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Annex I: Water as a Key Resource in Sustainable Development

From Report of the Expert Group Meeting on Strategic Approaches to Freshwater Management, Harare, Zimbabwe, January 1998

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Stresses
  3. Integrated Water Resources Management
  4. The Implications for Policy Responses and Management Strategies
    1. The Development of National and Sub-national Water Policy and Programmes

    2. Developing Management Strategies

  5. Implementing the Management Strategies
  6. Transboundary Water Systems

Annex I

Water as a Key Resource in Sustainable Development:
Report of Working Group 1

I. Introduction

43. The Working Group's discussion was based upon a recognition that water is fundamental to sustainable development and a basic component of national and regional ecosystems. In many parts of the world, current patterns of development and use are not sustainable, environmentally, socially and economically.

44. The four stage discussion process was;

  1. a brief consideration of the stresses on freshwater;

  2. a brief consideration of the role of integrated water resource management in easing the stresses and resolving competition for limited water resources;

  3. a more detailed consideration of the policy responses and choices, the development of strategies or lines of approach and the choice of management options; and

  4. the articulation of actions at international, regional, national and local level (in which 'local' comprises all sub-national levels from states, provinces, regions, municipalities, districts down to community level).

II. The Stresses

45. There are a number of unprecedented demands for water supplies, resulting from population growth and sectoral pressures, both as consumptive and non-consumptive uses. This includes in particular, agriculture (particularly irrigation and drainage), the provision of domestic water supply and sanitation, industry, energy production, environment/amenity (including tourism)/ecosystems, changes in patterns of consumption as a result of industrialisation, rural/urban shifts, migration, and unaccounted for water. A characteristic of these stresses is that all their components are not equally distributed in time and space. All are seeking to maximise the stream of social and economic benefits from a limited resource base.

46. Unprecedented impacts on the water resource base include reduced base flows, declining aquifer reserves, point and non-point pollution to surface and groundwater, background levels of contamination, and climatic variability and hydrological uncertainty. These together are having unprecedented impacts on socio-economic development, which can lead to deteriorating public health (indicating that health aspects need to be explicitly factored into the planning process) users forced to internalise the externalities of other users (leading, for example, to upstream/downstream disputes), increasing costs of water development, limitations on development, and impacts on national security.

47. This can result in the degradation of the resource base, intensified competition for water quantity and quality (for example, agriculture looking for high volumes of low quality water, municipalities looking for small volumes of high quality water) and the loss of productivity related to water.

48. The strategic challenges is to ensure sustainability of the resource in the face of the above stresses.

III. Integrated Water Resources Management

49. There is a compelling case for adopting integrated water resources management approaches, although some past attempts have not been fully successful. To achieve success, water management should be conducted within a national economic framework as a key element in sustainable economic development and poverty alleviation. When doing so, countries should ask precisely what role water resources management can play in

  1. promoting socio-economic productivity through co-ordination and integration of sectoral policies and explicit linkage of water in the economic framework and planning process;

  2. promoting sustainability - maintaining the asset value of the water resource base;

  3. mitigating climate change by using energy from water and the use of solar and wind energy for water pumping;

  4. promoting soil and water conservation through explicit linkage of water with land and forestry policies;

  5. promoting peace and security through co-operation in the management of international water systems.

50. Such management can also provide for:

  1. reconciling equity and efficiency in the allocation of resources, provision of water services and the protection of the resource base, that is who pays - and who benefits - and;

  2. promoting the use of best practices and appropriate technologies for managing water demand and supply.

51. Integrated water resources management is most effective when conducted in the spatial framework of the river basin or aquifer and should be supported by integrated information management systems.

IV. The Implications for Policy Responses and Management Strategies

A. The Development of National and Sub-national Water Policy and Programmes

52. The Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) should urge, as recommended in Agenda 21, that each country adopt a national water policy and accompanying programmes, where this already exists, review and revise such policy and programmes as necessary. The CSD should call upon countries to submit information on their policy and national programmes in the year 2002. Policies should be developed in an open and transparent process with the participation of all stakeholders.

53. In some large countries, the responsibilities for the development and implementation of such policies and programmes may need to be divided between national and sub-national (state/province) entities.

54. The elements of such national instruments could include, inter alia:

  1. The formulation and implementation of research, monitoring and information management programmes for understanding the quantity and quality of the resource base and its variability in time and space, and the social and economic forces affecting them;

  2. The allocation of water resources, taking into account the principle that access to safe drinking water and sanitation is essential for satisfying basic human requirements, that other allocations should be based upon consideration of economic efficiency and equity, and that allocations should be based on sustainability of the resource base, including an ecosystem approach and environmental protection;

  3. The incorporation of health concerns into the freshwater management process through the adoption of explicit health objectives in planning, the use of health indicators in routine monitoring and the assessment of health outcomes in evaluation;

  4. The protection of the aquatic environment, including wetlands, from local and diffuse pollution sources and from threats posed by exotic influences to maintain physical and chemical balances and biological integrity;

  5. The management of demand as a key part of the policy, focusing on water conservation through re-cycling and re-use and where appropriate to be driven by pricing policies and by adopting best practices and appropriate technologies;

  6. The management of water supply in order to deal with annual and inter-annual variations, to support food security and other purposes;

  7. The provision of appropriate mechanisms for management of land and water resources on an integrated basis within natural hydrological and hydrogeological units (river basins and aquifers), providing for necessary interactions with administrative organisations where provincial, municipal and district boundaries do not coincide with basin or aquifer boundaries;

  8. The inclusions of provisions for coping with hydrological extreme events and disturbances, particularly droughts and floods and erosion, through implementation of programmes of drought preparedness and flood protection and mitigation including adequate monitoring and early warning systems;

  9. The development and sustenance of appropriate institutions including cross-sectoral water councils and recognising needs for capacity building, public information and education.

