Water and food security - E-consultation to set the track of the study

21.01.2014 - 28.02.2014

The CFS, in its 40th session, requested the HLPE to prepare a report on Water and Food Security for its 42nd session in 2015, as follows:

“In the follow-up of major international events such as Rio+20 and the World Water Forum, the HLPE will further explore the “water and food security” issue. Water has an important role in food security through its multiple impacts on: health and nutrition (drinking water, cooking water, sanitary aspect/diseases), on agricultural production (access to water, water management, improvement of irrigation and dryland agriculture) and on food processing (water management, quality of water…). This topic should be seen in the wider context of the nexus between water, soil, energy and food security which is recognized as a pillar of inclusive growth and sustainable development. The HLPE report could put together information on how countries and regions are addressing the management of this important resource.

Through a food security lens, the HLPE will focus its analysis on water for agricultural production and food processing, taking also into account gender-related aspects. More specifically, the HLPE could, from a food security perspective, assess the impacts of water management practices on food security, including water usage for agricultural production, food processing and other ways of consumption. It should also consider in particular issues related to the sustainability of irrigation systems, the salinization of agricultural land and the reduction of the quality of the ground water. On this basis, it will give appropriate recommendations so as to improve water and food security policies, as well as coordination among the different fields and actors at all levels, with a long-term perspective.”

As part of its report elaboration process, the HLPE is launching an e-consultation to seek views, public and expert feedback and comments, on the following proposed scope and building blocks of the report, outlined below.

The HLPE ambitions to synthesize and analyze available evidence expected to be useful to support action by the public and private sectors and civil society.  Based on this evidence a set of policy recommendations will be made. 

1. Water use for health, nutrition and food security - global and regional trends

Water is central to food and nutrition security. Safe drinking water and sanitation are fundamental to good nutrition, the health and dignity of all. Water is also key for food security because it is an important and essential input for agricultural production, food processing, preparation and cooking of food.

First, the HLPE proposes to summarize the latest evidence-based information on the use of water for health and nutrition (drinking water, cooking water, sanitary aspect/diseases), and for food and agriculture, - indicating how much water is consumed for the production, processing, and consumption of food as well as for sanitation and drinking water. This section of the report would also include:

  • Metrics on access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation: trends in the number of people who lack access to safe water and adequate sanitation. Latest data and trends in water consumption by the food and agriculture sector, the manufacturing industry, the energy sector, IT based communication systems and services. What are the global and regional patterns and anticipated increases in water consumption in these sectors over the next 30 years?
  • Metrics on global freshwater withdrawals for food production. Available data on the consumption of surface and groundwater water for food and agriculture in different regions.  Assessment of existing projections of future water prices.
  • Global and regional statistics on water quality. To what extent, - and how -, is water quality changing in rural and urban areas, both within and between countries? How does the geography and current trends in water quality affect the capacity of different genders and social groups to access clean and good quality water?

The report would critically discuss the accuracy and reliability of all the metrics and water accounting methods used in this report.

2. Governance of water and food security

Water governance is now a key concern in a context of increasing water scarcity, local and trans-boundary water conflicts, and global climate change.  The HLPE report would therefore focus on the governance of water management for food and nutrition security. In this context, governance refers to the interactions among different institutions, actors and structures that determine how and by whom power is exercised, and where decisions are taken on water and food security. Rights, relationships, responsibility, and accountability are key issues here along with the set of rules, cultural or social norms that regulate access, use and control over water.

Actors, entitlements and rights. The HLPE report would briefly describe the various categories of actors who participate in the governance of water management for food and water security. These actors include water collectors (mostly women), small scale food producers (men and women farmers, pastoralists, fishing communities, forest dwellers, indigenous peoples, urban and peri-urban farmers...); public actors (local and national); and the private sector (small and medium size business to large multinational corporations).  The report would distinguish these different actors on the basis of clear criteria, - including their specific capacities for water management; their entitlements and rights to manage water resources; their capacity to influence policy making and institutional choices at local/national/international levels; and ability/willingness to invest specific resources in the governance of water management for food security.

Special attention would be given to the contributions and roles of women as food and water providers. What do we know (and do not know) about gender relations and women’s roles, rights, and responsibilities in the governance of water and food security?

Policies for water and food security. The HLPE report will seek to compile available information on how countries and regions are addressing the management of water for food and water security through their policies and institutions. The report will aim to identify common denominators and fundamental divergences in the policies and institutions for water governance that are promoted by different actors (the State, corporations and other private sector actors, indigenous peoples, non governmental organisations, peasant/farmer organisations, and social movements... ). It would be useful to focus on national and international policies for this analysis of different practices and normative views on water governance and food/water security.

3. Management of water for food and nutrition security: impacts, sustainability and resilience 

Water management. What are the key issues for the management of water for human health and nutrition, agriculture, and processing? How do changing diets affect water demand and water management options, and vice versa? Most national plans for agriculture and food security focus on expanding the area under irrigation by some significant amounts. What are the challenges for water management? What is the potential to accommodate demands for more irrigation? How far can water management stretch the resource?

