No water to lose: more than 250 experts together for water security

Innovation, collective action for governance, investment, best practices for sustainable water use in agriculture and how to build impactful projects by making use of the power of nature were some of the central topics of the Water Funds Summit, which took place on July 18th and 19th at the Centro Histórico Hilton Hotel in Mexico City.

The inauguration ceremony was attended by Blanca Jiménez Cisneros, PhD, General Director of CONAGUA; Juan Pablo Del Valle, Chairman of the Board of Mexichem, of Agua Capital y and co-leader of the Latin America Conservation Council (LACC); Roberto Campa, Director of Corporate Affairs of FEMSA; Wisla Heneghan, COO and General Counsel of The Nature Conservancy (TNC); Tomás Bermúdez, Country representative at the Inter-American Development Bank; Christian Severin, Lead for the International Waters focal area at the Global Environmental Facility (GEF); and Emmanuel Acha, known in the media as Emmanuel, and President of Fundación Hombre Naturaleza.

Blanca Jiménez, PhD, remarked that water is on the priority list of the Government of Mexico, and urged us to work together to make this priority effective. She also emphasized the advantages of Mexico having an organ such as CONAGUA in which all topics are dealt with as a whole: “The topic of water is very extensive. Most countries do not have an organ that manages the topic of water in a comprehensive way”, she assured.

Juan Pablo Del Valle emphasized that one of the most important challenges of the big cities of the world is guaranteeing water security for all, as well as the management of wastewater, a task of high priority that is supported by the members of LACC, a group of businessmen that promote sustainable development in the region.

In Latin America, three cities are at risk of having no water left soon: Sao Paulo, Lima and Mexico City. In addition, another 14 of the biggest cities in the region already suffer water stress.

Wisla Heneghan touched on the reach that efforts such as this Water Funds Summit can have to reformulate solutions: “This event will be a catalyzer to make new relationships in which we can reformulate together the water challenges that we face. The existence of these events makes us think that, although we share a sense of urgency, hope is also present”, she assured.

The Latin American Water Funds Partnership, whose members are TNC, IADB, FEMSA Foundation, the GEF and the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Government, promotes water security in the region through the creation and strengthening of the Water Funds, which are organizations that design financial and governance mechanisms articulating private, public and civil society actors in order to contribute to water security through sustainable watershed management and natured based solutions.

In this sense, Roberto Campa, Director of Corporate Affairs of FEMSA, announced a resounding commitment: “We are committed to this cause. We will invest USD$150 million pesos in the next 5 years to seek water security in Latin America”, after explaining the importance of the private sector in the sum of efforts around this topic.

In the first stage, from its creation in 2001 to 2016, the Latin American Water Funds Partnership invested around $200 million pesos and up to now has made a commitment of an additional USD$300 million for its second stage up to 2024. The Partnership has promoted the creation and development of the 24 Water Funds in Latin America that mobilized public and private investments for more than $3.8 billion pesos. The programs driven by the Water Funds have intervened more than 227,000 hectares with strategic natural infrastructure, benefiting more than 24,000 families.

Tomás Bermúdez, Mexico representative at the Inter-American Development Bank, assured that Latin America and the Caribbean hold a third of the planet’s fresh water, but of the 100% of wastewater generated in the region, only a 23% is treated compared to the 60% of treatment made in developed countries. However, he also noted the importance of this type of encounters: “Having more than 24 Water Funds in 8 countries in the region and 15 more in the process of being created is a testament to the success of these initiatives. More specifically, this Summit shows that when we work together, we get to better results.”

The Summit was also attended by civil society organizations such as Fundación Cinépolis, the LACC, Fundación Hombre Naturaleza, ECOFILM Festival and businesses such as Grupo Modelo, HEINEKEN México and Nestlé.

Emmanuel pronounced himself in favor of the responsible use of water, emphasizing the power of citizens to tackle the water challenges they face: “Around the water issue there is a shared social stress that is making us react. Governments cannot do it all; society has to understand that it also has a civil responsibility to push for change,” he said.

Keynote presentations were by Blanca Jiménez, PhD, Director of CONAGUA; Sergio Campos, Head of the Water and Sanitation Division at the IBD; and Rafael Carmona, Director of SACMEX. The different sessions were attended by: Luis Darío Rodríguez Ochoa, from Coca- Cola FEMSA; Sergio Fajardo from Tecnológico de Monterrey; Andrea Erickson from TNC; Mariano Montero from FEMSA Foundation; Arturo Nieto from the Government of Guanajuato; Andre Fourie from ABInBev, global of Grupo Modelo; Frank Loge from the Center for Water-Energy Efficiency at University of California Davis; Devanir García from the National Water Agency of Brazil; Gerardo Garza from Water and Sewage Services of Monterrey; Camilo Sánchez from ANDESCO, who shared the experience of services and government working together in the Coalition Water for Colombia (Agua para Colombia), among many other experts from Mexico and Latin America that attended the Summit.