Blue Deal session about Social inclusion in IWRM

On September 12, the Blue Deal presented a session during Partners for Water's Day ‘Social Inclusion in Water Climate Adaptation – making a Transformation’ in Utrecht.

“We need to bend the beam of observation upon ourselves”, says Martin Kalungu-Banda of the Ubuntu.Lab institute, one of the speakers during the plenary programme. Are we always doing as well as we think we do or should we sometimes look at ourselves more critically? The room is full of people from the water sector, from NGOs and organizations such as the Blue Deal. All with the beautiful intention of supporting others worldwide. But this requires that we work on the right things and especially with the people involved. “We’re trying to help, but we forget to listen,” notes one of the participants of the day.

Within the Blue Deal we try to do this through stakeholder participation. During the session ‘Working bottom up in Integrated Water Resources Management: how to implement an Area Oriented Approach to maximize sustainability and inclusiveness’, about 20 people from different organizations were present and 3 examples from the Blue Deal were discussed.

Communities map top 10 issues

Priscilla Daddah, Young Expert for the Blue Deal partnership in Ghana, explains during the session how the partnership involved stakeholders by working with 3 communities to map the top 10 issues for the Lower Volta Songor region. They also jointly drew up a Community-based Resource Management Plan (CREMA).

Using traditional tribal hierarchy

Bertho Bulthuis, water expert from the Blue Deal partnership in Burkina Faso, explains how they use the traditional tribal hierarchy within his partnership. “This is an already existing structure, able to connect people in the communities.” Of course, there are also disadvantages to this, Bulthuis admits. Because these structures do not represent everyone either. Another challenge he mentions is that many people in the area cannot always focus on anything else besides their daily needs. “It’s not always easy to look towards the future to things like climate mitigation and adaptation, when you are struggling for daily needs, like food for the day.”

Future base camp

Tanah Meijers, from the Blue Deal partnership in Kenya, talks about the ‘Bring Njururi back to the river’ project. This project is about restoring the water beetle (Njururi) to the Thika river in Upper Tana, Kenya. The water beetle symbolizes good water quality and a healthy ecosystem.

Stakeholder participation also plays a major role in this project. For this purpose, the team organized a so-called future base camp. About 120 people from various social groups and organizations in the area came together for a few days of camping. Together they thought about how they would like to shape the future in their region and how they could achieve this. Meijers: “We were looking for common ground, because everybody is part of the solution. Together, we drew a map. What is happening today? What are the challenges we face? And what do we need to do to get the water beetle back?”


After the presentations of the case studies, participants of the Blue Deal session discussed in 3 groups about how to scale an inclusive sustainable bottom-up approach on IWRM: how to implement a jointly drafted sub-catchment plan and maximise sustainability and inclusiveness? Below some of the discussion outcomes:

  • Formalisation of the effort of local organisations is necessary (mandate/ status);
  • Make use of current systems of formalised governments;
  • As soon as you scale up, the balance between bottom-up and top-down can get lost, it is a battle to fight for the rights in a bottom-up approach. Be aware of these issues;
  • There will be a political battle/competition about livelihood needs and less on water needs when you scale up. Be aware of these aspects;
  • Choose your local champions to scale your approach;
  • Keep reflecting: is everyone really included?
  • Clear benefits and responsibilities are necessary to get everyone on board;
  • Realisation of the needs: analyse the needs in an area thoroughly;
  • These processes take time. Spend time on raising awareness in your project

Get in touch

Want to know more about the outcomes of these 3 cases? Reach out to to get in touch with one of the speakers.

Blue Deal Ethiopia presents case at World Water Week

During the World Water Week in Stockholm on August 22, Blue Deal Young Expert, Joy Pengel, presented a case on the Water Agreement and water allocation planning in the Awash basin in Ethiopia. She did this together with an expert from cooperation partner Woord en Daad.

The pressure on the water system in the Awash basin is very high. Various governments at federal level (Ministry of Water) and regional level (including Regional Water Bureaus from 3 autonomous regions) must arrive at a joint (catchment) approach. Cooperation in Ethiopia does not come about by itself. This movie explains this well.

Fair distribution of the available water

In various projects, the Blue Deal stimulates multi-level cooperation to achieve a better river basin approach. For example, the Blue Deal has supported the formulation of a Water Agreement between these parties. Together with one of our partners, Woord en Daad, we are helping these parties to implement the Water Agreement. The Water Agreement provides a framework for structural cooperation, coordination and harmonization of upstream and downstream interests.