How do management decisions to first allocate water for cities, industry, mining, and the energy production sector affect access and quality of water for human consumption and agriculture & food processing? How is water management challenged by the demands of urbanisation and population growth? What are the implications for the right to water and the right to food for all?

The HLPE report would compare and contrast the water use efficiency of different food systems and water management practices for the production, processing and consumption of food, - including drinking water using the concept of ‘water footprints’[1]  and other water accounting methods. The strengths and weaknesses of the different water accounting methods used for these comparisons would be critically discussed.

What is the effect of water availability on the international trade of food (crops and livestock products)? What are the risks and opportunities associated with the expansion of international trade in water intensive commodities? How are people’s right to water and right to food affected by the changing relationships between (inter)national trade and water management? How do these trends impact on local and national food/water sovereignty? After critically assessing the strengths, weaknesses, and relevance of the ‘virtual water’[2]  concept, the HLPE report would describe the impacts of international trade on domestic water resources and on how water is managed and allocated within river basins, watersheds and villages/municipalities for drinking water, sanitation, farming, food processing and so on.

How could climate change affect water availability for human needs and agriculture in different regions? What are the likely impacts of climate change on groundwater use, water storage, and the availability of surface water for drinking/cooking water, sanitation, agricultural production, and food processing? The report would critically discuss the potential of technological and institutional innovations for water conservation and its sustainable use in the context of climate change, - focusing on water management for health, nutrition and water security and on agriculture and food security.

The report would also offer critical reflections on the resilience of the water management systems and practices currently used by different actors. How do the water management systems and practices of these different types of actors compare in terms of their resilience and capacity to adaptively respond to change, - including climate change and market volatility?

Water governance impacts & emerging issues. Available evidence and knowledge will be used to critically analyse the impacts of different governance regimes for water management on a) local and national water and food security, and b) on the livelihoods and food/water security of actors centrally involved in water harvesting and collecting, water distribution, sanitation, food production, processing and food preparation. When assessing the short and long term outcomes of different water governance regimes on food and water security and key actors, the HLPE proposes to consider both negative and positive i) environmental impacts; ii) social and cultural impacts; iii) public health impacts; and iv) economic impacts.

Last, the HLPE proposes to examine some critical emerging issues for the governance of water management. For example, the HLPE report would analyse the impacts of water grabs/acquisitions on food and nutritional security. Water is both a target and driver of the recent large scale land investments/land grabs for agricultural production (including biofuels). Particular attention would be given to the documented impacts of ‘water grabs’ on the food, nutritional and water security of women, vulnerable peoples and groups. The report would identify uncertainties, gaps in knowledge, and needs for further research on the long term consequences of water grabs/acquisitions for water and food security.

Equity and sustainability. The HLPE proposes to offer a critical assessment of the equity and sustainability outcomes of a range of water governance regimes and management practices, emphasizing implications for the food, nutritional, and water security of different genders and social groups. The report will seek to clearly identify gaps in knowledge and uncertainties in their discussion of controversies, contentious issues, and competing and conflicting approaches to water and food security, inclusive growth, and sustainable development.

4. Policy recommendations for water management and food security

As in previous reports, the HLPE will seek to elaborate policy recommendations, taking into account three important elements. First, the recognition of the need to take into account the diversity of converging and diverging perspectives, thereby trying to elicit controversies as well as competing visions and conflicting paradigms for water and food security.  Second, the currently uncertain policy context that exists for water and food security. Third, the current context of increasingly rapid and unpredictable environmental, economic and social change.

The HLPE will ambition to take a long term perspective in its recommendations on how to improve policies and institutions for water and food security, as well as coordination at all levels among different sectors and actors.

[1] The “water footprint” of a food commodity (or any other product) is the total volume of water of freshwater used - that is consumed and polluted - to produce the food commodity, measured over the whole production chain. It is an indicator of freshwater use that looks at both the direct and indirect use of water to produce a particular food (or any other product).

[2] The “virtual-water” content of a food product is the freshwater ‘embodied’ in the product. The virtual-water balance of a country or continent over a given time period is defined as the net import of virtual water over this period, which is equal to the gross import of virtual water minus the gross export. A positive virtual-water balance for the food and agriculture sector implies net inflow of virtual water to the nation from other nations. A negative balance means net outflow of virtual water.


Kbn Rayana I A M M A, India

A special report on the  expert Feed back and comments:

BY KBN Rayana, Dir.Gen., IAMMA (HQ>Hyd/india), @ New York office 11510, USA


1.       In the bullet point one to be added a safe drinking water exploration of Ground water restrictions and regulatory baody to be established to be included

2.       Under Matrics the Agriculture sector use of water to be underlined with the crop requirement. This enables to save the water and also energy used specifically explored  ground water , and irrigative systems. (ie., every crop needs certain required amount of gallons of crops. That to be added to enable to use it for good production and quality production of food.)

