How do you guarantee water is valued in your project?

Published on:
15 February 2024

Water always plays a role in projects in one way or another. The question is, how we can make our water use more sustainable, efficient and fairer? The United Nations addresses these questions via the Valuing Water Initiative (VWI). Sofia De La Rosa Solano, Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) advisor, explains how VWI serves as a guideline for better water management. Sofia also explains how the 5 principles of that approach apply to projects that do not, or do not primarily, address water.

Sofia de la Rosa Solano

"Water does not get enough appreciation. We look at it from an economic point of view, as if it is a consumer product," explains Sofia. "We often have the illusion that fresh, clean water is limitless. We do not focus on the consequences of our water use, such as the impact of pollution flowing downstream or water vapour in the air. We should be much more frugal with our water and recognise its various values, especially now that worldwide water problems are accelerating due to climate change."

More than just economic value

Sofia explains that water is valuable in different ways. "Besides economic value, for example, for agricultural irrigation or turbines to generate electricity, water has ecological value. Fish and plants need clean water. A polluted or dried-up lake damages the ecology and endangers biodiversity. Tribes and people worldwide are connected to life in and along the water. Projects that impact water have far-reaching consequences for stakeholders. All those potential consequences should be a part of the decision-making process from the start to avoid water-related issues later on."

5 Valuing Water Principles

VWI advocates for improved decision-making which takes water into account. As an RVO advisor, Sofia is involved in a VWI project with the Colombian government in the Macizo Colombiano region. The project investigates to what degree stakeholders depend on water. The project shows how farmers, communities, women's groups and local institutes can have more say in water decision-making."

The United Nations' 5 Valuing Water Principles are a guideline for the projects Sofia coordinates. "The first 2 principles are beneficial for achieving better decision-making," she explains. "The first principle means that you acknowledge all the possible values of water and the (side) effects from early on. This includes, among other things, the impact on biodiversity, groundwater flows and flooding. The second principle is about inclusivity. All parties interested in water must acknowledge and trust each other to agree on fair water distribution."

The 5 Valuing Water Principles

Broadly applicable

According to Sofia, the Valuing Water Principles are broadly applicable because water plays a determining role in every project. "How do you arrange to cool a data centre in the desert? In this case, water plays a role because of local water shortages. The underlying message of the 5 Valuing Water Principles is that there is enough water on earth for everyone. But we must manage and distribute it fairly."

More information

Would you like to learn more about the valuing water principles and how to apply them in your projects? See the VWI page

Commissioned by:
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs
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