|Toward Sustainable Management of Water Resources (World Bank, 1995)|
An old Chinese proverb says, "If we do not act now, we e will surely end up where we are headed." The challenges are daunting. Fortunately, the successes and failures of the past two or three decades point us to another path. The overarching lessons of experience are that water management must be based on much sounder policies, greater economic incentives for achieving efficiencies and for providing water services to the poor, and far more effective institutional arrangements shall currently exist.
These lessons are reflected in a global consensusendorsed at the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro and elaborated in subsequent international gatheringsto move away from an emphasis on developing new water supplies toward a focus on comprehensive management, economic behavior, policies to overcome market and government failures, incentives to provide users with better services, and technologies to increase the efficiency of water use. This new focus on demand stresses integrated water management based on the perception of water not just as a basic human need, but also as an integral part of the ecosystem, a natural resource, and a social and economic good. The new approach calls for policies that are formulated in the context of a comprehensive analytical framework that takes into account the interdependencies among sectors and protects aquatic ecosystems. Incentives for financial accountability and improved performance should be created through greater use of pricing, decentralization of administration and services, financial autonomy, user participation, and private sector involvement. Furthermore, consistent rules and regulations and coordination among agencies responsible for water services should be established to ensure policy cohesion and public support.