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Alliance for Water Stewardship

Working to secure water in Latin America and the Caribbean

One year into his tenure as regional coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) at the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS), Ricardo Monsivais is eager to get the word out about the role this region has to play in helping develop a new international standard for water stewardship that will recognize and reward responsible water users.

nature.org:

AWS is working to develop a voluntary water stewardship program based on an international standard. Why is that important and what difference will it make in Latin America and the Caribbean?

Ricardo Monsivais:

Access to clean water is an important issue everywhere around the world. In Latin America, many areas already are experiencing problems with both water quality and quantity. These problems will only be exacerbated by issues like inefficient water management, coupled in some regions with the added impacts of climate change. An international standard will define actions that businesses and water users in Latin America – and worldwide – can take to improve the social, environmental and economic sustainability of water use.

nature.org:

What is your role as LAC coordinator for AWS?

Ricardo Monsivais:

The Conservancy partnered with FEMSA Foundation (the main supporter of AWS-LAC Regional Initiative) in late 2009 and in 2010 established the Regional Initiative in Latin America and the Caribbean, adding the Water Center for Latin America and the Caribbean, and Fundación Chile, as part of the coordination team. My role is to make sure that the wide variety of water-related interests in the region – from government agencies, to private companies and NGOs – are all involved in the development of the final standard. We need to ensure that the final standard will be as applicable to the water-related impacts of a winegrower in Chile as to a utility company supplying water to a fast-developing city in Mexico.

nature.org:

And why is it critical to have input from Latin American in developing this standard?

Ricardo Monsivais:

A standard for water use has never existed before, so we have a lot to learn in terms of how it will play out across various sectors and regions. A key to the success of a new international standard will be ensuring that it can be used to address specific local water issues, for example, the impact of agricultural run off in Colombia’s Magdalena River. By incorporating Latin American and Caribbean partners into the process, we have the chance to see how the standard will work differently from other countries and regions where water issues may be similar, but where governance over the resource is potentially very different. Ultimately, a successful standard will have to be applicable across all countries and regions, so it’s useful to learn – sooner rather than later –what some of the obstacles are and how management and regulations vary.

nature.org:

You have spent much of this year convening workshops across the region in Costa Rica, Chile, Mexico, Ecuador and Brazil. What is the purpose of the workshops and why are they important step in moving forward?

Ricardo Monsivais:

The workshops are an important starting point for getting water users and managers engaged in the development of the standard. With their participation, we will include input from Latin American and the Caribbean to build the International Water Stewardship Standard (IWSS). And next year, when we start pilot testing the first versions of the IWSS, we’re going to find that we get a better reception from businesses, utilities and water managers who are already familiar with AWS and feel comfortable because they were brought into the process from the beginning. These same groups likely will be among the first to be certified with the standard once it’s officially launched.

In the long run, the benefits of adopting the voluntary standards will speak for themselves. For sure, I think we’ll see a positive impact in terms of water quality and quantity because we’ll be better managing the rivers and lakes that provide our water resources. Companies should also see savings in costs and energy use as well as improving their image with consumers and customers. Water utilities and all users will be more involved in watershed governance and will achieve greater transparency in terms of how water is used. And, of course, that will mean benefits for the ecosystem and biodiversity too.


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