Water in the International Framework

In 2015 Members of the United Nations adopted the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new agenda to be achieved by 2030. The SDGs and their related targets are based on the achievements and successes of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) but broaden their scope and include a wider array of topics that are so closely interrelated that no one can succeed alone.

Among these new goals, the sixth – “SDG-6 Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” – specifically addresses water issues. It highlights the pivotal role that the availability, and quality, of water represents for sustainable development. In a world where it is estimated that by 2050 at least one in four people is likely to live in a country affected by chronic or recurring shortages of fresh water, the sustainable management of this resource is a key to the achievement of almost all goals. Water issues are relevant also in SDG-11 on urban development and cities, especially when addressing the reduction of risks of death and damages by disasters, including water-related disasters.

SDG-6 addresses the multifaceted complexity of the role of water in human community and activities through six targets. Two address water supply and sanitation and follow on two of the most successfully implemented MDG targets. Four new ones address improving water quality, increasing water use efficiency, promoting integrated water resources management, including in transboundary contexts, and protecting and restoring water-related ecosystems.

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction more comprehensively addresses disasters, including floods and droughts. It aims to achieve a substantial reduction in the loss of lives and assets in disasters by promoting a better understanding of disaster risk, by strengthening disaster risk governance, and by investments in disaster risk reduction for resilience and improved disaster preparedness.

Many of the objectives included in the SDGs and in the Sendai Framework can only be achieved if timely and reliable hydrological data, information, products and services are available. The monitoring of progress in the implementation of SDGs also equally requires hydrological data and information.

Integrated water resources assessment is a goal per se, and the continuous flow of information for adjusting management practices to changing situation is its foundation stone. Indicators developed for measuring progress toward targets, such as the protection of ecosystem or improving water use efficiency, cannot be calculated without data on water flowing or stored in surface bodies, groundwater and reservoirs. Effective flood and drought policies can be implemented only with data and models for assessing the frequency and magnitude of foreseeable events. The role of National Hydrological Services is to provide the essential basic knowledge on the status and trends of water resources as well as the tools for interpreting them, which are required by the international community and the national authorities to achieve the goals that they set to themselves. To do so, it is essential to ensure that data monitoring and information production receive the necessary resources. An open dialogue is required between the parties to ensure that possibilities offered by science and technique are matched with the knowledge requirement of policy and decision-makers.

The World Meteorological Organization has actively participated in the UN-Water framework for the development of the methodologies to be used for monitoring progress in the implementation of the SDG. However, the Organization’s greatest contribution to achieving the SDGs will come through its practical work directly with its Members, supporting and developing their capacity to collect and process data and to produce actionable information and knowledge for decision-making.

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