Revista Retratos

ODS 6: access and management to ensure sustainability in the use of water

Section: Retratos Magazine | Marília Loschi | Design: Licia Rubinstein

November 19, 2018 09h00 AM | Last Updated: November 19, 2018 12h01 PM

The supply of water and basic sanitation is key to the people´s life and the environment. Although the mere supply is not enough to ensure a sustainable development. This is defined in the Sustainable Development Goal - SDG 6.

In an interview to the November edition of the Retratos Magazine, Bruno Perez, an IBGE researcher, talks about the need to match water access and management to ensure sustainability in the use of this precious resource.

Retratos Magazine: In the midst of a number of important goals, what can be highlighted in this goal?

Bruno Perez: This goal addresses the individual access to water for human consumption and sanitation in the housing unit, as well as the impact of human activities in the environment. It addresses aspects like water stress – which is the amount of water taken in relation to the water available in the environment – and health of aquatic ecosystems. These aspects are very important under the point of view of health, because we know that water is a disease vector whenever it is not safely managed for the population, causing a strong impact on infant mortality. Under the point of view of the environment, the pressure of the human activity has been increasing and causing even bigger impacts and this is a critical issue for the development.

Retratos: In terms of indicators, what is considered a challenge?

Mr. Perez: Of the 11 indicators, perhaps water access by the population and water stress are the most relevant. Perhaps the biggest challenge in the Brazilian case today is in sanitary exhaustion, more than in water supply. The coverage of water access is quite high in Brazil, though it does not mean that our access problem is solved. Yet, we face more difficulty with sanitary exhaustion.  We have another challenge in the Brazilian reality: more isolated and less populated rural areas do not count with sanitation networks or even water networks. People have individual access, which can be inappropriate. We try to pinpoint some forms of individual access in the IBGE´s household surveys, but the amount of information is limited. And the definitions of the UN indicators do not match the categories of the IBGE´s household surveys, which is a problem.

Retratos: A number of SDGs are expressed in different ways because countries have different cultures. Would it be there cultural ways dealing with sanitation that would be obstacles for an appropriate sanitation in Brazil?

Mr. Perez: If you look into SDG 6.2, the same goal has several issues. All the countries have to advance; for example, some countries will have to reduce open defecation. Due to very big regional inequalities in Brazil, I think that sometimes these realities are expressed in different ways. For example, open defecation is not relevant countrywide, it stays around 3% or 2%. It is not a very high figure, as some countries have more than 50%. Yet, the proportion is high in regional terms. In Maranhão and Piauí, about 10% of the population is in this situation. This situation reaches more than half of the population in some municipalities in the interior of those states, a similar figure as in India. But I would not point out to culture in this aspect. I believe it has more to do with economic development and supply of public services, as they are areas that match with extreme poverty.

Retratos: Likewise, when we talk about water, we also talk about other factors, like the environment, health. How does the SDG 6 relate with other SDGs?

Mr. Perez: Yes, it is intertwined with other goals. When talking about an appropriate house in the city in SDG 11, it includes access to water and basic sanitation. There is a series of intersections with other goals, like health, which is very important, and even education. The education SDG includes an indicator of sanitation access in the school bathrooms and water access. There are a number of links.

Retratos: Would you like to highlight something in this goal related with the situation of the São Francisco River?

Mr. Perez: Actually, the river and the transposition are related with several indicators. On the one hand, water access by some populations, which is also linked with the efficient use of water and water stress. The problem is that sometimes a measure that you take to advance in a direction will negatively reflect on the other. It is quite evident, if you increase water supply, it could cause a water stress. You have to look into all the indicators to be sustainable; if you pick only one, it can be improving, but not in a sustainable way.