Between 3 and 4 billion of people still don’t have access to drinking water and 1.4 billion live without electricity. Which link between water and electricity? Which approaches to improve people’s access to these two resources?  How are these two challenges taken into account in the Post-2015 development agenda? Loïc Fauchon, Honorary President of the World Water Council, shares his analysis and recommendations with you.

Pumping water in Malawi - © ILRI
Pumping water in Malawi - © ILRI

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Why is universal access to water and energy a key issue for the post-2015 agenda?

Water and energy are today two interdependent resources. Water is necessary for energy production, just as energy is necessary for water. Both are essential for human, economic and social development, and it is the same poor people who are deprived of access to drinking water and electricity.
Water and energy are also subject to increasing demand. This is because the world’s population will continue to increase and, with it, the production of agricultural and industrial goods. It is also because the increase in pollution and climate change will create growing shortages and tensions.

Consequently, it is not only the “days of easy water that are over”, this also goes for energy. There are two possible directions for action: take action on supply and influence demand. We must also not fall into the trap of opposing the two, as both approaches are complementary. Governments and political and economic authorities have been working for a century to increase supply via new infrastructure and more facilities, with the aim of improving access to water and electricity for all sorts of uses. At the same time, a common approach to demand regulation is necessary for water and energy in order to achieve a more economical and more efficient use in the future.

The future of our planet will therefore largely depend on the way in which we will decide to use, but also preserve, these two resources. We are now obliged to no longer segment policies, but to create a synergy between water and energy, by considering the definition of policies that are sometimes common, but always viewed in terms of what reciprocity is required.

This is why it is essential to take these two issues into account for the post-2015 agenda.

 

Can you tell us a bit about how you view the future?

If we look at the major political decisions in 2015, with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, an agreement over language on the concepts is essential. In a certain number of international fora, we need to be careful over promoting the idea of a “water-supply-energy” nexus, without taking the trouble to question its meaning and limits.

We do, of course, need water and energy to produce food for an ever-growing number of citizens in this world. But what would be the use of watering land and feeding men and women if it means subsequently leaving them to die from waterborne diseases, which continue to be the first cause of mortality in the world?

Furthermore, the “nexus” has a very negative connotation. Its Latin etymology brings to mind a relationship of servitude between a creditor and its debtor. This is not what we want to promote at international level. Water and energy must join forces. These are prerequisites for meeting essential needs that are necessary for a decent life: i.e. food, health and education. It is in this sense that I would refer more to a “penta-alliance”.

 

Do you have recommendations or wishes to formulate for the various actors who are working, or will be working, over the next eighteen months?

If we take the agenda in chronological order, first of all, there is the 7th World Water Forum, which will be held in Korea next year. This Forum will be an opportunity to promote the commitments and solutions from the Marseille Forum, particularly in the water and energy sectors.

Furthermore, at a time when discussions are ongoing to finalize the post-2015 agenda, we need to fight to obtain the permanent sanctuarization of water and energy within the Sustainable Development Goals, which will follow on from the Millennium Development Goals. It is a challenge that requires a continuous mobilization of the water and energy community.

Finally, the integration of climate change and the future of energy will not be set in stone without that of water or shared commitments, then solutions for joint “water-energy” actions. Before Copenhagen, the World Water Forum had requested that water be added to the famous “energy-climate” package. This remains truer than ever in view of the COP 21 in Paris, which will be held next year. For we who are responsible for the water community, this would mean that a “Fund” would need to be financed in an institutional manner, in particular to promote energy production specially dedicated to water.

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