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The United

Nations WATER
World Water
Development IN A
Report 3

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GETTING OUT OF THE BOX – SPHERE OF DECISION-MAKING ABOUT WATER. Many paths to sustainable development are
linked to water, but the decisions that determine how water resources are used or abused are not made by
water managers alone. That central theme of The United Nations World Water Development Report 3 is illustrated
in this figure (which also appears in chapter 1).

The lower section of the figure, titled Water box, is the realm of water sector management. Here, water man-
agers inside the water box and managers of other sectors oversee their own management–resource-use
interactions. Above
them are the actors who
make or influence broad
socioeconomic policies
that affect water. Political

The cycle begins with

political-process actors –
Civil Business and
in government, civil society society • Policy economic
and business – deciding actors formation actors
• Resource
on socio-economic allocations
development objectives • Political and
and formulating policy • Economic decisions
• Social
and operational decisions • Environment
to achieve them. Their • Demographic Drivers of Response

decisions, which respond • Policy, law and change

to life and livelihoods • Technology
requirements, are imple- • Climate change
mented in a context
of externalities – often
beyond their direct
control – that interact
with and modify drivers Pressures Other sector Life and
of change, creating • Finance management livelihoods
• Exploitation • Aspirations
pressures on land and • Pollution • Poverty alleviation
water resources (among • Urbanization • Health and

others). • Land use

• Water use
• Security
• Climate variability • Employment
Water resources managers
address the demands

of water uses to meet

the life-sustaining

requirements of people
and other species and to
create and support liveli-

hoods. In doing so, they

may add to – or reduce
– the pressures caused by Water resources Water uses
these drivers. However, • Rainwater • Domestic
their actions may fall • Groundwater • Agriculture
• Lakes • Industry
short of their objectives • Reservoirs Water sector • Energy
because of constraints • Wetlands management • Leisure
• Wastewater • Transport
related to inadequate • Desalinated water • Environment
water, financial or human
resources or because
the external forces are behaving in unforeseen ways. Making progress thus requires returning to the original
political actors in the decision-making process for responses that take these constraints into account.

Needed in place of this discontinuous decision-making process is one in which water managers inform the initial
decision-making and participate in planning the appropriate responses, interacting with the principal actors and
with the managers of other sectors.
The United
Nations WATER
World Water
Development IN A
Report 3
Published jointly by This Report has been published on behalf of the United
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Table of contents

Foreword by Ban Ki-moon, Secretary‑General, United Nations   v

Foreword by Koïchiro Matsuura, Director‑General, United Nations
Economic, Scientific and Cultural Organization   vii
Preface    ix
Acknowledgements   xiii
Overview of key messages    xix

Water in a changing world   1

Chapter 1  G
 etting out of the box – linking water to decisions
for sustainable development   3
Opening the water box   4
Sustainable development as the framework for water management   6
Investing in water   9
Global crises and water   14
The need for action – now   20
Structure of the Report   21

Part 1  Understanding what drives the pressures on water   25

Chapter 2 Demographic, economic and social drivers   29
Demographic drivers   29
Economic drivers   32
Social drivers   36
Chapter 3 Technological innovation   41
Recent trends and advances in science and technology   42
The technology dissemination challenge    45
Chapter 4 Policies, laws and finance   49
Policies and laws   49
Financing – the missing link   56
Chapter 5 Climate change and possible futures   68
The influence of climate change on the other drivers of change   69
Identifying possible futures: the need for scenarios   74
Challenges for summarizing the pressures of external drivers on water resources   75

Part 2  Using water   77

Chapter 6 Water’s many benefits   80
Water for economic development   81
Water and poverty reduction   83
Water and health   88
Maintaining ecosystem services    91
Chapter 7 Evolution of water use   96
Water use in the world   97
Domestic water supply and sanitation   102
Water use in agriculture   106
Water for industry and energy   115

Water in a changing world iii

Table of contents

In-stream water uses   120

Chapter 8 Impacts of water use on water systems and the environment   127
How water use affects water resources   128
Seeking sustainable management of groundwater   131
Growing risks: pollution and degradation of water quality    136
Progress in mitigating pollution    139
Progress in achieving environmental sustainability   145
Chapter 9 Managing competition for water and the pressure on ecosystems   150
Type, extent and effect of competition for water   150
Managing competition through supply and demand management and reallocation   154

Part 3  State of the resource   160

Chapter 10 The Earth’s natural water cycles   166
Overview of the global hydrologic cycle   166
Relationship of water to global biogeochemical cycles   172
Chapter 11 Changes in the global water cycle   181
Changes in the water cycle   181
Links between the terrestrial carbon and water cycles   196
Is the hydrologic cycle accelerating?   200
Assessing future impacts of climate change   201
Summary   202
Chapter 12 Evolving hazards – and emerging opportunities   211
Hazards vary with climate regions   211
Changes in average streamflow   212
Changes in extreme events   213
Changes in groundwater   217
Changes in erosion, landslides, river morphology and sedimentation patterns   217
Challenges: hazards and opportunities   222
Chapter 13 Bridging the observational gap   226
The importance of hydrologic observations   226
Recent developments in observation methods, networks and monitoring   227
Changing status of operational data over the recent past   228
Opportunities and challenges   234
Some suggestions for bridging the observational gap   235

Part 4  Responses and choices   237

Chapter 14 Options inside the water box   241
Water governance reform: strengthening policy, planning and institutions   242
Consulting with stakeholders and avoiding corruption: accountability in planning,
implementation and management   251
Capacity development for more effective action   254
Developing appropriate solutions through innovation and research   258
Data and information needs   260
Financing   261
Chapter 15 Options from beyond the water box   269
Promoting win-win scenarios by creating space for change   270
Clearing pathways towards win-win situations: avoiding negative impacts   273
Promoting win-win scenarios through cooperation and knowledge   275
Sustaining change: changing habits through awareness   285
Ensuring sustainable financing   286
Chapter 16 The way forward   291
Making water an integral part of all planning and management decisions   292
Working towards better development outcomes   295
Deciding – and acting!   296
Appendix 1 World Water Development Report indicators   298
Appendix 2 Water-related goals and objectives of major
conferences and forums, 1972-present   302
Abbreviations, data notes and units of measure   306
List of boxes, figures, maps and tables   308
Index   313

iv World Water Development Report 3

Foreword by
Ban Ki-moon,
United Nations

It is well known that water is life; what this Report shows is that water also means liveli-
hoods. It is the route out of poverty for individuals and communities. Managing water is
essential if the world is to achieve sustainable development.

This challenge is even more pressing as the world confronts the triple threats of climate
change, rising food and energy costs, and the global economic crisis. All three are exacer-
bating poverty, inequality and underdevelopment.

The United Nations has responded by consolidating our work and joining with partners
who can make a difference through UN-Water, which brings together more than two
dozen UN agencies and other stakeholders. The initiative’s World Water Assessment Pro-
gramme is setting an example of system-wide cooperation based on the understanding
that water is such a central consideration that it must be an integral part of all planning
and investments.

Developing countries and countries in transition are striving to manage their water re-
sources more effectively. I call on the bilateral donors to support those efforts by increas-
ing water’s share of official development assistance above the current level of 5.4%.

This is important not only for development; it is a matter of security, too. Lack of basic
services can contribute to political instability. Armed conflicts can further disrupt these

There has been a widespread failure to recognize water’s vital role in providing food, en-
ergy, sanitation, disaster relief, environmental sustainability and other benefits. This has
left hundreds of millions of people suffering from poverty and ill health and exposed to
the risks of water-related diseases.

This situation is unconscionable. Governments and the international development

community must make more and immediate investments in water management and
related infrastructure. We must all work together to address this matter of life and live-
lihoods. This Report is meant to spur such action, and I commend it to a wide global

Ban Ki-moon
United Nations

Water in a changing world v

Foreword by
Koïchiro Matsuura,
United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural

With the release of this third edition of The United Nations World Water Development Re-
port, it is clear that urgent action is needed if we are to avoid a global water crisis. Despite
the vital importance of water to all aspects of human life, the sector has been plagued by
a chronic lack of political support, poor governance and underinvestment. As a result,
hundreds of millions of people around the world remain trapped in poverty and ill
health and exposed to the risks of water-related disasters, environmental degradation and
even political instability and conflict. Population growth, increasing consumption and
climate change are among the factors that threaten to exacerbate these problems, with
grave implications for human security and development.

The current Report provides a comprehensive analysis of the state of the world’s fresh-
water resources. It also, for the first time, shows how changes in water demand and
supply are affected by and affect other global dynamics. It represents a considerable col-
laborative achievement for the 26 UN agencies that make up UN-Water and are engaged
in the World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP), which leads the monitoring and
evaluation behind the Report. UNESCO is very proud to have played a pivotal role in the
launch of this flagship programme and to continue to support its work by housing the
WWAP Secretariat. I am confident that this third volume will prove crucial as a working
tool for policy-makers and other stakeholders, providing solid evidence from which to
develop an effective and sustainable approach to water issues.

The Report could not come at a more important time. We have passed the halfway point
towards the 2015 target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, and
despite progress, massive challenges remain. Millennium Development Goal 7 calls for
halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and
basic sanitation. While the world is on track to achieve the water target globally, large
regions of the world and many countries lag behind, and some risk backsliding. This
is particularly the case in sub-Saharan Africa and low-income Arab states. On current
trends the sanitation target will be missed by a wide margin in the majority of develop-
ing countries. But water is linked not only to Millennium Development Goal 7. It also
directly affects, as this Report establishes, the achievement of all eight Millennium
Development Goals, including, notably, the first goal, the eradication of extreme poverty
and hunger.

Water is a cross-cutting issue that demands a coordinated approach. Our success in avoid-
ing a global water crisis is directly linked to our ability to address other global challenges,
from poverty eradication and environmental sustainability to fluctuating food and en-
ergy costs and financial turmoil in world economies. It is therefore imperative that global
risks, including those associated with water, be dealt with in an integrated manner. We
must develop interdisciplinary tools that can take into account different drivers such as
climate change and financial markets to achieve sustainable water management. This

Water in a changing world vii


requires the engagement of all stakeholders, particularly government leaders, as well as

global coordination through the UN system.

Water is essential to facing today’s global challenges and achieving the Millennium
Development Goals. As such, it should be a priority for the United Nations and the global
community as a whole. Be assured that UNESCO stands ready to play its part in this

Koïchiro Matsuura
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

viii World Water Development Report 3


In 1999 the United Nations system resolved to issue regular editions of The United Nations
World Water Development Report. An expert group, convened by the United Nations De-
partment of Economic and Social Affairs, developed recommendations for the objectives
and targeted audience of the report (box 1).

