Blog: Climate Scan Blue Deal South Africa

As part of the KIWI programme (learning programme for the Blue Deal), Tom Overgaauw has been exploring 'Windows of Opportunity' for climate adaptation in the Western Cape of South Africa. These are opportunities that currently present themselves to tackle the negative impacts of climate change. He wrote a blog about his findings.

Over the past year, I have been working on creating a ‘Climate Scan’ for the area. This concise scan aims to map the effects of climate change and identify the major risks. It serves as the basis for the search for the Windows of Opportunity.

The problem: working in silos

The Climate Scan has now been completed, and interesting conclusions have been drawn. We shared the results with various organisations. Notable findings from the climate scan include the large amount of available information and plans. High ambitions have been formulated, and many organisations have developed plans. However, very little seems to actually get off the ground. The biggest problem we identified, is working in so-called silos. Governments and companies are insufficiently aware of each other’s plans, and successful collaborations rarely happen. Nevertheless, everyone recognises that collaboration is ‘key’ to solving climate problems.

This problem is quite familiar to us in the Netherlands as well, as we often say we need to collaborate better. This conclusion forms the first ‘Window of Opportunity’. So both the Dutch and the South Africans can both contribute and learn a lot. South Africa, also known as the Rainbow Nation, is a country with a great mix of ethnicities and cultural differences, making successful collaborations extra challenging. Success stories can serve as a inspiration for the Netherlands.

Drought and rainfall

Another conclusion concerns water availability. Often when we think of South Africa’s weather, we think of drought. This is indeed a problem, but despite this image, there is quite a lot of rainfall in this part of Africa. In some areas, almost twice as much as in the Netherlands annually. The biggest problem does not seem to be the availability of water, but rather the distribution. Especially with the growing population and the increasing water demand, smart ways need to be devised to always have sufficient water available. This is something we also struggle with in the Netherlands. How do we ensure sufficient water in dry times while also having enough space for water in wet times?

Decision support system for fair water distribution

With these 2 opportunities in mind, we increasingly delved into methods to achieve smart and collaborative water management solutions, ways to collaborate across borders. The key, we believe, could lie in a decision support system that, based on data, helps to achieve fairer water distribution among different parties throughout the seasons. Through a feasibility study, we investigated whether this concept is promising to pursue further. Various parties responded enthusiastically. We also immediately investigated what the needs are within this system and which are most urgent, for example, prediction of droughts or early warnings for floods or wildfires. We are now trying to turn this into a project.

2 Young Experts represent Blue Deal Peru at World Water Forum

2 Young Experts (Yeppers) Aurora Mija and Edin Dávila from Blue Deal Peru participated in the 10th World Water Forum in Indonesia. Mija was also as representative of the World Youth Parliament for Water, after being selected from 650 young professionals worldwide.

Aurora Mija presenting during a session

Mija and Dávila work as Yeppers for the Blue Deal at the Water Resource Councils of the National Water Authority ANA in Piura and Tumbes.

The 2 young professionals shared Blue Deal initiatives on water governance, climate adaptation and social inclusion in 4 sessions at the forum. They discussed the importance of including local communities in decision-making, the alignment between water systems conservation and carbon credits generation for boosting local economies. They also talked about the exchange of experiences on transboundary water management between and the advantage of information systems that are locally generated for decision-making.

The information and inspiration they received during the forum will be shared with the Peruvian colleagues in their regions and the Blue Deal teams.

Edin Dávila presenting during a session

Successful visit to World Water Forum Indonesia

From 18 to 25 May, the World Water Forum took place in Indonesia. Dutch Water Authorities (DWA) and the Blue Deal attended the forum with a small delegation. Luzette Kroon, Chair of the Blue Deal Steering Committee, led the delegation. She closely coordinated her agenda with Meike van Ginneken, the Dutch Water Envoy. They participated in various sessions and made arrangements with (potential) new cooperation partners.

Luzette Kroon (in the middle with microphone) is presenting during a session with The Nature Conservancy

Kroon: “During the World Water Forum, the Netherlands was able to convey the necessity of joint action. Drought, extreme rainfall, and water pollution pose significant challenges worldwide. We have positioned ourselves with the Blue Deal programme, as a strong partner to address international water challenges.”