3.       Hydraulic fractures are inevitable hence water to be explored however a regulatory body to be established which can be with objectives of recharging such ground water, establishing water tanks, catching/harvesting rain water , and silting existing tanks and protect them for illegal occupation and use of other purposes.

4.       As a statistics use the water related to food and agriculture crop wise data and adanced agronomic systems applied for irrigating and crop development.

5.       Under bullet point Two:  governance  water is a free element from the nature.. and so far so froth there is lesser regulatory body in use of Agriculture and drinking. Most drinking is under supplies from the local body ie municipalities, county agents etc. under these bodies an addition to be powered to regulate the ground water harvest, recharge, and exploration limitations etc.

6.       As above said an agronomic systems developed with moisture regiems to establish better utilized , cost effective and economic use by the farmer., to be included

7.       Capacity build up to catch up of rain water to enable to over flood , and waste of it into see to be regulated, by linking water channels,/rivers/riverbeds establishments, and watershed managements

8.       Regulatory body to be more elaborated on the use of water by private as a trade and besides taxes the regulatory body may collect special provision of fee such use by private companies. This is specifically referring to the mineral water and etc…

9.       In relation to the water management , the priority given for food and agriculture since food is prime for every one. … and along with drinking water. One can stay without food for a couple of days and more some times with water. However without water it is hard to consume the food. Therefore as drinking water as a primodial thing however clubbed with regulatory body.

10.   Water share of inbetween countries also an important which will be noted in the developing countries and also developed countries.

11.   Water wastage to be addressed in turms of storage and diversion of water to dry lands use at national and international issue.

12.   The  sustainable use only possible by educating the water importance, limitations , availability and climate change from each person to advancing to the farmer who use both purposes ie driniking and food& agrc., and Industries who use for both purposes  and control and recycling the waste water.

13.   Importance will be given for use of wate water crop cropping systems wherever it is applicable.

14.   Gender is always who use domestic water in both villages and cities. However they may be educated from time to time how to economic use and good use with monitoring. This also to be added in the report.

15.   Water grabs and acquisition can only prevented through regulatory body, who is involved in local, hence to strengthen the body with powers are necessary.

16.   An immediate management approaches to be evolved for silting out of all tanks to enable to stop over flooding and impact of natural disasters caused due to climate change. Although it is routine matter for developing countries, however in recent days it become a problem in the developed world too. For eg. Recent flood in Themes river in greater London area etc.



Therefore task force to be considered  on priority with regulatory bodies, in governance, sustainable use of water in agriculture etc for advancing agronomic systems in relation to the crop wise requirement, and drinking water based on per capita/local population.

At international level linking and hareing of river water .. and urgent silting out and management existing tanks….




Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research ,
  • Water and Ecosystem Services: Ecosystems services provided by surface water such as fishing, gathering, grazing need to be better understood and documented. These services are critical to the poorest parts of society e.g. landless and water development often impacts these users hardest.
  • Water Demand Management: we need to move beyond water management that focuses on water sharing between diverse claimants to active demand management. This provides a different lens on water management that is essential as water scarcity becomes more extreme and provides a basis for analysis for the most efficient and productive use of water.
  • Frames for water ‘equity, justice and resilience’ need to be defined. These words are used in many water debates without anyone defining what they mean or considering what frameworks can actually be used in their implementation in water management. For instance what does equity mean in water management? There can never be physical equity in water distribution/use, so what is meant? Without appropriate depth of consideration and definition of water equity and justice, and how they can be delivered, there will never be agreement on water management and sustainable water management will not be achieved.
  • Better approaches to integrating water use efficiency approaches between diverse agricultural sectors - irrigated, dryland, livestock and tree production - are essential if sustainable agricultural production and intensification are to be achieved.
  • The issue of water markets/pricing and externalities (and policy responses) needs deeper treatment in the scope.
  • Future competition (to 2050) for fresh water between agriculture, urban and industrial use needs to be projected in the report.
  • Water quality and safety must be integral to the analysis and policy recommendations regarding water availability, access and management in the report; unsafe/unsuitable water undermines agricultural and health outcomes no matter how readily available water may be.
  • The role of water in mitigating/managing/increasing rural household risks merits more consideration.
Zenón Porfidio Gomel Apaza Asociación Savia Andina Pukara, Peru

Estimados colegas.

El tema es altamente interesante.