The first edition, The United Nations World Water Development Report: Water for People,
Water for Life, was released in March 2003 at the 3rd World Water Forum in Kyoto,
Japan. The second, Water, a Shared Responsibility, was released in March 2006 at the 4th
World Water Forum in Mexico City. The first report provided an inaugural assessment of
progress since the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development
in Rio de Janeiro. Both reports were based on key challenge areas (such as water for food,
water for energy, and challenges for governance). Stand-alone assessments were prepared
by UN agencies. The assessments included pilot case studies on which the Report drew in
developing appropriate assessment methodologies and lessons learned.

This third edition embraces a holistic structure and focuses on the second objective
established by the expert group – to accelerate coverage and investments for basic
human water needs (drinking water supply, sanitation and health, food security, miti-
gation of floods and droughts and prevention of conflicts), giving priority to developing

Contents of the Report

A major theme of this Report is that important decisions affecting water management are
made outside the water sector and are driven by external, largely unpredictable forces –
forces of demography, climate change, the global economy, changing societal values and
norms, technological innovation, laws and customs and financial markets. Many of these
external drivers are dynamic, and changes are accelerating. The conceptual framework

Box 1 Objectives and targeted audience of The United Nations World

Water Development Report

It is recommended that The United Nations and health, food security, mitigation of floods
World Water Development Report be targeted for and droughts and prevention of conflicts),
national decision-makers and water resources giving a priority to developing countries.
managers, with two complementary objectives:
A more effective and targeted support of the in-
• To strengthen and stimulate national capaci- ternational community for such local and national
ties and cross-sector institutions in integrated efforts would also be an important objective of
water development planning and in sustain- this awareness-raising and action-oriented report.
able management of water resources at river
basin and aquifer levels. Source: United Nations Expert Group Meeting to
Examine Methodologies for the Preparation of a Bien-
• To stimulate an acceleration of coverage and nial ‘World Water Development Report’, convened and
investments, in priority, for basic human organized by the UN Department of Economic and
water needs (drinking water supply, sanitation Social Affairs, New York, 11-14 January 2000.

Water in a changing world ix


that evolved for the Report is on the inside front cover of the Report and in figure 1.1 in
chapter 1. The figure illustrates how developments outside the water domain influence
water management strategies and policies. The Report emphasizes that decisions in other
sectors and those related to development, growth and livelihoods should incorporate
water as an integral component, including responses to climate change, food and energy
challenges and disaster management.

At the same time, the Report’s analysis of the state of the world’s water resources is im-
bedded in a more expansive context of what can be accomplished through water man-
agement. The analysis leads to a set of responses and recommendations for action that
differ from those that have emerged from more introspective analyses of the water sector
because they incorporate the contribution of water to sustainable development.

This Report offers a holistic approach to links between water and climate change, food,
energy, health and human security. Human security, broadly conceived, includes basic
needs for food, water, health, livelihoods and a place to live – issues addressed in the
Millennium Development Goals. As the second part of the Fourth Assessment Report of
the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released in April 2007, demon-
strates, poor people are likely to suffer most from the effects of climate change.1

New processes
In keeping with the Report’s broader view on policy options, new processes were applied
in preparing this Report. Fuller treatment is given to such topics as climate change, busi-
ness and trade, financing, the role of the private sector, water transport and innovations
and new technologies.

The United Nations Expert Group recommendation to involve countries in preparing the
reports was reflected in the first edition in case studies based on 10 countries (including
10 national river basins) with different physical, climate and socioeconomic conditions.
This method was followed in the second edition and in this Report, which presents the
case studies in a companion volume to the main report. The World Water Assessment
Programme is also launching a series of supporting publications that include scientific
side papers, topic and sector reports and dialogue reports, taking the programme out of
its rigid three-year cycle.

The preparatory process for this Report has followed an inclusive, participatory approach
benefiting from opinion and feedback from the scientific, professional and decision-mak-
ing communities from within and outside the water sector.

Broader input to the Report and the World Water Assessment Programme processes in
general has been achieved through four mechanisms:

• A Technical Advisory Committee of 11 prominent individuals from around the world

with water sector expertise and broader policy-making experience in their countries
and internationally.

• Expert groups on indicators, monitoring and data/metadata bases; scenarios; climate

change and water; policy relevance; business, trade, finance and the private sector;
legal issues and water storage.

• A Report team composed of UN-Water member agencies, their professional and

non-governmental organization partners and the broader community of water and
water-related sectors.

• Stakeholder engagement through the World Water Assessment Programme Website

and review processes, including public as well as solicited input and feedback from
hundreds of individuals and organizations.

1. ‘Poor communities can be especially vulnerable, in particular those concentrated in high risk areas.
They tend to have more limited adaptive capacities and are more dependent on climate-sensitive
resources such as local water and food supplies.’ (IPCC, 2007, Summary for Policymakers. In Climate
Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth
Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, eds., M. L. Parry, O. F. Canziani,
J. P. Palutikof, P. J. van der Linden and C. E. Hanson, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, p. 9).

x World Water Development Report 3


This Report marks a transition from the first two reports – a transition from being a
report primarily for water managers to being a report for leaders at all levels of govern-
ment, the private sector and civil society, whose decisions depend on the availability of
water resources and make demands on water management. The Expert Group on Policy
Relevance consulted hundreds of such leaders to obtain their views on policy issues
relevant to the water sector. At the same time, the Report continues to provide useful
data for water managers on the state and use of this precious resource. Past reports have
looked at trends based on historical data. It is clear that change is accelerating and that
the effects of change are not easily projected from trends. To help us understand possible
futures and how to cope with their impact on water resources, the World Water Assess-
ment Programme process looks at the development of scenarios that will serve the fourth
World Water Development Report. This scenario effort takes into account the main drivers
of water, including demographics, climate change, social and economic processes and
technology, along with their interactions.

In preparing this Report new data were available to update only a third of the 60-plus
indicators that were reported in the second edition. And some indicators were found to
be no longer valid. The lack of data was echoed by the coordinators and authors of this
Report, who found that indicators and data were often not available for analysing and
reporting on issues considered important. As a consequence, a new process was devel-
oped for indicators and monitoring that aims at a better understanding of the trends
and developments, including changes, in the state of water resources, their uses and the
interface between the state and water uses and between water and other sectors. This re-
flects a recommendation of Agenda 21 – a comprehensive plan of action agreed at the Rio
Summit for all areas of human impact on the environment – that a detailed data collec-
tion for both fluxes of ‘exploitable water resources’ and of ‘associated costs and finances’
be conducted within a comprehensive plan for water development at the basin level.2

To this end, the World Water Assessment Programme established an Expert Group on
Indicators, Monitoring and Data/Metadata Bases, and UN-Water established a Task Force
on Indicators, Monitoring and Reporting, which is coordinated by the World Water
Assessment Programme. Their results will be reported by the World Water Assessment
Programme in a process leading to the fourth World Water Development Report and by UN-
Water. A table showing the status of indicators reported on in this Report is presented in
appendix 1. More detailed information may be found at

Few countries know how much water is being used and for what purposes, the quantity
and quality of water that is available and that can be withdrawn without serious envi-
ronmental consequences and how much is being invested in water management and
infrastructure. Despite the availability of new remote sensing and geographic information
system technologies that can simplify monitoring and reporting and despite the growing
need for such information in an increasingly complex and rapidly changing world, less is
known with each passing decade. Strengthening such information systems is vital not only
at a national scale but also at a global scale – to inform the construction of global models of
the hydrologic cycle and decisions on where interventions, including external aid, would
be most useful. Chapters 10 and 13 of the Report, in particular, treat this subject.

Challenges remain in managing water resources for development

The contribution of sustainable access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation
to achieving the Millennium Development Goals is well established. Largely ignored,
however, is the fact that water resources are at the core of many of the Millennium Devel-
opment Goals on which progress is lagging. This Report and others elaborate the direct
and indirect contributions of water management across all the Millennium Development

It is not enough to hope that the trickle-down effects of economic growth will result in
equitable distribution that includes the poor. The economic growth and poverty-reduc-
ing contributions of water resources must be made explicit and specific at the country
level. Intergovernmental efforts must support such actions and maintain the momentum
of the global commitments made since the Millennium Declaration in 2000.

2. United Nations, 1992, Agenda 21, Chapter 18, Protection of the Quality and Supply of Freshwater
Resources: Application of Integrated Approaches to the Development, Management and Use of Water
Resources, New York: Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations.

Water in a changing world xi


While mitigation of anthropogenic climate change is vital, the blunt reality is that all
­countries – particularly developing countries that will be hit hardest and earliest – and busi-
ness sectors must also adapt to climate change. Even if greenhouse gas concentrations stabi-
lize in the coming years, some impacts from climate change are unavoidable. These include
increasing water stress in many regions, more extreme weather events, the potential for large
population migration and the disruption of international markets. These challenges cannot
be separated from the challenges of sustainable development in a complex global context.

This report provides evidence of the need for public investments in water resources infra-
structure and implementation capacity. It also provides evidence of the vital importance of
water resources and environmental sustainability to engage the private sector, civil society
and communities to invest and become involved, offering examples of how this can be done.

Bilateral donors, important in funding water investments, must avoid the temptation to
reduce their aid budgets during the current global financial and economic crises. Multilat-
eral aid could be an important source of financing for many years to come. Yet both bilat-
eral and multilateral donors appear not to recognize the contribution of the water sector
to growth: the water sector’s share of official development assistance has remained below
6% for some time. This said, the flow of official development assistance has increased in
recent years and so has the water component in dollar terms. But most of the increase has
gone to water supply (and sanitation, to a lesser degree), while aid flows to other water sec-
tors have stagnated in dollar terms and fell as a percentage of total assistance.

Like other physical infrastructure, water infrastructure deteriorates over time and needs
repair and replacement. Investment is also required in operation and maintenance and in
developing the capacity of the sector so that infrastructure meets appropriate standards
and functions efficiently.

The case of sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, remains mired in poverty. Its progress towards achiev-
ing the Millennium Development Goals lags behind that of other regions. The percent-
age of the population living in absolute poverty is essentially the same as it was 25
years ago. About 340 million Africans lack access to safe drinking water, and almost 500
million lack access to adequate sanitation. Countries in sub-Saharan Africa store only
about 4% of their annual renewable flows, compared with 70%-90% in many developed
countries, yet water storage is essential to ensure reliable sources of water for irrigation,
water supply and hydropower and to provide a buffer for flood management.

The need to act now

The challenges that face decision-makers are numerous. The context in which they must
make decisions is not well defined. This Report does not attempt to provide a full set of
answers. But it identifies the key issues that must be faced. It describes some of the ways
that decision-makers have dealt with these challenges, providing options for considera-
tion across levels of government and sectors.

