Cover Image
close this bookAddressing the Water Crisis - Healthier and more Productive Lives for Poor People (DFID, 2001, 58 p.)
close this folder3. Experience to date
View the document3.1 Introduction
View the document3.2 Historical overview
View the document3.3 Lesson 1: Put people at the centre
View the document3.4 Lesson 2: Respond to demand
View the document3.5 Lesson 3: Recognise water as a scarce resource

3.2 Historical overview

3.2.1 In 1977, the World Water Conference in Mar del Plata, Argentina designated the 1980s as the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade. The Decade gave the water sector an international boost. Its creation gave water supply and sanitation a higher profile among politicians and decision-makers around the world, while the universal coverage targets set for the Decade concentrated people's minds even though they were over-ambitious. During the Decade, many agencies and governments overhauled their supply-led approaches to water and sanitation, which focused almost exclusively on the construction of new infrastructure. They introduced more appropriate technologies and started to integrate hygiene promotion, sanitation and water supply. Experience in community management grew rapidly. The need for consistent data to monitor progress on service provision prompted WHO and UNICEF to establish their Joint Monitoring Programme in 1986 to collect data in a standard form.

3.2.2 The New Delhi Conference in 1990 highlighted the lessons of the Decade and the changing working methods of governments, civil society and the private sector. Building on these conclusions, and on other lessons learned in water resources management, a new framework for developing water resources and sanitation was articulated at the International Conference on Water and the Environment in Dublin in 1992. This recognised that to increase services required involving a wider set of stakeholders, with governments increasingly standing back from providing services to create environments that would facilitate public-private partnership in service provision.

3.2.3 As a result of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, also in 1992, the emphasis on water supply and basic sanitation for public health widened to recognise that the management and use of water is part of broader environmental protection and sustainable development. This was complemented by global concern over water scarcity and water pollution. The Earth Summit endorsed the need for action to improve water supply and sanitation, emphasising the particular challenge of ensuring sustainable water supply for cities. It also called for integrated management of water resources, protection of water quality and management of water for food production. Box 6 summarises the international consensus reached through the Dublin and Rio conferences.

Box 6: International consensus on water principles

Dublin Principles:

· fresh water is a finite and vulnerable resource, essential to sustain life, development and the environment,

· water development and management should be based on a participatory approach, involving users, planners and policy-makers at all levels,

· women play a central part in the provision, management and safeguarding of water,

· water has an economic value in all its competing uses and should be recognised as an economic good.

Rio, Agenda 21:

· ensure the integrated management and development of water resources,
· assess water quality, supply and demand,
· protect water resource quality and aquatic ecosystems,
· improve water supply and sanitation,
· ensure sustainable water supply and use for cities,
· manage water resources for sustainable food production and development,
· assess the impact of climate change on water resources.

Source: ECSC-EEC-EAEC, Brussels 1998

3.2.4 Since the Dublin and Rio conferences, most governments and agencies have started to implement these principles. To turn the principles into practice we suggest a particular focus on the three lessons discussed in paragraph 3.1.2 as set out below.