One of the main goals of the Water Agreement is to promote a fair distribution of scarce water (equitable water allocation planning). Together with other partners, we are introducing a taxation system for water use, registration and licensing of water use, setting up irrigation water user associations, and rolling out a measuring network to monitor water availability. Every year we try to improve one or more parts of the water allocation planning process, for example through evaluations via an explanatory infographic.

Water quality and water allocation

During the presentation, the emphasis was placed on 2 specific topics of the Water Agreement: Waste water treatment/water quality and water allocation. Mainly around water allocation, we explained about the use of an infographic to start discussions and to ensure that everyone is talking about the same thing. The question that remained with the audience at the end of the presentation was how Water Pricing is addressed within this project. On this subject, we also mentioned how registration and payment of water are topics we are working on. There was also attention for the implementation of a Water Allocation Priority Ladder to indicate where the water should go during periods of scarcity.

Watch the session online

Would you like to hear more about our experiences? The title of the session was ‘Water Pricing: valuing and allocating water in the Awash basin in Ethiopia’. If you pre-registered online for World Water Week, you can replay the session here.

Blue Deal opens new water laboratory in the West Bank

In July, Sander Mager, vice president of the Dutch water authority Amstel, Gooi en Vecht, visited the Blue Deal partnership in the Palestinian Territories. There, he had the honour to open a new water laboratory in the city of Kharas.

Sander Mager (left) opens the new water laboratory

This will be the first lab to test the water quality in North-Hebron. It is a research centre in an area of around a quarter million people. Besides testing the water quality, it monitors the effluent of the local waste water treatment plant in the municipality of Kharas.

The construction was made possible through the cooperation with the municipality of Kharas, the Joint Service Council, and the Palestinian Water Authority.

Blue Deal at World Water Week in Stockholm

From 20 to 24 August, Luzette Kroon and Emilie Sturm represented the Blue Deal during the World Water Week in Stockholm. There they participated in sessions and talked with, among others, the Islamic Development Bank about investment plans. The week was devoted to the follow-up of the UN Water Conference in New York.

Emilie Sturm (right) at the Wavemakers panel, together with Henk Ovink (left) and Meike van Ginneken (next to Henk Ovink)

Kroon is a board member of the Association of Dutch Water Authorities and responsible for the international portfolio. She is also president of the Blue Deal. Sturm is programme manager of the Blue Deal. The Blue Deal is the joint international programme of the 21 Dutch water authorities.

Why did you participate in World Water Week?

Sturm: “The week in Stockholm was all about the follow-up to the Water Action Agenda that was adopted during the UN Water Conference. What is the status of the commitments that were made? In the run-up to the UN Water Conference, we as Blue Deal were the first to make a commitment to the Action Agenda, namely doubling the money and commitment to the Blue Deal.”

“So we were also in Stockholm to show what we have done in the past 8 months since our commitment. Luzette Kroon talked about this in a panel during the session ‘UN 2023 Water Conference: From voluntary commitments to impact’. She explained, among other things, how we have focused even more on learning from each other within the Blue Deal. As partner countries among each other, but also how the Netherlands can learn from our partner countries. We facilitated this learning, for example, by organising a major Blue Deal Congress in Amsterdam in June. 14 partner countries were present. We have also focused more on learning from each other via Communities of Practice on various themes.”

In New York, the Blue Deal wanted to draw attention to the importance of investments in operations and maintenance. Did you also pay attention to that in Stockholm?

Sturm: “We organised a first session about this in New York to discuss this with financiers. This led, among other things, to an exploration with the Islamic Development Bank. We have now reached the point where we intend to cooperate, in which the Islamic Development Bank wants to invest in a pilot in 2 of our partner countries: Burkina Faso and the Palestinian Territories. We discussed this further one-on-one in Stockholm.”

Did you have any other goals in Stockholm?

Sturm: “We met the new Dutch water envoy, Meike van Ginneken. She is the successor of Henk Ovink. I participated in the Wavemakers panel. This was about how you can give young people a bigger role in solving water problems. Van Ginneken then announced the Gamechangers Challenge, which will be launched next year during the Olympic Games in Paris. This will be a challenge that in which young people are asked to come up with solutions for problems on important water themes. I have promised that we will make a prize available, whereby the winner can do a feasibility study to see whether we can really apply the solution in the practice of one of our partnerships.”

How do you look back at the World Water Week?

“Personally, I’m not really a fan of congresses at all, but I noticed that it really helps our programme further. This congress creates momentum for the water sector to follow up on the agreements made during the UN congress.”

“And I was very inspired. Especially from what we can learn from indigenous peoples, which was discussed in a number of sessions. As water authorities, we have been working on nature-based solutions for a long time, also within the Blue Deal. Indigenous people know much more about this than we do, their way of life is to live with nature. Yet they are often overlooked in water management, even though they may hold the key to success.”