Despite the many unknowns, we need to act now – with decisions about investments in
water infrastructure and in implementation capacity to enable environmentally sustaina-
ble economic growth and social development and with decisions on safety nets to ensure
basic services that protect the poor.

We hope that this third United Nations World Water Development Report will stimulate
decision-makers in government, the private sector and civil society to act.

Olcay Ünver William Cosgrove

World Water Assessment Programme Coordinator United Nations World Water
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Development Report 3
Organization Content Coordinator

xii World Water Development Report 3


This Report would not have been possible without the essential and gracious support
of many individuals. The personal support and interest of Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-
­General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),
created an enabling environment. The leadership and guidance of Andras Szöllösi-Nagy,
director of the Division of Water Sciences of UNESCO, allowed the World Water Assessment
Programme (WWAP) team to mobilize its collective energy and capacity in the best way
possible. Pasquale Steduto, chair of UN-Water and chief of the Land and Water Division of
the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), graciously extended his
catalytic support during a challenging process of preparation and production.

The leadership of Uri Shamir, chair of the Report’s Technical Advisory Committee and
professor of engineering at Technion-Israeli Institute of Technology, and the expertise
of the committee members helped create a product of sound scientific basis and supe-
rior quality, which was further enhanced by the work of WWAP’s Expert Groups. We
acknowledge the efforts of Gerald Galloway, professor of engineering at the University of
Maryland, in helping to reach out to hundreds of decision-makers worldwide, enabling
the Report to be policy relevant to its primary intended audience.

We acknowledge the support of the World Bank, FAO and Organisation for Economic
Co-operation and Development in providing the most recent data and information avail-
able, sometimes before they were published. We especially thank the Italian Ministry of
Environment, Land and Sea for its generous provision of funds; the Italian Ministry of
Foreign Affairs for its support; and the government of the Umbria Region of Italy for the
beautiful new premises that now house the WWAP at the Villa La Colombella, Perugia.

We thank the Report’s editors, Bruce Ross-Larson and Meta de Coquereaumont, and
their production team at Communications Development Incorporated – Joseph Caponio,
Amye Kenall, Allison Kerns, Christopher Trott and Elaine Wilson – for the extraordinary
support they provided.

The WWAP also thanks the following individuals and organizations from around the
world for their generous and varied contributions to the Report.

Pasquale Steduto, chair; Aslam Chaudhry, Johan Kuylenstierna and Frederik Pischke

Alice Aureli, Jonathan Baker, Jeanne Damlamian, Siegfried Demuth, Walter Erdelen,
Rosanna Karam, Shahbaz Khan, Anil Mishra, Djaffar Moussa-Elkadhum, Anna Movsisyan,
Mohan Perera, Amale Reinholt-Gauthier, Léna Salamé and Alberto Tejada-Guibert

World Water Development Report 3 teams

Chapter coordinators
Tim Kasten (UNEP) with the support of Thomas Chiramba (UNEP); Andras Szöllösi-Nagy
(UNESCO) and Wolfgang Grabs (WMO), associate coordinator, with the support of
Siegfried Demuth (UNESCO) and Anil Mishra (UNESCO); Jean-Marc Faurès (FAO);
Håkan Tropp (UNDP Water Governance Facility); Olcay Ünver (WWAP)

Water in a changing world xiii


Content coordinator
William Cosgrove

Process manager
George de Gooijer

Chapter facilitators
Richard Connor, William Cosgrove, George de Gooijer, Denis Hughes and Domitille Vallée

Graphics coordinator
Akif Altundaş

WWAP publications coordinator

Samantha Wauchope

United Nations World Water Assessment Programme

Technical Advisory Committee
Uri Shamir, chair; Dipak Gyawali, deputy chair; Fatma Attia, Anders Berntell,
Elias Fereres, M. Gopalakrishnan, Daniel Pete Loucks, Laszlo Somlyody, Lucio Ubertini,
Henk van Schaik, Albert Wright

Sponsors and donors

Italian Ministry of Environment, Land and Sea; Government of Region of Umbria, Italy;
Government of Japan; UNESCO Etxea, Basque Water Agency (URA) and Danish Internation-
al Development Assistance; and US Army Corps of Engineers, Institute for Water Resources

Olcay Ünver, coordinator; Michela Miletto, deputy coordinator; Akif Altundaş,
Floriana Barcaioli, Adriana Fusco, Lisa Gastaldin, Georgette Gobina, Simone Grego,
Shaukat Hakim, Rosanna Karam, Engin Koncagül, Lucilla Minelli, Stéfanie Néno,
Abigail Parish, Daniel Perna, Jean-Baptiste Poncelet, Astrid Schmitz, Marina Solecki,
Toshihiro Sonoda, Jair Torres, Domitille Vallée, Casey Walther and Samantha Wauchope

Expert groups
Indicators, monitoring and databases
Mike Muller and Roland Schulze, co-chairs; Joseph Alcamo, Amithirigala Jayawardena,
Torkil Jønch-Clausen, Peter C. Letitre, Aaron Salzberg, Charles Vörösmarty, Albert Wright
and Daniel Zimmer

Business, trade, finance and involvement of private sector

Ger Bergkamp and Jack Moss, co-chairs; Margaret Catley-Carlson, Joppe Cramwinckel,
Mai Flor, Richard Franceys, Jürg Gerber, Gustavo Heredia, Karin Krchnak, Neil McLeoud,
Herbert Oberhansli, Jeremy Pelczer and Robin Simpson

Climate change and water

Pierre Baril and BertJan Heij, co-chairs; Bryson Bates, Filippo Giorgi, Fekri Hassan,
Daniela Jacob, Pavel Kabat, Levent Kavvas, Zbigniew Kundzewicz, Zekai Şen and
Roland Shulze

Legal issues
Stefano Burchi and Patricia Wouters, co-chairs; Rutgerd Boelens, Carl Bruch,
Salman M. A. Salman, Miguel Solanes, Raya Stephan and Jessica Troell

Policy relevance
Gerry Galloway and Dipak Gyawali, co-chairs; Adnan Badran, Qiu Baoxing,
Antonio Bernardini, Benito Braga, Max Campos, Peter Gleick, Rajiv Gupta,
Mohammed Ait Kadi, Celalettin Kart, Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, Juan Mayr, Jack Moss,
Mike Muller, Hideaki Oda, Marc Overmars, Victor Pochat, Jerome Delli Priscoli,
Cletus Springer, Carel de Villeneuve, Zhang Xiangwei and Jiao Yong

Joseph Alcamo and Gilberto Gallopin, co-chairs; Vahid Alavian, Nadezhda Gaponenko,
Allen Hammond, Kejun Jiang, Emilio Lebre la Rovere, Robert Martin, David Molden,

xiv World Water Development Report 3


Mike Muller, Mark Rosegrant, Igor Shiklomanov, Jill Slinger, Narasingarao Sreenath,
Ken Strzepek, Isabel Valencia and Wang Rusong

Luis Berga and Johan Rockström, co-chairs; Alison Bartle, Jean-Pierre Chabal,
William Critchley, Nuhu Hatibu, Theib Oweis, Michel de Vivo, Arthur Walz and
Carissa Wong

Contributing and partner organizations

AquaFed; Conservation International; Global Water Partnership; International Centre
for Water Hazard and Risk Management; International Institute for Advanced Systems
Analysis; International Research and Training Center on Erosion and Sedimentation;
International Water Association; Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Develop-
ment; Stockholm Environment Institute; UNDP Water Governance Facility at Stockholm
International Water Institute; UN-Water Decade Programme on Capacity Development;
UNEP-DHI Centre for Water and Environment; University of Dundee Centre for Water
Law, Policy and Science; UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education; World Business
Council on Sustainable Development and World Water Council

Case studies
Engin Koncagül (WWAP)

Editorial team
Rebecca Brite and Alison McKelvey Clayson


Case study contributors

Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay (La Plata River basin)
Miguel Ángel López Arzamendia, Silvia González, Verónica Luquich, Victor Pochat and
staff of the Intergovernmental Coordinating Committee of the La Plata River Basin

Saiful Alam, Mozaddad Faruque, Azizul Haque, Md. Anwarul Hoque,
Jalaluddin Md. Abdul Hye, Md. Azharul Islam, Andrew Jenkins, A. H. M. Kausher,
Hosne Rabbi, Md. Mustafizur Rahman, Md. Shahjahan and the Bangladesh Ministry of
Water Resources

Brazil and Uruguay (Lake Merín Basin)

Gerardo Amaral, José Luis Fay de Azambuja, Ambrosio Barreiro, Artigas Barrios,
Jorge Luiz Cardozo, Daniel Corsino, Adolfo Hax Franz, Henrique Knorr, Fiona Mathy,
Juan José Mazzeo, Joao Menegheti, Claudio Pereira, Jussara Beatriz Pereira,
Martha Petrocelli, Carlos María Prigioni, Hamilton Rodrigues, Aldyr Garcia Schlee,
Carlos María Serrentino, Manoel de Souza Maia and Silvio Steinmetz

Kodwo Andah and Mathias Fru Fonteh

Dong Wu, Hao Zhao, Jin Hai, Ramasamy Jayakumar, Liu Ke, Pang Hui, Shang Hongqi,
Song Ruipeng, Sun Feng, Sun Yangbo and Xu Jing

Erki Endjärv, Harry Liiv, Peeter Marksoo and Karin Pachel

Finland and Russian Federation (Vuoksi River basin)

Natalia Alexeeva, Sari Mitikka, Raimo Peltola, Bertel Vehviläinen, Noora Veijalainen and
Riitta-Sisko Wirkkala

Beatrice Bertolo and Francesco Tornatore

Water in a changing world xv


Republic of Korea
Republic of Korea Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs

Marcel E. Boomgaard, Joost J. Buntsma, Michelle J. A. Hendriks, Olivier Hoes,
Rens L. M. Huisman, Jan Koedood, Ed R. Kramer, Eric Kuindersma, Cathelijn Peters,
Jan Strijker, Sonja Timmer, Frans A. N. van Baardwijk, Tim van Hattum and Hans Waals

Pacific Islands
Marc Overmars, Hans Thulstrup and Ian White

Ch. Muhammad Akram, Mi Hua and Zamir Somroo

Spain (Autonomous Community of the Basque Country)

Fernando Díaz Alpuente, Ana Oregi Bastarrika, Iñaki Urrutia Garayo, Mikel Mancisidor,
Sabin Intxaurraga Mendibil, Josu Sanz and Tomás Epalza Solano

Sri Lanka
M. M. M. Aheeyar, Sanath Fernando, K. A. U. S. Imbulana, V. K. Nanayakkara,
B. V. R. Punyawardena, Uditha Ratnayake, Anoja Seneviratne, H. S. Somatilake,
P. Thalagala and K. D. N. Weerasinghe

