The World Water Data Initiative: reaching SDG 6 in a cost-effective manner

In an interview, Tony Slatyer shared his insights about the importance of water data in order to achieve SDG 6 by 2030. Australia is championing the World Water Data Initiative, and Slatyer spoke about its importance during the interview.

Sustainable Development Goal 6, making access to clean water and sanitation universal is an extremely important goal, but it is also a costly endeavour.

The High-Level Panel on Water’s (HLPW) World Water Data Initiative aims to make water and hydro-meteorological data accessible in a cost-effective manner, which in turn should help make reaching SDG 6 less costly.

What the Data Initiative is Doing

The HLPW’s data initiative has a pillar focused on reducing the cost of achieving adequate capabilities in water data, through various means. It will identify whether or not data collection currently happening through expensive processes can be achieved at a much lower cost, with different technologies in place.

For example, the initiative is testing if remote sensing and estimation algorithms for water stocks and flows, surface and subsurface volumes, and water uses, can be done accurately enough to reduce the need for reliance on costly on-the-ground measurement.

This is just one test. Others include exploring lower cost on-ground measurement, crowd-sourced water data using mobile technology, bottom-up reporting from service providers, and leveraging other free of charge initiatives to access data.

This type of work will uncover and collect important water data, and showcase low-cost methods of collecting that same type of data in other places around the world. Governments and stakeholders can use that information to understand how their water resources are currently being used, and what can be changed to create better outcomes.

“Without information about the state of water resources and how they’re being utilised, it’s very difficult for any government to make a rational policy decision about the management of its water resources,” explains Tony Slatyer, Special Advisor for the HLPW for the Australian Government.

More information about what the HLPW has proposed can be found by reading the World Water Data Initiative Roadmap, which sets out the purpose, objectives, actions, and approach.

How Better Water Data Will Reduce Costs

“It’s about, as much as possible, assisting national capacity and supporting national capacity by reducing the costs of nations being able to access reasonable information about their water resources,” Slatyer says. “Currently, it’s a very costly endeavour.”

Enabling countries and stakeholders to use less expensive water data means can have positive outcomes for water management. Lower-cost data will likely result in having more data, which will allow for more evidence-based decision-making. When stakeholders are able to use real, accurate data at a lessened cost, it means that their water governance decisions will have the needed impact faster and more effectively than they would without the data.

For SDG 6, this means that all countries stand a better chance of making water and sanitation access possible for every citizen. When it is less expensive to implement good water governance, stakeholders are not held back by costs, and when water data is used, there is no time wasted on efforts that the evidence does not support.

Good information promotes good decision making, and when it’s globally affordable and accessible, the world gets closer to making the targets of SDG 6 a reality.

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