In February, the new Theewaterskloof project for the Blue Deal South Africa was launched. The objective is to reduce pollution in the crucial Theewaterskloof catchment by means of community based initiatives within rapidly growing informal settlements.
Previous to the launch, the Blue Deal team had several scoping discussions, field visits and a special meeting with all stakeholders and archbishop Maghoba at Bishopscourt.
The project focuses on supporting community enrollment as the only sustainable way to success. A starting point are the already existing, positive initiatives within the community (“seedlings of hope”), like the Soulfood soup kitchen. And hence, an important highlight during this launch was therefore the confirmation of the collaboration between:
the Blue Deal partners
the Soul Food Kitchen in Villiersdorp (solid waste management)
and the Sakhokhuhle Creche in Grabouw (sanitation).
These local initiatives are already a source of energy and ownership in the community.
The launch was officially noted by the Theewaterskloof Municipality team of the Mayor and Municipal Manager, Breede-Gouritz CMA, Department of Water and Sanitation, Dutch Water Authorities and the Water Research Commission. Everyone is supportive: now it’s time for action!
On October 3, 2022, Herman Havekes, employee of the Association of Dutch Water Authorities, gave his inaugural lecture as professor by special appointment at Utrecht University. Recently, it has been published in English, with the title: 'Successful Decentralisation: A critical review'. Interesting for everybody who wants to know more about Dutch water management.
During his inaugural lecture, Havekes discussed, among other things, criteria for a good organization of water management, its financing and the role of drinking water companies, water authorities, municipalities, provinces and the national government. He also mentioned that Dutch water management has been subjected to international scrutiny and received a positive assessment.
In the Netherlands, water management is 100 percent a public task. It is highly decentralized and that decentralized management has a solid financial basis. As a result, it can be executed swiftly. Havekes therefore argues that the decentralization of Dutch water management is successful. At the same time, he also indicated that there is, of course, still plenty of room for improvement.
At the beginning of March, the Principal Secretary and the Director of the Department of Water Affairs of the Ministry of Natural Resources & Energy from eSwatini visited the Netherlands. They were joined by the CEO of JRBA, partner organization of the Blue Deal in eSwatini. The visit focused on multi-layer governance of Dutch water management.
During the week, there were discussions with the Executive Board and the management of the Dutch water Authority Vechtstromen. There was also a field visit to the cross-border agency GPRW, which led the Swazis to Germany 3 times in 1 day.
The Hague was of course also an important part of the programme, with a visit to the Association of Dutch Water Authorities, the Delta Commission, the Waddenzee Authority, the Dutch water authority Rijnland. Also, at the province of South Holland, the Swazi’s saw Dutch democracy in action because the Provincial Executive was in session.
In February, the first work visit of 2023 for the Blue Deal in Burkina Faso took place. The visit included a Blue Deal event, field visits and various workshops.
For the Blue Deal event, the President of the Dutch water authority Hunze en Aa’s, Geert-Jan ten Brink, and regional manager Janette Worm from World Waternet traveled to the capital. Together with Moustapha Congo, the Permanent Secretary of the SP-GIRE, they signed the agreement for the Blue Deal Phase 2 and expressed their commitment to cooperation for the upcoming years. The press was also present and the item even made it to the national TV!
Many successes during practical workshops
The work visit also consisted of a number of practical workshops: workshops on communication, water plans and water monitoring. All the 5 water authorities of Burkina Faso attended the workshops. A great milestone is the 20-step plan to create Catchment Area Plans. Also, the waterplans were set up in combination with the commission MER. In addition, a major step included the development of water monitoring plans. Furthermore, the Burkina water authorities developed a communication plan and calendar. Due to the Blue Deal efforts, 1 water authority has hired the first communication officer in Burkina Faso.
Spin-off Blue Deal
In addition to the Blue Deal signing, another project signing took place. Another spin-off of the Blue Deal: a reforestation project in the Cassau region. The aim of this project is to prevent erosion and restore soil fertility. This project is carried out by APAF (Agroforesterie Arbres fertilitaires Foresterie), a local NGO, together with World Waternet and water authority Hunze en Aa’s.