B. Developing Management Strategies

55. Finding strategic management approaches to implement the policy and to support social, economic and environmental policies, as well as promoting the long term sustainability of the water resource base requires a choice among a number of management tools. Institutional design, economic instruments, advocacy, public education, (i.e. the whole range of management tools) can be considered. Particular attention need to be paid to ensuring that the poor benefit from the strategy adopted. However, given that it is not possible to do everything at once and given the known constraints, the thematic areas in which strategic cross-sectoral interventions are possible are outlined below:

  1. Build awareness at all levels (International, regional and at shared basin/aquifer level). This includes the role of education and the recognition of the needs of specific groups, such as women;

  2. Build capacity including strengthening participatory frameworks, promoting community ownership and management, developing water resources management skills and institutions at basin/aquifer level, developing operational monitoring and evaluation procedures; developing operation and maintenance and, promoting public - private sector partnerships;

  3. Promote an enabling environment through;

    1. declaring a water policy with explicit recognition of basin and aquifer management;

    2. continuously monitoring and evaluating policy and action plans;

    3. developing an effective legal and regulatory framework including those needed within a basin/aquifer framework;

    4. ensuring effective regulation;

    5. decentralising the implementation of regulatory and operational functions to the extent practical;

    6. adopting appropriate instruments for allocation; and

    7. sustaining water and socio-economic data and information systems;

  4. Ensure sound sectoral strategies through:

    1. setting sectoral targets and developing visible state, process response indicators, ensuring that targets are directed especially towards the poor;

    2. extend sustainable water supply and sanitation services;

    3. increasing agricultural/aquaculture productivity and food production per unit of water;

    4. promoting water conservation through judicious use of procedures and technology, old as well as new;

    5. harmonizing water resources management and energy sector strategies;

    6. promoting soil and water conservation as part of basin-wide strategies;

    7. integrating erosion and flood control with land and forestry development; and

    8. integrating water/soil/air pollution control measures;

  5. Cope with variability and change including; structural and non-structural solutions for flood damage reduction; reducing impacts of flooding on inhabitants of affected areas, and developing programmes for drought preparedness;

  6. Promote regional co-operation through:

    1. developing approaches to international management but building on a sound national base;

    2. adopting co-operative strategies;

    3. facilitating information exchange between riparians; and

    4. promoting river basin organisations and basin level planning and development.

V. Implementing the Management Strategies

56. Suggested actions to be taken within countries for implementing management strategies include:

  1. In considering the management strategies and implementation measures to be adopted, countries need to develop profiles of current freshwater management identifying the factors that impede progress toward integrated water resources management;

  2. Starting from the local level, there is a need to;

    • analyse and identify capacity building requirements through research and analysis;

    • design appropriate water resource and environmental management strategies;

    • integrate local level initiatives in overall basin planning framework, and

    • strengthen the capacity of communities in the management of their water resources;

  3. Develop consensus among all stakeholders through broad based consultations with a view to developing political will;

  4. Develop estimates of national water expenditures and benefits in order to demonstrate the significance of the water sector for the national economy and to assist in setting priorities;

  5. Adopt technologies combining indigenous and modern techniques, especially for water conservation, re-use and improved efficiency in irrigation and other sectors;

  6. Co-ordination and monitoring of water withdrawal at national or basin/aquifer level to ensure the sustainability of the resource base;

  7. Support water monitoring and undertake and publicise studies of the economic value of water data.

57. Recommendations at the international level include the following:

  1. The Expert Group Meeting recommended to the CSD the completion of the development of water sector indicators in the context of its programme of work on indicators of sustainable development, taking into account on-going work in this area;

  2. That international co-operation on water related natural disasters be continued after the end of IDNDR (1999), in particular through the maintenance of early warning systems and the exchanges of information on disaster loss reduction methods;

  3. Promotion by the international community of information exchange with special efforts to link all countries electronically;

  4. International organisations should mobilise and co-ordinate assistance for education, training and capacity building;

  5. Development of a consolidated United Nations Guidebook on integrated water resources management to replace existing sectoral guidelines;

  6. Support by Governments and the international community for the maintenance of international information and monitoring networks;

  7. Harmonisation by Governments of data collection at the basin/aquifer level;

  8. Multi and bi-lateral partners should emphasise integrated water resources management, taking into account the needs of the poorest communities.

VI. Transboundary Water Systems

58. Riparian States are encouraged to co-operate among each other on matters related to transboundary water resources, building on existing agreements principles, arrangements, instruments and programmes of action, taking into account the interests of all riparian States concerned. Such efforts, upon common requests of concerned States, may need to be supported through international co-operation.

Annex II: Freshwater Ecosystems and Water Quality Report of Working Group 2

Annex III: Economic and Financial Issues: Report of Working Group 3

Annex IV. Participation and Institutions for Integrated Water Resources Management Report of Working Group 4