The International Resource Panel (IRP) released a report entitled ‘Policy Options for Decoupling Economic Growth from Water Use and Water Pollution’. This was launched as the world commemorated world water day 2016. World Water Day is an annual event celebrated on March 22 every year across the globe.  This year’s theme ‘water and jobs’ reminded countries across the globe on the importance of putting mitigations in conserving water whilst availing job opportunities.

The International Resource Panel (IRP) released a report entitled ‘Policy Options for Decoupling Economic Growth from Water Use and Water Pollution’. This was launched as the world commemorated world water day 2016. World Water Day is an annual event celebrated on March 22 every year across the globe.  This year’s theme ‘water and jobs’ reminded countries across the globe on the importance of putting mitigations in conserving water whilst availing job opportunities.

This report was unveiled after UNEP hosted a panel of IRP involving 27 internationally renowned scientists, 33 national governments and other groups. The consortium emphasized that a region struggling to cope with the impacts of climate change and poverty, water demand is expected to rise by 283 per cent over 2005 levels by 2030.

Without changing current levels of water consumption and pollution, almost half of the world’s population will suffer severe water stress by 2030, damaging the well-being of millions of people, according to the report. This is attributed to the fact that as the global population rises, increased urbanization, climate change and a shift in how food is consumed, there is likely to be a severe increase in future demands for water.

Under current trends, demand for water will exceed supply by 40 per cent in 2030, the report says, forcing governments to spend $200 billion per year on upstream water supply as demand outstrips cheaper forms of supply – up from historic averages of $40 to $45 billion.

Kenya’s role in water management has been a complex issue especially being an economy experiencing major industrialization growth as it continues to be in need of clean water to generate energy. Also, with the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey Report 2014, 54 per cent of urban households do not have access to piped water. The figure worsens in rural households where 85 per cent lack access to piped water. Further, 54 per cent of the Kenyan population does not have access to clean, treated water, and six in 10 households spend more than 30 minutes getting water.

The Government in its last budget pledged to invest in water supply by putting measures in place to control floods and harvest rainwater. Water supply and sanitation got KES29.5 billion, while KES2.1 billion went to water storage and flood control, and KES12.6 billion to environmental protection, conservation and management.  The investments have not bore fruit as 41 per cent of Kenyans still can’t access safe and clean drinking water.

The Kenyan government has majorly relied on constructing mega-projects like dams, canals, aqueducts, pipelines and water reservoirs. With a few exceptions, these solutions are inefficient and many of them are neither environmentally sustainable nor economically viable.

One of the policy recommendation the report advocates, is that governments should strengthen their economic growth by decoupling water use.  This can be done by creating holistic water management plans that take into account the entire water cycle: from source to distribution, economic use, treatment, recycling, reuse and return to the environment.

Other recommendations are as follows:
•    Investing more in research and development to improve technology that reduces water waste.
•    Building sustainable infrastructure to improve the efficiency of water use and eliminate water contamination and pollution.
•    Introducing policies to curb water demand and re-allocate water to sectors where it produces goods and services most beneficial to society while ensuring vulnerable groups are protected.
•    Strengthening research into the value of ecosystem services and water to human welfare and economic development.
•    Doing more to assess “virtual water” (the water used to manufacture goods that are traded internationally), water footprints and related impacts to better understand how international trade patterns could be used to support decoupling where it is most needed.

In conclusion the panel said that no single policy or set of practices will achieve resource or impact decoupling at the global, national and regional scales simultaneously. “Inherent complexities, uncertainties and ignorance still limit current understanding of hydrological cycles and the complex relationships of water with other sector,” the panel noted.

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