Water Security: A National Priority
It is a paradox that Colombia, being a water power, suffers from scarcity of this precious liquid
By Camilo Sánchez Ortega, President of Andesco
I recently read an anonymous phrase: "The world is full of people who want to pick fruits from trees they never sowed." The same applies to water: we expect to have it, yet we do not harvest it. We overlook the fact that climate change is here to stay, and that we must be adamant about using energy and water efficiently. This is why Andesco has joined Ariel Armel, president of the Colombian Confederation of Consumers, to promote reforestation and to ensure that every municipality in the country has its forest. This initiative has received the support of mayors, congressmen and environmentalists; because they all know that this issue transcends political affiliations and is fundamental to ensuring the sustainability of resources for future generations.
Given alarms over 'El Niño' phenomenon—which fortunately did not have as severe an impact as forecasted—we reflect on the paradox of Colombia being one of the world’s most water-rich countries and yet suffering from water scarcity. According to the National Water Study, more than 390 municipalities have experienced severe water shortages recently, which shows that there is still a lot of work to be done.
We point the finger at governments, environmental authorities, farmers, public service providers, and miners. But seldom do we hear that we are all responsible and that solutions depend on effective partnerships. You reap what you sow. This is why it is so important for the Water Coalition for Colombia initiative to strengthen water resources governance in the country’s 15 major basins, which are home to almost half of our population (43%) and represent 48% of our national GDP. This coalition, which I represent through Andesco from the perspective of the private sector, seeks to contribute to the country's sustainable development by improving climate change mitigation and adaptation and helping to ensure water security for more than 22 million people, through the Water Funds, among other measurable objectives.
This coalition is co-lead by the Ministry of Environment and a multi-sectoral steering group formed by The Nature Conservancy, the Latin American Water Funds Partnership, the financial sector, civil society groups and non-governmental organizations. Governments usually address water security challenges by investing in gray infrastructure. However, they contribute relatively little to improve or maintain healthy conditions at the water source. Green infrastructure (nature) provides a relatively low cost solution that renders better long-term results. Actions such as reforestation, the restoration of forests and natural ecosystems, and the protection of riverbanks, help filter sediments and improve water quality.
In the context of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, this coalition contributes to the universal access to water, the generation of partnerships, the protection of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, and forest conservation and restoration. These are all priority issues for the world's leading governments, and are indispensable to mitigate and adapt to our changing climate. As Winston Churchill wisely pointed out: “If we are together nothing is impossible. If we are divided all will fail.”
Article originally published in Portafolio on May 6th, 2019.