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.
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.
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.”
During work visits in September, October and November the Dutch water authorities visited their Blue Deal-partnership in Colombia for the first time in 1,5 year. This provided new energy and a boost to the program. "Digital working is so much different from working together and figuring out where the real problems lie and what it takes to solve them."
InspirAgua is the name of the Blue Deal-program in Colombia. In this partnership Dutch and Colombian water professionals share their knowledge and experience, to inspire each other. InspirAgua focuses on the every day work, to help people and organizations to work together with the right tools.
The necessity of physical meetings
The latest work visit before the corona crisis took place in March 2020. After that, the program continued digitally, but not with the same results as through physical meetings. Ellen Bollen-Weide, the Dutch program manager of InspirAgua: “Technically we could keep working during the corona period. However, we noticed that it was mainly sending information. And that’s a lot different from working together and figuring out where the real problems lie and what it takes to solve them.”
April this year it became clear that it was very difficult to achieve results by working from a distance. That’s why work visits were planned as soon as corona measures permitted them.
The Dutch water authorities visited their partners in Valle del Cauca, Caldas, Santander and Huila. They talked about the annual plan for 2022 and made the plans concrete. They also discussed the agenda for 2022 with all partners involved. Contacts were reinforced and all partners are still very positive about the cooperation.
During these last visits we’ve had some successes in the projects. In Valle del Cauca a new cooperation agreement was drawn up. In Santander big steps were made on topics such as participative monitoring and stakeholder analysis. In Huila the work plan for 2022 was finalized for support of the operational management and maintenance of smaller sewage treatment plants. And in Caldas we’ve talked about a cooperation agreement to support the construction of a sewage treatment plant for the southern part of Manizales (about 250.000 residents).
Let’s go (again)!
Program manager Bollen-Weide: “This past period we’ve set up technical committees, that were eager to start. That’s something we did achieve by continuing our work digitally: our contacts have been maintained and we were able to make a flying start, now that we can really start working together again.”
The KIWI learning programme recently organised a lecture by professor Guy Alaerts about the unruly nature of international water management and solutions for complex water problems.
Water managers worldwide are looking for integrated solutions for complex water problems. Major investments are often required to become climate proof, but finding financing is difficult. Water managers and financial institutions do not know where to find each other and converting globally available financing into concrete projects on a large scale is difficult. Watch the lecture below. The lecture is in Dutch, but can be viewed with subtitles.
From 7 to 11 December 2020 Inspiragua, the Colombian Blue Deal partner, organised an interactive annual conference. This marks the next step for even more intensive cooperation between Dutch Water Authorities and its partners in Colombia.
In addition to a comparison between the Maas river area in the Netherlands and the Magdalena river area in Colombia, reflecting on the partnerships’ efforts in 2020 and its goals for 2021 were also on the programme. 17 cases from both countries were addressed during the interactive annual conference. Coming together like this helps to accelerate the learning process between Dutch Water Authorities and its local Colombian partners.
TU Delft and Erasmus University, in collaboration with Dutch Water Authorities, have launched a study into water management knowledge exchange. The universities are investigating which lessons the Dutch regional water authorities take abroad.
As part of the study into water management knowledge exchange university researchers are looking at the lessons learned at an individual level, group level and organisational level. The aim is to find out exactly what effect these lessons have on organisations.
A questionnaire is sent out via the Dutch Water Authorities foreign coordinators. It is hoped that insight can be gained into the possibilities and limiting factors of international knowledge sharing.
The 2021 annual plan of the Blue Deal programme has been approved by the steering committee. The partnerships will continue their work in 2021 to improve water management in 14 countries.
The focus of the Blue Deal Annual plan 2021 is on three crucial elements: sufficient knowledge and skills, a well-functioning organisation and collaboration with key stakeholders.
As COVID-19 continues into 2021, the Blue Deal partnerships focus on online learning and training in the first six months. This is not easy in all countries, for example due to slow internet connections or recently initiated partnerships. Therefore, the partnerships also focus on additional local representation. Dutch Water Authorities hopes to physically meet its partners again in the second half of 2021.