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close this bookAddressing the Water Crisis - Healthier and more Productive Lives for Poor People (DFID, 2001, 58 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe international development targets
View the documentOther Strategy Papers published in this series
View the documentDepartment for International Development
View the documentAcknowledgments
View the documentList of Acronyms
View the documentForeword by the Secretary of State
View the documentExecutive summary
Open this folder and view contents1. The challenges
Open this folder and view contents2. Target statements
Open this folder and view contents3. Experience to date
Open this folder and view contents4. Meeting the challenge
Open this folder and view contents5. Priorities for DFID
Open this folder and view contents6. Monitoring progress
Open this folder and view contentsAnnexes
View the documentBack Cover

Executive summary

This paper is about water and its links to poverty elimination and to the achievement of the International Development Targets (IDTs). Those links form the basis of all DFID's work in water.

Section 1 of the paper describes the impending water crisis in the world. Six billion people now depend on the world's finite supply of freshwater - to drink every day, to grow our food and, in many cases, to dispose of our excreta, to bathe, and for many other purposes. One billion of us have only unsafe water to drink, and over two billion lack sanitation. Hundreds of millions live in places where water is very scarce and, therefore, a contested resource. Vast numbers are crowding into large, ill-served cities. In a generation's time, not six but eight billion of us will depend on the same amount of water for all the same purposes. That is the nature of the impending crisis, a crisis that is particularly serious for the health and livelihoods of the world's poor people. Section 1 continues by presenting the challenges that face us in resolving the crisis. We will have to improve our management of water resources and avoid conflicts over them. We must allocate water equitably between different uses and ensure sustainable access to different types of water services. We will have to improve co-ordination among the many organisations active in the water sector.

The goal underlying DFID's activities in water is to enable poor people to lead healthier and more productive lives through improved management of water resources and increased and sustainable access to water supply and sanitation. That goal is presented in Section 2 of this paper, which describes how water contributes to the three main elements of the International Development Targets, that is, economic well-being; human development; and environmental sustainability and regeneration. In pursuit of the goal, this section of the paper goes on to promote the adoption of the following three high-priority targets:

· to have comprehensive policies and strategies for integrated water resources management adopted and in process of active implementation in all countries by 2005

· to reduce by half the proportion of people who are unable to reach, or to afford, safe drinking water by 2015

· to reduce by half the proportion of people not having access to hygienic sanitation facilities by 2015.

Some of the lessons that we, and others, have learned are described in Section 3. To serve people we must put them at the centre, with the authority and confidence to determine their own development, and we must be ready to respond to their demands. To share water equitably between different uses we must both measure it and recognise its economic value. To provide the means to look after water properly we must pay a fair rate for using it and, for wastewater disposal and treatment, pay a realistic penalty for polluting it. To resolve conflicts we must work together in trust and openness.

Most of the big problems in water, and poverty, are in developing countries. Section 4 sets out proposals for the range of activities involved in order to achieve the targets. First, it addresses the people themselves, whose engagement is vital both directly and through civil society organisations. Next, it considers the governments of those countries, which are the most important agencies in the water sector - they remain the largest, if not the sole, suppliers of water services and they decide who will supply and use water, where and under what conditions. Then it deals with the private sector, whose role in water service delivery is increasingly significant. Finally, it addresses the international development community, whose help will remain invaluable and which needs to work with other organisations more than ever before.

DFID is a member of that international development community, and Section 5 describes DFID's own contribution, first by presenting our overall strategy for water, which is:

· to focus international policy making in water resources, irrigation, water supply and sanitation on the elimination of poverty

· to concentrate our efforts in improving the management and allocation of water resources and access to water and sanitation on achieving improved health and sustainable livelihoods for the poor

· to obtain agreement through the UN system for an appropriate interim sanitation target, and support action to achieve water supply and water resources targets

· to encourage strong leadership at all levels to address the water crisis

· to support a range of activities from field-level projects and programmes through to knowledge dissemination, advocacy and research and

· to ensure that our activities in water contribute to, and are guided by, Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRSPs).

Section 5 then describes a range of responses that provides a basis for DFID's water related activities, grouped under the strategic headings of transforming institutions, promoting best practice, and generating and sharing knowledge. While the range of activities is kept deliberately wide in order to reflect the complexity of water as an issue, DFID's special priorities, which derive from its goal in water described above, are clearly indicated.

The paper concludes, in Section 6, by discussing how progress in the water sector as a whole, and by DFID in particular, will be monitored.