Gamal Abdo, Abdalla Abdelsalam Ahmed, Kodwo Andah, Abdin Salih,

Kodwo Andah, E. J. Mwendera and the Swaziland Department of Water Affairs

Mustapha Besbes, Jamel Chaded, Abdelkader Hamdane and Mekki Hamza

Turkey (Istanbul)
Gülçin Aşkın, Zeynep Eynur, Canan Gökçen, Canan Hastürk, S. Erkan Kaçmaz, Selami Oğuz,
Gürcan Özkan, Vildan Şahin, Turgut Berk Sezgin, Aynur Uluğtekin and Aynur Züran

Abdi Kadir Ergashev, Eh. Dj. Makhmudov, Anna Paolini and Sh. I. Salikhov

Osward M. Chanda, Hastings Chibuye, Christopher Chileshe, Peter Chola, Ben Chundu,
Adam Hussen, Joseph Kanyanga, Peter Lubambo, Andrew Mondoka, Peter Mumba,
Mumbuwa Munumi, Priscilla Musonda, Christopher Mwasile, Kenneth Nkhowani,
Imasiku A. Nyambe, Liswaniso Pelekelo, Zebediah Phiri, Friday Shisala, Lovemore Sievu
and George W. Sikuleka

Participants at preparatory meetings and workshops

Inception meeting – 7-11 November 2007 – Paris, France
Virginie Aimard, Guy Alaerts, Joseph Alcamo, Reza Ardakanian, Pierre Baril,
Francesca Bernardini, Gunilla Björklund, Janos Bogardi, Rudolph Cleveringa,
James Dorsey, Elias Fereres, M. Gopalakrishnan, Wolfgang Grabs, Dipak Gyawali,
BertJan Heij, Molly Hellmuth, Denis Hughes, Tim Kasten, Henrik Larsen,
Peter C. Letitre, Daniel Pete Loucks, Jan Luijendijk, Robert Martin, Michel Meybeck,
Jack Moss, Yuichi Ono, Léna Salamé, Monica Scatasta, Uri Shamir, Laszlo Somlyody,
Manfred Spreafico, Alberto Tejada-Guibert, Lucio Ubertini, Henk van Schaik,
Charles Vörösmarty, James Winpenny, Junichi Yoshitani and Daniel Zimmer

Integration meeting – 19-25 April 2008 – Perugia, Italy

Daniel Adom, Virginie Aimard, Guy Alaerts, Joseph Alcamo, Youssef Al-Mooji,
Fatma Attia, Pierre Baril, Luis Berga, Anders Berntell, Gunilla Björklund, Robert Bos,
Andrew Bullock, Stefano Burchi, Thomas Chiramba, Engin Çitak, Rudolph Cleveringa,
Elias Fereres, Carlos Fernandez, Gilberto Gallopin, Gerry Galloway, M. Gopalakrishanan,
Wolfgang Grabs, Dipak Gyawali, Joakim Harlin, BertJan Heij, Molly Hellmuth,
Sarah Hendry, Denis Hughes, Niels Ipsen, Tim Kasten, Yanikoglu Kubra, Kshitij M. Kulkarni,
Johan Kuylenstierna, Jon Lane, Henrik Larsen, Peter C. Letitre, Dennis Lettenmaier, Daniel
Pete Loucks, Robert Martin, Anil Mishra, Jack Moss, Mike Muller, Yuichi Ono, Walter Rast,

xvi World Water Development Report 3


Ahmet Saatci, Léna Salamé, Darren Saywell, Roland Schulze, Uri Shamir, Laszlo Somlyody,

Toshihiro Sonoda, Alberto Tejada-Guibert, Jon Martin Trondalen, Duygu Tuna,
Lucio Ubertini, Stefan Uhlenbrook, Wim van der Hoek, Pieter van der Zaag, Henk van Schaik,
Charles Vörösmarty, James Winpenny, Albert Wright, Adikari Yoganath and Daniel Zimmer

Workshop on indicators, monitoring and databases – 18-20 June 2008 – Perugia, Italy
Karen Frenken, George de Gooijer, Jan Hassing, Engin Koncagül, Mike Muller, Stéfanie
Néno, Gerard Payen, Roland Schulze, Charles Vörösmarty and Casey Walther

Workshop on policy relevance – 28 July – 1 August 2008 – Perugia, Italy

Michael Abebe, Altay Altinors, Kodwo Andah, Ger Bergkamp, Thanade Dawasuwan,
Gerry Galloway, Dipak Gyawali, Saadou Ebih Mohamed, Jack Moss, Stéfanie Néno,
Joshua Newton, Jerome Delli Priscoli, Khomoatsana Tau and Håkan Tropp

Solicited consultations
Real-time Delphi survey on scenarios, October 2007
Joseph Alcamo, Fatma Attia, Pierre Baril, Bryon Bates, Anders Berntell,
Elias Fereres Castiel, Gilberto Gallopin, Nadezhda Gaponenko, Filipo Giorgi,
Jerome Glenn, Stela Goldenstein, M. Gopalakrishnan, Wolfgang Grabs, Dipak Gyawali,
BertJan Heij, Danielle Jacob, Pavel Kabat, Tim Kasten, Zbigniew Kundzewicz,
Peter Loucks, David Molden, David Seckler, Uri Shamir, Zekai Şen, Igor Shiklomanov,
Roland Shulze, Lazslo Somlyody, Ken Strzepek, Lucio Ubertini, Isabel Valencia,
Henk van Schaik, Wang Rusong and Albert Wright

Real-time Delphi survey on storage, February 2008

Alison Bartle, Luis Berga, Jean-Pierre Chabal, Imo Efiong Ekpo, John Gowing,
Robert T. Heath, Jia Jinsheng, Marna de Lange, Peter Stuart Lee, Jan Lundqvist,
Maimbo Mabanga Malesu, Norihisa Matsumoto, Adama Nombre,
Alberto Marulanda Posada, Johan Rockström, Herman E. Roo, Giovanni Ruggeri,
Bernard Tardieu, Richard M. Taylor, Barbara van Koppen, Arthur Walz, Martin Wieland,
Qiang Zhu and Przemyslaw Zielinski

Public online consultation on the table of contents, March 2008

Diepeveen Aleid, Abdullatif Al-Mugrin, Elfadil Azrag, Nick Blazquez, Marcia M. Brewster,
Olga Daguia, Binayak Das, Orock Tanyi Fidelis, Mikkel Funder, Cristy Gallano,
Andreas Grohmann, Alfred Heuperman, Peter Kabongo, Tom McAuley, F. H. Mughal,
Farhad Mukhtarov, Kefah Naom, N. Parasuraman Ngappan, Cyprien Ntahomvukiye,
Gerd Odenwaelder, Gbenga Olatunji, Michaela Oldfield, Ramadhan, Friederike Schubert,
Paulo de Tarso Castro, Mase Toru, Nicola Tynan, Etiosa Uyigue, Hideo Watanabe,
Maya Wolfensberger, Nayyer Alam Zaigham and the Gender and Water Alliance

Real-time Delphi survey on policy relevance, March 2008

Emaduddin Ahmad, Natalia Alexeeva, Ali Al-Jabbari, Elena Isabel Benitez Alonso,
Miguel Angel, Lina Sergie Atassi, Manuel Rodríguez Becerra, Charlie Bepapa,
Benedito Braga, Martina Bussettini, Mokhtar Bzioui, Adrian Cashman,
Sharif Uzzaman Choudhury, Betsy A. Cody, Christopher Cox, Basandorj Davaagiin,
Dwarika Dhugnel, Francis Flynn, Bertha Cruz Forero, Gerald Galloway,
Iñaki Urrutia Garayo, Zaheer Hussain Shah Gardezi, Peter Gleick, Biksham Gujja,
Handagama, Islam-ul-Haque, Kocou Armand Houanye, Mukdad Hussein,
Upali Senarath Imbulana, Abbasgholi Jahani, Ananda Jayasinghe, Mohamed Ait Kadi,
Badra Kamaladasa, Ville Keskisarja, Julio Thadeu S. Kettelhut, Arzel Hossain Khan,
Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, Latu S. Kupa, Juan Mayr Maldonado, Olga Marecos,
Jurado Marquez, Polioptro F. Martínez-Austria, Miguel A. Medina, Jr., G. Tracy Mehan,
A. M. Muller, Jadambaa Namjilin, Gustavo Victor Necco, Visa Niittyniemi,
Ali Noorzad, Michel Ouellet, Marc Overmars, Mauri Cesar Barbosa Pereira,
Claudia Patricia Mora Pineda, Giorgio Pineschi, Victor Pochat, Syed Ayub Qutub,
Walid Abed Rabboh, Hifza Rasheed, Josu Sanz, Henk van Schaik, Carlos María Serrentino,
Cletus Springer, Steven L. Stockton, Sumitha Sumanaweera, Vincent D. Sweeney,
Muhammad Aslam Tahir, Sonja Timmer, Francesco Tornatore, Robert Reece Twilley,
Carel de Villeneuve, Erik K. Webb, Cevat Yaman and Farhad Yazdandoost

Electronic survey for water leaders and water experts, July 2008
Sameh Mohamed Abdel-Gawad, Florence Grace Adongo, Emaduddin Ahmad,
Abdalla A. Ahmed, Fernando Alberto, Sibel Algan, Daouda Aliou, Mirtha Almada,
Hugo Pablo Amicarelli, Paula Antunes, Bayoumi Bayoumi Attia, Van Baardwijk, Banadda,
Jayanta Bandyopadhyay, Elena Benitez, Emilia Bocanegra, Lisa Bourget, John Carey,