She continues: “We discussed the importance of cooperation across the entire water (supply) chain and sustainable financing for operation and maintenance. During various sessions, we also emphasised the importance of preventing pollution at the source, local implementation, and the execution of the Water Action Agenda (the outcome of the UN Water Conference last year). I look back on a successful forum.”

Blue Deal contributes to continuity of regional water management

We spoke with Blue Deal staff from the Palestinian Territories, South Africa, Peru, and Indonesia. They all emphasised how much the Blue Deal, often in combination with the WaterWorX programme of the Dutch drinking water companies, meant to them. The long-term relationship is considered crucial, and the substantive cooperation significantly contributes to the continuity of water management.

Improving and protecting watersheds

Regarding sustainable financing for management and maintenance, we have called for attention to climate-resilient watershed investments. These are investments aimed at improving and protecting watersheds to make them resilient to the effects of climate change, often in the form of nature-based solutions, such as reforestation and planting vegetation to prevent erosion and retain water. Recently, we entered into a collaboration in this area with The Nature Conservancy, VEI (WaterWorX), and NWB Fund. We officially announced this collaboration during the forum.

Potential cooperation with development banks

The delegation also met with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Islamic Development Bank. These development banks aim to promote the economic development of Asian and Islamic countries. During the discussions, it became clear that the approach of climate-resilient watershed investments aligns well with their goals. Additionally, there is growing interest in investing more in water governance. The approach of the Dutch water authorities has also attracted the interest of the banks. The Blue Deal and the development banks will further discuss this during International Water Week in Stockholm at the end of August.

Compensating water footprint

During the UN Water Conference in 2023 in New York, Blue Deal was involved in the launch of the Water Footprint Compensation platform. During the World Water Forum, there was renewed attention for this. The Water Footprint concept aims for a ‘water-safe’ world where water users take responsibility for restoring a healthy water cycle. For example, companies that use a lot of water can compensate for their water footprint. This money can be used for investments in water-saving or restorative measures. This is actively pursued by the Blue Deal in the Palestinian Territories (with BluElephant) through a pilot. Discussions are also underway with Blue Deal South Africa. Additionally, there is significant potential within other Blue Deal partnerships.

What works and what doesn’t work in water governance?

One of the Blue Deal’s solutions is in the OECD Handbook of What Works. This handbook is all about actionable solutions for improving water governance.

This handbook was presented on May 23, during a session at the World Water Forum in Indonesia. Luzette Kroon, Chair of the Blue Deal steering committee, was one of the speakers for this session.

The Blue Deal’s solution is featured at #52. Here you can find more information about monitoring the progress in water governance

> Read the handbook

Young talents work on InspirAgua cases at Wetskills Colombia

From May 27 to June 7, 'Wetskills Water Challenge' takes place in Cartagena, Colombia. Colombian partners of the Blue Deal programme InspirAgua provide 2 interesting cases that young water professionals will work on. 6 of these young talents participate through InspirAgua.

Programme manager Ellen Bollen: “With Wetskills we get a fresh look at water issues in Colombia. It is a great opportunity for young professionals to gain international experience and we are very curious about their solutions. So, it’s a win-win situation!”

What is Wetskills?

Wetskills is a programme that brings together young people from all over the world. They spend 2 weeks searching for creative solutions to water problems in a changing world. Every year, there are Wetskills challenges in a number of countries across the continents. Wetskills already visited Colombia in 2018.

2 InspirAgua cases

3 candidates from Dutch Water Authorities and 3 candidates from the Colombian Corporaciones Autónomas Regionales (CARs), among others, will be working on the cases. The CARs CDMB and Cundinamarca provide 2 of the 3 cases on behalf of InspirAgua. One case covers the unpredictable droughts in the Tona River. How can we create flexible water availability there? The other case concerns the Río Frío microbasin. How can we use water sustainably as a stimulant for socio-economic growth?

The results will be presented on June 7 at the Acodal international conference Water, Sanitation, Environment and Renewable Energy. InspirAgua will be present in the Dutch Pavilion of Holland House.

What is InspirAgua?

