Current financing inadequate for universal water, sanitation coverage: UN report

Ignoring climate risks and failing to increase water investments would threaten chances of meeting this target, it said

By Shagun
Published: Friday 20 March 2020

Current levels of financing are inadequate to reach universal availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation, as mentioned under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Number 6 (UNSDG 6), the UN World Water Development Report has said.

This, even as climate change threatens water resources management and affects the availability and quality of water and sanitation services around the world.

In order to meet the first two targets of SDG 6 — access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services for all by 2030 — capital investments must reach $114 billion per year.

“This is about three times the current annual capital investment levels in WASH,” the report said.

“In addition to the initial capital inflows, significant resources are required to operate and maintain water and sanitation infrastructure and sustain universal coverage. These costs are recurrent and will outweigh the capital costs by 1.4 to 1.6 times by 2029,” it added.

Water resources management was currently under-financed and in need of greater attention from governments, the report noted.

The Climate Policy Initiative had reported in 2018 that out of the $455 billion climate finance invested in 2016, $11 billion went to water and wastewater management in climate adaptation. Another $0.7 billion went to water and wastewater management in climate mitigation.

This meant only 2.6 per cent of 2016’s climate finance went directly to water management. 

Ignoring climate risks and failing to increase water investments would threaten the chances of meeting SDG 6, and would have wider reverberations as well, the report warned.

Since competition for climate finance was high, the report suggested two trends that might help water projects access climate finance. The first is linking mitigation with water and sanitation projects as mitigation made up 93.8 per cent of climate financing in 2016.

But water projects consisted of a fraction of one per cent of that sum.

“There may be a large untapped potential in intentionally linking water and mitigation, attracting increased financing to water management goals,” it said.

The second trend is an increasing emphasis on financing climate adaptation.

The Green Climate Fund had a target of financing 50 per cent mitigation and 50 per cent adaptation, the World Bank had dedicated $50 billion to adaptation over the next five years, and the criteria for certifying climate bonds included resilience investments, the report said.

“With these developments, water practitioners who integrate climate change analysis into their project planning, will increase their chances of accessing climate finance, be it for mitigation or adaptation,” it suggested.

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