Financing urban water infrastructure is not easy: typically investments involve a high capital outlay and long pay-back periods, as well as greater risks and lower rates of return than other forms of infrastructure.

From July 22-23 2010, CIFAL Atlanta in partnership with the City of Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management hosted the Fifth “International Water Forum: Financing Water Systems and Governance”, bringing together representatives from Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Uruguay, Colombia and major cities from United States.

The International Water Forum provided a platform for dialogue among policy makers, stakeholders and senior level water experts from the Americas on affordable finance strategies for water infrastructure. The event also provided a chance and forum to consolidate water and sanitation training efforts across Latin America with CIFAL Curitiba, the South American training counterpart for CIFAL Atlanta and with institutions representing capacity building for informal water service providers across the region such as the Consorcio Agua Clara.

A group of 65 participants benefited from experts’ plenary talks, panel discussions, and were able to use both the formal sessions and the informal time to learn from each other. Subject matter included all aspects of utility finance; comparative analysis of governance issues in the Americas; existing and innovative ways to finance infrastructure; contemporary research into infrastructure technology; and a view of “smarter water management” from an international corporate leader (IBM).

As the fifth International Water Forum for CIFAL Atlanta, the event is quickly becoming the premier capacity development and knowledge sharing event for UNITAR on water and sanitation topics. The vision is that 2011’s water forum can go even further in consolidating global innovations on water and sanitation management and governance among local actors and their capacity development.