[2019 Water Congress in Chile] The SuizAgua project presented its impact on water saving in the private sector

Through 34 projects executed by 10 private sector companies since 2013, the SuizAgua Chile project has saved more than 300,000 cubic meters of water per year, the equivalent of the daily consumption of more than 2 million people. The model includes measuring the Water Footprint, action plans to reduce it and collaborative work with other stakeholders in the environment where the companies operate, which translates into mutual benefits.

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During the 2019 Water Congress, the Fundación Chile and the “Water Unites Us’’ initiative of the Suizagua Latin America Project, held the Seminar “Water Footprint, a more sustainable model of water resources”, on 15 May in Santiago, Chile.

The meeting highlighted the need to move towards new forms of water management in Chile, the only Latin American country classified as having the highest risk of water shortage by 2040, according to the World Resources Institute, and the tenth most affected by climate change worldwide.

Andrés Pesce, Sustainability and New Business Manager at Fundación Chile, said “it is imperative to find new growth models capable of decoupling from finite resources and the impact of climate change. We hope to provide a new perspective for addressing the water problem; there is no single solution, but a set of measures in energy efficiency, conservation and management.”

Innovative water management model in the private sector

The SuizAgua Andina Chile project has worked to incorporate private companies into the water problem in their area of influence. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) contemplates a strategic view of the environment, with a “win-win” concept, which has been called RSEAgua. In addition, it has promoted the use of the ISO 14.046 methodology for making the Water Footprint Assessment, an indicator that determines the physical volume of water required for the different productive processes and assesses their impact on the area where they work.

The project presented its results during the seminar. These include 34 projects executed by 10 private sector companies since 2013, with savings of more than 300,000 m3 of water per year, the equivalent of the daily consumption of over 2 million people

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Claudia Galleguillos, who leads ‘Water Strategies’ at Fundación Chile, highlighted that “The company has the role of sustaining its own processes and ensuring proper water management, making a paradigm shift in sustainability and development. The view from the inside contemplates measuring and identifying key points where more water is used to implement action plans. But efficiency measures are not enough if we do not work at the territorial level, with other companies and communities. That makes development sustainable.”

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The Fundacion Chile presented the success stories of Polpaico, including the construction of a sewage works in the Til Til community, to generate water suitable for irrigation. This led to a number of entrepreneurial projects and an improvement in the quality of life for the community. Gonzalo Bachelet, General Manager of Minuto Verde, highlighted the importance of placing sustainability at the centre of the business strategy.

Desde el extranjero, se presentó Leslie Sarná, Gerente General de la Irrigadora Cerro Prieto en Perú, quién relató la exitosa experiencia de la obtención del Certificado Azul, modelo de incentivo público privado para la eficiencia hídrica llevado a cabo en el vecino país.

In a panel moderated by Ulrike Broschek, the leader of Fundación Chile’s 2030 Water Scenarios, major stakeholders from industry and academia discussed the challenges faced by decision-makers and policy makers and the private sector.

Focus on the agri-food sector

The agricultural sector consumes about 87 per cent of Chile’s water, generates 12 per cent of the country’s jobs and is one of the sectors most vulnerable to climate change, and this is why it is proposed as a strategic focus to work on water efficiency and reduce Chile’s water gap. The Suizagua Chile project has put the greater part of its efforts into making water use more efficient in the agro-industrial sector, where the intervention is aimed at suppliers or farmers, as the first link in the chain and the main water consumers.

Ambrosio Giovanolo, Deputy Director of Operations of the Agency for Sustainability and Climate Change, noted that “there is growing concern in the agricultural sector about adaptation to climate change. In public policies there is a clear goal in terms of mitigation, but not in terms of adaptation.”

Carlos Descourvières, Chilealimentos’ development manager, noted that “We started working on the water footprint over ten years ago. It is a very powerful tool for tackling problems in partnership and in conjunction with the public sector. The challenge is how to involve agricultural suppliers and crop farmers in the use of more efficient systems and improved water use indicators.”

Felipe de la Hoz, Director of the Water Centre for Agriculture of the University of Concepción, stressed that “… the task is to analyse the distribution and management of water resources. We have to see how to satisfy the demand of the crop when it is needed, and to do so we have to strengthen coaching in technological adaptation”.

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Finally, Alejandro Conza, representative of the NGO Agua Limpia, the project implementing agency in Peru, highlighted that ” … we have witnessed the growing interest of various sectors in the efficient use of water, as it affects vulnerable businesses such as agro-industry, and goes beyond environmental and socio-economic impact. ‘Water Unites Us’  made tangible the visible and non-visible use of water and put into action a pledge to reduce water use, calling on the private sector to go beyond its limits and look at suppliers.”

The Water Footprint Seminar conferences and presentations can be seen on the videos below.

1. Water Congress – Water and Sustainable Development for Chile’
2. Water Congress – ‘Blue Certificate, technological solutions and innovation for water’
3. Water Congress – ‘Climate change and its impact on water shortage
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SuizAgua – Water Unites Us (El Agua nos Une)

The project proposes a new form of cooperation through a public-private partnership, to suggest innovative tools for better water management and to establish a joint platform to measure and reduce the water footprint and exchange best practices in companies that decide to commit to efficient water resource management. SuizAgua will be implemented until 2020, and is four-fold: i) the water footprint assessment, ii) commitment to the value chain, encouraging suppliers and clients to take part in reducing impacts on the resource; iii) collective action in river basins, promoting activities for sustainable water management; and iv) corporate strategies, integrating water risk management into the business strategy.

Source: Fundación Chile

Useful links:
SuizAgua Project, fact sheet, Swiss Embassy, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC
Web El Agua Nos Une

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La Agencia Suiza para el Desarrollo y la Cooperación (COSUDE) es la entidad encargada de la cooperación internacional dentro del Departamento Federal de Asuntos Exteriores (DFAE). Con otras oficinas de la Confederación, la COSUDE es responsable de la coordinación general de la cooperación para el desarrollo y de la cooperación con los Países del Este, así como de los programas de ayuda humanitaria suizos.