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Mr. Wus Blog on Water and Sanitation
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  • By UN-DESA on 1 Sep 2014
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1 Sep 2014 - One of the growing challenges facing SIDS is securing water and sanitation for all island populations.

Because of their small size and limited landmass, many SIDS do not have large watersheds and catchment areas that allow for extensive surface water-bodies or large underground sources of water. On many islands, freshwater is available only from thin groundwater lenses floating on saltwater or from small rivers and lakes. The low-lying atolls of the Pacific and Indian Oceans as well as limestone islands in the Caribbean, for example, are all dependent on groundwater or the direct use of rainwater.

Compounding the difficulties of SIDS in sustainable management of water resources, is climate change. Their dependency on rainwater leaves them vulnerable to abnormal changes in rainfall patterns and water availabilities. With climate-related falls in precipitation, freshwater lenses on low-lying atolls are anticipated to diminish significantly, in part due to reduced replenishment and to increased saltwater intrusion.

Pressure on water supplies also comes from economic activities, such as growing demands of tourism, urbanisation, coastal area development, agriculture, and mining. The combined impact of growing demands for water and decreasing availabilities of water resources poses an increasingly urgent challenge to the sustainable development of SIDS. SIDS governments have to grapple with competing demands: providing access to safe and affordable drinking water and adequate sanitation for all island communities, while also meeting the requirements of tourism and other industry and service sectors; and protecting and conserving limited and fragile water resources amid the widening impact of climate change.

Many SIDS governments have launched integrated water resource management initiatives and measures to adapt to changes in surface water, groundwater and rainfall patterns and to improve water resources management.

Wu Hongbo
UN DESAs Under-Secretary-General & Secretary-General for the Third International Conference on SIDS

In response, many SIDS governments have launched integrated water resource management initiatives and measures to adapt to changes in surface water, groundwater and rainfall patterns and to improve water resources management. Among such measures are watershed management and downstream improvement to water supply, including reforestation, sustainable agricultural production, wastewater treatment, and improved sewerage systems. Other measures focus on water efficiency use, rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge.

Indeed, during the ongoing informal consultations on the outcome document for the conference, Member States have outlined actions to support SIDS, including through developing institutional and human capacities for implementing integrated management of water resources; providing appropriate facilities and infrastructure for safe drinking water and sanitation systems; expanding wastewater treatment and improving water-use efficiency. It is expected that these and other measures to be adopted by the SIDS Conference will help re-energize the momentum for meeting the water and sanitation challenge in SIDS.