THE UNITED Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is seeking to broaden sustainable access to freshwater with the offer of a new training resource focused on water harvesting.
This comes against the background of the need to bolster public health capabilities and fast-track resilience building, given the double threat of COVID-19 and climate change.
“The Cartagena Convention Secretariat of the UNEP has developed a digital guide to water harvesting for non-experts in the Wider Caribbean,” notes a 2020 UNEP blog post on the subject.
The tool was developed as part of the Joint UN Human Security programme ‘Strengthening human resilience in Northern Clarendon and West Kingston’, which is “the first initiative of its kind in Jamaica to mainstream the human security approach among multiple United Nations agencies working in the country”, according to the UNEP report.
Pandemic Spikes Global Demand
The demand for clean water has been amplified by the global pandemic that has so far infected more than 90 million people and killed more than 1.9 million. In the context of the pandemic, access means the difference between being able to wash hands and clean one’s surroundings to prevent infection, and infection and likely death.
At the same time, with sea level rise as one feature of the changing climate, for example, there exists the risk of seawater intrusion into freshwater stores, thereby putting freshwater security in jeopardy. There is also the threat of extreme weather events, including extreme drought, which sections of the Caribbean have experienced over recent years.
“As the effects of climate change continue to increase, the Caribbean faces more frequent and intense weather events, such as droughts, hurricanes and floods, which create more inconsistency in the availability of water. Piped water supply only reaches approximately 70 per cent of Jamaicans living in Utility Service Areas,” the report said.
“With average annual rainfall expected to decrease in the region between 30 and 50% in the coming years, and the demand for freshwater predicted to increase steadily, water supply is particularly at risk for island states in the Caribbean. In order to secure a relatively constant water supply and improve resilience to extreme shocks, it has become critical to implement small-scale water management solutions, which can be maintained by communities,” the report notes.
It is against this background that the Cartagena Convention Secretariat UNEP developed the digital guide to water harvesting for non-experts in the Wider Caribbean.
First Initiative of its Kind
Hello Water was developed as part of the Joint UN Human Security programme ‘Strengthening Human Resilience in Northern Clarendon and West Kingston’, which is reportedly the first initiative of its kind in Jamaica to mainstream the human security approach among multiple United Nations agencies working in the country.
The Cartagena Convention Secretariat’s intervention under this project is focused on improving water security for urban and rural communities, and particularly among vulnerable groups, including persons with disabilities. It has dedicated modules targeting homeowners, farmers and school staff, each with their own needs and specificities, as well as agencies implementing similar projects.
The objective, among other things, is to show non-experts how water storage and rainwater harvesting can improve water security, food security, and hygiene, using short modules and case studies to enable better decision-making.