Tackling the climate crisis through resilient WASH service delivery

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WASH access is a critical line of defense against climate change. Gete, a 14 years old girl, from Burie Zuriya Woreda in the Amhara region used to collect water from a spring located about ten minutes away from her house. Even though it is not that far, she had to carry 20 litters of water, within a jerrycan, on her back and walk on the road that gets slippery during the rainy season, which made her journey dangerous. But that was three years ago. Today, Gete is amongst over sixteen thousand people who have gotten access to clean water through WaterAid Ethiopia’s Multi-Village System for Resilience and Scale project funded by People’s Postcode Lottery (PPL) Corporation. The project aims to pilot multi village systems, advocacy, and communication.
Globally, unprecedented extreme weather events are leading to more frequent and severe flooding and droughts. The situation is set to worsen, with the UN projecting that 40% of the world’s population could be living under severe water stress by 2050 due to the impacts of climate change.
Ethiopia is one of the countries experiencing the worst effects of climate change. Besides the direct effects such as an increase in average temperature or a change in rainfall patterns, climate change also presents the necessity and opportunity to switch to a new and sustainable development model. The Government of Ethiopia has, therefore, initiated the Climate-Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) initiative to protect the country from the adverse effects of climate change and build a green economy that will help the Government’s ambition towards attaining middle-income status before 2025 (Ethiopia CRGE, 2011).
According to World Food Programme’s statistics, climate change in Ethiopia has caused a decline in rainfall and increased droughts causing humans, livestock, and property to be destroyed and for people to be displaced from their natural habitats. In recent years, the seasonal rainfall over Eastern and North-eastern Ethiopia has been decreasing and exhibiting a high amount of seasonal rainfall variability and a general drying trend. When extreme weather events occur, it is the poorest people who are least able to prepare and protect themselves and their environments – or bounce back following disasters.

Building climate-resilient and sustainable WASH systems

WaterAid Ethiopia operates in Burie Zuriya Woreda of West Gojjam Zone; Amhara Regional State located 408 kms north of Addis Ababa, the country’s capital; and 150 kms from the regional capital, Bahir Dar, with a total population of 193,010.
With increasing climate vulnerability, WaterAid aimed at building a Climate Resilient and Sustainable WASH service by investing in strengthening the management models for rural multi-village systems. This project is being implemented in three neighbourhoods in Burie District/Woreda where there was a serious water shortage. The project contributed towards enhancing the capacity of water users’ association and represented committee members. This was through setting up clear roles and responsibilities, formalizing management structures and transiting from voluntary committees to water utility boards with efficient financial, revenue collection and tariff setting systems. WaterAid Ethiopia has been working to establish associations designed to be led independently by boards of community associations. Hence, WaterAid Ethiopia believes such systems are crucial to the success of all waterpoints in a community. Extensive training and awareness campaigns on environmental protection and sustainable use of water have been conducted among key members of the community, over 35 water committees, and stakeholders.
Furthermore, one of the crucial steps required for building climate-resilient WASH facilities was to address the gaps in capacity between the WASH sector offices of the district and Burie Water and Sewerage Utility for developing and implementing climate resilience and water security plans. The capacity of community groups to manage watersheds is essential to weathering the effects of climate change. By implementing water safety plans communities can address threats to water security, including current climate variability, weak governance of water resources as well as the WASH services, environmental degradation, growing demand for water and threats to water quality, such as pollution and salinity.
As part of introducing resilient WASH facilities, the construction of solar-powered water supply systems has been implemented in the three Kebeles. The construction work includes three reservoirs of 100 m3, 125 m3, and 50 m3, 1500 pipeline works, and 42 water points as well as a spring development, a 25 m3 collection chamber, a 50 m3 elevated service reservoir, and 5km of pipeline works.

The value of sustainable WASH in climate adaptation

The value of sustainable WASH services in a climate adaptation context is not well recognized in Ethiopia. There is low investment by the government and other actors in analysing the effects of climate change on clean water and decent sanitation services including early warning systems. To reach universal access to WASH, it is critical to work with the local government and communities by supporting them to develop contextually appropriate solutions to adapt to climate change. Currently, WASH is seen solely as a development issue. This has implications for the prioritisation of WASH in a global narrative, increasingly dominated by climate change, and for attracting funding to the sector. Hence, it is critical to advocate for more climate financing, to make sure water is at the heart of climate adaptation, and development plans and advocating for an increase in climate financing for water and sanitation, and dedicated funding that enables countries to adapt and build their resilience to climate change.

At a global level, 77% of climate finance is allocated to mitigation and 23% to adaptation. Within that 23%, a smaller percentage is devoted to water for domestic use. Adaptation sector financing needs to implement the NDCs for adaptation amounts to US$ 40.5 billion which is 12.8% of the total budget required for the NDCs. Yet, investing in resilient WASH services reduces climate vulnerability by enhancing the adaptive capacity and resilience of populations affected by WASH poverty. Sustainable WASH services require strong institutional and regulatory frameworks for climate-responsive planning and development, as well as climate-resilient infrastructure. There is a clear case in terms of the adaptation impact for investing climate finance in WASH services.
The recommended district-wide approach implemented in Burie Zuria woreda focuses on reviewing district WASH plans through a climate adaptation lens and building district (woreda) level capacity of coordinated planning between the sectors. At the district level, sectors are empowered to mobilise a significant increase in climate finance for safe water and WASH for adaptation. The capacity to leverage climate finance for WASH is currently the primary focus, built progressively through a multi-stakeholder task force that facilitates the preparation of a project proposal for WASH for adaptation through mobilizing support, increasing woreda level WASH and climate vulnerability data access and water safety planning and implementation.

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