Irrigation (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo by Kay Ledbetter)


Launched at last year’s World Water Week, the SEI-UNEP book Sanitation, Wastewater Management and Sustainability made the case that while current approaches to sanitation and wastewater management risk blocking – and even reversing – progress on other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), new approaches centring on resource management could become a potent catalyst for much broader sustainable development.

As Stockholm World Water Week 2017 turns the spotlight on productive reuse of wastewater, SEI’s engagement in the annual WASH sector jamboree touches on some of the critical interactions with water and sanitation across the 2030 Agenda and the 17 SDGs.

Poverty, hunger and health

There are clear correlations – and intimate causal relationships – between poverty (the focus of SDG 1) and access to clean water, healthy ecosystems and decent sanitation. For example, recycling water and organic waste for agriculture not only increases the chances of ending hunger (SDG 2) by supporting food production, but can also provide an economic and health boost to some of the poorest farmers.

On Sunday afternoon at World Water Week 2017, SEI Executive Director Johan Kuylenstierna moderates the annual Malin Falkenmark Symposium. This year’s symposium will look at how to translate last year’s landmark Call for an African Water Revolution in order to achieve SDG 2 into workable, scaled solutions, with policy and budget support.

Kuylenstierna will also be on a panel discussing links between water and SDG 5 on eliminating gender inequalities. Gender and water: framing the relationship takes place on Tuesday afternoon. Read more about SEI’s new Gender and Social Equity programme.

One of the hottest topics on this year’s agenda – antimicrobial resistance – links wastewater management with food production and health (SDG 3), underlining the need for coordinated action. The Swedish International Agricultural Network Initiative (SIANI) has been a leader in this area, and is co-organizer of an exciting session on Monday afternoon: Antimicrobial resistance putting sustainable development at risk: Drivers, impacts, solutions. Sweden’s Crown Princess Victoria will attend and Environment Minister Karolina Skog will give opening remarks.

Reuse in practice

So how do we achieve the SDG 6 targets of universal sanitation, improved wastewater management and reuse, and surface water quality? On Tuesday, SEI has co-organized three linked sessions look at Harnessing opportunities for safe reuse of wastewater in agriculture: the first on the theme “Global to local, the second introducing some experiences from the ground (chaired by Louise Karlberg, with reflections by Sarah Dickin) and the third a field visit to a wastewater recycling initiative in Södertälje municipality.

Dealing with the sanitation nexus – the need for disruption, on Wednesday morning, will look at the institutional, financial, technological, financial and cultural challenges involved, and how they can be overcome. Madeline Fogde will take part in the panel discussion.

One such cultural challenge to reuse has manifested itself in religious taboos. Madeleine Fogde will also be on the panel for a session looking more closely at these questions. Religious jurisprudence related to reuse of water takes place on Monday afternoon.

Another SIANI-coorganized session looks at another use of recycled wastewater that has potential to improve forest environments (Goals 6 and 15) while achieving safe wastewater treatment. Irrigating forests with wastewater: natural and effective water treatment? takes place on Sunday afternoon.

Safe wastewater management and reuse depend on coordination between several sectors and goal areas, notably water, agriculture, food safety, environment, energy and public health. One of the first sessions of this year’s World Water Week, on Sunday morning, looks at the institutional challenges this poses: Balancing competing interests and opportunities for better wastewater governance.

Finally, Linus Dagerskog and Sarah Dickin will be at the SEI booth (see map) during the week to take your questions on Clean and Green, a new implementation framework for rural sanitation that encourages parallel progress on sanitation and hygiene with better waste resource management and reuse.

Water, energy and climate

SDG 7 on energy access is another goal area that could either gain or suffer from interactions with water and sanitation. On Thursday morning, Louise Karlberg will speak about SEI’s experiences in the session Bioenergy, water and SDG implementation: experiences and linkages. Kim Andersson will also be on hand at the SEI booth during the week to answer your questions about REVAMP, a tool that calculates reuse potentials and values in city waste streams, including for energy.

Turning to climate, the NDC Explorer tool launched in January this year provides the data for NDC Explorer: Water in 163 climate plans and selected cases, a session on Thursday afternoon exploring the role of water in countries’ climate action plans under the Paris Agreement, and how to manage interlinkages between SDG 13 (climate) and SDG 6 (water and sanitation). Holger Hoff will present on-the-ground experiences from Morocco.

Freudian slip?

More interesting sessions include, first, a follow-on to last year’s innovative session Sigmund Freud: The missing link in water and sanitation? This year the action moves from the couch to the coffee machine, as participants delve into organizational psychology. Scaling wastewater services: reconciling change and organizational health takes place on Wednesday afternoon.

Finally, Thursday afternoon sees the launch of the Sustainable Water Partnership, a five-year programme to help USAID missions in developing programming related to water management and water security. SEI is part of a consortium led by Winrock International that will be supporting implementation.