During the work visit in February and March, Dutch colleagues within the Blue Deal programme InspirAgua visited Colombia to assist their Colombian counterparts in the regions of Caldas, Santander, Huila, Valle de Cauca and Bogotá. A memorable visit in which the continuation of the programme was endorsed by the Colombian partners.
Agreements for Phase 2 of the Blue Deal were signed with regional environmental and water authorities (CARs) CAM, CAS, CDMB, CVC, Corpocaldas and national association ASOCARS, as well as with the administration of the Santander department and with water companies Empocaldas, Aguas de Manizales, Acuavalle and Aguas del Huila. A new partner of the programme is Andesco, an umbrella organization for public service companies. Cormagdalena will follow in April.
InspirAgua’s CAR partners formalized the agreement at the ASOCARS General Assembly, in the midst of the impressive nature of Nuquí on the Pacific coast of the Department of Chocó. There, 21 Colombian CARs gathered for this annual meeting, where they also signed the ‘Alliance for Protected Areas of Colombia’.
Director of the Dutch water authority Rijn en IJssel, Rudi Gerard, explained the method of water governance in the Netherlands, followed by Michelle Talsma of STOWA, who emphasized the importance of collaboration in knowledge development. A retrospective on Phase 1 and preview of Phase 2 of the programme was given by Ellen Bollen, programme manager of InspirAgua. Director of the Dutch water authority De Dommel, Marit Borst, signed the cooperation agreements on behalf of Watergraaf Erik de Ridder.
The programme also aroused interest among Colombian directors who were not yet affiliated with InspirAgua. It has been agreed that the results and knowledge gained will be shared horizontally with all CARs led by ASOCARS.
Working together in different cultures
Contacts and collaboration within InspirAgua intensify as time progresses and goals for 2030 are set. All the more reason to zoom into cultural denominators of our ‘way of working’ for a better understanding and effective cooperation, such as communicating, scheduling, deciding, trusting, and more. ‘Culture coach’ Sylvia van Glabbeek hosted workshops on intercultural cooperation in Manizales and Cali attended by Dutch and Colombian InspirAgueros. Simple examples like difference in the planning of a personal agenda sparked animated conversations and the exchange of ideas, as noted by a participant in Manizales. Work on the relational level is important for the technical and instrumental efforts of InspirAgua members. Interested in what those are? Visit InspirAgua on LinkedIn.
In March, the Blue Deal Ghana team went on a work visit for 2 weeks to meet with many new stakeholders outside the water sector. By meeting stakeholders outside the water sector, the Blue Deal Ghana is trying to get water challenges higher on the political agenda.
The goal of these meetings is to work together with other partners, besides the Water Resources Commission (WRC), and to connect the water themes to other relevant themes. In this way, the water challenges will come higher on the political agenda. The project team met with partners such as the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology & Innovation (MESTI), the Hydrological Authority (HYDRO), the Ministry of Works and Housing (MWH) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
During the visit in March, the project team started with the implementation of the Area Oriented Approach in the Songor Lagoon in the south of Ghana. An Integrated Water Resources Management plan for the Lower Volta Basin is almost completed by the WRC and the area of the Songor Lagoon is selected as a pilot area to start the implementation of the overall plan. A big challenge in this area is mangrove depletion.
However, the area faces many more water related challenges. For this reason the Ghanaian and Dutch team shared knowledge on conducting an Area Oriented Approach and guided in the process of starting it. During a workshop with around 45 stakeholders from the area (such as representatives of the communities, the Forestry Commission and NGO’s) different cohesive issues were brought up and concrete actions to solve these issues were identified. In this way the pilot project will have a more multidisciplinary and holistic approach. The water challenges in the Songor area are now brought bottom-up to the political agenda of the WRC.
Next to this, the Blue Deal met with the governor of the Upper East Region to talk about the water related challenges in the area. The main outcome is that water themes will be scheduled during regional meetings with for example District Assemblies, chiefs and subbasin committees.
To get the water challenges higher on the political national agenda the project team met with many new stakeholders during the work visit. The goal is to work together with other national partners, and with the WRC, to connect the water themes to other relevant themes. The Delta programme that we have in the Netherlands is of great interest for Ghana, since the country faces many challenges in the Lower Volta Delta and along the whole coast. Therefore, the Blue Deal team endorses to set up a Delta programme. For this reason the team met with MESTI, WRC, HYDRO, MWH and EPA to assess the challenges in the Delta and strengthen the cooperation in the future.