InspirAgua stands for cooperation and exchange for clean, safe and sufficient water in Colombia and the Netherlands. The Blue Deal programme aims to improve water conditions by 2030 for 15 million Colombians in the Rio Magdalena basin. The Blue Deal programme works with national and regional partners on climate-proof and socially inclusive water management. We are committed to making working plans for river basins, an adequate crisis organisation, knowledge and insight based on data, purifying wastewater, and prevention and enforcement of pollution. Through collaboration and knowledge exchange on these themes, we will become better water managers in both Colombia and the Netherlands.

Dutch water delegation active at World Water Forum

From 18 to 25 May, a delegation from the Dutch Water Authorities (DWA) and the Blue Deal programme will attend the World Water Forum in Indonesia. The goal is to emphasise the importance of collaboration within the entire water (supply) chain in the international water sector.

What do we aim to achieve?

During the World Water Forum, stakeholders from the entire international water sector come together. They collectively determine the global water agenda and share knowledge with each other. The Forum takes place every 3 years, each time in a different country. The delegation of DWA and Blue Deal highlights the importance of cooperation within the entire water cycle. This means that all partners in the water chain within a specific catchment area collaborate to address the broader interests of water. Local service providers (utilities, water authorities, municipalities, etc.) play a particularly significant role in this. It is therefore crucial that their technical, organisational, and financial capacities are in order. Only in this way can the goal of SDG6 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations be achieved by 2030.

Sustainable financing for operation and maintenance

In addition, the Blue Deal will meet up with various financiers within the water sector. The delegation emphasises the importance of long-term cooperation and sustainable financing for operation and maintenance. In this regard, the Blue Deal has recently entered into a collaboration with The Nature Conservancy, WaterWorX, and the NWB Fund. Together, these parties are exploring ways to finance projects around nature-based solutions. In Indonesia, the collaboration will be officially confirmed.

Engaging with international water partners

The delegation will participate as speakers in various sessions, including those organised by the OECD, The Nature Conservancy, UNESCO, The Water Footprint Implementation, and the High-Level Panel Navigating the Source-to-Sea Journey. The delegation will also hold discussions with the Islamic Development Bank and The Asian Development Bank. Additionally, there will be ample opportunity to further strengthen the network of the Blue Deal.

Luzette Kroon represents the delegation of DWA and Blue Deal. She is board member of the Association of Dutch Water Authorities and chair of the Blue Deal steering committee. She aligns her agenda closely with Meike van Ginneken, the Dutch water envoy.

Representatives from the partnerships

Representatives from Blue Deal partnerships will also be present as speakers in various sessions. For example, one of the Young Experts from Blue Deal Peru has been selected to join the 6th General Assembly of the World Youth Parliament. She was selected from 640 applicants worldwide. She will also present her work within Blue Deal Peru in a couple of sessions.

Culture Map shows differences and similarities Ghana and the Netherlands

In February, the Dutch Blue Deal team organised a Culture Day together with their Ghanaian Blue Deal colleagues. The main goal was to understand each other’s work cultures better. This ultimately helps in a more effective cross-cultural collaboration.

Since 2019, the Dutch Blue Deal team has worked together with several colleagues from the Ghanaian Water Resources Commission. During that time they got to know each other well. In the workplace, but also personally, outside of office hours. This has already created interesting situations and challenges in their cross-cultural communication. This could have something to do with cultural differences.

How well do we really know each other’s cultures?

So the Dutch and Ghanaian colleagues took the time to ask themselves the questions: how well do we really know each other’s cultures? Do we know the mutual differences and similarities and how can we use them as advantages in our collaboration? During the recent working visit in February, all Blue Deal members travelled to Accra to create a Culture Map during a special Culture Day. We focused on having more in-depth conversations about each other’s cultures by discussing perceptions, cultural differences, and expectations, to improve certain work situations. Because your culture affects you as a person, but also how you act in the workplace and how you work together.

Culture Map

The common thread of this day was the Culture Map. This is a method by Erin Meyer that provides more insight into a work culture by evaluating a work culture on 8 scales. Consider, for example, the way of communicating: is it very direct and clear in your culture or indirect and do you have to read between the lines in a conversation? Or what about the power distance: is there always a strict hierarchy in the workplace or can you approach the boss directly? These are all questions that started the conversations. Based on concrete examples from the collaboration, they learned more about each other’s doings and actions. The result was a Culture Map of the Netherlands and Ghana in which differences and similarities are clearly mapped out on the scales.

