“An increase in efficiency and agriculture will be the key to the future of water management, thanks to improvements in irrigation and technological progress” stressed the Executive Vice-President of SUEZ, Angel Simón, during the III Water Economic Forum, which was held this Thursday, 24 November in Madrid.
In this context, the Sustainable Development Goals established by the UN were tackled, in relation to which, in the words of Angel Simón, “water plays a cross-cutting role to confront the main challenges of the coming years: population pressure and climate change”. In this respect, Angel Simón highlighted SDG number 17, which calls for a partnership between governments, the private sector and civil society in order to attain the goals.
Angel Simón based his speech on greater efficiency in agriculture, since it consumes 70% of the planet’s blue water, while industry consumes 18% and urban use 12%. There are moreover many areas where “the irrigation system has not been modernized, which means that the water consumption may be up to double that needed”, warned Angel Simón.
At present, “agriculture plays an increasingly important role due to the greater demand for food, and the surface area devoted to crops amounts to over 1.5 billion hectares worldwide”. Over the last few years, “agricultural productivity has grown exponentially, as food production has multiplied by 2.5 times, but it needs to continue to grow”.
In this context, progress has been demonstrated in some countries, especially in Latin America. For example, “in Chile, 1 million hectares of irrigation are being developed, which will allow its agri-food exports to double; in Colombia, following the peace process, it is estimated that it will be possible to assign 4 million hectares to agriculture; and, in Peru, irrigation projects are under way on around half a million hectares”.
Angel Simón then referred to the impacts that the concentration of the population in cities will have on water management: “the urban population has food consumption and lifestyle habits which require greater water consumption and which lead to an increase in the water footprint. In this scenario, we need to work on building cities which are more resilient to the scarcity of resources and climate change”.
To confront the challenges raised by water management, it will be necessary to tackle them through public-private partnerships. According to Angel Simón, “The public sector will need to be supported by the opportunities offered by the private sector, both in relation to knowledge and technology and to new financing models”.
Angel Simón participated on the round table “Aligning challenges for the public and private sector in relation to fulfilment of SDG 6 and the 2030 Agenda”, concepts deeply rooted in the company’s strategy. Aziza Akhmouch, Head of the Water Governance Programme of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), also participated on the table, which was moderated by the journalist from El Confidencial, Antonio Zarzalejos.
The Water Economic Forum is a space for reflection and dialogue on the urban water cycle promoted by the University of Alcalá de Henares, attended by representatives from the professional and academic world and from the administration. A noteworthy presence in this edition was Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Norwegian Prime Minister, former United Nations Special Envoy for Climate Change and introducer of the concept of sustainable development, who backed collaboration on all levels to attain the SDG.