Partnerships for recovery (and collaboration on climate action!)

By Lucía Gamarra

The Australian Water Partnership has focused, since its establishment in 2015, on contributing to enhancing sustainable water management, which is closely aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6. Indeed, water is thought to be the key element that supports and enables all the SDGs. Water for the planet, for people, and for prosperity has been dealing for quite some time with the pressures of climate change. Water management deals with providing a continuous safe-drinking water supply, maintaining good water quality for supporting ecosystems and associated livelihoods, competing user priorities and allocations, changes in land-use, and a whole lot of more practices and tools. Unless water management integrates climate change risks, already vulnerable communities and distressed ecosystems will be greatly affected.

Water is a unique element that surpasses physical and cultural barriers and interacts with natural and human systems. A holistic view to water management links water security to food security, energy security, business continuity security and social security; all of which are threatened by climate change impacts. For example, in 2020, the Food and Agriculture Organisation reported that 12 percent of the population globally is experiencing severe food insecurity. While this figure factors in COVID-19 supply chain disruptions, it is unclear if this considers the compounding effects of water security and climate change, which will lead to many more changes. Plus, the social and economic consequences of an undernourished population will only be visible in time. While our focus is on water management, we need to consider the spills into other sectors.

There are immediate costs involved in planning, prioritising, designing, developing, implementing, and maintaining adaptation strategies. This might discourage countries from investing in climate action. But there are also short- and long-term costs avoided by increasing systems resilience via climate change adaptation; and strategic interventions can yield good outcomes. For example, in Sri Lanka, the successful irrigation modernisation project applied in Vietnam with support from RMCG Consulting and the ADB is being replicated and adjusted to local conditions. In the Pacific Islands, Alluvium Consulting will develop and pilot a flash flood early warning system framework for countries of the Pacific together with a regional program of support for hydrological services and flash flood management in collaboration with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. And in Indonesia, the Alliance for Water Stewardship have promoted practices that are being taken up by the private sector, who are increasingly aware of the risks climate change vulnerability represent for their business continuity.

Urban areas of developed countries enjoy greater development levels, flexibility from their governments to redirect expenditure, and the voices of courageous climate activists demanding climate policies to keep them safer in case of any extreme disaster. To complement this, a “climate-proofing” strategy can identify climate risks and propose solutions to decrease vulnerability. For example, in Thailand and Vietnam, ICEM and Water Sensitive Cities Australia have supported the valuation of nature-based solutions as an adaptation action to climate change impacts.

AWP is a unique organisation that mobilises the internationally valued expertise of its Australian Partners. AWP has been building our capability to support DFAT’s Climate Change Action Strategy, by highlighting the importance of water to achieving global climate ambitions. The importance of ‘Partnership’ in AWP pushes us to learn more about how to combine the best of Australian knowledge to provide advice. Advice on physical and disaster risks and to offer mitigation and adaptation alternatives, with cultural values that dictate what is needed, what is acceptable, and what is preferred. Cultural values and the local details that make a country a nation and a group of people a community need to be interwoven as they influence the success or failure of interventions. With limited resources (besides water!), it is critical we initiate partnerships with organisations and actors with similar visions, aligned values and with shared responsibility. Partners from local NGOs to multilateral banks; from country, state and territory governments through to the private sector and academic partners.

AWP will continue supporting sustainable water management and contributing to empower members of society to engage in climate action, with support of 226 Australian Partners. Collaboration is critical to understanding and beginning to work on the challenges in water and climate. The Partners Workshop is an opportunity to learn what other water experts are doing, and to seed new collaborations for the future.

AWP Partners Workshop Registered Partners (as of 20 January 2022)

Alluvium Consulting Australia
ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society
ANU Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions
Arcoona Consulting
Asian Development Bank
Australian Water Association
Centre for Applied Climate Sciences, USQ
Charles Sturt University
Civic Ledger
Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP)
Flinders University
Griffith University
Institute for Study and Development Worldwide (IFSD)
Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney (UTS-ISF)
International WaterCentre, Griffith University
Penevy Services Pty Ltd
Peter Cullen Water & Environment Trust
Prathapar & Associates
Proud Mary Consulting
Robins Consulting
Rubicon Water
School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Queensland
Spatial Vision
The Nature Conservancy
University of Adelaide
University of Melbourne
University of New South Wales (Canberra)
Victoria University
Water Loss and Pressure Management Pty Ltd
Water Sensitive Cities Australia
Water Stewardship Australia
WWF Australia
Yes Everyone Matters

Feature image: Photobank
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