Insight and understanding

The Culture Day has given the team more insight and understanding of each other’s culture, but it has certainly strengthened their bond. They now know better where someone else is coming from and also understand their own actions and frustrations better from time to time. This ultimately helps in a more effective collaboration. Some examples of the conclusions of the Culture Day:

  • In terms of communication style the 2 cultures stand quite far apart from each other on the scale. In the Netherlands, people are very direct, whereas Ghana has a more implicit style of communication. Working in such a cross-cultural team, it would be useful to make more explicit recaps and summaries of meetings to catch any misunderstandings or confusions.
  • When it comes to making progress in the Blue Deal programme, the scale of ‘Deciding’ in the Culture Map is also an interesting one to highlight. The 2 cultures also stand quite far apart from each other on this scale, but there are some easy tips to make the cross-cultural collaboration more effective. For example, it starts with awareness about the differences and together they could try to discuss and decide upon a decision-making method and work that out explicitly. Later, when big decisions must be made, they can revisit the decision-making process to make sure it is generally understood and accepted.
  • In the Netherlands we are keen on being tightly organised and would very much like to create a detailed programme for a work visit, full of appointments. But in the Ghanaian work culture it is very normal to draw up an outline for a programme with main goals and also leave sufficient room for strengthening the personal relationship. The latter definitely has its advantages. This gave the team the insight that they will now try to make the programme of the next work visit somewhat based on Dutch work culture, but mainly on the basis of Ghanaian work culture.

Recommendation for other Blue Deal teams

It is valuable to take a moment to look at your own culture and others. Because you normally see the world from our own cultural perspective. Therefore, it is difficult to imagine that another culture might do things differently. But when you start to identify what is typical in your own culture, but different in others, then you can begin to open a dialogue of sharing, learning, and, ultimately, understanding. So take time to talk about each other’s work cultures and create your own Culture Map.

The Blue Deal also provides a mandatory training ‘Working with Other Cultures’ for Dutch experts who travel abroad for the Blue Deal. Read a report on one of these trainings.

Responding to crisis: collaborative efforts for flood disaster relief in Eastern Africa

Parts of Eastern Africa are being hit by floods caused by heavy rainfall. Unfortunately, this has already claimed many lives. This includes Kenya, where the Blue Deal has a partnership.

Picture by Hansel Ohioma

Blue Deal Kenya, together with partner Embassy of the Earth, has been exploring ways to support the government’s ambitious plans to clean up Nairobi rivers for quite some time. The water has now demonstrated that the problem is much larger than pollution alone. Large areas of informal settlements have been flooded, as well as newly built residential areas elsewhere in the city and, for example, the airport. Tens of thousands of people have lost their homes and possessions.

Government response and evacuation efforts

The government has established a Special Cabinet with a mandate to evacuate everyone in areas at risk, downstream from dams and riverbank zones. In the Thika Basin, where the Blue Deal programme and the Njururi Initiative are ongoing, with many dams for drinking water and irrigation, there is considerable disruption, and a landslide has claimed several lives.

Several more weeks of heavy rains are anticipated across the country. In Nairobi, our partner Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company (NCWSC) is doing what they can to remove any blockages in the sewage system. Our partner Water Resources Authority (WRA) is busy marking the flood line of various rivers in Nairobi and other affected areas, including the Tana Basin, where the Blue Deal is also active, and WRA is involved in evacuating people from these river zones. Dams are also being inspected; many dams are at full capacity, and the persistent rainfall also poses risks of dam breaches or severe flooding.

Community initiatives: Blue Angels

Over the past months, in addition to government agencies, we have also worked extensively with local community organisations in Nairobi  – various groups, mostly comprised of young people, who have been dedicated to river restoration through waste management, park construction, etc. These groups are informally united as the Blue Angels and are crucial as first responders in the current crisis.

Long-term solutions and engagement with (inter)national authorities

The Blue Deal continues to engage with the national government to provide support for the long-term future of Nairobi. It is possible that during this crisis period, the deployment of the Dutch Disaster Risk Reduction and Surge Support (DRRS) may also be requested, for which we are coordinating with RVO and the Dutch embassy.

