Understanding the linkages between Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM)

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Reflecting on 2017 and the implementation of the Watershed Empowering Citizens Programme by Wetlands International Uganda and Joint Effort to Save the Environment (JESE).

Achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) will require closer links between water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and integrated water resources management (IWRM), as they depend on each other. To ensure a sustainable supply of good water quality drinking water for all, water sources should be properly managed.

Wetlands International Uganda and JESE are partners under the Watershed programme and now explore WASH/IWRM linkages through a reflective look at the 2017 activities and discussion.

Where It All Started

In 2016, a context analysis report was launched, informing the discussion and decision-making processes of the scope and geographical location of the Watershed programme in Uganda. It provided a better understanding of the environment in which the Watershed partners would be working through a factor and stakeholder analysis exercise. The factor analysis made an inventory of the existing data for civil society organisations (CSOs) to provide a strong basis for lobby and advocacy (L&A) on WASH and IWRM.

Discussions at context-analysis-level and a lot of initial planning revealed the importance of the linkages between WASH and IWRM. During the planning meetings with several partners, it became evident that:

  1. There is a general acceptance of the inherent interconnectedness of WASH and IWRM at a conceptual and pragmatic level
  2. There is a need for further dialogue between stakeholders such that any variances or similarities in understanding are channelled towards a refined description of the linkages
  3. Stakeholders, particularly government and CSOs, need further support in collating and documenting efforts which align with or towards linking WASH and IWRM to form an evidence base for L&A

Wetlands International (WI) in partnership with JESE undertook the task of facilitating the capacity building of civil society and government capacity building with a distinct aim. In order to achieve sustainable WASH/IWRM services by 2030, improved governance of the WASH and IWRM sectors must be responsive to the interest of marginalised groups.

WI and JESE organised multiple sessions aimed at bringing water users and stakeholders — central and local governments, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and networks — in dialogue around their experience in good water resource management and WASH service delivery, emphasing the role of ecosystems in safeguarding the availability of raw water and cleansing used water.

What was achieved in 2017

WASH/IWRM Dialogue Session

This workshop allowed participants to present their experiences in WASH service delivery and water resources management and in so doing, present the linkages, identify further opportunities for integration and determine the challenges and strategies to stimulate action for WASH/IWRM integration.

The workshop held by Wetlands International addressed a number of issues that needed immediate action for integration to happen. These included:

  • The need to harmonize approaches and strategies between implementing partners and stakeholders
  • Establish a structure for coordination at district level
  • Involve key stakeholders like cultural leaders, opinion leaders and religious leaders
  • The need to decentralize participation in catchment to much lower levels since catchment management has been tagged at higher levels missing out on low-level issues underlying the integration
  • Put in place a monitoring and evaluation mechanism to measure progress or impact of integration efforts.

The workshop participants included; Watershed partners, selected CSOs and Community-Based Organisations, district technical personnel (water officers, natural resources officers, health officers, environment officers) and Ministry of Water and Environment,  Albert Water Management Zone officials.

UWASNET WASH/IWRM Working Group Meeting

During this working group meeting, a set of revised terms of reference (TOR) were  shared with UWASNET secretariat for further review and approval. Participants also identified gaps that needed to be bridged within the TOR. The participatory process helped the working group members understand who they are and redefined their objectives to suit the current sector demands – including the need to advocate for integration of WASH/IWRM.

Representatives of CSOs that form the UWASNET IWRM working group attended the meeting. The IWRM working group is a coalition of CSOs engaged in WASH and water resources management and is utilised as a platform for joint lobby and advocacy. The WI and JESE aimed at building their capacity in WASH/IWRM integration and strengthening this working group by facilitating the review the TOR.

CSO Mapping, Capacity Assessment and Development of Capacity Enhancement Plans

The process involved the selection of 13 CSOs. This mapping process primarily targeted CSOs that are engaged in WASH/IWRM, mainly in Mpanga and Semuliki catchment in the Rwenzori region. Furthermore, an assessment was carried out to establish their capacity gaps and develop capacity enhancement plans. This was to prepare them to lobby and advocate for WASH/IWRM integration within their areas of jurisdiction and to generate evidence to influence policy at all levels. It is anticipated that with this force of actors in the Mpanga and Semuliki catchment area will generate enough evidence to influence policy at the micro and the macro levels for integration of WASH/IWRM.

Engagement of Private Sector

Efforts are underway to generate an inventory of the private sector companies, whose activities such as mining, hydropower generation etc. are significantly affecting the water resources in Mpanga and Semuliki catchments. The private sector should be effectively engaged in improving provision and sustainability of WASH services and practices.

The process of the inventory creation is aimed at generating knowledge on the private sector companies and what their impact on water resources is. The mapping processes identified ownership, the relevant activities undertaken by companies and their impact and interest towards WASH and IWRM.

Twenty-five private sector companies have been selected as a result and efforts are underway to further engage and create possible collaborations in the future.

Lesson Learned

  • Dialogue aimed at sustainable WASH requires combined effort beyond government and CSOs. It must involve actors, at different levels of the community, private sector, research and academic institutions and media.
  • There is need for effort to contextualise the WASH and Water Security linkage guide developed by Wetlands International Uganda. This report is a significant step towards enhancing the understanding of integration of WASH with water resources management, while using it as a guide in lobby and advocacy for integration.
  • There is need for harmonised approaches and strategies from donor and government levels to the lowest level WASH and IWRM providers and users.
  • Documentation, reporting, knowledge sharing and learning are key components to achieving integration.
  • Capacity building is an ongoing process requiring continuous reappraisal of capacity needs against emerging issues/demands.

Way Forward

2017 has been a successful year that has brought out issues that would otherwise not have been identified. This reflection of 2017, gives us an opportunity to refocus and plan for 2018 based on the experiences and lessons learned. This forms a basis for rethinking issues around integration of WASH and IWRM.

Article by Jude Twesige and Lorna Kobusingye

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