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The UN 2023 Water Conference in New York set the stage for a global community united in its resolve to achieve ‘Sustainable Development Goal 6: clean water and sanitation for all by 2030’. With discussions spanning the UN Water stage and accompanying events like the New York Water Week, participants from multiple sectors shed light on various themes critical to realizing sustainable water security amid the changing climate. As Arcadians committed to sustainability and improving quality of life, we joined in the discussions, sharing insights from our water resilience projects. Here’s a reflection on the takeaways and areas we must consider together to propel the agenda.
1. Integrated and inclusive solutions: singularly focused on bridging water and humanity
The water crisis is more than a resource challenge; it’s a social crisis affecting billions worldwide.1 This critical issue was central to the discussions and events at the UN Water Conference. Marginalized groups, including women and girls who face specific issues related to hygiene and domestic pressures2, bear the brunt of the lack of clean water and sanitation services.
To ensure our water systems are inclusive in the long term, they must be affordable, safely managed, geographically accessible and adapted for disadvantaged groups.3 Projects like Resilient NJ in the US demonstrate the importance of involving marginalized communities in decision-making and implementation processes to ensure we’re truly meeting the needs of all community members when addressing climate resilience.
'Systems thinking' is also key. By recognizing the interconnectedness of water-related issues like resource sustainability, biodiversity impact and service accessibility, this approach promotes collaboration among utilities, governments, communities and other stakeholders to navigate competing values and make informed decisions.
For example, our Shelter team in Mozambique learned how floods in the area presented both risks and benefits to the community, helping the team to advise on solutions that protected residents and preserved livelihoods. In Cameroon, we learned that prohibiting activities along the Dibamba River would disconnect communities from their cultural connection to this important landmark. Given this, we collaborated on a permitting system that both promotes responsible engagement and helps preserve cultural ties.