UN-Water Annual International Zaragoza Conference. Preparing for World Water Day 2014: Partnerships for improving water and energy access, efficiency and sustainability

The UN-Water Annual Zaragoza Conferences serve UN-Water to prepare for World Water Day. This conference is part of the road map for World Water Day 2014 focused on the nexus of water and energy. A focused dialogue would already be initiated with the UN-Water seminar on the same topic during World Water Week in Stockholm.
Water and energy (W&E) are closely interlinked and interdependent. W&E inter-linkages have an important role in the post-2015 development agenda and the conceptualization of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There are indeed some main challenges, interconnections and opportunities for realizing synergies and benefits from joint responses on the water and energy nexus, including for the design of climate resilience and green economies. Partnerships amongst institutions, agencies and stakeholders can help in achieving some of these benefits.

The 2014 World Water Development Report on Water and Energy states the following:

  • Water and energy are highly interdependent; choices made in one domain can have impacts, both direct and indirect, positive and negative, on the other. They also collectively impact on other sectors and are impacted by similar externalities. Water and energy are both drivers and constraints on economic growth and improving human health. They are enablers of widespread poverty reduction and job creation, and generators of wellbeing.
  • Policy-makers, planners and practitioners in water and energy need to take steps to overcome the barriers that exist between their domains. Recognition of this interconnectedness has led some observers to call for a greater level of integration between the two domains. Although this may be possible and beneficial under certain circumstances, an increased level of collaboration and coordination would create favorable outcomes in nearly all situations.
  • The different political economies of water and energy should be recognized, as these affect the scope, speed and direction of change in the respective domains. While energy is often synonymous with big business and carries great political clout, water is not and generally does not. Partly as a result, there is a marked difference in the pace of change visible in the energy and water domains, driven by the evolution of markets and technologies. Unless those responsible for water step up their own governance reform efforts, the pressures emanating from developments in the energy sphere will become increasingly restrictive and make the tasks facing water planners, and the objective of a secure water future, much more difficult to achieve. Failures in water can also lead directly to failures in energy.
  • All the actions and responses proposed would be easier and more effective with a better mutual understanding of the economic gains to be had from collaboration and cooperation between the two domains.

The Zaragoza Conference will reach beyond the “water for energy” and/or “energy for water” concept focusing on a more practical examination of how tools and partnerships help developing appropriate joint responses and what are the measures for managing trade-offs, identifying synergies, and maximizing co-benefits. Discussions will center on how partnerships can help implement responses to achieve W&E efficiency, secured access and sustainability.
The Conference will take place in Zaragoza, Spain, from 13 to 16 January 2014.