Water is the first pillar of the WES programme. Many of WES capacity building and technical assistance efforts are build around improving water resource management and reducing marine litter. WES also aims to contribute to Sustainable Development Goal 6 – Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

In order to promote and improve the efficient use of water, WES is focusing on the following topics:

Topic 1:           Assessment and estimation of water use (per sector) 

A precondition to assess water use efficiency is to have a concrete estimation of the water use and water demands per sector (domestic, agriculture, tourism, industry, etc.) for at least the main users. WES is therefore supporting for example the development of a common approach to classify and estimate water use and of guidelines on how to use proxies for such estimations.

Topic 2: Investigation and introduction of water efficiency gains at the decentralized level   

To improve water efficiency, different options and interventions (technological, regulatory, etc.) need to be investigated, aiming to either reduce water demand and introduce water savings, or increase water supply, to achieve a beneficial balance. This process depends on the proper assessment of the status and evaluation of the current water use efficiency and water balance in order to correctly identify the problems and remedies. It often involves the development and use of specific tools and models which can be used as test-beds for the simulation of the water efficiency measures (both demand management and increase supply measures), based on which a program of measures can be implemented at the appropriate spatial scale.

The whole process also involves the definition of water efficiency targets (per sector and across sectors) through a participatory approach with stakeholders. The cost-benefit analysis of different measures and options (either on the demand reduction or on the increase supply side) is crucial. These options vary from technological, to economic, to policy instruments, etc. with the overall objective to introduce a smart and sustainable adaptation tackling drivers and pressures and improving water use efficiency.

Topic 3: Water resources valuation, cost-recovery and affordability of water services   

This topic clusters activities related to multiple aspects of water services (municipal level, water utilities, etc.) and water resources valuation, which helps in efficient and equitable allocation between competing users. It aims to offer means of achieving better optimality in social consumption and production. It also supports the design of economic instruments and controls, which can in turn help attain optimal consumption, helps revise investment decisions, and supports decision-making and the definition of conservation priorities especially in water scarce areas.

The viability of water services on the other hand is linked to adequate regulation, optimisation and planning, where the economic affordability and cost-recovery (including environmental and resource costs) have a key role, especially in developing economies. Full cost recovery in developing countries is challenging, as it involves considerations of equity and efficiency, while poor economic performance of water utilities is also linked to the prevailing policy environment, institutional arrangements and management autonomy. In this context, activities aiming at designing and implementing suitable cost-recovery strategies, pricing schemes, and water valuation frameworks are of high added value.

Topic 4: Enhancing Water Efficiency and Productivity in agriculture

Issues addressed in this topic cover institutional and structural levels of the water productivity chain including the design and application of good agricultural practices linked to efficient water use and productivity gains (e.g. suitable crop selection, proper irrigation scheduling, effective irrigation techniques, water conservation methods, water retention measures, using alternative sources of water, etc.), the enhancement of participatory approaches for agricultural innovation, the enhancement of women’s and youth capacity, the management of irrigation schemes in a modernization perspective covering the whole efficiency chain, the use and acceptability of treated wastewater, and the implementation of the Water, Energy, Food Security and Ecosystem Nexus.