Water in a changing world xvii


Adrian Cashman, Roberto Torres Castro, Lucas Chamorro, Xu Cheng, Mourad Choyekh,

Murray Clamen, Michael J. Clark, Betsy A. Cody, Ken Conca, Filiz Demirayak,
Carlos Diaz, Kayembe Ditanta, Ajaya Dixit, Ould Mohamed El Hacen Saadou Ebih,
Omar Elbadawy, Evens Emmanuel, Loic Fauchon, Miriam Feilberg, Bertha Cruz Forero,
Iñaki Urrutia Garayo, Roberto Galan Garcia, Elda Guadalupe Vasquez de Godoy,
Elizabeth Granados, Norman Grannemann, Pilar Cornejo R. de Grunauer,
Sylvain Guebanda, Guero, Adrian Ortega Guerrero, Biksham Gujja, G. J. C. Gunatilake,
Carlos Gutiérrez-Ojeda, Dipak Gyawali, Charles Hakizimana, Azizul Haque,
Islam-ul-Haque, Liu Heng, Oda Hideaki, Eduardo Zamudio Huertas, Magda Amin Idris,
Upali S. Imbulana, Mulipola Pologa Ioane, Vijay Jagannathan, Jahani, Santiago Jara,
H. M. Jayatillake, Gerald Jean-Batiste, Badra Kamaladasa, Vakup Karaaslan, Ville Keskisarja,
Wael M. Khairy, Arzel Hossain Khan, Nguyen Hong Khanh, Abdelaziz H. Konsowa,
Juan Jose Ledesma, Peter Letitre, Mark Limbaugh, Ana Deisy López Ramos, Lutfi Ali Madi,
Yvon Maranda, Darysbeth Martinez, Andrés Pérez Mattiauda, Marcus Moench,
Ekhlas Gamal Eldin Mohamed, David Molden, Sadí Laporte Molina, Isaìas Montoya B.,
Mike Muller, Hamza Ozguler, Gürcan Özkan, Eddy Gabriel Baldellón Pedraza,
Amataga Penaia, Ralph Pentland, Mauri Cesar Barbosa Pereira, Andrés Pérez,
Odalis Perez, Mathieu Pinkers, Syed Ayub Qutub, Walid Abed Rabboh,
Santiago Maria Reyna, Decarli Rodríguez, Jorge Rucks, Jayampathy Samarakoon,
Monica Elizabeth Urbieta Sanabria, João Bosco Senra, Carlos Maria Serrentino,
José Joaquín Chacón Solano, Toshihiro Sonoda, Guido Soto, Hugo Herrera Soto,
Steven L. Stockton, Sumitha Sumanaweera, Veronica Tarbaeva, U. Tsedendamba,
Aynur Uluğtekin, Kishor Uprety, Jeroen van der Sommen, Ximena Vargas,
Celso Velazquez, Ingrid Verstraeten, Carel de Villeneuve, Carissa Wong,
Jorge Montaño Xavier, Alaa Yassin and Farhad Yazdandoost

UN-Water consultation, August-September 2008

Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Food and Agriculture Organization
of the United Nations, United Nations Environment Programme and World Bank

WWAP side publications series coordinator

Marwa Daoudy

Partners in WWDR Side Publications Series

Zafar Adeel, Yoganath Adikari, Joseph Alcamo, Maite Martinez Aldaya, Reza Ardakanian,
Pierre Baril, Dominique Berteaux, Harriet Bigas, David Bird, Gunilla Björklund,
Sylvie de Blois, Amadou Idrissa Bokoye, Sobhanlal Bonnerjee, Leon Braat, Marco Braun,
Anne Cann, Diane Chaumont, Torkil-Jønch Clausen, David Coates, Jean-François Cyr,
Claude Desjarlais, Paris Edwards, Marie-Joëlle Fluet, Louis-Guillaume Fortin,
Gilberto Gallopín, Jerome Glenn, Matt Hare, Joakim Harlin, Jan Hassing, BertJan Heij,
Andrew Hudson, Niels Ipsen, Harald Koethe, David Lammie, Henrik Larsen,
Jan Leentvaar, Geerinck Lieven, Palle Lindgaard-Jørgensen, Manuel Ramon Llamas,
Ralf Ludwig, Wolfram Mauser, Alastair Morrison, Jasna Muskatirovic, André Musy,
Benjamin Ndala, Gernot Pauli, Alain Rousseau, René Roy, Brigitte Schuster,
Lynette de Silva, Lucia De Stefano, Jon Martin Trondalen, Håkan Tropp, Richard Turcotte,
Wim van der Hoek, Charlotte van der Schaaf, Luc Vescovi, Ruth Vollmer, Ian White,
James Winpenny, Lars Wirkus, Aaron T. Wolf and Junichi Yoshitani 

World Water Development Report 3 Messages Series

George de Gooijer

Altay Altinörs, Ger Bergkamp, Claire Furlong, George de Gooijer, Dipak Gyawali, Jack Moss,
Joshua Newton, Sharon Velasquez Orta, Darren Saywell, Alberto Tejada-Guibert and
James Winpenny

Special thanks
The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Secretariat of the 5th World Water Forum
(Istanbul), the Greater Municipality of Istanbul Water and Sewerage Administration and
the General Directorate of State Hydraulic Works of Turkey

We apologize for any inadvertent errors or omissions of contributors to the Report. Some
names may be incomplete because they come from participants’ own online registration
information, which may have been incomplete.

xviii World Water Development Report 3

Overview of
key messages

The amount of freshwater on Earth is as an integral component, including Leaders in the

finite, but its distribution has varied con- responses to climate change, food and en-
water sector
siderably, driven mainly by natural cycles ergy challenges and disaster management.
of freezing and thawing and fluctuations The analysis of these issues leads to a set of have long been
in precipitation, water runoff patterns and responses and recommendations for action aware that water
evapotranspiration levels. That situation that incorporate the contribution of water
has changed, however. Alongside natural to sustainable development. is essential to
causes are new and continuing human sustainable
activities that have become primary ‘driv- Chapter 1. Getting out of the box
ers’ of the pressures affecting our planet’s – linking water to decisions for development,
water systems. These pressures are most sustainable development but they do not
often related to human development and The news media today are full of talk of
economic growth. crises – in climate change, energy and food make the decisions
supplies and prices, and troubled financial on development
History shows a strong link between markets. These global crises are linked to
economic development and water re- each other and to water resources manage-
objectives and
sources development. There are abundant ment. They arise against a background of the allocation
examples of how water has contributed to continuing poverty for a large part of the
of human and
economic development and how develop- world. Unless resolved, they may lead to
ment has demanded increased harnessing increasing political insecurity and conflict financial resources
of water. Such benefits came at a cost and at local and national levels. to meet them.
in some places led to increasing pressure
on the environment and increasing com- • The ‘water box’ dilemma must be re- These decisions are
petition among users. Our requirements solved. Leaders in the water sector – in made by leaders
for water to meet our fundamental needs water supply and sanitation, hydro-
and our collective pursuit of higher living power, irrigation and flood control in government,
standards, coupled with the need for water – have long been aware that water is the private sector
to sustain our planet’s fragile ecosystems, essential to sustainable development,
make water unique among our planet’s but they do not make the decisions and civil society
natural resources. on development objectives and the
allocation of human and financial
Important decisions affecting water man- resources to meet them. These deci-
agement are made outside the water sector sions are made or influenced by leaders
and are driven by external, largely unpre- in government, the private sector and
dictable drivers – demography, climate civil society, who must learn to rec-
change, the global economy, changing so- ognize water’s role in obtaining their
cietal values and norms, technological in- objectives.
novation, laws and customs, and financial • Water is essential for achieving sustain-
markets. Many of these external drivers able development and the Millennium
are dynamic and changing at a faster pace. Development Goals. Properly manag-
Developments outside the water domain ing water resources is an essential com-
influence water management strategies ponent of growth, social and economic
and policies. Decisions in other sectors development, poverty reduction and
and those related to development, growth equity – all essential for achieving the
and livelihoods need to incorporate water Millennium Development Goals.

Water in a changing world xix

Overview of key messages

Alongside the • Water is linked to the crises of climate and disrupt the natural balance of water
change, energy and food supplies and systems.
natural forces
prices, and troubled financial markets.
affecting water Unless their links with water are ad- Economic growth, a principal driver of water
resources are new dressed and water crises around the use, is affected by a wide range of policy
world are resolved, these other crises decisions, from international trade to educa-
human activities may intensify and local water crises tion and public health, while the potential
that have become may worsen, converging into a global rate of economic growth can be affected by
water crisis and leading to political in- demographic variables such as population
the primary security and conflict at various levels. distribution (local workforce availability)
‘drivers’ of the and social characteristics (workforce capacity
Specialists and managers in water supply and and the role of women) and by the availabil-
pressures affecting sanitation, hydropower, irrigation and flood ity of new technologies. Water availability is
our planet’s control have long been aware of this. But also directly subject to the impacts of climate
they often have a narrow, sectoral perspec- change, which also can exert additional pres-
water systems tive that blinds many decisions on water. sures on the other drivers.
And they do not make the decisions on de-
velopment objectives and financial resources The result of these combined and interact-
needed to meet these broader objectives. ing forces is a continuously increasing de-
mand for finite water resources for which
Action is required now. Lives and liveli- there are no substitutes. When water re-
hoods depend on water for development. sources of acceptable quality can no longer
After decades of inaction, the problems are be provided in sustainable quantities,
enormous. And they will worsen if left un- the outcome can be overexploitation of
attended. But while the challenges are sub- aquatic ecosystems. The ultimate losers are
stantial, they are not insurmountable. The the exploited aquatic ecosystems and the
Report has examples of how some coun- organisms (including humans) dependent
tries and regional and local governments on them for survival and well-being.
have solved similar challenges. Recogniz-
ing the links between water resources and Chapter 2. Demographic, economic
other crises around the world and between and social drivers
water resources and development, leaders Human activities and processes of all types
in the water domain and decision-makers – demographic, economic and social – can
outside it must act together now to meet exert pressures on water resources and
these challenges. need to be managed. These pressures are in
turn affected by a range of factors such as
Part 1. Understanding what technological innovation, institutional and
drives the pressures on water financial conditions and climate change.

