To secure safe and abundant water for current and future generations, it is paramount to protect and restore water resources. Source Water Protection "SWP" is the explicit effort of protecting the water sources that supply water for flourishing human populations – both current and future generations. We believe that SWP plays and will continue to play a vital role in meeting Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6. Unfortunately, the world is not currently on track to meet SDG 6 by 2030 and there is a need to significantly accelerate water resources management (WRM) and holistic planning. SWP is important because degradation of water sources is a severe threat to the world’s most vulnerable people and a significant challenge to achieving SDG 6. Source water quality and quantity continues to decline due to human activity – further compounded by climate change.
In 2018, CRS launched its 12-year water security strategy, aligned with CRS' overarching global strategy, Vision 2030. Through our water security strategy, we seek to build our own capacity to strengthen systems and promote solutions that advance water security by working across multiple disciplines and technical programmatic areas. CRS recently joined the Agenda for Change (A4C), a movement established in 2015 to spearhead a transformation of the WASH sector, where development agencies commit to changing how they work to achieve SDG 6 through prioritizing systems-based programming instead of the traditional project-based model. A4C’s focus on systems strengthening offers an opportunity to bridge gaps for SWP because it requires strong coordination between actors as a large scale. Without a systems approach, it is almost impossible to effectively advocate for and implement SWP. This is because SWP faces systematic challenges and requires strategic planning and coordinated efforts between a diverse set of government entities, e.g. land, environmental, water, and agriculture agencies. Often, no one agency is responsible for SWP, so it is never prioritized.
With this in mind, we are building on our experience from this project to improve our water security planning by emphasizing SWP. CRS is well positioned to support local and national governments on SWP given CRS breadth of experience across multiple disciplines, including traditional WASH programming, watershed development, and sustainable agriculture. However, to date, CRS has rarely integrated these programming disciplines, nor have we adopted a systems-change approach to solve the gaps around SWP. Therefore, we expect this paper to provide the first link in connecting the various strands within CRS programming to intentionally consider SWP in our work and hope it provides helpful insights and learnings for other at the nexus of WASH, agriculture, conservation, and policy.