La región Puno, donde vivo, tiene una extensión aproximada de 71 mil Km2, el 70 % de esa extensión está constituida por el Altiplano (ecorrregión suni del Altiplano) sobre 3850 m.s.n.m. El Altiplano es una región con alta variabilidad climática (por no decir cambio climático), en este momento (febrero 2014) las precipitaciones son erráticas, la helada hace dos semanas afectó un 40 % de los cultivos en varios sitios del reagión, aunque se sabe que el región la precipitación oscila entre 700 a 800 mm anuales la distribución es altamente errática. Según el resultado del censo agropecuario (CENAGRO 2012) existen en la región 617,163 cabezas de vacun. Si solo se estimara la cantidad de agua que necesitan estos animales para producir carne o leche en una zona carente de agua, estamos ante un problema serio de falta de agua, en tanto el número de cabezas de vacunos aumentan en cada campaña, asimismo crecen las cantidades de areas sembradas con pastos perennes y anuale para alimentar a la creciente ganadería lechera. En solo la provincia de Melgar (capital gandera del Perú) en la ultima campaña se cultivaron al rededor de 30 mil Has, de los cuales el 70 % son de pastos cultivados entre perennes y anuales. Entonces estamos ante uns situación que desde las políticas publicas no se está advirtiendo.

La recomendación sería desde la FAO, como ente rector de la agricultura en el mundo, se inste al estado peruano tomar en cuenta tecnicamente la relación de la oferta de agua y la demanda de agua en un sistema productivo con la ganadería vacuna, especialmente en una zona de escasez de agua.

En cuanto al agua potable. Se estan generando muchos proyectos de saneamiento basico en los distritos y en las comunidades rurales. El agua se capta en los ojos de agua o manantes naturales que estan relacionadas con con los colchones de agua oa bofeadales que se recargan naturalmente en época de lluvias. Los colchones de agua se estan secando porque no tienen la sificiente recarga, es decir se extrae agua del ecosistema pero no se recarga. Urge aquí la recarga de los acuiferos naturales a través de la cosecha de agua. Sería bueno que la FAO tome cartas en el asunto para recomendar al estado peruano; es bueno los proyectos de cosecha de agua para orrigaciones en grandes magnitudes, pero se está dejando de lado la cosecha de agua a pequeña escala para las poblaciones alejadas de los grades sistema de riego y agua potable.

Muchas gracias.


Zenón Gomel


Chris Perry ,

I wish you luck in evaluating the spectrum of responses you have received.  Those from John Passioura are particularly insightful.

I note that you plan to use (and evaluate) water footprinting approaches in your analysis.

I attach two papers that are extremely critical of the procedures for computing WFs and the policy-relevance of such calculations, even if accurate.

Water footprints: Path to enlightenment, or false trail? (PDF)

An Economic Analysis of the Virtual Water Concept in relation to the Agri-food Sector (PDF)

Locally, it is certainly a good idea to know how water is being used, and hydrology is a well-proven science that facilitates that analysis.  Especially when international trade is introduced, and NO attempt to evaluate the opportunity cost of all the other inputs into ag production, then we just have numbers with no relevance at all to decisions about water.


Chris Perry

Timothé Feodoroff Transnational Institute (TNI) Agrarian Justice Programme , Netherlands

Dear HLPE,

Thank you for providing us with the opportunity to feed into this timely and important discussion. Transnational Institute (TNI) Agrarian Justice Programme works with agrarian social movements and civil society groups on issues revolving around land and water struggles, carrying out evidence-based policy studies.

We welcome the comprehensive scope of the study, acknowledging the indivisibility of water with agricultural, land and food security issues – especially in light of widespread large-scale land acquisitions. We also appreciate how it encompasses a key and critical perspective on governance and management themes. We however noticed a few shortcomings, which, if taken into consideration, would strengthen the relevance and impact of the report.

An important dimension of water for food security left out of the scope relates to the role of water in sustaining (rural) livelihoods, especially those of small-scale food producers including farming, fishing, forest-dwelling and herding communities.

Further, we call for caution when you state that ‘the report would distinguish these different actors on the basis of clear criteria’. Boundaries between farmers, fishers, etc. are sometimes blurred. Some communities rely on farming or fishing depending on the season, or fishers occupy and use inland areas while farmers occupy and use coastal land, etc.

In the same vein, the pluralism of tenure systems over water access, use and management, including formal, customary and indigenous ones, should be recognised when it comes to issues in water governance. In this exercise, a human rights framework should be favoured when addressing the impacts of various water systems management.

We believe the policy recommendations could be more explicitly focused on guaranteeing the enjoyment of human rights such as the right to water and the right to food, especially for poor, vulnerable and marginalized people – to whom land and water access is critical for their livelihoods.

Finally, a section on concepts could be useful in order to clarify what is meant by water security, drawing upon the framework developed in relation to the right to food.

Best Regards,

Timothé Feodoroff
Transnational Institute (TNI), Agrarian Justice Programme, Amsterdam

Government of Australia ,

Overall Comments

·         Australia thanks the High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) for the opportunity to provide comments on their proposed study on Water and Food Security.

·         The proposed scope of the report indicates it will focus on water for agricultural production and food processing. It broadly covers the main issues currently raised in the global debate and is similar to several existing reports that address global challenges in water use for food production.

