Water, a climate adaptation priority

Economic growth, rising populations, climate change and other human-induced factors are placing immense pressure on the availability of water for multiple uses.

To effectively deliver water security for all, elements that have an impact on the water cycle cannot be addressed in isolation.

Water to cultivate the land

SNV is committed to developing and strengthening partnerships and capacity across several key elements, ensuring that sustainability, inclusivity, and equity inform the further development of WASH, irrigation, water resource management, and the urban water cycle.

Why is water reform a climate adaptation priority?

Climate change affects the water cycle. Increasingly, we’re ending up with too much or too little water. This has implications for how we use and share water, where we invest, and who carries the financial burden. Pollution and waste limit the potential for using water, entailing additional costs and making climate-induced disasters more life-threatening. With 2.3 billion people already living in water-stressed countries, prioritising water security for all is more urgent than ever.

Why is water management an equity issue?

The ways people have historically found to manage, share and use water are increasingly under pressure. Water demand is eight times higher than it was 100 years ago, this is due to economic growth, higher service levels, and rising populations. At the same time, its availability is affected by climate change and other human-induced factors. Water management systems have been slow to adapt, with many countries locked into existing infrastructure investment (water, housing, roads), legislation, licencing, and management practices. There is little space and often insufficient political will to adjust these. In the face of water problems and failing institutions, better-off individuals and groups will find ways to cope and safeguard their interests. They'll do so without necessarily considering the needs of others, the collective's, or the preservation of this resource. As such, reforming and adapting water management is indeed an equity issue, that is: between people, between current and future generations, and between humans and the environment.

How can we contribute to water security for all?

Fresh water is essential to sustain life, development, and the environment. Moreover, it touches directly upon three human rights:

  • the right to water,

  • the right to sanitation, and

  • the right to a clean and healthy environment.

Governments are the duty-bearers behind realising these rights, but this doesn’t mean they must work alone. Water governance systems should interlink governments, private sector, and civil society in ways that enable responsible and equitable use, with the required checks and balances.

SNV has a track record in facilitating structural change at different levels (national, sub-national, local), bringing together relevant stakeholders, and creating the conditions in which innovations can scale. Our work is evidence-based and always includes learning among peers in and across countries. SNV’s four framework approaches in water are built collaboratively and reflect our experience in many countries. 

Photo: Photo submission during the SNV/HOV photo competition during World Water Day 2021. Credit: MD Shafiul.
For more information, contact: Antoinette Kome, Global Sector Head for Water by email

More on water reform

Rethinking, reforming, and strengthening water governance is urgent. Already, two billion people experience high water stress, and a further four billion suffer from severe water scarcity for at least one month every year. At SNV we believe that societies must adapt to our new realities in holistic, inclusive, and equitable ways.