The Dialogue’s Latin America Advisor: Is Latin America Facing a New Crisis Over Water Stress?
Chile and Mexico are among the countries in the world most susceptible to “water stress,” according to the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas, which the World Resources Institute updated last month. The index measures the amounts of water that irrigated agriculture, industries and municipalities withdraw annually from their available supply, as well as the risk of drought and riverine floods in individual countries. What are the main challenges that Latin American countries face with regard to water—and why? How well are national, provincial and local governments handling water resources, and what should they be doing to better manage them? What role does the private sector play in managing water, and what more should it do?
Cesar Fonseca, regional coordinator for Latin America at 2030 Water Resources Group: “One of the most important bottlenecks in Latin America with regard to solving water security issues is the political system itself. It does not regard water issues as important, a situation that translates into declining budgets, continuous state retrenchment and a lack of enforcement capabilities. Another huge problem is the weak rule of law and corruption. On the side of civil society, lack of education and knowledge about water challenges is a problem. If society does not pressure governments to address water challenges in a more steadfast and timely manner, governments simply will not allocate political and financial resources to address them. Also problematic is the lack of a more enabling environment for innovation, not only technological innovation but also societal-institutional innovation. Businesses and governments need to move beyond the current “take, make/use and dispose” model of water use toward circular water economies, in which wastewater is transformed into a valuable resource that can be reused, recycled or repurposed. In Latin America, the 2030 Water Resources Group is currently working in Mexico, Peru and São Paulo, to address critical water challenges. Through our Multi-Stakeholder Platforms, we are able to drive collective action by key players that help drive policy reform and upstream engagement. These result in demonstrative pilot projects including greater private sector participation.