The entanglements of efficiency: Lessons for sustainable water management

Organizer: Nadja Kunz
Format: Online, Morning

Efficiency improvement and technological innovation are necessary but insufficient for progressing towards sustainable production and consumption: they realize incremental, relative improvement, but fail to facilitate systemic change. Furthermore, efficiency per se can be counterproductive: driving undesirable behaviour; causing unintended system- wide consequences; and eroding resilience. Some communities, including those working towards UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are more alert to this than others. In this session, we explore the entanglements of efficiency in implementing SDG#6, which recognizes that accessible water for all is essential for societies to thrive through health and well- being, food security, livelihood choices and educational opportunities. The session will open with contemporary perspectives on efficiency, in terms of how it might be defined and what that means for system performance and overall water security. We will then explore challenges and lessons learnt with respect to how SDG#6 aspirations have been implemented across three major water-using sectors: urban (SDG targets 6.1/6.4), agriculture (target 6.4) and mining (targets 6.3/6.4) – with an emphasis on how efficiency has been conceptualized, measured and evaluated. The feature of the session will be to workshop what efficiency should mean for water-using sectors and, in a role- play 2030 scenario, participants will explore how efficiency might support – or corrupt – sustainable water management and sustainable development more broadly. Participants will be encouraged to explore the importance of developing “nexus” targets that acknowledge potential interactions between resource sectors (e.g. water- energy) and across SDGs. The session will benefit from participation by diverse stakeholders interested in progressing the SDGs; it is not restricted to stakeholders associated with water- using sectors. After all, workshopping the 2030 scenario to consider efficiency for sustainable development will require collaboration across all SDGs and between stakeholder groups – including business, government, academia and civil society.

Themes: Integrated Action for the SDGs