Alongside the natural forces affecting Demographic drivers. Population dynamics

water resources are new human activities (growth, gender and age distribution, migra-
that have become the primary ‘drivers’ of tion) create pressures on freshwater resourc-
the pressures affecting our planet’s water es through increased water demands and
systems. These pressures are most often pollution. Changes in the natural landscape
related to human activities and economic associated with population dynamics (mi-
growth. Our requirements for water to gration, urbanization) can create additional
meet our fundamental needs and our col- pressures on local water resources and the
lective pursuit of higher living standards, need for more water-related services.
coupled with the need for water to sustain
our planet’s fragile ecosystems, make water Economic drivers. Growth and changes
unique among natural resources. in the global economy are having far-
­reaching impacts on water resources and
Drivers should not be considered in isola- their use. Growing international trade in
tion of related socioeconomic and political goods and services can aggravate water
factors or of other drivers. Many natural stress in some countries while relieving it
links also influence how drivers affect in others through flows of ‘virtual water’
changes, directly and indirectly. Water (water embedded in products and used in
properties are governed by biological, their production, particularly in the form
chemical and physical laws that define the of imported agricultural commodities).
quantity and quality of water resources,
regardless of human influences, and that Social drivers. Social drivers are mainly about
are linked in various ways. Superimposed individual rather than collective actions
on these natural processes are human and about the way people think and act on
activities that intensify these processes a day-to-day basis. Social drivers influence

xx World Water Development Report 3

Overview of key messages

human perceptions and attitudes about the of groundwater, lack of planning, degrada- Although water is
environment, including water resources, in tion of ecosystems, weakened flood protec-
often described as
turn influencing the pressures people exert tion, urban expansion leading to heightened
on water through water demands and uses. water tensions, and other harmful effects. a ‘gift of nature’,
Changes in lifestyles represent one of the harnessing and
principal drivers of change. They reflect Finance. Although water is often described as
human needs, desires and attitudes (as il- a ‘gift of nature’, harnessing and managing managing it
lustrated in consumption and production it for the wide variety of human and ecologi- for the wide
patterns), which are influenced by such so- cal needs entail financial costs. While there
cial drivers as culture and education and by may appear to be many financing options variety of human
economic drivers and technological innova- for water resources development, govern- and ecological
tion; the rapid global rise in living standards ments still have only three basic means of
combined with population growth presents financing them: tariffs, taxes and transfers needs entail
the major threat to the sustainability of through external aid and philanthropy. financial costs
water resources and the environment.
Policy-makers need to make political deci-
Chapter 3. Technological innovation sions on socially and environmentally
Technological innovation is driven largely acceptable trade-offs among different
by both human wants and needs. It can objectives and on who bears the costs of
create both positive and negative pressures, such compromise. Commitments have
sometimes simultaneously, resulting in been made by the donor community to in-
increased or decreased water demand, sup- crease assistance to the broad water sector,
ply and quality. One of the most unpre- but this has led mainly to an increase in
dictable drivers, technological innovation allocations for water supply and sanitation
can create rapid, dramatic and unexpected in dollar terms (although its share of total
changes, both in pressures and solutions. official development assistance has stag-
Impediments to the dissemination of nated at 4%), and the percentage of total
technology must be overcome for develop- aid allocated to the water sector remains
ing countries to benefit from innovations below 6% and has been declining.
developed in richer countries.
Chapter 5. Climate change and
Chapter 4. Policies, laws and finance possible futures
Efforts to implement water management The external drivers of change, strongly
effectively and efficiently and to prop- connected, create complex challenges
erly inform the decision-making process and opportunities for water managers and
are facilitated by the adoption of water decision-­makers in government, the private
resources management laws, policies and sector and civil society. Climate change
strategies that reflect links between water and variability, while seldom the main
and the social and economic sectors. Good stressors on sustainable development, can
examples can be found in many countries. impede or even reverse development gains.

But even if all the necessary policies and Climate change. There is evidence that the
laws are in place, development of water re- global climate is changing and that some
sources will not take place without adequate of the change is human-induced. The main
funding of infrastructure and the institu- impacts of climate change on humans and
tional and human capacity of the sector. the environment occur through water.
Climate change is a fundamental driver of
Policies and laws. Effective policies and changes in water resources and an addition-
legal frameworks are necessary to develop, al stressor through its effects on external
carry out and enforce the rules and regula- drivers. Policies and practices for mitigating
tions that govern water use and protect the climate change or adapting to it can have
resource. Water policy operates within a impacts on water resources, and the way we
context of local, national, regional and glo- manage water can affect the climate.
bal policy and legal frameworks that must
all support sound water management goals. Public policy, so far dominated by mitiga-
tion, could benefit from a better balance
Legitimate, transparent and participatory between mitigation and adaptation. Carbon
processes can effectively mobilize input for is a measure of the anthropogenic causes
designing and implementing water re- of climate change – water is a measure of
sources policy and create a strong deterrent its impacts. The international community
to corruption. Corruption remains a poorly also has to balance investing for tomorrow’s
addressed governance issue in the water do- likely problems of greater climate variability
main. It can lead to uncontrolled pollution and global warming against investing for
of water sources, overpumping and depletion today’s problems of climate variability to

Water in a changing world xxi

Overview of key messages

Steadily increasing prevent losses from droughts and floods. disease, climate shocks and environmental
While both are vital, focusing on today’s degradation. Water of the right quality can
demand for
problems can also create greater resilience improve health through better sanitation
agricultural for dealing with the problems of tomorrow. and hygiene and, when applied at the right
products to time, can enhance the productivity of land,
Possible futures. Each of the external water labour and other productive inputs. In ad-
satisfy the needs drivers is dynamic and continues to evolve, dition, healthy freshwater ecosystems pro-
of a growing as do the direct and indirect pressures they vide multiple goods and services essential
exert on water resources. Thus, it is difficult to life and livelihood.
population, and to draw a comprehensive picture of the
the desire for a future by examining each driver independ- The importance of water services is espe-
ently. Because the drivers can have even cially apparent in societies where normal
more varied diet, more of an impact on future water resources social life and political structures have
continues to be collectively than they can individually, broken down. In these fragile states the
future scenarios that consider these interac- government cannot or will not deliver core
the main driver tions offer a more holistic picture. Existing functions to most of its people, including
behind water use global water scenarios are outdated, incom- the poor. While each fragile state is fragile
plete or sectoral and do not fully incorpo- in different ways and for different reasons
rate each of the external drivers. The evolu- – war, post-conflict recovery, major natural
tion of the drivers and the logic behind catastrophe, prolonged mismanagement
their storylines need to be examined and and political r­ epression – a striking com-
possibly redefined in view of developments monality in reports from aid agencies is
both inside and outside the water sector the prominence of water and sanitation in
that have occurred over the past decade. relief and reconstruction programmes. The
rapid restoration of viable water services is
Part 2. Using water often a crucial ingredient of nation-build-
ing in these fragile states.
History shows a strong link between eco-
nomic development and water resources Chapter 7. Evolution of water use
development. There are abundant exam- While most of the old challenges of water
ples of how water has contributed to eco- supply, sanitation and environmental sus-
nomic development and how development tainability remain, new challenges such as
has demanded increased harnessing of adaptation to climate change, rising food
water. Steadily rising demand for agricul- and energy prices, and ageing infrastruc-
tural products to satisfy the diverse needs ture are increasing the complexity and
of growing populations (for food, fibre and financial burden of water management.
now fuel) has been the main driver behind Population growth and rapid economic
agricultural water use. development have led to accelerated fresh-
water withdrawals.
The effects of water-depleting and water-
polluting activities on human and ecosys- Trends in access to domestic water supply
tem health remain largely unreported or indicate substantial improvement in the
difficult to measure, and the need grows past decade, putting most countries on track
stronger for effective protection of eco- to achieve the water supply target of the
systems and the goods and services they Millennium Development Goals. However,
produce – on which life and livelihoods sanitation is lagging well behind, and most
depend. As competition among demands sub-Saharan African countries and many
on water increases, society will need to re- rural areas still show unsatisfactory records
spond with improved water management, for both water supply and sanitation.
more effective policies and transparent and
efficient water allocation mechanisms. Steadily increasing demand for agricultural
products to satisfy the needs of a growing
Chapter 6. Water’s many benefits population continues to be the main driver
Water has always played a key role in behind water use. While world population
economic development, and economic growth has slowed since the 1970s and is
development has always been accompanied expected to continue its downward trend,
by water development. Investment in water steady economic development, in particular
management has been repaid through live- in emerging market economies, has trans-
lihood security and reductions in health lated into demand for a more varied diet,
risks, vulnerability and ultimately poverty. including meat and dairy products, putting
Water contributes to poverty alleviation in additional pressure on water resources.
many ways – through sanitation services,
water supply, affordable food and enhanced After agriculture, the two major users of
resilience of poor communities faced with water for development are industry and

xxii World Water Development Report 3

Overview of key messages

energy (20% of total water withdrawals), densely populated developing countries. Water and
which are transforming the patterns of As a result, the often serious impacts of
energy share the
water use in emerging market economies. polluting activities on the health of people
Water and energy share the same driv- and ecosystems remain largely unreported. same drivers:
ers: demographic, economic, social and Still, there are signs of progress in how demographic,
technological processes put pressure on pollution and the risks of pollution can
both energy and water. The recent accel- be mitigated and trends in environmental economic, social
eration in the production of biofuel and degradation reversed. and technological
the impacts of climate change bring new
challenges and add to the pressures on Chapter 9. Managing competition for processes put
land and water resources. water and the pressure on ecosystems pressure on both
Competition for water and shortcomings
Freshwater ecosystems provide an ex- in managing it to meet the needs of society energy and water
tensive array of vital services to support and the environment call for enhanced so-
human well-being. A variety of economic cietal responses through improved manage-
and recreational activities such as navi- ment, better legislation and more effective
gation, fisheries and pastoral activities and transparent allocation mechanisms.
depend on direct use of water in healthy
ecosystems. Yet some environmental serv- Challenges include wise planning for
ices receive inadequate policy attention water resources, evaluation of availability
and are endangered by the way develop- and needs in a watershed, possible reallo-
ment sectors use water. cation or storage expansion in existing res-
ervoirs, more emphasis on water demand
Chapter 8. Impacts of water use on management, a better balance between
water systems and the environment equity and efficiency in water use, inad-
The pattern and intensity of human activ- equate legislative and institutional frame-
ity have disrupted – through impacts on works and the rising financial burden of
quantity and quality – the role of water as ageing infrastructure.
the prime environmental agent. In some
areas depletion and pollution of economi- Water management choices should emerge
cally important river basins and associated from informed consultation and negotia-
aquifers have gone beyond the point of no- tion on the costs and benefits of all op-
return, and coping with a future without tions after considering basin interconnect-
reliable water resources systems is now a edness, relationships between land and
real prospect in parts of the world. water resources, and the consistency and
coherence of decisions with other govern-
While the intensity of groundwater use, ment policies.
partly encouraged by subsidized rural
electrification, has led to the emergence of Part 3. State of the resource
many groundwater-dependent economies,
their future is now threatened by aquifer The uneven distribution over time and
depletion and pollution. Prospects for space of water resources and their modifi-
relaxing use of these key aquifers, remedi- cation through human use and abuse are
ating water quality and restoring ground- sources of water crises in many parts of the
water services to ecosystems look remote world. In many areas hydrologic extremes
unless alternative management approaches have increased. Deaths and material dam-
are developed. age from extreme floods can be high, and
more intense droughts, affecting increas-
Our ability to maintain the environmental ing numbers of people, have been observed
services we depend on has improved but in the 21st century. Worldwide, water
remains constrained by an incomplete observation networks are inadequate for
understanding of the magnitude and im- current and future management needs and
pact of pollution, the resilience of affected risk further decline. There are insufficient
ecosystems and the social institutions that data to understand and predict the current
use and manage water resources systems. A and future quantity and quality of water
failure to monitor the negative impacts of resources, and political protocols and im-
water use on the environment and insti- peratives for sharing data are inadequate.
tutional weaknesses in many developing
countries prevent effective enforcement of Chapter 10. The Earth’s natural water
regulatory provisions. cycles
Water resources are made up of many com-
Relevant information about pollution loads ponents associated with water in its three
and changes in water quality is lacking pre- physical states (liquid, solid and gas). The
cisely where water use is most intense – in components of the water cycle (rainfall,

