this price for all results in exploitative use, freshwater contamination and, inflicts costs upon all economic dimensions as well as the environment.
Water underpins all aspects of development as is evident from water being vital to all of the 17 SDGS, its multifaceted usage makes it difficult to quantify its value as different stakeholders conceptualize and describe its values differently yet all of them have a legitimate claim on water and its usage. Therefore it is essential to employ a nexus approach to understand the cross functionality of water in other sectors such as agriculture and energy and negotiate these different ways of valuing water as a finite resource. Valuing water and introducing costs towards misallocation, wastage and pollution of water will encourage effective usage of this scarce resource.
“Water governance refers to the political, social, economic and administrative systems in place that influence water’s use and management. It determines the equity and efficiency in water resource and services allocation and distribution, and balances water use between socio-economic activities and ecosystems.”
Governing water includes formulation of water policies, legislation and establishment of institutions to implement these. Well defined roles and responsibilities of government, civil society and the private sector in water resource management make these policies effective and improve institutional performance. Good water governance is integral for the rest of governance initiatives to succeed, according to World Bank estimates, some regions could see their growth rates fall by as much as 6% of GDP by 2050 as a result of water-related losses in agriculture, health, income, and property and be sent spiraling in a sustained negative growth trap.
Water governance is affected by decisions, by factors outside of the water sector such as agriculture and energy, the supply of water cannot be effectively and sustainably managed unless the complex relationship between these sectors are fully recognized and explored. Too often the sectorial policies and goals are created in silos. For Pakistan and the regional water sector, the need for ‘integration of policies’ within a nexus framework is urgent and warrants the government recognition.
The FAO has projected that an estimated USD 960 billion of capital investment is required to extend and improve irrigation within the years 2005/07 and 2050 in 93 developing countries. Such investments are needed not only for new water infrastructure but also in operations and maintenance of the existing ones in order to improve their efficiency and reduce water loss. Due to the interlinkages of water agriculture and energy, policies outside of the water sector can stimulate water-wise investments when they factor in the costs of reduced water risks. Investments into economic development for water, food production and energy security infrastructure must complement nature and ecosystem for creating a sustainable green economy.
Strengthening the enabling environment for driving water investments requires well-designed regulations, competition policy, financial market policy, dedicated investment promotion and facilitation, and improved public governance. International co-operation as well as national and local policies aimed at the broader investment environment need to be supplemented by a dedicated set of policies that promote water investment. Governments should incentivize leveraging of public funds with commercial finance.
Access to clean water, modern energy services and sufficient food supply is fundamental for reducing poverty and achieving sustainable development goals. To meet the needs of those people with limited access to these three resources and rising demand in rapidly developing regions it is necessary to address water, energy and food issues jointly, because choices and actions in any of these domains can significantly impact the others. Policies and water management decisions which also manifest in agriculture and energy sectors affect everybody, and so they should therefore be determined with inclusive and participatory processes to reflect the diversity of communities.
Women comprise just less than half of the population of Pakistan and youth makes up 65% of the country’s population yet youth and gender mainstreaming is not well researched and understood. Monitoring and evaluation processes are not developed enough to reveal the true gender and inclusion power dynamics that occur within the resources management context. Furthermore, there is a need to better understand and account for a broader range of factors that can lead to exclusion and marginalization, such as age, disability, ethnicity, caste, and sexuality, if we are to ensure that no one is left behind.