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Valuing Water stories: SHARING EXPERIENCES FROM WATER CHANGEMAKERS ACROSS THE GLOBE

What does water mean to you? Each of us has different environmental, social, and cultural values that we place on water. The theme for World Water Day in 2021 is ‘Valuing Water’ and it calls on people from around the world to share their stories. #Water2me #ValueWater

Valuing Water

The Valuing Water Initiative (VWI) was launched in 2019 as an outcome of the United Nations and World Bank High-Level Panel on Water. It put forth five Valuing Water Principles that seek to bring systemic change in the way water is valued in decision-making, to ensure a sustainable water-secure world.

5 principles of Valuing Water

To celebrate World Water Day and show what the Valuing Water principles mean in practice across the world, we have invited some of our Water ChangeMakers to share their stories about the way they have made smart decisions that reflect the multiple values of water – from the mountains of Peru, to the plains of Tanzania. We are also including commentary from the Valuing Water Initiative and GWP’s Technical Committee who offer their thoughts on how each ChangeMaker story demonstrates the principles of valuing water.

Principle 1: Recognise and embrace water’s multiple values to different groups and interests in all decisions affecting water

Hear from Water ChangeMakers across the world...

Watersheds and cities: social participation to improve the health of ecosystems and water provision

Our project has helped to facilitate dialogue between government, civil society organisations (CSOs), and the private sector to negotiate fair agreements as well as co-responsible and sustainable solutions to address water and development issues.

We now work with a more comprehensive approach – the 'hydro-social' water cycle – that allows us to understand the interrelationships between people, use of natural resources, and ecosystem integrity.

Find out more about their change journey and what valuing water means to them!

Indigenous communities leading water resilience in the Andes

In the past, indigenous communities in Peru have not been consulted on what could be done with River Basins where they live.

This was the first time that a public consultation for water has taken place. Our work has contributed to having indigenous peoples’ values and visions towards water recognised by authorities in planning processes for land and water conservation in the Peruvian Andes.

Find out more about their change journey and what valuing water means to them!

Sustainable river management in Southern Guatemala

The establishment of a hydrological information management system has enhanced communication between riparian communities. It has allowed us to share community practices on dealing with floods.

The sustainable management of the rivers of southern Guatemala has reduced the high level of conflict around water in the region.

Find out more about their change journey and what valuing water means to them!

Commentary: connecting the Water ChangeMaker stories to principle 1

“In Guatemala, ChangeMakers created space for dialogue around a common set of challenges and shared data and this changed the dynamics. It catalysed collective action, and created opportunities to maintain water flows, secure investments, and protect livelihoods.”

– Maarten Gishler, Policy Adviser to the Valuing Water Initiative

Principle 2: Reconcile values and build trust – conduct all processes to reconcile values in ways that are equitable, transparent, and inclusive

Hear from Water ChangeMakers across the world...

Water Producer Project in the Pipiripau watershed: building resilience in a water-conflict area in Brazil

We used participatory water allocation processes, based on a payment for ecosystem approach, for resolving water conflicts between farmers and municipal water supply organisations.

Our project has brought farmers closer to environmental and water management organisations, significantly minimising conflicts.

Find out more about their change journey and what valuing water means to them!

Water for the future: supporting California farmers to replenish groundwater for drought, flood, and climate resilience

Our California-based initiative has established a Groundwater Leadership Forum (GLF) as a neutral platform for agriculturalists, environmental activists, and communities to understand each other’s perspectives and needs regarding groundwater management.

We are working with the GLF community and environmental groups to ensure that groundwater recharge is implemented in ways that protect water quality.

Find out more about their change journey and what valuing water means to them!

Uhakika wa Maji! Citizen-action, accountability monitoring and advocacy for water and climate security in Africa

Our initiative documented the perspectives of farmers, water user associations, and pastoralists – and brought to the public eye the need for accountable and resilient water governance transformation in Tanzania.

We aim to send a clear message that water has infinite value to us all and must therefore receive the highest political priority.

Find out more about their change journey and what valuing water means to them!

Commentary: connecting the Water ChangeMaker stories to principle 2

“The ChangeMaker initiative in Tanzania brings parties together to explore shared values, identify solutions that align with those values, and then promote these solutions through community action and advocacy.”

– Maarten Gishler, Policy Adviser to the Valuing Water Initiative

Principle 3: Protect the sources, including watersheds, rivers, aquifers, associated ecosystems, and used water flows for current and future generations

Hear from Water ChangeMakers across the world...

Atlantic Forest Experimental Center

The Atlantic Forest is one of the richest areas in terms of biodiversity in the world. However, because it is located in the coastal area of Brazil, where more than 70% of the population lives, this type of forest has been under great pressure from human activity.