Bears on the road in Romania

Luzette Kroon, president of the Blue Deal, and Josette Van Wersch, member of the executive board of the Dutch water authority of Limburg, visited the Blue Deal partnership in Romania at the end of July.

There, after a visit to the largest hydroelectric power plant in Europe in Vidraru, Romania, they were surprised by a number of bears on the road (mountain route Transfagaran in the Carpathians). This was literally close! In Dutch, the saying ‘bears on the road’ means foreseeing a number of problems along the way. Of course, we don’t want to see these ‘bears’ during our Blue Deal cooperation.

Blue Deal and collaboration

Kroon: “The extreme heat in Bucharest has put our conversations about climate change in a special light. Floods, drought and a lack of clean water demand cooperation. That is not always self-evident in a country that emerged from a dictatorship not so long ago. It is good to see that steps are now being taken in the right direction. The Blue Deal initiates cooperation between all levels and regions.”


In Romania, a large part of the energy supply is covered by hydroelectric power plants. The Vidraru Dam, which was visited, has a capacity of 220 MW. The dam is 166 meters high, the arc length is 305 meters and it can store 465 million cubic meters of water. The mechanical parts of the dam are due for maintenance, but it has not been possible to find a party through a European tender that is able or willing to carry out this maintenance.

Generating energy with hydropower and meeting the water needs from the reservoirs are at odds during periods of drought. The use of a decision support system (Decision Support System) as an aid to better substantiate the choices to be made is therefore necessary. The Dutch water authorities have experience with this. In Arges-Vedea, the regional office of Apele Romane (Ministry of Water Romania) explained the water system and the applicable procedures for water management.

Better connections

The remainder of the short work visit also went well. Knowledge was shared about the current projects (Tackling Drought, Tackling Floods, Decision Support System and Economic mechanism). All these projects have a relationship with each other, which is why it was essential to have representatives from the different projects and regions together. The working visit contributed to a better connection between the various parties and the various projects.

Green Drop Improvement Plans for a better water quality in the Blue Deal Crocodile River project

The Blue Deal partnership in South Africa achieved a significant milestone in the Crocodile River project: the partner municipalities of Mbombela, Emakhazeni and Nkomazi each successfully developed and submitted their Green Drop Improvement Plans.

The Blue Deal Crocodile River project in Mpumalanga, South Africa, works on improving the water quality and sustainability of the Crocodile River. Perhaps the single most important objective of the partnership is to ensure that all participating waste water treatment plants attain the prestigious Green Drop status.

That the partner municipalities have now been able to submit their plans, is the result of the successful collaboration between the South African and Dutch partner teams who, through their joint efforts and ‘buddying’ peer-based learning approach, achieved this notable milestone on the journey towards Green Drop status.

Optimising the operation

The Green Drop Improvement Plans focus on crucial aspects of optimizing the performance of the waste water treatment plants. For example, the development of asset registers and strategies to improve the municipalities’ Green Drop score. By prioritizing these plans, the municipalities aim to secure the esteemed Green Drop certification, a mark of excellence in waste water management.

To attain the prestigious Green Drop Certification, waste water systems must achieve scores equal to or exceeding 90%, with different performance areas carrying a unique weighting based on regulatory priorities. The certification holds great significance as it recognizes the municipalities’ dedication to optimizing the operation of waste water treatment plants and ensuring the highest standards of treated waste water discharge.

First step

Drawing up these plans is the first step in the process of working towards a Green Drop Certificate. The Blue Deal project aims for all 6 participating waste water treatment plants to have obtained a Green Drop Certificate by 2030. However, in September of this year, the waste water treatment plants will be tested again by the Department of Water & Sanitation. We hope to see a concrete improvement in the scores by then. After all, concrete things have already been improved in the run-up and during the writing of the plans, such as the renewal of a number of assets. The next test moment is in 2026, when we expect that a number of waste water treatment plants will have already obtained the Green Drop Certificate by then.

What makes drawing up these plans special is that we have succeeded in drawing up these plans in a collaboration between 3 municipalities, MISA (regional organisation) and COGTA (ministry) and the Department of Water & Sanitation. This is unique to South Africa and may be a model that can be applied elsewhere.

Towards a harmonious environment

A vital beneficiary of improved water quality is the majestic Crocodile River. The river’s health is essential for sustaining important economic drivers of the region (including the abundant wildlife and tourism, as well as both export and local agriculture), meeting the needs of local communities, religious ceremonies and safe drinking water. By striving to enhance the quality of the Crocodile River, the participating organisations are actively working towards creating a more uplifting, sustainable, and harmonious environment for all.

