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close this bookToward Sustainable Management of Water Resources (World Bank, 1995)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentDirections in development
View the documentAcknowledgments
View the documentA new appreciation for water
View the documentFailure of current policies
View the documentFour principal failures
View the documentNew stresses require a new approach
View the documentA framework for improving the management of water resources
View the documentA comprehensive cross-sectoral approach
View the documentWater use per capita declined nearly 10 percent.
View the documentEnvironment and health
View the documentConclusion
View the documentBibliography

Environment and health

Changes in water management that put greater reliance on the private sector, autonomous utilities, and user participation promise to improve considerably a country's ability to protect the quality of its water and land and to promote the health of its citizens. Cities, industries, and small municipalities can be encouraged to reduce their discharges of wastewater by applying surcharges to water supply fees (on the basis of volume and pollution load of industrial effluents) and other market-like approaches, such as tradable pollution discharge permits. With community participation and organization to collect user charges, smaller towns may also find it cost effective to treat effluents. Strengthened institutional capacities in urban areas would help to increase monitoring capabilities and compliance. In smaller towns, community scrutiny would play an important role in enforcement.

In the countryside, forcing land users to bear the true costs of poor water and land management through regulatory policies can reduce soil erosion, groundwater contamination, salinity, water logging, and flood runoff. Market incentives can also encourage more environmentally friendly practices. Water pricing can reduce water use and associated water and land degradation. Proper pricing of water and electricity can control excessive with drawls from aquifers. Eliminating crop subsidies for water-intensive e crops can also conserve water. Environmentally sustainable management of groundwater and water-dependent ecosystems will require the active involvement of stakeholders in managing and investing in the protection and restoration of local resources. This means that governments must review their legal systems and provide users with certain and predictable land tenure.

Box 10. Gender and Water Allocation

As the economic value of water increases due to water shortages from bad management, urbanization, and overall scarcity, the economic return to investing in domestic water supplies will be undervalued because they are located in the traditionally invisible domestic arena. If the returns to investment in domestic water were properly measured, the optimal allocation of water might look very different. The costs of insufficient quantity or quality of water for domestic uses will likely be borne disproportionately by women and children due to their predominance in the domestic sphere. These costs include:

· Longer times for water collection Because women and children are the primary water collectors, longer collection times mean that women have less time for agricultural production, less control over income, and less time for child care.

· Less wafer for drink bathing washing and sanitation Research by the International Food Policy Research Institute has shown that in some circumstances these nonfood inputs into nutrition are more important than food in avoiding malnutrition.

· Loss of income from water-intensive activities undertaken by women Domestic water supplies are used in many small-scale food processing or craft activities and gardens, which are important sources of income, especially for poor households.

· Poor water quality for domestic use. Water is contaminated as a result of intensive farm and industrial use.

· Increased incidence of disease. Malaria due to standing water, diarrhea! diseases due to contamination, or other effects of bad water management affect women disproportionately, because women have to shoulder health expenses and time burdens for caring for the ill.

In allocating water rights, it is important to ensure that women's needs are also met. This involves:

· Acknowledging customary rights. This includes recognizing use and ownership rights to various sources, for various purposes.

· Protecting water rights and providing adequate compensation for water losses. For example, mechanized pumps for irrigation and industrial uses are draining aquifers in many areas, and no attention is being paid to how this affects the use of open wells and hand pumps that supply water for domestic use.

· Ensuring women's participation in decisionmaking bodies. If water allocation is left in the hands of public agencies, they must meet the needs of women as well as men. If rights and management responsibilities are transferred to local user groups, they should be structured to include women.

Source: Unpublished note by the International Food Policy Research Institute Washington, D.C.

Every water-related project should consider the environmental aspects of the activities planned. Using environmental assessments early in the project cycle and ensuring that stakeholders and local nongovernmental organizations participate actively in the process should help to define measures to reduce a project's adverse impact on the ecosystem, avoid conflicts, minimize confrontation, generate alternatives, and promote the sustainable development of water resources. As for the potentially devastating impact of large water projects on people, the Bank has stated unequivocally that, "Public sector water investments should ensure that adversely affected people, especially indigenous people, receive culturally acceptable social and economic benefits as well as access to water as part of any allocation process in a river basin. Resettlement should be avoided or minimized; if it is necessary, former incomes and living standards should be restored or improved" (World Bank 1993a, p. 62).