InspirAgua and Wetskills: a win-win

From May 27 to June 7, Wetskills Water Challenge took place in Cartagena, Colombia. Colombian partners of the Blue Deal programme InspirAgua provided 2 interesting cases that young water professionals worked 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. So it’s a win-win!”

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, Wetskills are held in a number of countries across the continents. 3 candidates from Dutch Water Authorities and 3 candidates from the Colombian Corporaciones Autónomas Regionales (CARs), among others, got to work on the issues.

Water availability and water as a engine for socio-economic growth

The CARs Cdmb and Cundinamarca provided 2 of the 3 cases on behalf of InspirAgua. One case was about the unpredictable droughts in the Tona River: How can we create flexible water availability there? The other case was about the Río Frío microbasin: How can we use water sustainably as an engine for socio-economic growth?

2 countries, similar challenges

Margriet and Menno, participants of Wetskills: “Wetskills was an unforgettable experience for us. We learned a lot about water management in Cartagena and Colombia in general and the consequences of climate change on the water sector. Although at first glance the differences seem large between the Netherlands and Colombia, we have discovered that we encounter the same problems in both countries, large and small. The problems just manifest themselves slightly differently. This, in combination with working in multicultural teams, has made us look at our daily work at home with different eyes and new appreciation.”

They continue: “The theme of our case was ‘How to address the growing demand for water in the Tona River micro basin, with increasing drought periods due to climate change and variability?’ We came up with 3 solutions: 1) implementing an automated monitoring system, 2) nature-based solutions to store more water in the system, and 3) monitoring groundwater supplies. To become close with a group in a new environment in such a short time is very special, and we are grateful to have been a part of it.”

Different approaches

Daniel, another participant: “Wetskills enables meeting and collaboration between young Colombians from different regions and the Netherlands, with water as a common theme. A rich experience. During this meeting we had the opportunity to meet different people and cultures, exchange new experiences, and learn about different views on the use and management of water resources. In developing the cases, we learned new concepts related to water, as well as different approaches to the problems related to water in different contexts and territories. In my personal case, I learned about the concept of water footprint, the different types of water footprint that exist, the global need to be aware of the water footprint caused by different activities, and the different measures that can be taken to mitigate the water footprint.”

The results were presented on June 7 at the Acodal international conference Water, Sanitation, Environment and Renewable Energy in Cartagena.