·         Australia advocates a comprehensive approach to food security, which includes protecting the productive base for agricultural production. This consists of maintaining plant and animal health and sustaining the natural environment, including water.

·         Australia therefore supports the proposed study on Water and Food Security, as it will provide valuable information on the condition of global and regional water supplies and any critical pressures likely to emerge as agricultural production increases to meet 2050 global food demand.

·         In exploring the effect of water availability on the international trade of food, Australia encourages the HLPE to explore the link between open markets, innovation and effective water management.

o   Open markets allow a country to focus on their comparative advantage, which promotes greater efficiency and innovation in agricultural production – including in water management.

·         Australia also supports the HLPE’s proposed focus on women.

o   In addition to describing the contributions and roles of women as food and water providers, the report could usefully consider practical measures that would improve women’s access to water.

o   We note that women make up 40 per cent of agriculture’s labour force worldwide and up to 67 per cent in lower income countries. Economic growth is strongest when all members of a society are able to participate fully.

·         Economic impacts (mentioned briefly in section 3) warrant greater attention.  Water and food security are essential for economic growth and poverty reduction. We encourage the HLPE to identify the extent to which water scarcity might limit economic activity. Subsequent discussion of options for managing such constraints – including new technologies, improved resource management or other policy reforms – could then include consideration of their potential economic benefits.

Specific Comments

·         Section 1, Dot Point 1 - ‘What are the global and regional patterns and anticipated increases in water consumption in these sectors over the next 30 years?’

o   This comment appears to be set in a context of increases in water consumption; however it is likely that we will be in a context of uncertainty of quantity and regularity in water supplies, especially in current food growing areas. It may be useful if the paper sets the discussion more in the context of increasing demands and uncertain supply of water.

·         Section 1, Dot Point 3 - ‘Global and regional statistics on water quality. To what extent, and how, is water quality changing in rural and urban areas, both within and between countries? How does the geography and current trends in water quality affect the capacity of different genders and social groups to access clean and good quality water?

o   Australia suggests the report explore the relationship between the increased use of groundwater and the localised concentration of ‘poisons/ contaminants’ in groundwater, which can have severe health impacts.

·         Section 2, Opening Statement - ‘Water governance is now a key concern in a context of increasing water scarcity, local and trans-boundary water conflicts, and global climate change. The HLPE report would therefore focus on the governance of water management for food and nutrition security’

o   It would be more realistic to set this in the context of competing demands for water from urban centres, industry, power generators and the needs of the environment. Water for food security (especially for irrigators) will have to be addressed in the context of competing demands.

o   As the competition for water increases, one of the emerging issues is water pricing. As water becomes a more valuable commodity and choices need to be made on the basis of comparative economic returns from various uses of water, the price of water becomes a critical issue. Entitlements are one issue but allocations are becoming more critical.

o   While there is a brief reference to transboundary conflicts in this section, the proposed scope focuses largely on national issues.  We suggest the HLPE also provide their assessment of how water scarcity and competition might impact broader global or regional relationships in the future.

·         Section 2, Paragraph 4 - ‘The HLPE report will seek to compile available information on how countries and regions are addressing the management of water for food and water security through their policies and institutions’

o   A key issue that will increasingly affect policy decisions is energy and the cost of energy. There should be some reference to how energy (availability and price and also use of renewable energy such as for solar water pumps) will impact on water policies.

o   Formal policies and institutions are an important part of the picture, but some assessment will also be required of the political economy of water management. Access to water is a significant element of broader power relationships in many countries. 

·         Section 3, Paragraph 1 - ‘What is the potential to accommodate demands for more irrigation?’

o   The issue of demand for more irrigation needs to address the issue of energy use, as well as the environmental impact of opening new areas for irrigation and the issue of water use efficiency in irrigation. Water use efficiency is a key issue for water security in South Asia. The challenge we face is the need to produce more food with less water. 

o   In section 3 paragraph 2 there appears to be a suggestion that water for agriculture may come after water for cities, energy, mining, energy production etc. In South Asia, more than 70% of surface water and a similar percent of groundwater is allocated first for agriculture. This is what makes the issue of competition so significant. 

o   Australia also notes that other users of water are demanding more, often basing their case on the share of Gross National Product generated from each use. We suggest the paper advise on measures needed to ensure the agriculture sector continues to receive sufficient water to maintain food security, in the context of growing competition over an increasingly scarce resource.

·         Section 3, paragraph 5 - ‘The report would critically discuss the potential of technological and institutional innovations for water conservation and its sustainable use in the context of climate change’

o   Australia suggests the issue of Conservation Agriculture be addressed in this section of the report. This approach targets more efficient use of water in agriculture.

·         Section 3, paragraph 7 - ‘Water governance impacts and emerging issues’

o   The place of traditional water management structures (such as traditional tanks in South Asia) in securing food production in the face of changing rainfall patterns could be included in this section of the report.