Blue Deal now official part of Dutch-Indonesian cooperation

In July, a Blue Deal team visited Indonesia. Toon van der Klugt, head ('dijkgraaf') of the Dutch water authority of Schieland and Krimpenerwaard, was there and signed the cooperation agreement for the Blue Deal Indonesia together with the Dutch embassy. This makes the Blue Deal an official part of the Dutch-Indonesian cooperation in the field of water.

The delegation visited various places on the island of Java. Van der Klugt went to the Dutch Embassy in Jakarta. There he sensed the enthusiasm of the diplomatic staff and the Dutch Delegated Representative for bilateral cooperation in the field of water. At the Indonesian Ministry of Public Works and Housing (PUPR) in Jakarta, he signed the cooperation agreement for the Blue Deal Indonesia, together with the deputy Dutch ambassador and the secretary-general of the Ministry. This makes the Blue Deal an official part of the Dutch-Indonesian cooperation in the field of water.

In addition, Van der Klugt and the Blue Deal team visited the locations of the 3 projects that fall under the Blue Deal: in Tangerang (just west of Jakarta), Pekalongan and Semarang (both in Central Java). The local administrators, employees and members of the project teams from Indonesia and the Netherlands were there. In Semarang, a city with over 1.6 million inhabitants, the mayor received the Dutch delegation so that he could attend the kick-off of the partnership as a special guest.

The project teams are now busy working out the plans. New work visits are planned for November.

Work visit to Theewaterskloof project in South Africa

'Nothing About Us Without Us'. A slogan that exactly expresses what the Blue Deal Theewaterskloof project in South Africa is doing: meaningful participation by all partners, especially with the local community as guiding project members. Since only an engaged community leads to sustainable change.

The ultimate goal of the Theewaterskloof project is to address the diffuse pollution threat emanating from rapidly growing informal settlements. We do this by improving sanitation and decreasing solid waste pollution. The project is rolled out in the towns of Grabouw and Villiersdorp in the Theewaterskloof Municipality, Western Cape.

The highly anticipated Blue Deal Theewaterskloof work visit took place from July 9 – 21. It included a team building session with all the parties involved. A clear way forward was discussed and steps to enable action plans with the project teams were made.

Nelson Mandela Day

July 18 marked a special day: Nelson Mandela Day. The worldwide Mandela Day Campaign message encourages people to use 67 minutes of their time to support a chosen charity or serve in their local community. The 67 minutes symbolically represent the number of years the former President fought for human rights and the abolition of Apartheid. The Blue Deal project team joined forces with local communities in Villiersdorp and Grabouw and took this opportunity to make a difference, which included a river clean-up, painting of a day care centre and fixing the sanitation facilities there.

Signing the Memorandum of Understanding

This was followed by the signing of the Blue Deal Theewaterskloof local Memorandum of Understanding by the core partners. These were Dutch Water Authorities, Theewaterskloof Local Municipality, Department of Water & Sanitation: Western Cape, and the Breede-Olifants Catchment Management Agency. In doing so, the partners expressed their support and commitment. Indeed an important moment for the project, led by a local pastor’s prayer, celebrated with singing and dancing.

Romania: training video on Nature-based Solutions

On May 23, the water consultancy company HKV and the Dutch water authority of Limburg provided a Nature-based Solutions training course for a delegation of colleagues from the Blue Deal partnership in Romania. Now they made a video of this training.

Busy InspirAgua summer

Slowly working towards the summer, for many people this applies in the months of June and July. But this was definitely not the case for the Blue Deal programme in Colombia, called InspirAgua. 2 work visits took place in June and July, 1 in the Netherlands and 1 in Colombia.

In June, 8 Colombian colleagues joined the first Blue Deal congress in Amsterdam to participate in workshops and field visits, together with Blue Deal colleagues from all over the world. After 3 days of congress the work visit continued with various activities. The Colombians visited a waste water treatment in Zutphen, came to see the challenges we face within the peat meadow areas, talked about ‘adaptive pathways’ and saw examples of the ‘Ruimte voor de Rivier’-project (‘Room for the River’), in which there is more space for water in rivers to avoid flooding and other water related problems.

In July, 13 Dutch InspirAgueros went to Colombia to continue working on the different topics within the InspirAgua programme. Along the Río Magdalena we worked on Nature Based Solutions and a stakeholder network to improve the cooperation of all the parties involved, in order to protect the river and the people. In the northeast we continued working on participatory monitoring and how to actually apply the useful data you gather. The focus in the south was partly on making use of data, but also involved the further development of an action plan for waste water treatment.

Overall, InspirAgua had a productive summer in which we not only worked together on the work that has to be done, but we also managed to strengthen the relationships between our partners and colleagues.