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Monday 15 January 13:53

Access to water is vital to life on earth

News: Jan 27, 2022

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 is all about ensuring “availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” until 2030.

Global Sustainable Futures’ thematic network “Water” has been created to gather the many researchers and staff at University of Gothenburg and Chalmers who are working with water in a wide range of contexts.

On 24 January, the first webinar of the year was arranged, discussing water – primarily drinking water – from both technological and social points of view, using examples from southern Africa.

Andreas Lindhe, assistant professor at Chalmers, has been working in Botswana with water security. By injecting surplus water into aquifers, underground spaces that can store water, a reserve is created to be used when the water in dams is not sufficient to meet the demand. In Botswana, water is transported in pipelines, particularly to Gaborone, the capital, where demand is high.

“This is a technique used around the world”, Andreas Lindhe explained and added that the one of the research questions was if it would be useful in Botswana.

The technique, called Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR), works well and contributes to water security, but as Andreas Lindhe put it: “Including MAR doesn’t mean there aren’t other issues to deal with”.

Sofie Hellberg and Andreas LindheSofie Hellberg, associate professor at the School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg and Andreas Lindhe, assistant professor at Chalmers.

Not on track for SDG 6

Sofie Hellberg, associate professor at the School of Global Studies at University of Gothenburg, talked about access to basic drinking water. This is a major challenge in Sub-Saharan Africa where only about 30% of the population have access to safely managed drinking water services1. The numbers are improving but the world is not on track to achieve the SDG 6 goals.

“Water is however something more than we need for our immediate survival, it is a fundamental resource for the making of human societies, and an integral part of culture and identity”, Sofie Hellberg said and talked about access to and sustainable use of water, using the example of the water crisis in Cape Town in 2018.

Following an unusually long drought period, the water reservoirs were nearly empty and the authorities issued various water-saving schemes, eventually limiting the capetonians use of water to 50 litres/day. A “Day Zero” was calculated as the day when there wouldn’t be any more water in the taps. (It never happened though, rain started falling and the reservoirs filled up).

The discussions around the crisis and its limitations for the people of the city and surrounding area revealed the underlying questions.

“Who has the right to the water? And what is sustainable use?” Sofie Hellberg asked and said that the narrative around the crisis had a narrow focus on the effects of people living in Cape Town and Cape Town as a tourist destination as well as large wine and fruit producers in the province while neglecting the effects on smallholders and the water struggles experienced by poor South Africans on an everyday basis.

Encouraging collaboration

Global Sustainable Futures’ theme called Water is led by Thomas Pettersson, Professor at Water Environment Technology at Chalmers University of Technology, presented the idea of a network at Chalmers and the University which is being formed right now.

“We’re seeing that this network could be the basis, for example, for clusters of researchers that could identify research gaps and together apply for funding”, he said.

“Research questions must be thought of together”, Sofie Hellberg added, and Magdalena Eriksson, platform leader for Global Sustainable Futures concluded that such ideas for more inclusive and equitable research design are necessary and important: “GSF hopes to see new initatives grow out of the water network”, she said.

A kick-off meeting for the Water network will be arranged in early March. Meanwhile there will be another GSF webinar on 22 February, this time presenting and discussing the outcome and impact of ten years of collaborative research in Kisumu, Kenya.

1World Bank data: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SH.H2O.SMDW.ZS?locations=ZG


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