Water and Ocean Governance

 Water and Ocean Governance

Through the earth’s water cycle, the planet’s fresh Water and Ocean are inextricably linked. Ninety-seven percent of the earth’s water is in the ocean and the ocean supplies almost all the water that falls on land as rain and snow. Of the small portion that is freshwater, about a third is in groundwater and a mere 0.3% in accessible surface waters. Currently, just under 900 million people lack access to safe water and over 2.7 billion lack access to basic sanitation. The 2015 MDG for water is on target to be achieved globally, but with significant regional and national gaps, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. The impacts of low access to water and sanitation represent a substantial drag on socioeconomic development in many countries.

Globally, the market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is estimated at $3 trillion per year or about 5% of global GDP, and an estimated 63% of global ‘ecosystems services’ are provided by marine and coastal systems. As much as 40% of the world oceans are considered as ‘heavily affected’ by human activities, including pollution, depleted fisheries, loss of coastal habitats such as coral reefs, mangroves and seagrasses, and by aquatic invasive species.

These very close linkages and the tremendous socio-economic benefits provided by the earth’s freshwater and marine systems underscore the need to take adaptive, integrated, ecosystem-based approaches to the management of freshwater and ocean resources through promoting more effective governance. Through a coordinated portfolio of programmes and projects, UNDP’s Water and Ocean Governance Programmes apply such approaches at local, national, global and regional levels:

    * UNDP assists countries to achieve equitable allocation, develop capacities and implement integrated approaches to water resources management through adaptive water governance to reduce poverty and vulnerability, sustain and enhance livelihoods and protect environmental resources.
    * UNDP promotes and facilitates equitable access to water and sanitation services as a fundamental contribution to enhancing human development. UNDP works together with government, civil society, private sector and other development partners to bring about the necessary improvements in water governance to scale up water and sanitation services for the poor.
    * UNDP is working in cooperation with many other UN agencies, the Global Environment Facility, international financial institutions, regional fisheries organizations and others to improve oceans management and sustain livelihoods at the local, national, regional and global scales through effective oceans governance.
    * UNDP plays an operational role in assisting countries to build cross-sectoral capacities and put in place effective and sound policies and institutions to manage and develop water and ocean resources in a sustainable way. UNDP contributes to the development and widespread delivery of training courses and toolkits through a variety of capacity building programmes covering diverse topics.

Facts and Figures

    * Adaptive Water Governance – the key to sustainable water use

Through the earth’s water cycle, the planet’s fresh Water and Ocean are inextricably linked. Ninety-seven percent of the earth’s water is in the ocean and the ocean supplies almost all the water that falls on land as rain and snow. Of the 3% that is fresh water, two-thirds is frozen, one-third is groundwater and a mere 0.3% remains as accessible surface water. Of available renewable freshwater resources, about 54% is already appropriated by humanity for various uses – irrigated agriculture (70%), industry (22%) and domestic use (8%), and water withdrawals are projected by 2025 to increase by 50% and 18% in the developing and developed world, respectively. Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), which incorporates issues of equity, efficiency and environment, is widely accepted as the path forward towards sustainable use of our precious water resources, but much remains to be done to put IWRM concepts into action.

    * Water and sanitation – a crisis of governance

Currently, just under 900 million people lack access to safe water and over 2.7 billion lack access to basic sanitation. The 2015 MDG for water is on target to be achieved but with significant regional and national gaps, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. The sanitation MDG is projected to be missed by 13% - or 1 billion people. The socio-economic impacts of low access to water and sanitation are substantial, estimated at annual losses of 6.4%, 5.2% and 7.2% of GDP in India, Ghana and Cambodia, respectively. While there are regional/local and long-term concerns with the absolute availability of water resources, the water and sanitation crisis is primarily a crisis of poverty, political will, inequality and power – in short, of profound failures in water governance.

    * Failures in governance threaten marine and coastal ecosystems

Globally, the market value of marine and coastal resources and industries is estimated at $3 trillion per year or about 5% of global GDP; the non-market value of marine ecosystem services (climate, water, nutrients, carbon regulation, etc.) is estimated at $22 trillion/year. Marine and coastal ecosystems face threats from pollution (especially nutrients), overfishing, habitat loss and degradation, invasive species and climate change (ocean acidification, oxygen reduction). As much as 40% of the world oceans are considered as ‘heavily affected’ by human activities. As for freshwater, the root causes of much of the overutilization and degradation of marine ecosystems stem primarily from failures in governance of the relevant sectors (fisheries, tourism, shipping, agriculture, etc.) – inadequate policies and legislation, poor enforcement, weak institutions, and insufficient participation of civil society.