3 countries meet for regional knowledge exchange

The water challenges in Southern Africa are immense. Floodings, droughts; water and climate related disasters always seem to be just around the corner. On November 25, the Blue Deal partnerships of eSwatini, Mozambique and South Africa joined forces in the first joined regional Blue Deal exchange meeting in Johannesburg. Here they discussed the issues regarding data management of water data.

Similar challenges

The 3 countries face similar challenges: how to ensure financial stability? How can data sharing within and between countries be improved? And many technical hurdles, for example how to integrate the now often still separate data systems? As Ntombikayise Dhladhla, participant of the Blue Deal Young Expert Programme, explained: “In eSwatini, the main issues are reliability of the data, which leads to limited data sharing. We are working in silos.”

Lessons learnt

During the day the Blue Deal teams of the 3 countries looked back on Phase 1 of the Blue Deal. Experiences and lessons learnt were shared. Looking to the future, people shared their ideas on which topics the partnerships can work together. Ideas included working together on a central database, organizing shared lab facilities and connecting existing databases.

Different perspectives

Ambassador Han Peters mentioned the importance of long-term equal partnerships, which are the basis for the Blue Deal: “No one country can solve the problems of today on their own. You need different perspectives, you need people from different backgrounds if you want to get to the greatest solutions.”
And with this first regional meeting of 3 Blue Deal partnerships, a strong start has been made.

Framework for Blue Deal Phase 2 has been published

The Blue Deal Framework Phase 2 has been published. This framework contains the plans and agreements for the period 2023-2030.

A group of people is looking at sticky notes on a table

At present – only a few years away from 2030 – the world is in a decade in which more decisive action is needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). So the Dutch Water Authorities, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management are deploying more resources to grow the Blue Deal in Phase 2 of the programme. The programme’s financial scope will grow from €16 million in Phase 1 (average of €5 million per year) to €80 million in Phase 2 (average €10 million per year). This way, they aim to contribute even more to SDG 6.3-6.6 (clean water and sanitation) and SDG 13 (climate action).

How the Blue Deal works

The Blue Deal programme comprises 17 international partnerships in which water authorities from the Netherlands and other countries work together to achieve the goal of helping 20 million people around the world to gain access to clean, sufficient and safe water by 2030.

Water authorities enter into a 12-year partnership in which we work on long-term solutions for the region. The Blue Deal strengthens capacity building of water authorities in other countries so that they can implement long-term solutions. The focus is on governance and integrated water management. This means that partners work together to promote:

  • adequate knowledge and expertise in the field of water management;
  • strong institutions;
  • collaboration with important stakeholders.

Results Phase 1

The Blue Deal programme is divided into 2 phases: 2019-2022 and 2023-2030. A large part of Phase 1 coincided with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic delayed results, but also provided valuable lessons on hybrid working and the value of strong local teams. The partnerships have worked on strengthening local institutions and capacity building of the local teams. They’ve also worked on topics such as hydrological models, monitoring systems and early warning systems.

Next steps for Phase 2

In the second phase, the programme will further expand the institutional improvements that have been achieved with the partners and continue with their substantive implementation. The aims of Phase 2 are:

  • The water authorities abroad will be at the heart of the programme.
  • The Blue Deal aims to leverage other investment programmes.
  • Learning from each other and other stakeholders will become an important part of the programme, for example through Communities of Practice.
  • We will retain approaches that proved effective during COVID-19: hybrid working, strong local teams and the deployment of Young Experts.

Besides this, climate adaptation and social inclusion will be the crosscutting themes for the programme. Each partnership will make this part of their approach.

> Read the Blue Deal Framework Phase 2

The Netherlands doubles Blue Deal commitment

The Dutch national government and Dutch Water Authorities are doubling their joint annual commitment within the Blue Deal to 10 million euros per year in the period 2023-2030. Minister Liesje Schreinemacher for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation made this promise on 14 July in New York during the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. The goal of the Blue Deal: to help 20 million people worldwide to gain access to sufficient, clean and safe water.

