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Policies and institutions for water management

The Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD) has reported that many countries lack adequate legislation and policies for efficient and equitable allocation and use of water resources. Progress is, however, being made with the review of national legislation and enactment of new laws and regulations.

Concern has also been expressed about the growing incapacity of national hydrological services and agencies, particularly in developing countries, to assess their respective water resources. Many agencies have experienced reductions in observation networks and staff despite increases in water demand. A number of response measures have been undertaken including the World Hydrological Cycle Observing System (WHYCOS), which has been implemented in several regions. Its main objective is to contribute to the improvement of national and regional water resource assessment capabilities (CSD 1997b).

Many different kinds of organizations play a role in water policy decisions, from national governments to local community groups. Over the past decades, however, there has been a growing emphasis on increasing the participation and responsibility of small, local groups and an acknowledgement that communities have an important role to play in water policy.

The Ministerial Declaration at The Hague in March 2000 (see box below) called for 'Governing water wisely: to ensure good governance, so that the involvement of the public and the interests of all stakeholders are included in the management of water resources' (World Water Forum 2000).

The private sector has recently begun to expand its role in water management. The 1990s saw a rapid increase in the rate and extent of privatization of previously publicly managed water systems. Private water companies are increasingly serving the needs of growing cities by taking over contracts from public agencies to build, own and operate some or even all of a municipal system. At the same time, concerns have been growing about how best to ensure equitable access to water for the poor, finance projects and share risks.

Ministerial Declaration on Water Security in the 21st Century

Some 120 ministers of water attending the Second World Water Forum held at The Hague in March 2000 adopted a declaration aimed at achieving world water security. The declaration noted the following as the main challenges of this new century:
  • Meeting basic needs: to recognize that access to safe and sufficient water and sanitation are basic human needs and are essential to health and well-being, and to empower people, especially women, through a participatory process of water management.
  • Securing the food supply: to enhance food security, particularly of the poor and vulnerable, through the more efficient mobilization and use, and the more equitable allocation of water for food production.
  • Protecting ecosystems: to ensure the integrity of ecosystems through sustainable water resources management.
  • Sharing water resources: to promote peaceful cooperation and develop synergies between different uses of water at all levels, whenever possible, within and, in the case of boundary and transboundary water resources, between states concerned, through sustainable river basin management or other appropriate approaches.
  • Managing risks: to provide security from floods, droughts, pollution and other water-related hazards.
  • Valuing water: to manage water in a way that reflects its economic, social, environmental and cultural values for all its uses, and to move towards pricing water services to reflect the cost of their provision. This approach should take account of the need for equity and the basic needs of the poor and the vulnerable.
  • Governing water wisely: to ensure good governance, so that the involvement of the public and the interests of all stakeholders are included in the management of water resources.
Source: World Water Forum 2000