Though a combination of green and grey infrastructure, our project has significantly reduced runoff, erosion and silting which has translated into increasing the biodiversity in the forest.

Find out more about their change journey and what valuing water means to them!

The Tungurahua Moorland and Poverty Reduction Fund, driven by the indigenous and rural vision of Tungurahua

Water has an incalculable value in the life of our indigenous communities – historic, spiritual, and for health – therefore, the value of water is as great as the value of life itself. For a long time, this point of view has not been taken into account by local authorities.

The Tungurahua Moorland and Poverty Reduction Fund was set up by local indigenous farmers to advocate and invest in water solutions that satisfy the needs of communities and farmers without jeopardising the sustainability of the water sources.

Find out more about their change journey and what valuing water means to them!

Commentary: connecting the Water ChangeMaker stories to principle 3

“One of the things that has been done in Ecuador as part of the ChangeMaker initiative is to promote alternative, sustainable livelihoods that are in harmony with the ecosystem and also with the cultural identity of the indigenous people.”

– Professor Adrian Cashman, GWP Technical Committee Member

Principle 4: Educate to empower - promote education and awareness among all stakeholders about the intrinsic value of water and its essential role in all aspects of life

Hear from Water ChangeMakers across the world...

Global Network of Water Museums: A "flagship initiative" of UNESCO's Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme

WAMU-NET aims to encourage (water) museums to represent different water cultures and integrate water values inclusively, influencing future change by bridging past and present “liquid heritage” within the UN SDG implementation context.

Our mission is to promote the transmission to future generations of both natural and cultural water heritage and the values associated with this.

Find out more about their change journey and what valuing water means to them!

The Masungi Georeserve story: restoring forgotten watersheds through youth-led movements

Disadvantaged communities in the upland regions, including indigenous communities, rarely have accurate information and education about water quality and ecosystem integrity. This prevents them from actively participating in water issues and taking action to secure it.

We used community-based education to make people more aware of the socio-cultural and ecological values of water and an intact forest.

Find out more about their change journey and what valuing water means to them!

Sudanese youth driven by passion and knowledge to alter water supply and sanitation situations in Sudan

Women are among the most neglected in decision-making in Sudanese communities. However, they are the ones most affected by water and sanitation challenges.

We conducted workshops and focus group discussions to capture and mobilise women’s voices on issues and potential solutions related to water and sanitation services in Sudan.

Find out more about their change journey and what valuing water means to them!

Commentary: connecting the Water ChangeMaker stories to principle 4

“Education and awareness raising about water – its uses and intrinsic value – can empower people on many different levels. Our ChangeMaker stories support this through examples that operate at the international, national, and local level.”

– Dr Barbara Janusz-Pawletta, GWP Technical Committee Member

Principle 5: Invest and innovate – ensure adequate investments in institutions, infrastructure, information, and innovation to realise the many benefits derived from water and reduce risks

Hear from Water ChangeMakers across the world...

Water and hydro-energy are driving self-sustainable development in the Sarayoj indigenous community

Our project resulted in the Sarayoj indigenous community installing a hydro-powered facility which has turned water into a guaranteed autonomous, sustainable, resilient, and unlimited source of well-being.

The community now has a secure, permanent water system, and the energy can be used to pump water, use sprinkler systems, and (in the future) drip irrigation systems.

Find out more about their change journey and what valuing water means to them!

Green River: community-led ecosystems and livelihood regeneration in Gundar River Basin, Tamil Nadu, India

This monsoon-dependant region is one the most drought-stricken places on the planet.

Our initiative has led to communities in the Gundar River Basin implementing local biodiversity conservation and disaster-resilient action plans to revitalise ecosystems and build strong social capital.

Find out more about their change journey and what valuing water means to them!

Commentary: connecting the Water ChangeMaker stories to principle 5

“The use of water in the Saroyoj community for power generation has increased incomes and other outcomes, allowing them to invest in innovations – making the community more self-sufficient.”

– Dr Barbara Janusz-Pawletta, GWP Technical Committee Member

Bringing it together: lessons we have learned from the Water ChangeMaker stories

Taking into consideration water’s cultural, social, economic, spiritual, and political values is an important part of successful integrated water resource management. We have seen from the stories shared by our ChangeMakers how valuing water can lead to multi-layered benefits for individuals, communities, and society in general.

“Protecting sources and improving water management results in social benefits, education, better health outcomes, and empowering economic opportunities.”

– Dr Barbara Janusz-Pawletta, GWP Technical Committee Member