Dutch Water Authorities on a work visit in Kenia

In this way, the Netherlands wants to contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The minister also called on other countries to work more and faster on clean water and sanitation worldwide. The focus on water during the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development is a prelude to the major UN Water Conference in March 2023, hosted by the Netherlands and Tajikistan.

Climate action means water action

During her speech, the minister indicated that there should be a Water Action Agenda. “Science teaches us that water and climate in particular are inextricably linked: 90% of all disasters are water-related, which is why climate action is water action.” Doubling the annual budget for the Blue Deal was the Netherlands’ first commitment to the Water Action Agenda. Schreinemacher called on the other countries to take similar actions.

Blue Deal

The Blue Deal is the international program of the 21 water boards (Dutch Water Authorities), together with the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Infrastructure and Water Management. The program started in 2018 and the second phase that the minister is now announcing will run from 2023 to 2030. The program consists of 17 long-term partnerships in 15 countries.

Problems are increasing

Luzette Kroon, board member International Affairs at the association of Dutch Water Authorities: “Water managers all over the world are noticing the consequences of climate change. Floods, droughts and a lack of clean water are increasing worldwide. Therefore, there is an increasing demand for knowledge and expertise in the field of water management. And that is exactly what the Dutch Water Authorities have to offer. We would like to share that knowledge and expertise. The program thus contributes to achieving SDGs 6.3 – 6.6.”

Gaining knowledge

In addition to sharing their own knowledge, the Dutch Water Authorities also gain knowledge from the partnerships. New ideas and experiences arise that can also be used in the Netherlands. For example, countries such as Burkina Faso and South Africa have years of experience with drought, something that is relatively new in the Netherlands. In addition, the work of the water authorities in the Blue Deal partnerships also creates opportunities for Dutch and local businesses.

Successful work visit to Peru

From April 16 until April 30 a team from Dutch Water Authorities visited Peru for the Blue Deal. This was the second work visit since the corona pandemic.

The team spoke with its local partners, the water boards of Piura and Tumbes. Together they analysed the progress of their collaboration. The team also looked into the challenges of water scarcity and the distribution of the available water and where extra support from Dutch experts is needed. Another topic was the planning for the rest of the year and the second phase of the Blue Deal programme, which will last from 2023 until 2030.

Water scarcity and flooding

The work visit therefore consisted of a lot of meetings and discussions, for example with the National Water Authority and with users of the water and stakeholders. Field visits to several sites provided insight into the local situation. In both Piura and Tumbes the problem is pretty much identical: water scarcity during part of the year and danger of flooding during the rainy season. The work visit also showed that the quality of the surface water needs to be improved through waste water treatment plants.

Stronger relationship

The work visit strengthened the bonds between Dutch Water Authorities and the local partners and the perspectives for future collaboration have been broadened. The partnership aims to send in Dutch experts to Peru for several times in the coming years to establish a strong work relationship that helps to improve the water management in Peru. In between these work visits there will also be online meetings to exchange knowledge.

Crocodile River project back on track

In November 2021 the Dutch team was finally able to meet their colleagues from the Blue Deal partnership in South Africa again. They visited the Crocodile River Project. The project is now ready to start again.

In the Blue Deal Crocodile River Project, the Dutch Water Authorities and South African partners work together with the objective to improve the quality of the Crocodile River.

Because of COVID-19 the project collaboration went on only via digital meetings. And few will deny, this was sometimes quite a challenge. Due to this, the project came to a halt. Fortunately, in November 2021 it was possible for the team to meet each other live again, which was very inspiring. Now the project is back on track.

Buhle Shongwe, technician Water Demand & Conservation: “We want to grab each and every opportunity, so we’re excited to be working once again with you.”

Colombian delegation visits the Netherlands for Blue Deal

A delegation of Colombian directors from the water sector visited the Netherlands from May 8 until May 15. The visit was part of the Blue Deal program InspirAgua.