Next to this, the Blue Deal team had several meetings with the Netherlands Commission of Environmental Assessment (NCEA). They came with the Blue Deal team to Ghana to address their work on a national level and start the cooperation in current and new programmes, policies and plans (such as land use plans or water catchment plans). Their aim is to ensure that the environmental and social consequences of proposed activities are incorporated into decision making, through an inclusive process. Together with the Blue Deal team the NCEA met with the EPA.
The connection of the EPA and the Blue Deal team secures the holistic approach of water resources management within the work of the EPA. In the near future the NCEA will provide independent advice through Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA) for the catchment plans of the WRC and will provide guidelines and training to work on capacity development of SEA with the WRC, EPA and other involved stakeholders.
Another example of making sure water challenges are of more importance on a national level, the Dutch team assesses climate issues like reforestation. In the Bongo District a successful reforestation project is already set-up. In this way the Blue Deal becomes more relevant to the Dutch Embassy, which for their part have influence on a national level.
Ghana faces many water related challenges that they can not solve all by themselves. Therefore, the cooperation of Ghanaian and Dutch water partners also supports to look on a transboundary governance level for cooperation and effective solutions. Such as the sand motor that is now set-up in Benin to protect the coast from further erosion. In the next few months a broad delegation of the Ghanian partners will visit this project to explore the options for their own coastal protection. Small scale cooperation between the partners along sub catchments that are part of as well Burkina Faso as Ghana should also gain more attention in the Area Oriented Approach of the Blue Deal programme in the Upper East Region.
From 22 to 24 March 2023, the United Nations Water Conference will take place in New York. Luzette Kroon, board member of the Association of Dutch Water Authorities, is there to represent Dutch Water Authorities and the Blue Deal, the international programme of Dutch Water Authorities.
The UN Water Conference is organized by the Netherlands and Tajikistan. It is the first United Nations conference on water in nearly 50 years. Kroon: “Many of the consequences of climate change have to do with water. It is too wet, too dry, the sea level is rising. The UN Conference is a key moment to reflect on the importance of water management worldwide.”
New York Water Week
In addition to the UN Water Conference, the Water Week will take place in New York from 18 to 24 March. This is an addition to the UN Water Conference.
Dutch Water Authorities and the Blue Deal organize various sessions during the UN Water Conference and the New York Water Week. Kroon: “During these sessions, we want to draw the attention of major financial players, such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, to the importance of management and maintenance. They mainly focus on investments, for example on the construction of a water treatment plant or a dike. The management and maintenance is financed, but only for a short period. After that period, the investments sometimes fall into disrepair because management and maintenance cease. We call that ‘design, build and neglect’. We would like to replace ‘neglect’ with ‘maintenance’. We want to get a place on the Water Action Agenda for this.”
Why a water conference?
Kroon: “Water managers play a crucial role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These are the 17 goals of the United Nations to make the world a better place by 2030.” And it’s not just about SDG6, which is specifically aimed at water. Water also plays an important role in achieving the other SDGs. “Water is a basic necessity of life. It is necessary for people’s well-being, safe living, cooling during heat stress, industry and world food production. We will not achieve the SDGs without water managers.”
Dutch Water Authorities: why cooperate internationally?
Through international cooperation, the 21 water authorities in the Netherlands exchange valuable expertise on water management and tackling problems resulting from climate change. For example, about how other countries deal with drought, a problem that the Netherlands is increasingly confronted with. Or how experiences of foreign partners with extreme rainfall can be applied to Dutch water management. Cooperation with water management organizations in other countries leads to a mutual exchange of valuable new ideas.
Blue Deal as an example
Kroon: “It is the intention that parties from all sectors pledge actions for the Water Action Agenda to contribute to the SDGs. We have already made a commitment for this action agenda in June 2022, namely doubling the money for the Blue Deal. We want to put the Blue Deal in the spotlight during the conference. As an example for world leaders and other organisations of a successful collaboration to spread water knowledge.”