Water in a changing world xxiii

Overview of key messages

Most climate evaporation, runoff, groundwater, stor- glacier meltwater, the general conclusion is
age and others) therefore all differ in their that global trends are not present or cannot
scientists agree
chemical and biochemical qualities, spatial be detected at this stage, although climate
that global and temporal variability, resilience, vulner- change-related trends are evident in some
warming will ability to pressures (including land use and regions. Groundwater resources have been
climate change), susceptibility to pollution heavily used for human supply and agricul-
result in an and capacity to provide useful services and ture for many years. While many ground-
intensification, to be used sustainably. A consequence of water abstraction schemes access fossil
this variability is that while human pres- water (water unrelated to current condi-
acceleration or sures have resulted in large modifications tions), renewable groundwater resources de-
enhancement to the global hydrologic cycle, the direc- pend on highly variable recharge volumes.
tions and degrees of change are complex
of the global and difficult to ascertain. The uneven It is thus realistic to expect future recharge
hydrologic cycle, distribution of water resources over time regimes to reflect changes in the driving
and space and the way human activity is hydrologic processes (such as precipitation
and there is some affecting that distribution today are fun- and evapotranspiration) that might result
observational damental sources of water crises in many from anticipated climate changes. It is
parts of the world. Adding complexity, cli- increasingly clear that the assumption of
evidence that
mate change and variability also influence statistical stationarity is no longer a defen-
this is already the water supply, demand and buffering sible basis for water planning.
happening system, although their precise impacts can
be difficult to isolate. Among the consequences of a changing
hydrologic cycle is its interaction with
Chapter 11. Changes in the global the terrestrial carbon cycle. The terrestrial
water cycle biosphere may have taken up roughly 25%
Most climate scientists agree that global of anthropogenic carbon emissions during
warming will result in an intensification, the last century; it is unclear how long this
acceleration or enhancement of the global can continue.
hydrologic cycle, and there is some obser-
vational evidence that this is already hap- Chapter 12. Evolving hazards – and
pening. While trends in precipitation have emerging opportunities
been noted in some parts of the world, in Water-related hazards can be naturally oc-
other areas precipitation patterns have curring or anthropogenic. Hazards can re-
remained about the same within the pe- sult from too much water (floods, erosion,
riod of observed data. Changes have been landslides and so on) or too little (droughts
observed in snow cover extent and snow and loss of wetlands or habitat) and from
water equivalent and in the frequency with the effects of chemical and biological pol-
which precipitation falls as snow. More lution on water quality and in-stream eco-
than 15% of the world’s population live systems. The natural variability of water
where water resources availability depends resources and changes, whatever the cause,
heavily on snowmelt from ephemeral can provide opportunities for management
snowpacks or perennial glaciers. Despite strategies to respond to potential climate
the evidence of temperature changes, there change threats by implementing more
is little evidence of detectable changes in resource-sustainable policies and practices.
evaporation and evapotranspiration.
In many places climate-related water events
Climate change is being superimposed on have become more frequent and more
an already complex hydrologic landscape, extreme. In developing countries extreme
making its signal difficult to isolate, and yet floods can result in many deaths, while
making its influence felt throughout the in developed countries they can result in
water supply, demand and buffering system. billions of dollars in damages. More intense
Data limitations in record length, continu- droughts in the past decade, affecting an
ity and spatial coverage contribute to the increasing number of people, have been
uncertainty, while natural climate variabil- linked to higher temperatures and de-
ity and multiyear variability associated with creased precipitation but are also frequently
large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns a consequence of the mismanagement of
influence the interpretation of many trends resources and the neglect of risk manage-
in ways that are not yet fully understood. ment. The increased exposure to potential
climate change hazards has led to more
Despite the limitations of global datasets, awareness of water resources management.
many studies have shown changes in
runoff and streamflow. Many have focused Changes in flow and inputs of chemical
on low (drought) or high (flood) extremes. and biological waste from human activ-
Except in regions with flows affected by ity have altered the water quality and

xxiv World Water Development Report 3

Overview of key messages

ecological functioning of many of the be done! But there is no one-size-fits-all Worldwide, water
world’s rivers. Global warming is expected solution. The best mix of responses to a
to have substantial effects on energy flows country’s development objectives and
and matter recycling through its impact policy priorities to meet its water challeng- networks provide
on water temperature, resulting in algal es depends on the availability of water in incomplete and
blooms, increases in toxic cyanobacteria space and in time and the country’s tech-
bloom and reductions in biodiversity. nical, financial, institutional and human incompatible data
capacities – its culture, political and regula- on water quantity
In areas of increasing water stress ground- tory frameworks, and markets.
water is an important buffer resource, and quality for
capable of responding to increased water Options within the water domain are properly managing
demands or of compensating for the de- distinct from those outside it. Leaders in
clining availability of surface water. the water domain can inform the proc- water resources
esses outside their domain and implement and predicting
Chapter 13. Bridging the decisions for the water domain; but it is the
observational gap leaders in government, the private sector
future needs – and
Worldwide, water observation networks and civil society who determine the direc- these networks
provide incomplete and incompatible data tions that will be taken. Responses outside
are in jeopardy of
on water quantity and quality for properly the water domain strongly affect the macro
managing water resources and predicting changes that influence how water is used further decline
future needs – and these networks are in and allocated. They also make water adap-
jeopardy of further decline. Also, no com- tation measures more (or less) effective and
prehensive information exists on wastewa- less (or more) costly.
ter generation and treatment and receiving
water quality on a regional or global scale. Many countries face multiple challenges
While new technologies based on satel- but have limited financial and natural
lite remote sensing and modelling present resources and implementation capaci-
opportunities, their value is limited by our ties. Countries need to fully use synergy
ability to ground-truth and validate the opportunities and to make trade-offs
simulated information. and difficult decisions on how to allocate
among uses and users to protect their water
Management of the world’s water resources resources. To achieve results, many actors
requires reliable information about the need to participate in these decisions.
state of the resource and how it is chang-
ing in response to external drivers such as Chapter 14. Options inside the water
climate change and water and land use. box
There is little sharing of hydrologic data, There are many practical examples of
due largely to limited physical access to solutions within the water domain. Some
data, policy and security issues; lack of options show particular promise. Prepar-
agreed protocols for sharing; and commer- ing institutions to deal with current and
cial considerations. This hampers regional future challenges requires support for
and global projects that have to build on institutional development through such
shared datasets for scientific and applica- reforms as decentralization, stakeholder
tions-oriented purposes, such as seasonal participation and transparency, increased
regional hydrologic outlooks, forecasting, corporatization where feasible and fair,
disaster warning and prevention, and partnerships and coordination (public-
integrated water resources management in private, public-public, public-civil society),
transboundary basins. and new administrative systems based on
shared benefits of water, including when
Improving water resources management water crosses borders. Decision-makers
requires investments in monitoring and need to consider the influence of water
more efficient use of existing data, includ- law, both formal and customary, including
ing traditional ground-based observations regulations in other sectors that influence
and newer satellite-based data products. the management of water resources.
Most countries, developed and developing,
need to give greater attention and more Decision-making is improved by consulting
resources to monitoring, observations with stakeholders and ensuring account-
and continual assessments of the status of ability in planning, implementation and
water resources. management as well as building trust
within the water and related sectors and
Part 4. Responses and choices fighting corruption and mismanagement.
Strengthening organization structures and
We have many of the answers. Across the improving the operating efficiency of water
planet we have already shown that it can supply utilities will help to improve service

Water in a changing world xxv

Overview of key messages

unsustainable quality and increase the coverage and development objectives and to sustain
density of connections, while also boosting development. Water resources, properly
management and
revenues and creating a more viable finan- managed, are critical to the survival and
inequitable access cial base to attract further investment. well-being of individuals. They can ensure
to water resources equity and security in water and sanitation
Innovation and research are critical for de- for families, businesses and communities.
cannot continue. veloping appropriate solutions. And greater And they can ensure adequate water for
We might not have institutional capacity and human capacity food, energy and the environment as well
are needed, both within the water domain as protection from floods and droughts.
all the information and in areas or sectors outside the water
we would like domain. Capacity development can occur Decision-making on water requires seeking
through traditional forms of education, synergies and selecting appropriate trade-
to have before on-the-job training, e-learning, public offs. It also requires distinguishing between
acting, but we do awareness raising, knowledge management short-term ‘fire-fighting’ – responding to
and professional networks. the urgent issues of the day – and long-term
know enough now strategic development. Developing multi-
to begin to take Sound management accountability and purpose water schemes and reusing water
good governance within the water sector wherever feasible can lessen the need for
significant steps
contribute to creating a favourable invest- trade-offs by enabling the same volumes of
ment climate. This should include new scarce water to deliver multiple outcomes.
approaches such as payment for environ-
mental services. The donor community can incorporate
water into the broader frameworks of
Chapter 15. Options from beyond the development aid and focus assistance on
water box areas where it is needed most – in sub-
Dealing with risk and uncertainty has long ­Saharan Africa, in Asian and Latin Ameri-
been a routine challenge for water re- can slums and in states recovering from
sources managers and policy-makers across conflict. Recent G-8 efforts in this direc-
sectors and the world. However, issues like tion are promising.
climate change and demographic dynam-
ics have made the risks greater and the task The chief executives of the UN agencies,
more complex. Risk management is now following the example of their joint discus-
much more important – indeed essential – sions of and collective responses to climate
to analysis and decision-making. change, can convene to examine the role
of water, water systems and water manage-
Drivers and policies outside the water sector ment in development and environmental
have more impact on water management services, providing direction to agencies
than do many policies championed and im- and advice to member countries.
plemented by water-related ministries. Iden-
tifying trade-offs and synergies between The World Water Assessment Programme
water and other policy sectors can enhance and its partners are working to help reduce
policy impacts in all sectors and avoid some uncertainty, facilitate decision-making and
adverse effects on water. Because govern- accelerate investment by highlighting the
ments, civil society and business leaders links between socioeconomic development
make decisions every day that can affect and investment in water management ca-
water, it is important to identify where such pacity and infrastructure in other sectors.
decisions can also lead to improvements in
water sector management and in water sec- The challenges are great, but unsustain-
tor and environmental services. able management and inequitable access
to water resources cannot continue. We
Examples of win-win situations abound – might not have all the information we
whether created by governments, commu- would like to have before acting, but we do
nities or businesses – that point to promot- know enough now to begin to take signifi-
ing deliberate cooperation between water cant steps. Actions must include increased
and non-water actors and integrating water investment in water infrastructure and
issues into external decisions. International capacity development. Leaders in the water
organizations, notably the UN system, can domain can inform the processes outside
provide support and expertise to govern- their domain and manage water resources
ments, help civil society build capacity and to achieve agreed socioeconomic objectives
catalyse leadership in the private sector. and environmental integrity. But leaders
in government, the private sector and civil
Chapter 16. The way forward society will determine the direction that
Water and water systems must be man- actions take. Recognizing this responsibil-
aged to achieve social and economic ity, they must act now!

xxvi World Water Development Report 3

Water in a changing world

Chapter 1
Olcay Ünver
Chapter (WWAP)

1  etting out of the box – linking water

G Facilitator
to decisions for sustainable development William Cosgrove

Chapter 1
Getting out of
the box – linking
water to decisions for
sustainable development
Authors: Andy Bullock, William Cosgrove, Wim van der Hoek, James Winpenny
Contributors: Gerry Galloway, BertJan Heij, Molly Hellmuth, Jack Moss, Monica Scatasta
Coordinator: Olcay Ünver (WWAP)
Facilitator: William Cosgrove

Key messages
The ‘water box’ dilemma must be resolved. Leaders in the water ­sector
– in water supply and sanitation, hydropower, irrigation and flood
control – have long been aware that water is essential to sustainable
development, but they do not make the decisions on development
objectives and the allocation of human and financial resources to
meet them. These decisions are made or influenced by leaders in gov-
ernment, the private sector and civil society, who must learn to rec-
ognize water’s role in obtaining their objectives.

