Water is a precious resource, and in the Pacific region, its significance goes beyond mere access. Water security is a critical component of resilience that requires a collective effort from stakeholders and partnerships.
Recognising this, the Pacific Community (SPC) hosted an online talanoa/ tok stori session on Accelerating Water Security Action for Pacific Resilience, featuring Pacific voices during World Water Week on 22 August 2023.
This was the first time SPC convened a session at the World Water Week, an annual gathering of stakeholders who discuss solutions to the world's greatest water-related challenges, from food security and health to agriculture, technology, biodiversity, and climate crisis.
The session focussed on the critical roles of increased and meaningful engagement and community participation in accelerating action to ensure water security and resilience in the Pacific.
Dave Hebblethwaite, SPC's Water Security and Governance Coordinator, provided an overview of the state of water security in the Pacific and its connection to resilience, including the unique challenges that the region must overcome to accelerate progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6): Clean Water and Sanitation.
Mary Alalo from Solomon Islands offered her perspective on whether water security is a consideration in adaptation planning in the Pacific. "Water security is not just about having access to clean and reliable water sources. In the Pacific region, it takes on a new dimension as it is intrinsically linked to climate resilience."
She also shed light on the practical aspects of integrating water security into broader climate resilience strategies.
Community involvement in decision-making related to water security was a key takeaway from the session. Akmal Ali, Coordinator of the Facility Aiding Locally Led Engagement (FALE) Pacific at the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (PIANGO), said "Community participation is key to creating sustainable solutions. By putting them at the forefront, we can let Pacific communities lead efforts on resilience and share their homegrown solutions to ensuring water security".
Hydrogeologist Andreas Antoniou added to this conversation, stressing the importance of combining scientific approaches with traditional knowledge and best practices to involve communities effectively in water security initiatives.
As the Pacific's leading technical and scientific agency, SPC has been working closely with communities to support this work such as locating alternative water sources in Ailinglaplap in the Marshall Islands and Vaitupu in Tuvalu.
Anawaite Vuetaki Starzynski, a Scientific Officer in Hydrogeology with the Fiji Mineral Resources Department, shared a compelling example of how community members of Yaro village in Kia Island leveraged traditional knowledge to maintain their water systems after Tropical Cyclone Yasa, an extreme climate event which had a profound impact on the water security of the rural community.
The session included engagement with the online audience who posed questions and commented on similar issues in other parts of the world before Exsley Taloiburi, SPC's Deputy Director of Disaster and Community Resilience, closed the discussions.
SPC's session provided the space for important discussions on water security as a cornerstone of climate resilience in the Pacific region. It highlighted the challenges, showcased resilience in the face of adversity, and underscored the vital role of community engagement and partnership.
We express our gratitude to the panellists and participants for contributing to this enlightening dialogue during World Water Week and look forward to further opportunities to share insights from the Pacific region with other global conversations on water security and climate resilience.