Potential additional topics

·         Surface water quality

o   The original Council for Food Security request for a report (page 2) includes consideration of impacts on groundwater quality. However, the state of surface water is also integral to global food security. For instance, in some countries, surface water has been heavily polluted and rendered unfit for many purposes including agriculture. While we note that the initial request terms cannot be changed, the interactions between surface and groundwater resources suggest that surface water should be included in the consideration of the report. We suggest that the scoping point on global and regional statistics of water quality (page 3, point 3) could specify that the research will consider statistics on both groundwater and surface water quality.

·         Biodiversity and food security

o   We note that the document does not mention the critical role biodiversity plays in supporting agricultural production. Biodiversity is the foundation of ecosystem services essential to sustain agriculture and human well-being. While biodiversity is critical for agriculture, agriculture can also contribute to conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Maintenance of this biodiversity is essential for the sustainable production of food and other agricultural products and the benefits these provide to humanity, including food security, nutrition and livelihoods. We suggest that the interaction between biodiversity, water and food security policies could be explored in this report.

Suggested case studies

·         Australian policy makers have a considerable experience in water and food security policy. The Department of the Environment has indicated that it would be willing to contribute to relevant case studies which may be useful for the HLPE to consider in developing its report.

·         For example, Australia’s ongoing inter-jurisdictional cooperation on water quality issues at a basin scale in the Murray-Darling Basin could serve as a realistic case study that demonstrates both the successes and inherent challenges related to water governance (For reference, see: Grafton and Horne, 2014 - forthcoming, Water markets in the Murray-Darling Basin,  Agricultural Water Managementhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agwat.2013.12.001). Similarly, Australia’s experience with water quality improvement plans in general may offer valuable insight to this report.

·         Another possible example is our experience in climate change adaptation and resilience. The Department of the Environment is developing a national adaptation assessment framework through a series of reports called the Climate Adaptation Outlook. We are working to extend the framework to assess national adaptation progress in a number of priority areas, including the water sector. The final assessment framework is due to be released in May 2014 and the first national assessment is due to be released in December 2014.

Concluding Remarks

·         Australia thanks the High Level Panel of Experts for developing their proposed scope of the study on water and food security and looks forward for further engagement as the report is developed. 

Abdelrahman Tamimi West Bank

despite the fact the document is  sufficient to clarify the road map two minor comments  would be added

1. uncertain socioeconomic ( internal conflicts , economic problems ...etc) and natural conditions impact ( climate change , drought ) should be considered

2. measurable quantitative  indicatres  matrix is needed

3, the impact of  price ( water - food, energy ) affordability and accesability

Helle Munk Ravnborg DIIS, Denmark

Contribution from Helle Munk Ravnborg, Senior Researcher, Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), based e.g. on research conducted as part of the programme Competing for Water: Understanding conflict and cooperation in local water governance (www.diis.dk/water).

Thanks for the opportunity to contribute.

I coincide with the observation made by others that this is a very comprehensive outline which may build on but also contribute to advance the state of our knowledge on water and food security. This is even more important now when prospects are that a separate water goal may be developed as part of the global agenda for sustainable development (the so-called post-2015 agenda).

Water quality

I am very happy to see that water quality is stressed as a separate issue. Many countries suffer from inadequate regulation of the production, trade and use of agricultural chemicals with devastating consequences for farm workers, water quality and food quality. Therefore, it is also alarming when UNEP as part of the Global Environment Outlook 5 (2012) observed that “there are no globally-agreed water quality standards, no rigorous water quality index based on long-term data, and data gaps exist for concentrations of contaminants of emerging importance”. Problems of indiscriminate use of harmful pesticides may grow in areas where food crops are grown as biofuel feedstock due to even less strict regulation.

Food and water sovereignty as a policy concern

I am also happy to see that water and food security are dealt with in the context of water and food sovereignty which e.g. due to recent developments in the global food and water markets is becoming an increasingly important political objective to many governments and also to a growing number of social movements around the world.

Water governance reform: legitimizing dispossession?

With respect to water governance, a wave of water governance reform has swept across the developing world during the past two to three decades, in an attempt to establish central administrative guidelines for and control over the assignation of water resources between sectors and users. Water use permits and concessions form a common part of these frameworks and are intended to be allocated on the basis of a politically agreed list of priorities in terms of water uses, commonly ranking domestic use first and food production second, as well as on the basis of hydrological, environmental and socio-economic impact assessments of proposed water use. Moreover, minor uses such as domestic water use and small-scale irrigation are often exempted from the need to obtain a formal water use permit (de minimis exemptions).

