Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

UN Water Conference and Key Takeaways


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: UN Water Conference

Mains level: Water conservation efforts


Central idea

  • The UN 2023 Water Conference was held in New York from March 22-24.
  • It was the first such meeting on water in 46 years.
  • The conference aimed to identify game-changing ideas and make recommendations to policymakers on how to speed up and scale up change in the water sector.

What is the UN Water Conference?

  • The UN Water Conference is an international conference that aims to better align activities by governments, companies, NGOs, and funders around a few grand challenges in the water sector.
  • It serves as a platform for countries to learn from the experiences of others, transfer technology, and invest.
  • The last UN Water Conference was held in 1977.
  • It resulted in the first global ‘Action Plan’ recognizing that all people have the right to access safe drinking water and sanitation.
  • This led to several decades of global funding and concerted effort to provide drinking water and sanitation for all.

Themes of the conference

The Conference has five themes that support the SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework:

  1. Water for Health: Access to ‘WASH’ (Global Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene) including the Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation
  2. Water for Sustainable Development: Valuing water, the water-energy-food nexus and sustainable economic and urban development.
  3. Water for Climate, Resilience and Environment: Source to sea, biodiversity, climate, resilience and disaster risk reduction.
  4. Water for Cooperation: Transboundary and international water cooperation, cross sectoral cooperation and water across the 2030 Agenda.
  5. Water Action Decade: Accelerating the implementation of the objectives of the Decade for Action, including through the UN Secretary-General’s Action Plan.

Purpose of the conference

  • International conferences on water aim to better align activities by governments, companies, NGOs, and funders around a few grand challenges.
  • They help countries learn from the experiences of others, transfer technology, and invest.
  • Water problems tend to be local and need local solutions, so there is a challenge of mobilizing globally to solve local water problems.

Water challenges discussed


  • While access to safe drinking water and sanitation is challenging, extending services to underserved populations is relatively uncontroversial.
  • However, improving access to water and sanitation no longer translates directly to sustained access.
  • The water problem is no longer about access to water and sanitation; the remaining SDG 6 targets address the need to sustain agriculture, industry, and natural ecosystems.

Outcomes of the 2023 Conference

  • The conference’s proceedings resulted in a lot of talk, fragmented discussions, and no binding commitments.
  • There were 713 diverse voluntary commitments by philanthropic donors, governments, corporations, and NGOs, with 120 relevant to India.
  • Commitments included a $50-billion commitment from the Indian government to improve rural drinking water services under its Jal Jeevan Mission.

Examples of Commitments

  • Technology: Specific innovations in wastewater treatment or solar treatment of water in remote areas, and a number of proposals for incubation platforms.
  • Data and Models: Cost-effective approaches to data-generation included sensors and satellite data. Other efforts offered data analysis tools.
  • Knowledge Sharing: One useful tool was the W12+ Blueprint, a UNESCO platform that hosts city profiles and case studies of programs, technologies, policies that addresses common water security challenges.
  • Capacity Building: Efforts offered to help marginalized communities and women understand how to exercise their rights.
  • Civil Society: Platforms for collective action by civil society groups lobbying for changes in regulations.
  • Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance: The conference concluded that effective water governance hinges on these broad areas, and weaving them into the Water Action Agenda is a step.


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