Pacific leaders have emphasised the need for action to strengthen water security and resilience across the region, at the 6th Pacific Water and Wastewater Ministers’ (PWWM) Forum, held in Fiji.
The Forum, co-hosted by Pacific Water and Wastewater Association (PWWA) and Water Authority of Fiji (WAF) alongside the 13th PWWA Annual Conference, highlighted the significant water security challenges facing Pacific communities confronting some of the world’s highest exposures to the risks of climate change and disaster.
Across the Pacific, more than 5 million Pacific people still lack access to basic drinking water facilities, and more than two-thirds live without access to basic sanitation. This significantly undermines the resilience of Pacific communities. Forum representatives urged the scaling up of investments to support the science, infrastructure and local capacities needed to implement local water and sanitation solutions resilient to the impacts of disasters and climate change.
The Honourable Minister for Infrastructure, Meteorological Services, Lands and Mineral Resources for Fiji, Jone Usamate, chaired the PWWM Forum, which was attended by Ministers from Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, as well as senior government representatives from American Samoa, Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Tonga and Tuvalu.
The Forum was an opportunity for these Pacific leaders to share challenges, success stories, and knowledge on key issues relating to water security and sanitation, elevating and accelerating coordinated work that supports increased access to water and sanitation for Pacific communities.
The Forum communique noted that Pacific water security challenges have been further exacerbated by the effects of the pandemic and natural hazards such as Tropical Cyclones Harold, Yasa and Ana, the eruption of the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano and associated tsunami, and the serious drought currently affecting the atoll nations of Kiribati and Tuvalu.
Pacific Community’s (SPC) Water Security and Governance Coordinator, Mr Dave Hebblethwaite, commended the great work of the PWWA Secretariat and Water Authority of Fiji in organising the Forum and welcomed the opportunity to present to Ministers and representatives on emerging water security challenges facing the region, as well as opportunities for support under climate financing mechanisms; critical in addressing the intensifying climate-related risks affecting the water sector.
“The reality is that funding to increase access to water security and sanitation in the region is not meeting the needs of our member states, and this situation will only become more serious as populations grow and the impacts of disasters and climate change intensify.
Working closely with communities is essential to understand local challenges and collect the data needed to establish sustainable water sources and drive evidence-based solutions. This is something that the Pacific Community has been working on over many years, but we need to see this as a resilience issue and collectively commit towards a coordinated and accelerated effort to ensure communities can access safe water and sanitation services throughout all conditions,” explained Dave.
Alongside the Forum, SPC supported dialogue on atoll water security through the use of a 3D atoll model that provides a visual understanding of the impact of inundation and sea-level rise on low-lying island communities and the risk this poses to freshwater supplies critical to human survival.
Ministers and representatives agreed that the outcomes of the PWWM Forum should be presented at the 2023 United Nations Water Conference to be held in New York from 22-24 March.
For more information on the 6th Pacific Water and Wastewater Ministers’ Forum and the 13th PWWA Annual Conference, visit https://www.pwwa.ws/conference/
Regional policy framework linkages:
• 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
• Boe Declaration
• Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (FRDP)
• Groundwater and Pacific Resilience