As water rights in most developing countries up to now have been obtained on the basis of complex and often contradicting systems of water rights defined on principles of first appropriation, riparian rights, customary rights obtained or justified through a mix of economic, social, cultural and political relations, the recent wave of water governance reform may at the same time be seen as an attempt reduce to authority of the institutions backing these sets of rights. The social, environmental, political and economic impacts of this wave of water governance reform will therefore critically depend upon the extent to which previous water rights holders, including holders of rights to water for de minimis exempted uses, and the concerns that have guided previous water rights authorities are taken into consideration as part of the new system for the assignation of water use permits and concessions. In countries with limited administrative capacity, a low level of legal literacy and with limited access to legal and administrative institutions for significant parts of the population, the net result of the water reform process may very well be the legitimization of the dispossession of water (and water rights) from small-scale, upstream food producers to large-scale, downstream agricultural enterprises who are required to demonstrate legal access to water e.g. in order to obtain access to international credit and markets.

Therefore, I urge that the report shed light on the issue and importance of the actual implementation on the ground (nationally as well as locally) of the recent water governance reforms, which in my experience is key to the actual outcome, including the outcome in terms of water and food security for who.

Dinesh Suna Ecumenical Water Network of World Council of Churches, Switzerland

Ecumenical Water Network[i]

Comment to the HLPE-consultation on the scope of the CFS report on Water and Food Security

Even though the scope of the study is quite comprehensive, we found few gaps that the study needs to cover or strengthen.  Therefore, here are some of the relevant, additional questions that we  recommend to take into account:

1) Holistic Human Rights Approach

·         We highly recommend a human right approach to be maintained throughout the study. Which means a thorough analysis of the haves and have not’s with regards to the food and water.  , who is benefited  by certain policies, or hit by it.  Given the fact that the access to safe drinking water  and sanitation is recognized as a human right by the UN, it is all the more important to bring in the human rights dimension to the discussion.

2) Nexus between safe drinking water and nutrition

·         Even a well-balanced diet with enough calories and good composition of nutrients, will not help, if you do not consume safe drinking water. The nutritious food will not be effective. This is why it’s not enough to call for improved drinking water sources   alone, as they are defined now by the current form of the MDGs  (by taking into account the “connected” water supply, for instance,  irrespective of the quality of water).  Therefore, quality  and quantity both are important,

3) Water intensive agricultural food production models 

·         Even though this aspect is being flagged, it needs more strengthening. The increase demand on food production is water intensive which  that uses increasing amount of water for irrigation – often     detrimental  to already lack of water availability.  An effective water management , particularly with regards to agriculture  through Agroecology models is the way to go. 

4) The Pollution of Water and land : Urban –rural divide

·         Water is being polluted by agricultural production (e.g.,  wide use of antibiotic in shrimp farming and  rampant use of  pesticides and fertilizer in agriculture ) affecting water and soil  rendering adverse effect on  the fertility of the land and can affect  future production. Management needs to take sewage treatment into account. Water / land rights need to include user obligations in contributing to safeguarding and preserving the quality of the water and land

·         The Urban poor, who are forced to migrate from rural areas, in the name of urbanization, driven by market,  the slum dwellers, “illegal settlers”, or  the internally displaced people in the refugee camps live a life of impoverishment, far from the dignified access to safe drinking water and sanitation.  The scope, therefore, should not only talk about the urban/peri-urban farmers, but  also about the general urban poor who are deprived of these basic rights and entitlements that an average citizen of a country can enjoy.

5) Water in political conflicts and food production

·         Conflicts arises if a neighboring  country  / state diverts the water for their needs or control the water sources, which affects the other.  Therefore, in water management, one needs to take into account the transboundary  water management, as more than 60% of the world’s fresh water  falls within transboundary  basins.   This would hamper, both the agroindustry as well as  access to drinking water and sanitation.

6) Virtual Water

·         Even though this is covered in the scope of the study extensively, trade of water in the form of water intensive food commodities , it would be good to link it to the  us of biomass  for bio-energy and industry and the changing consumption habits.  The chain of demand and supply for bio-mass has its own virtual water consumption and effect.

7) Management

·         Even though many actors in water management has been spelt out in the scope of the stude, it is all the more important that the States  must include in their governance plans,  on  water conservation and have measures in place  monitor it. 

·         Privatization of water in the field of agriculture (promoted by World bank and others) is a major problem for the marginalized vulnerable groups. It is important to show who benefits and who loses from privatization of water

·         Water is a common good. How would  a just, democratic and equitable form of water governance look like?  Where are best practices of people's control over and community use of water resources? The study should identify  and highlight them for further emulation.

·         Do we also need global governance of water, as it is not a local, national or regional problem only? How would this look like? Can a global body like the UN monitor violations of countries on water management?

8) Equity, inequalities in the context of stigma and discrimination 

·         Even though the scope of study talks about equity and sustainability, it is very important to address the various forms of stigma and  discrimination on the basis of one’s identity, ethnicity, health,  cultural, regional, religious, caste  background, etc. There are strong evidences of such discriminations, which proves a huge stumbling block in realizing human rights to water and sanitation.  The Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque has discussed this in detail in one of her reports  to the UN  Human Rights Council here.  It is also therefore, important to address the existing inequalities  in the form of stigma and discrimination within the purview of equity and not “one size fits all” approach.