Experts on wastewater management share best practices in Colombia

InspirAgua is the Blue Deal programme on knowledge exchange in water governance in Colombia and the Netherlands. A technical conference was held from March 4 to 6 in Bogotá on the topics associated with the management of municipal wastewater.

This included topics such as: the remuneration rate for discharges, the management of rainwater, the management of bio solids, the control and permission of discharges into the sewage network, and the technical skills of the personnel in charge of the operation of the wastewater treatment systems.

Who participated?

The participants in this technical conference were the public service companies and environmental authorities that make up the regional nodes of Caldas, Huila and Valle del Cauca (Acuavalle, Aguas de Manizales, Corpocaldas, CAM, CVC and Empocaldas), Andesco, and ASOCARS. Also present were representatives of the ministries of Housing, City and Territory and Environment and Sustainable Development, the National Department of Planning, and Dutch Water Authorities.

Different actors, same goal

The event had 3 thematic axes as emphasis: the remuneration rate, bio solids, control and permitting of discharges into the sewer. And of course there was an important exchange of experiences in the area.
“It was very beneficial, because we can conclude that the different actors who are here want the same thing. It is noted that although we are different entities between service providers and ministries, we agree that there must be greater coordination to achieve better results in the future,” says Hans Geerse, coordinator within the InspirAgua programme from Dutch Water Authorities.

Technical sessions

Technical sessions dealt with the management of assets related to risks in urban sewage systems, such as experiences with the management of biosolids in the Netherlands. On the second day, a visit to the Salitre WWTP operated by the affiliated company Empresa de Acueducto y Alcantarillado de Bogotá (EAAB), allowed visitors from the Netherlands to see first-hand the technological level and size of one of the most important wastewater treatment plants in Colombia.

National strategies for monitoring and control

For the last day of the event, presentations focused on national strategies for monitoring and control, such as strategies for detecting illegal discharges and the relevance of the issue of permits (and the necessary adjustments) to improve the quality of surface waters. A Dutch example was given by Andras Koops, who presented the Dutch Water Innovation Prize winner ‘Facade control’ (see video in Dutch and Spanish).

Joint agenda

At the end of the conference, a plenary session was held to reflect and find common points on all the topics addressed in the previous sessions. These included adjustments on the economic instrument of the remuneration rate, an update of the protocol for monitoring discharges, and a training plan for wastewater treatment plants operators. A joint agenda will be defined with ASOCARS and with the support of the Blue Deal. Technical spaces will be developed on control protocols for discharges into the sewer for the development of capacities of the affiliated companies. All in all, an important meeting of sector experts in favour of strengthening the sector and creating alliances and improvement strategies.

Joining forces for investments into nature-based solutions

Aiming to increase our impact by joining forces! The Blue Deal teams up with The Nature Conservancy, NWB Fund and WaterWorX to work on water security, water safety and water quality. We’ll explore the possibilities for climate-resilient watershed investments for our projects and for mainstreaming nature-based solutions.

A tree nursery in Ghana, where reforestation is used a nature-based solution against erosion and to restore the groundwater level

The water sector is challenged by too much, too little and too dirty water. Nearly half of global (drinking) water sources are significantly degraded, threatening the quality and quantity of water for communities, cities, farmers and business.

Nature as foundation for water security

Nature is the foundation for water security. Nature-based solutions are a promising avenue to address our twin crises of water and climate. Watershed investment programmes result in climate resilient infrastructure and operations of water catchment authorities and water utilities but are complex and require cooperation and substantial expertise to organize.

Joining forces

Therefore, we team up. The watershed experts of The Nature Conservancy and NWB Fund, and the operational experts of the water authorities of the Blue Deal and drinking water utilities of WaterWorX join forces and pool their resources to develop, implement and finance Nature-based Solutions for water security.

Mainstreaming nature-based solutions

The cooperation between The Nature Conservancy, NWB Fund, Blue Deal and WaterWorX aims to mainstream nature-based solutions and anchor these projects in water institutions to ensure sustainability of the impact. Together we have the expertise and resources to support water service providers to develop, finance and implement nature-based solution projects.