Speaker Series 2023 #4 | Conserving Water with Equity

May 2023

About the Session

The Speakers

About this session

France experienced a historic drought during summer 2022 which triggered water restrictions and a new movement on sobriety or saving water in French cities. The country anticipates another water scarcity shock in 2023. Cities in the United States of America have been facing drought and water scarcity for decades. Some approaches that have worked in conserving water include a combination of improved infrastructure (i.e., minimum leak) and enhanced awareness on how to use water responsibly. Green infrastructure and nature-based solutions are also being explored as part of water management. It is critical to note that water crises affect different communities and neighbourhoods differently, and in a time of crisis, cities must have systems, policies and infrastructure in place to ensure that vulnerable and marginalized groups continue to have access to clean and safe water.

The fourth session of Cities on the Frontline Speaker Series, 2023, with the support of the Embassy of the United States of America, France and co-hosted with France Ville Durable, focused on ‘Conserving Water with Equity’. To kick start the session, Jessica Banuls, Deputy Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in France, highlighted the need to establish a dialogue end learn how both US and French cities tackle the issues.

“Climate change is one of the most serious threats we are facing. On all continents disasters multiple and worsen year after year affecting all of humanity, rich as well as poor. No one can face these crises alone and discussing these topics openly is the best way to begin. Sharing inspiring initiatives and actions is how we will find hope again.”

Jessica Banuls, Deputy Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in France

Alicia Lee, Water Conservation Manager, City of Dallas talked about the ‘Save Water Dallas Campaign’, which is a result of historic draught issues the city faced which led to water conservation being identified as a water management strategy in the 1989 Long Range Water Supply Planning of the city. With multiple strategies in place, the city now provides wholesale water to surrounding cities as well along with its own residents, reaching around 2.5 million people with water supply. Dallas has provided incentives, educational campaigns and rebates to its citizens, which has encouraged community participation in this campaign. To address water equity, water rates are implemented depending on water usage, with higher costs as the usage increases. Financial assistance is provided by Texas State to low-income households to pay their water bills. Operation WaterShare is an innovative effort wherein people can willingly pay an additional cost to their water bills which pool into a common fund, used to provide water to marginalized communities.

“Dallas Water Utilities is a data driven utility which has a very regimented modelling approach for drought preparedness with the seven-year ‘drought of record’ metric. This has proved to be a good way to anticipate the worst-case scenario in the city and plan for it.”

Alicia Lee, Water Conservation Manager, City of Dallas

François Croquette, Director for Ecological Transition and Climate highlighted the situation of severe water scarcity in Paris in the recent years which has been a wakeup call to work on water conservation initiatives. Paris witnessed 15% below average rains in 2022, and the situation can continue to worsen highlighting the crucial need for preparedness, especially for agricultural, hydrological and socio-economic impacts. An assessment of resilience in the city to reduce the risks of water scarcity is being focussed on. A national plan by French Government to reduce the water usage in cities by 10% until 2025 and 25% by 2035 has been charted out. The city needs to leverage strategic partnerships to make sure that these targets are met, and the systems are optimised. One of the immediate steps that Paris is adopting is to measure current water usage, wastage and leaks in the systems and monitoring to identify stress points to be addressed. Use of sustainable nature-based solutions like the OASIS ‘Openness, Adaptation, Sensitisation, Innovation and Social Ties’ Schoolyards Programme, which aims to transform schoolyards in Paris into green oases accessible to both the school pupils and local communities are being implemented in the city.

We are aiming to better understand and improve resilience of a dense urban area like Paris to the risks of water scarcity and the ability to respond to the socio-economic scenario of the city and to be able provide water to all citizens in Paris.”

François Croquette, Director for Ecological Transition and Climate

To wrap up the session, both speakers emphasized on ensuring that future generations can also experience the environment that we experience today. This has been a motivation to continue to work on efforts to address climate change. Francois gave an example of current innovation to rediscover hidden rivers under Paris that will also help cool Paris while Alicia highlighted how she wants to continue to work with her team of experts, working closely with the public to bring transformational change.

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