On March 9, Marit Borst, director of the Dutch water authority De Dommel, signed cooperation agreements until 2030 with Colombian partner authorities of InspirAgua, the Colombian Blue Deal programme. With these agreements the cooperation between Colombian and Dutch water professionals will be continued for Phase 2 of the Blue Deal.
Since 2018, InspirAgua is active in 5 regions within Colombia. We work on topics such as participatory monitoring, waste water treatment, crisis management, improving water quality and licenses and control. In Colombia, Dutch professionals share knowledge and experience. At the same time, Colombian colleagues bring in more information about coping with drought, flash floods and extreme precipitation.
Results Phase 1
During Phase 1 of the programme, the main focus was to establish a strong relationship based on trust and experience. It brought multiple results, for example in the regions Santander, Caldas and Huila. In Santander, local people were stimulated to collect data about the quality of water to improve decision making on a higher level. In Caldas, we are currently improving the water quality of the Río Chinchiná by reducing the discharge of waste water, without using a sewer system. And in Huila we are helping to organize crisis management, to act more precisely during crisis situations.
Ready for Phase 2
For the next years the work within InspirAgua will keep following the topics that were defined earlier. And as in line with the goals of the Blue Deal, in Phase 2 the focus will also be on bringing knowledge from Colombia to the Netherlands. With the new agreements with our partners, and even a signing with a new partner, InspirAgua is ready for the next years. Agreements were signed with: CAM, Aguas del Huila, CAS, CDMB, Department of Santander, CVC, Acuavalle, Corpocaldas, Empocaldas, Aguas de Manizales, ASOCARS and Andesco. Cormagdalena follows soon.
21 February was an important day for the Blue Deal in Burkina Faso. All the partners of the Blue Deal partnership were present to reflect on Phase 1 of the Blue Deal and to celebrate and sign for the start of Phase 2.
The partners of the Blue Deal include representatives from the 5 Burkinabe Water Agencies, the CLEs, the SP-GIRE (the Ministry of Water), OIEau, Eau Vive international, SNV, Unité de Gestion Project GIRE, the Embassy of the Netherlands and Dutch Water Authorities.
Within this Blue Deal partnership, the focus is on Integrated Water Resource Management and building capacity for performance improvement. 5 Burkinabe Water Agencies and several Local Water Committees are working closely together with the Dutch water authorities World Waternet/AGV, Hunze en Aa’s, Noorderzijlvest and Drents Overijsselse Delta.
Important landmark for cooperation
The celebration and signing of the Blue Deal Phase 2 is an important landmark for the cooperation between the 2 countries.
Le Secrétaire Permanent Moustapha Congo from the SP-GIRE (the Ministry of Water) emphasized in his opening speech: “We really appreciate that the cooperation and the working visits from Dutch Water Authorities to Burkina Faso are going ahead, despite the situation our country is currently facing. We already have a long history together and the renewal of the commitment between our countries is again for a long period of time.”
President of the Dutch water authority Hunze en Aa’s Geert-Jan ten Brink: “This partnership is important for both our countries. It is the way to exchange knowledge on water management issues. We all have to deal with the impacts of climate change. Climate change means that the Netherlands will increasingly be confronted with extreme weather events, like drought. Burkina Faso is the expert in this field. The way Burkina Faso deals with these challenges is a huge inspiration to us.”
And that’s what makes this collaboration between the 2 countries so unique: the one deals with too much water, the other with too little. Due to climate change, both the Netherlands and Burkina Faso need to work together to get ready for the future.
Several superintendents from waste water treatment plants in South Africa recently visited the Netherlands as part of the Blue Deal partnership. Their goal was to gain insights into advancements in waste water treatment and to share their experiences with their Dutch colleagues.
The visited several waste water treatment plants and had the opportunity to exchange ideas and best practices with their Dutch counterparts, focusing on the effective management of assets and sludge handling. Although the temperature during their entire stay was shockingly low (below 0 degrees Celsius), the South-African superintendents thoroughly appreciated the visit and learned a lot.
Valuable experience for the future of waste water treatment
The trip to the Netherlands proved to be a valuable experience for the superintendents. Not only did they gain knowledge about the latest advancements in waste water treatment, asset management and sludge handling. They also had the chance to bond with their colleagues and explore the country. This visit will go a long way in improving their work and shaping the future of waste water treatment.