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30 july 2019

A national coalition is working to improve water security in Colombia

Whereas in 1990 it was the country with the 4th greatest water wealth in the world, by 2017 Colombia had slipped to 24th place. To stem this trend, the Water Coalition of Colombia, born in 2018, is looking to create eight new water funds* in the country over the next three years.

If Colombia does not want to be facing serious water shortages in thirty or so years’ time, appropriate action must be taken immediately. To meet this imperative, the Water Coalition of Colombia was created at the instigation of the environmental protection organization The Nature Conservancy. It brings together over 300 partners from different sectors: non-governmental organizations, public authorities, industry, the financial sector, and civil society.
At the root of this situation lies an accumulation of problems that have arisen over the past decades: deforestation, illegal mining and climate change have dried out rivers and streams. This situation has been aggravated by galloping urbanization and a lack of governance in areas controlled by guerilla groups.
The coalition’s main aim is to protect the 43% of Colombians who directly depend on the country’s water resources for their everyday needs. According to the Ministry of Environment, forty-three watersheds could dry up if the country were to experience a particularly arid year.
The coalition also wants to enable major industries (which represent 48% of Colombia’s GDP) to continue to carry out their business activities near water basins. Six of these basins, which fill the Magdalena and Cauca rivers, have dropped to critically low capacity over the past several years. However, they are located in a region that generates over 80% of the national GDP. If they were to dry out, this could have devastating consequences on the Colombian economy.
To prevent this phenomenon as well as encourage all companies concerned to use the resource more responsibly, the Water Coalition of Colombia is striving to create eight new water funds by 2022, on top of the seven that already exist. The cities concerned are Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Cali, Cartagena, Cravo Sur, Cúcuta, Ibagué, Neiva, Manizales, Medellín, Pasto, Santa Marta & Ciénega, Valledupar, Valle del Cauca and Villavicencio, together representing 48% of the national GDP and 43% of the country’s population.
The Water Coalition of Colombia optimistically hopes to reach a final consensus within two years. At the end of June 2019, it examined all the projects proposed by the different entities that make it up, in order to determine an action plan and shared budgets through a general agreement.
*”Water funds” are a specific designation given by The Nature Conservancy: these funds are above all tools to guarantee transparency in the use of the budgets allocated to water security

© Christophe Majani D'Inguimbert