Group photo of Colombian directors

Within InspirAgua Dutch water authorities are working together with their Colombian partners. They do this through inspiration and sharing knowledge and experiences with each other, for example on the issue of participative monitoring. This cooperation ensures a further professionalization of water management in both the Netherlands and Colombia. The main goal: better water management and cleaner water for millions of people in Colombia by 2030.

Good cooperation

The visit of Colombian directors from the water sector to the Netherlands underlines the good cooperation within InspirAgua. The delegation was introduced to tasks in water management in the Netherlands. Including water storage, room for the river and the restoration of ecological values. In addition, the directors spoke to representatives of Dutch Water Authorities, various ministries and the Colombian embassy in the Netherlands.

Mutual learning and inspiration

Erik de Ridder, highest board member of the water authority De Dommel and administratively responsible for the InspirAgua programme, is pleased with the visit: “It is important and good to welcome a large delegation of Colombian directors involved in InspirAgua to the Netherlands. In this way they gain even better insight into the work we do within the program. We learn from them and they learn from us. That works best if you can view the assignments together on location. The visit is a confirmation of the constructive and fruitful cooperation between Colombia and the Netherlands and is a good basis for the follow-up.”

Creating joint added value

Luzette Kroon, board member of Dutch Water Authorities and administratively responsible for the Blue Deal, clearly sees the added value of the collaboration within InspirAgua: “We have to adapt spatial planning in the Netherlands to climate change. We can learn a lot from the way Colombia really does that together with its inhabitants.”

Visit the water authorities virtually

Foreign water managers and interested parties can now be inspired remotely by Dutch regional water management. Nine films of innovative water projects show how the Dutch work on safe, clean and sufficient water. The films offer a solution for international delegations who are unable to travel due to the corona pandemic, but who are seeing the water problem increasing in their country.

Current themes (climate-proof construction or drought) and regular water authority tasks (dyke improvement or water purification) are discussed. Visit the water authorities virtually.

Ghanaian Delta programme explored

At the end of November 2021, the Dutch water experts from Dutch Water Authorities paid a visit to their Blue Deal partner in Ghana. During the multi-day working visit, the Dutch Delta Programme was on the agenda as a source of inspiration for Ghana.

The Ghanaian partners are looking for more structure, more integrality, better frameworks and better long-term solutions. The Delta Programme offers a long-term vision and scenario planning for climate change and socio-economic growth. The Blue Deal partners are exploring what a similar approach could mean for Ghana and how it could be linked to the Inegrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) plan.

The partners also paid a working visit to the north of Ghana to improve the water management of the Vea Dam and the Tono Dam. Because sand washes back into the waterways and reservoirs, the water and soil quality worsens. Because the water is not clean, residents are forced to get their water elsewhere. The partners are therefore committed to improving the water quality and the quality of life for residents, among other things.

Importance of reciprocity in international cooperation emphasized at the Delta Congress

What can the Dutch learn from international cooperation abroad? Several water experts answered this question from different perspectives during a session at the National Delta Congress on 4th November.

For example, the Blue Deal partners in South Africa are working on a business case to turn a problem into a business opportunity for the local community. Professor Ellen Minkman (TU Delft) shared her findings about learning abroad by water authorities. Conclusion: reciprocity must be part of international cooperation.

The Dutch Water Authorities wants to learn from innovations abroad

The Dutch Water Authorities (DWA) are open to learn from other countries and partners and want to ensure that knowledge from abroad is applied in the Netherlands. This is why Blue Deal’s water experts will discuss the lessons they have learned from abroad for Dutch water management at the Delta congress (11th November) and Water Innovation festival (2nd December).

Delta congres on 4th November
Professor Ms Ellen Minkema and the partnerships of South Africa and Colombia are represented at the Delta congress. The professor tells us more about her research into learning from abroad. You can register for the Delta Congress here.

Water innovation festival on 2nd December
During the Water Innovation Festival on 2nd December the Blue Deal will provide insight into which lessons you learn and how you can apply them. Dutch Water Authorities organises this annual festival together with the Waterschapsbank, Het Waterschapshuis and STOWA in DeFabrique in Utrecht. You can register for the Water Innovation Festival here.