9) Grievance

·         Even though the UN Human Rights Council has  a grievance redressal mechanism in place, is it accessible to the common people?  What alternate  grievance redressal system do we need? Where can a pastoralist or a peasant farmer go to when he/she wants to claim his/her right to water?

[i] The Ecumenical Water Network (EWN) of the World council of Churches (WCC)  is an international  network of churches and Christian organization, promoting people’s access to water and sanitation around the world. The secretariat of the EWN is based at the WCC in Geneva.    https://water.oikoumene.org/en


Federal Government of Germany ,

General Remarks

Germany highly welcomes the opportunity to comment on the HLPE Scope to set the track of the study “Water and Food Security”. Management Water is a key area of good practices and policies to challenge food security worldwide. Coming from a human rights approach and taking into account obligations embedded within the human right to adequate food, Germany supports the development of joined strategies towards sustainable food systems and right to access to water.

The track of the study Water and Food Security outlines a holistic and ambitious set of issues to be analyzed, even though the paper is in an early stage of discussion. In our opinion, it covers the main aspects and information requirements with regard to water, health, nutrition and food security at water user, sectorial and policy level.

Water is essential for living. This basic observation reveals that the right to water in the context of health (sanitarian aspects) and nutrition should the first topic.

The competition of different user (human, production, processing (both food), energy etc.) should first clearly be figured out and then status quo and projections in different aggregation levels as well as externalities by different users.

Water scarcity could be more developed. A distinction between different types of water (blue, green, grey) should be made, also in the context of scarcity of water. Environmental aspects in respect of (blue, green and grey) water use / water body in sensible areas are missing. The issue of balancing water availability (blue, green, grey) at local and regional level in the context of sustainability (long term aspects) should be addressed; as well as balancing water in the context of trade (virtual water/water grabbing) and scarcity.

When discussing the management of water for food and nutrition security, also energy issues need to be taken into account, such as energy demand for irrigation of crops. In this regard, a link with Nexus approach on Energy could be developed.  Moreover, irrigation for agricultural purposes is strongly connected with the issue of appropriate water storage, which should be considered in the report as well. Inadequate water storage leaves farmers vulnerable to droughts and floods, aggravated by climate change.

We suggest to also look at the role of Public-Private Partnerships.

Special Remarks

On page 2,

Food and Nutrition Security: “Water is also key for food security because […]”
We propose reformulating this sentence to “In addition, water is key for food and nutrition security because”. The current statement might mislead the reader to think that the part before “also” covers nutrition security and the subsequent part food security – which wouldn’t be true.

Health effects: It could be also indicated that the health consequences of unhygienic drinking water affects nutrition security due to its effects on digestion. People suffering illnesses like diarrhea have reduced capabilities to absorb nutrients in the food they consume. 

On page 3,

Children: Access to water for “different genders and social groups” is considered. It might be worthwhile also to take into account implications for small children, since they are particularly prone to unsafe water and sanitary conditions and may have a riskier health behavior.

Metrics: Seen the difficulty that may arise in finding the relevant information for all aspects to be answered, it is appreciated and important that the study will also critically reflect on “the accuracy and reliability of all the metrics and water accounting methods….”

Entitlements: The proposal would probably receive more concrete answers when entitlement-related questions are explicitly raised. Besides ‘water grabs’ indicated on p. 5, such issues include 1) conditions and regulations under which privatization of water supply might improve water access, and 2) how to design institutions in order to replicate successful self-governing irrigation systems (a topic investigated by Nobel-laureate E. Ostrom).

On page 4,

Wastewater usage: The proposed e-consultation as well as the following report on water and food security do cover important issues on freshwater use and its impact on food security, but lack the topic of waste-water reuse for agricultural production. The usage of wastewater for agriculture or aquaculture is not mentioned throughout the HLPE paper, but will probably play an important role when freshwater becomes more limited. Wastewater usage for irrigation might increases access to fresh (blue) water, but can negatively affect health of field workers and food consumers when not handled properly. The indication of wastewater management and its diverging influences on nutrition security might point to a further interesting research area.  Food production worldwide relies partly heavily upon waste-water irrigation in certain regions to sustain current and future needs for food production. The HLPEs´ report should include discussion and data on wastewater reuse. Furthermore, the section on Governance of water and food security should cover the issue of governments' roles in promoting the safe reuse of waste-water or the necessary institutional arrangements.

Water accounting: The investigation of water accounting method seems very promising. For example, the current indicator of “grey water footprint”, which should measure the amount of water needed to assimilate pollutants in groundwater, only covers a fraction of pollutants (N-leaching) in most global studies.

Unit costs: When discussing the “…water use efficiency of different food systems and water management practices…” (p. 4, para 4) and the potential of “…technological and institutional innovations for water conservation…” (p. 4, para 6), it is suggested to include available unit cost information in comparing different options. Unit costs are a main driver for the applicability of efficient technologies.