Since 2002, GWP Central America has organized a series of conferences for legislators, as key actors involved in the adoption of water laws and other regulations. A result of this effort has been the inclusion of the concept of integrated water resources management (IWRM) – for example institutional reform, multi-stakeholder participation, water financing, basin management, among other issues - in the various policies of the region, including the National Water Laws of Nicaragua (2007) and Honduras (2009), and the policies that are under discussion in Costa Rica and El Salvador.
More than 20 legislators and legislative advisors from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama participated in this event. In addition, regional experts including representatives from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the Central American Agricultural Council (CAC), the Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE), and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).
The event began with a presentation about the National IWRM Plan and Climate Change Policy of El Salvador, by Hernan Romero, from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of El Salvador (MARN).
“93% of the rain in El Salvador falls in 6 months and the remaining 7% in the rest of the year. Only 4.6% of sewage receives any treatment. The entire coast of El Salvador is contaminated with fecal coliforms, Phosphorous and Nitrogen.”
There was also a presentation of the effects of climate change on water resources and development of the region by Julie Lennox, from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
“Central America has had an accumulated economic loss of 23 billion because of 22 major events, assessed in the past 35 years.”
Three themed panels were organized to present the different experiences in regards to water, climate and development. The first panel included four presentations on issues intrinsically related to the above mentioned topic: food security, risk management and energy.
1500 liters of water are needed to produce 1 kg of wheat, and 10 times more water is needed to produce 1 kg of beef.
Central America is considered a multi-hazard area; 95% of the population of El Salvador is exposed to 2 or more risks.0.5% of the GDP of the countries of the region is affected because of disasters.
6 million of people in Central America do not have access to electricity. Latin America and the Caribbean have 25% of the world's hydroelectric potential and it only use 22%.
The second group of speakers spoke of institutional reform for IWRM; presenters included representatives of the National Water Authorities of Nicaragua and Peru, as well as the Director of Water of Costa Rica. The six countries of the region presented where they were in the process for the adoption of their water law or in implementation of their water law, in the last panel of the conference.
Declaration of San Salvador
At the end of the event, participants signed a declaration in which they pledged:
- The integrated water management provides the appropriate framework for action to promote sustainable use of water resources at the national and regional levels, so that progress towards water security and reduction of vulnerability to the impacts of climate change in the region, can be achieved.
- An ongoing commitment to make every effort to approve the Water Law, where none exist, or legal policies, to strengthen the integrated management of water as a mechanism to promote sustainable water use.
- Make an effort in congress to raise awareness with other legislators on the leading role of water for the development of countries and the contribution that the improvement in the management of water resources and infrastructure, can bring to various sectors, as well as in the reduction of the impacts of extreme events such as floods and droughts.
- Promote that the concept of Integrated Water Resources Management and Climate Change Adaptation are included in policies that are approved.
- An ongoing commitment to make every effort to legislate so as to ensure access to safe drinking water and declare water as a public good.
- That effective basin management represents an element of regional peace and constitutes one of the main elements of Central American integration.