On Wednesday, March 23, WOP-LAC hosted a webinar titled ‘Climate change and infrastructure. Solutions against climate change from water and sanitation operators in Latin America and the Caribbean’. The event was attended by more than 70 participants from different water and sanitation operators from the region.
In Medellin, Colombia, the rise in extreme weather and the fluctuation of rainfall have generated floods and landslides. Ms. Maria del Pilar Restrepo from Empresas Públicas de Medellín highlighted the need to encourage leadership by municipalities, promote the use of more sustainable drainage systems, urban control and the involvement of the construction sector in the development of green solutions.
In Puerto Cortés, Honduras, in addition to torrential rains, the city is dealing with the impact of drought, which has caused a decrease in production flows due to the water scarcity in the rivers. The consequences of the impact on the service include remote areas facing shortages and irregularities which generate a decrease in user reliability and low pressure in the distribution network. Ms. Gabriela Castrejón from Aguas de Puerto Cortés explained that the company developed an integrated demand management plan with micro metering, replaced part of the meters, prevented fraudulent and clandestine losses and developed technological innovations for hundreds of users. Users were charged an environmental fee of 5% for the implementation.
São Paulo, Brazil, also faced a water crisis in the period 2013-2015, during which there was a 40% reduction in rainfall compared to historical averages. This crisis was clearly reflected in the Cantareira system, a system that supplies the metropolitan region and used to provide 45% of the water supply in the area, but due to the crisis had only 55% availability of the resource. Mrs. Rorato de Lacerda Prado from Sabesp highlighted the importance of good planning to combat climate change. In addition, she stressed that sanitation companies should not work alone to face this change and that all sanitation actors must work together to formulate and implement joint solutions.
In Santa Fe, Argentina, between 2019 and 2021, the Paraná River water level dropped to the lowest it has been in 70 years. Ms. Cucchiara and Orué from Aguas Santafesinas highlighted that to guarantee the continuity of the service, the company carried out works on the water inlets. The drinking water service was not affected during the work carried out, but this event forced the company to rethink the design of future surface water inlets, specifically, their functionality. The severity of this climatic event required all the company personnel to get involved in the solutions carried out. Aguas Santafesinas worked as a team, given the magnitude of the situation, and the operational staff was key in all the work carried out in the field.
As we well know, climate change goes beyond the Latin American and Caribbean regions. Mr. Alcocer Sánchez from Canal Isabel II stressed that in Madrid, Spain, dry annual periods are occurring more frequently, which implies a high fluctuation of water resources. In the last 15 years, the annual average has decreased by around 30%. Similarly, the last 15 years have had the lowest annual average since 1913. Mr. Alcocer Sánchez highlighted the need to focus on the future, and to ensure water security, adaptation to climate change and awareness on the meteorological phenomena. He also underscored the importance of assessing the system’s vulnerability to climate change, incorporating its results as reliably as possible.
Members of the Global Water Operators’ Partnerships Alliance (GWOPA) Secretariat supported in the organization of the session with WOP-LAC, and participated with note taking. Please access the following link to read the notes from the session (in Spanish): https://gwopa.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Webinario-Cambio-climático-e-infraestructura_Notas.pdf
For more information about this climate change webinar and access to the presentations, please visit the WOP-LAC website: https://aloas.org/institucional/Pages/Capacitacion-WOP-LAC.aspx