Water resources are an efficient financial and governance mechanism, but they face many challenges, both human and those resulting from climate change. Water is a human right, and all forms of life need and depend on this vital resource. However, it is also essential for the productive, business and domestic sectors as a source of raw material. Considering the above, we see that the conservation and efficient use of water are of great importance, necessity, and urgency.
The primary challenge for water conservation lies in the countries and regions where this resource is still available, as is the case of Guatemala. As the Water Fund in Guatemala City, FUNCAGUA works in an area that is physically abundant in water but according to studies, five times more water is extracted from groundwater than is naturally recharged by aquifers; and 95% of surface water bodies are highly contaminated. The challenge is to conserve and improve a resource that is not yet scarce in its entirety. And although the current state of surface and groundwater is evident, human behavior regarding this resource remains the same: waste, pollution, and overuse.
The challenges facing Water Funds in cities (not in rural areas) are many and are mostly related to the desire for development and urban growth at the expense of water. As cities grow, they waterproof the green areas that serve as zones for water recharge, the right to this resource generates an abuse by local authorities, which instead of treating contaminated surface waters, continue to extract from the aquifers which they consider to be the only solution to provide water. In addition to human activities, the major challenge facing Water Funds is that giant that slowly affects the entire planet: climate change.
That is why water conservation is the job of all of us, from individual homes to shared spaces such as schools, places of employment, and businesses where we spend most of our time. We need good deeds to change the world, and that implies good habits that contribute to the proper use of water.
María José Iturbide-Chang, PhD
Dr. Iturbide-Chang has a doctorate in Environmental Policy and Planning and started at FUNCAGUA in 2014 as a consultant developing the technical and planning documents to launch the Guatemala City Water Fund. It began with a small promoter group that soon after the Fund was consolidated gave shape to the Board of Directors that today manages the entity. Once the legal process of constituting FUNCAGUA ended in 2017, Dr. Iturbide-Chang was named Executive Director, a post she holds to date. Her experience in natural resources management, payment for environmental services, climate change, and other issues enrich the work of the Fund. She has worked in the government sector, academia, at NGOs and the private sector. Dr. Iturbide-Chang’s wish is to see a Guatemala committed to the conservation of water to guarantee its availability to the next generations.