Towards Sustainable Freshwater Governance
The importance of freshwater resources to human life and development cannot be overstated. The essential roles these resources play relate to human health, facilitating trade, communication, inland navigation, agriculture, fishing, fish-farming, energy production, recreation, tourism, culture and location of human settlements.
The state of the global freshwater resources, however, is in crisis. As human populations swell and economies expand, both surface and groundwater resources are being depleted and polluted to an extent never before witnessed. Competition for the increasingly scarce resources has reached unprecedented levels. Rivers, lakes, aquifers, wetlands, and other water bodies are being strained. Both surface and groundwater resources are being depleted and polluted and wetlands and habitats destroyed. Ecosystems, species as well as communities around the globe are increasingly suffering from these impacts..
Existing governance structures provide, in most cases, policy, legal and institutional frameworks for meeting human water demands, they often insufficiently, if at all, address the control of pollutions and the protection of ecosystems in the provision of water.
Effective cooperative arrangements for the management of freshwater basins, which recognise the environmental dimension for these resources, are indispensable as new challenges, such as climate change, arise. States face the challenge of mitigating and adapting to climate variability involving adjustments in water management whilst balancing ever-growing water demands for development. Whilst this unpredictable state of affairs embeds a potential for conflict among stakeholders, it also provides an opportunity for cooperation, growth and the sharing of costs and benefits.