|Towards Sustainable Water Resources Management - A Strategic Approach (European Commission, 1998, 351 pages)|
|Introduction - The Guidelines: A Summary|
The management of freshwater resources, and of services drawing upon water for functions central to human life, is of critical importance to healthy social, economic, and political well-being. Stresses exerted on the world's water by demand from growing populations with changing consumption patterns, and by pollution and lack of environmental controls, have pushed water concerns high on the international agenda. Effective water resources development and management is recognised as a key component of 'environmentally sustainable development'; poor management of the resource can easily become a brake on socio-economic development.
The European Union, through the European Commission (EC) and the Member States, has made a significant contribution to the international debate on the impending world water crisis and the measures needed to address it. Full support has been offered to efforts at the international level, through the UN system and in inter-ministerial councils, for new initiatives on freshwater, and for the recommendations agreed at the Sixth Session of the UN Commission for Sustainable Development in April 1998. The preparation of these Guidelines for Water Resources Development Co-operation is a contribution to translating the consensus at the international level into actual co-operation activity. Although principally intended for use in the context of EC development cooperation, the Guidelines are intended for use by decision-makers in government, the private sector, civil society and international organisations of all kinds involved in water resources management.
The centrepiece of the Guidelines is a 'strategic approach for the equitable, efficient and sustainable management of water resources'. The approach is based on internationally agreed core principles concerning the need to protect the eco-system, and to extend the health-giving and productive properties of freshwater resources equitably, efficiently and sustainably among humankind, with special emphasis on poorer and underserved people. It provides a comprehensive framework for all activities relating to water resources development; its application involves a radical change in traditional attitudes towards water management, and the introduction of good practice consistent with the internationally agreed core principles. The strategy covers the full cycle of activity, from national policy-making through implementation of programmes and projects and the subsequent operation and maintenance of services.
The application of the strategic approach facilitates an open and flexible programme process in which sensitivity to changing trends and local economic, social and environmental circumstances can be reflected. At each stage of the programming process, the Guidelines provides a set of practical checklists to enable the Guiding Principles at the heart of the strategic approach to be put into effect in different programming contexts, and to identify problem areas likely to be encountered and potential responses.
A number of commonly repeated core activities emerge from the checklists, stressing the importance which needs to be attached to what are known as 'software' - or non-technical - issues. The successful application of the strategic approach requires that these activities be given as high a priority as the technological choices which have traditionally dominated programme and project design. The priority attached to 'software' activities within the approach can be seen as part of the new thinking on water. The intention is to raise their importance to the same level as technological 'hardware', not to supplant it.
These activities almost all relate in some way to management and institutional strengthening. They can be grouped under priority themes for action, as follows: institutional development and capacity-building; participatory structures and gender equity; natural resource management; expansion of the knowledge base; demand management and pricing; awareness-building and communications. Attention to such activities will help to make the design and management of water resources interventions more cost-effective, efficient and sustainable.