Angela Renata Cordeiro Ortigara: make better use of water data

With less and less people on the ground, and less and less ground truth and real data on water – be it quality, levels or discharges – more and more policy and statements are being made that are unsupported by reality. Researchers and UN organizations such as WMO keep stressing the need for better (use of) data by decision-makers in order to prevent that ‘measures’ that have lost a connection with reality. Data, implementation of SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation for all), and linking with everyday needs of the communities are key issues, according to Dr Angela Renata Cordeiro Ortigara.

At the World Water Assessment Programme, Dr Ortigara manages the development of the UN-Water report titled »SDG 6 Synthesis Report 2018 on Water and Sanitation«. On the top of that she was the Senior Rapporteur for the Environmental Team of the World Water Week in Stockholm. "This was a tough but rewarding experience – thanks to the hard work of the groups we managed to cover 76 sessions, while seeing them through environmental lenses". Ms Ortigara presented the results during the plenary Closing Session of the World Water Week.

“One thing that became obvious during the process is the need for more data, and the need to better use them in policy-making, in order to foster better informed decisions. Another thing is the need for implementation of SDG 6 and linking the implementation with everyday needs of the communities. This would really help to increase the ownership and accelerate progress. Many solutions are highly case-specific so we need to integrate knowledge, stakeholders and policies in order to transform the systems thinking from concepts into practical tools.”

Dr Angela Renata Cordeiro Ortigara speaks during the closing session of the 2018 World Water Week in Stockholm

For the World Water Week in Stockholm Dr Ortigara organized the annual UN-Water Stakeholder Dialogue on the SDG 6 Synthesis Report. This year the focus was on the SDG 6 Synthesis Report. The Dialogue took place in small group discussions moderated by representatives from UNDP, SIDA, GIZ and GWP. The main obstacles, possibilities and what we can do concretely were highlighted. For example, the group moderated by Dr Marianne Kjellén, UNDP, discussed that it is hard to reach people living in conflict areas, regions where humanitarian issues are rising. Moreover, rural areas are often deprived of their rights due to a lack of political voice. The stigmatization and the lack of data and information about people living in these contexts often hide the issue and make actions to solve it more difficult, if they are taken at all. Inclusion and participation should be an integral part of water projects, and funds should be dedicated to eliminating inequalities, according to Ms Kjellén.

Ms Ortigara adds, smiling: “Participation is resonating in many themes. As to water governance, participation is also required to increase the society’s ownership of water projects and to improve on-the-ground implementation. Regarding capacity development and technology there is also a lack of political will and of a long-term vision, which is needed to invest in capacity development and to ensure that implemented technologies will be properly operated and maintained, delivering the expected results.”

However, Dr Ortigara stresses that the World Water Week should keep on with highlighting the technological aspects of solutions for environmental problems related to pollution and ecosystems: “Countries have agreed on water targets and it should be discussed how countries are acting to achieve these. New ways to collect data and transforming them in useful information for policy making are also very interesting. I liked the sessions on the use of citizen science and earth observation to bridge data gaps and how countries are using this data for their needs and improving their knowledge and management of their water. I also enjoyed a lot every session that presented concrete examples on how to face water-related challenges – I always believe these real cases are very useful for participants to learn from one another experiences.”

acrobat icon SDG 6 Synthesis Report 2018 on Water and Sanitation 


[Interview by Michael van der Valk]