Water is essential for achieving sustainable development and the Mil-

lennium Development Goals. Properly managing water resources is
an essential component of growth, social and economic development,
poverty reduction and equity, and sustainable environmental services
– all essential for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Water is linked to the crises of climate change, energy and food sup-
plies and prices, and troubled financial markets. Unless their links
with water are addressed and water crises around the world are re-
solved, these other crises may intensify and local water crises may
worsen, converging into a global water crisis and leading to political
insecurity and conflict at various levels.

The media today are full of talk of ­crises and rehabilitation, both physical and
– in climate change, energy and food institutional.
supplies and prices, and troubled financial
markets. These global crises are linked to Specialists and managers in water supply
each other and to water resources. Unless and sanitation, hydropower, irrigation
resolved, they may lead to increasing po- and flood control have long been aware
litical insecurity and conflict at local and that water is essential to sustainable de-
national levels. velopment. But they often have a narrow,
sectoral perspective that blinds many
These crises arise against a background of decisions on water. And they do not make
continuing poverty for much of the world. the decisions on development objectives
Managing water resources is essential to and the allocation of human and financial
social and economic development, poverty resources needed to meet these broader
reduction and equity and to achieving the objectives. These decisions are made or
Millennium Development Goals. Sustain- influenced by leaders in government,
able development depends on managing the private sector and civil society. These
the costs of service provision using exist- leaders must learn to recognize water’s
ing infrastructure along with additional role in attaining their objectives and act
investments in new water infrastructure accordingly.

Water in a changing world 3


Chapter 1G

an understanding And they must act in a changing world, a at a regional, state (provincial) or local
world driven by forces that they often do (municipal) government level. The role of
of water issues
not control – forces of demography, the these government structures is critical in
and of the global economy, changing societal values water management.
support needed and norms, technological innovation,
international law, financial markets and In many countries government directly
for investments, climate change. controls only a small fraction of invest-
institutions, ments in the economy, but it determines
Opening the water box the conditions that will attract or dis-
incentives, courage investment. To be most effective,
information Until the 1990s (and continuing in some decisions should be taken through an
countries) water subsectors generally interactive process that involves leaders in
and capacity worked independently, with specialists in business (finance, industries, commerce)
inside the ‘water water supply and sanitation, hydropower, and civil society (community-based or-
irrigation, flood control and so on inter- ganizations and other non-governmental
sector’ requires acting very little.1 As population growth organizations).
partnerships and other pressures on water (‘water driv-
ers’) brought more and more basins near Ideally, government, business and civil
between those
closure (the allocation of all of the water society leaders would work together in the
responsible for in a basin), the need to manage water interest of society. Because of the implica-
the economy- across subsectors at the basin level became tions of their decisions for water use, an
evident. Water management was expanded understanding of water issues and of the
wide benefits of during the 1990s to incorporate efficient support needed for investments, institu-
water and those water use, equitable sharing of benefits, tions, incentives, information and capacity
and environmental sustainability – what inside what has traditionally been consid-
responsible for came to be called integrated water resourc- ered the ‘water sector’ requires partner-
managing water es management. And in 2002 the World ships between those responsible for the
Summit on Sustainable Development in economy-wide benefits of water and those
Johannesburg set for all countries the goal responsible for managing water. Leaders
to develop integrated water resources man- in the water sector must thus ensure that
agement plans by 2005. these leaders outside the ‘water box’ know
the constraints and options for water
Many countries are applying integrated resources and help them implement their
water resources management at the basin decisions efficiently and effectively.
level. But management is still largely con-
fined to the water sector, where it is well Among the decisions that affect water the
understood that water is essential to all life most are those relating to how a country
on the planet (human and other species) meets its objectives for energy and food
and to human livelihoods. The sector is security, employment, disaster prepared-
beginning to recognize that decisions by ness, environmental sustainability and
people outside the water sector determine other societal goals. These decisions are
how water will be used, but the other made in broader political frameworks and
sectors are seen as cross-cutting in water not by water managers, who subsequently
management. The approach within the deal with their implications for water and
sector has been to invite those working in with other outcomes that touch on water.
other socioeconomic sectors to join in in- Figure 1.1 illustrates this process.
tegrated water resources management. But
the societal and political questions that Outside the water sector is an area of syn-
determine the real allocation and manage- ergy, tradeoffs, coordination and integra-
ment of water resources also need to take tion, involving higher-level, multisectoral
into account the technological aspects of decision-making processes. Water profes-
integrated water resources management. sionals, stakeholders and individuals can
inform and influence decisions in this
The sphere of decision-making and area, affecting outcomes. But they need
the water box to have a seat at the decision-making
Within government, water use is decided table and to respond by implementing
by the interaction of decision-makers in water management effectively and ef-
the main socioeconomic sectors – health, ficiently and by properly informing the
education, agriculture, housing, industry, decision-making process. These efforts are
energy, economic development and envi- facilitated in the many countries that have
ronment. In many countries this interac- adopted water resources management laws,
tion occurs through a cabinet of ministers policies or strategies that reflect links be-
presided over by the prime minister or tween water and the social and economic
president. Parallel mechanisms may exist sectors.

4 World Water Development Report 3


Getting out of the box – linking water to decisions for sustainable development

Figure 1.1 Decision-making affecting water


Civil Business and

society • Policy economic
actors formation actors
• Resource
• Political and
• Economic decisions
• Social
• Environment
• Demographic Drivers of Response
• Policy, law and change options
• Technology
• Climate change

Pressures Other sector Life and

• Finance management livelihoods
• Exploitation • Aspirations
• Pollution • Poverty alleviation
• Urbanization • Health and
• Land use well-being
• Water use • Security
• Climate variability • Employment



Water resources Affect Water uses

• Rainwater • Domestic
• Groundwater • Agriculture
• Lakes • Industry
• Reservoirs Water sector • Energy
• Wetlands management • Leisure
• Wastewater • Transport
• Desalinated water • Environment

Source: Authors’ construction.

Water in a changing world 5


Chapter 1G

everywhere Decision-makers and water He added that ‘governments have to under-

management stand that they have to make it possible for
decisions related
Providing water is but a means of achiev- companies to affect change’ and at times
to development ing a country’s development objectives – have to see companies as providers not just
of necessity generally job creation, food security, GDP of resources but also of resourcefulness.
growth and social goals including poverty
incorporate water reduction. In pursuing these objectives, Where development is occurring rapidly
development decision-makers are challenged by trade- and growth is viable, greater emphasis will
offs between possible investments and be on private sector engagement and mar-
decisions, possible synergies between sectors. Making ket-based mechanisms. Where development
whether explicitly trade-offs and searching for synergies re- is slower and growth prospects are weaker,
quire cooperation between those responsi- greater emphasis will be on providing basic
recognized or not ble for different sectors of the economy. services, including safety nets targeting
society’s poorest. Where governments and
Where there has been sustained develop- institutions are weak (fragile states) empha-
ment, the role of government has gener- sis will be on reconstruction and rehabilita-
ally been to facilitate action by others and tion. And where there are humanitarian cri-
to regulate the process.2 The role of water ses, conflicts and natural disasters, emphasis
managers has been to inform decision- will be on emergency responses. Working
makers of the constraints and opportuni- across many countries simultaneously,
ties of water resources management and regional approaches emphasize integration,
water infrastructure development and regional security and equity. Thus, although
then to act in accordance with the nation- development is taking place in very dif-
al development strategy. ferent settings, with different integrating
frameworks and processes and different sets
Partnerships have been strongly promoted of actors, everywhere decisions related to
in the water sector, particularly for service development of necessity incorporate water
provision. Public-private partnerships development decisions, whether explicitly
have been the predominant model, some recognized or not.
functioning as intended, and some with
mixed impacts. Water user associations in More important than trying to quantify
participatory irrigation management have the relative ‘market share’ of the public
become widespread in a number of coun- and private sectors is recognizing that they
tries, with some success in improving ir- face similar challenges, constraints and
rigation scheme management. But whether difficulties. The task for decision-makers
the operator is a private company, a public and political leaders is to create the frame-
corporation or a municipal service, the work conditions under which operators of
successes have clearly demonstrated the all kinds – public, private, mixed, com-
importance of the complementary roles of munity providers and others – can provide
public decision-makers and authorities on services and investments effectively over
the one side and service operators on the the long term.
other. In the long-term neither can suc-
ceed without the other. Sustainable development
as the framework for water
Other types of partnerships include civil management
society organizations, municipalities and
the private sector. A recent study on Latin In the overview of The Growth Report of
America concluded that proper institu- 2008 the Commission on Growth and
tional frameworks, incentives and mutual Development argues that
trust are keys to successful partnerships.3
River basin organizations are increasingly Growth is not an end in itself. But
playing an important role. Broad coalitions it makes it possible to achieve other
of development partners, including differ- important objectives of individuals
ent levels of government; donors; multina- and societies. It can spare people
tional, international and regional agencies; en masse from poverty and drudg-
and local non-governmental organizations ery. Nothing else ever has. It also
are being created in some countries, such creates the resources to support
as Mozambique,4 to advise on priorities health care, education, and the
for public expenditures. Speaking at the other Millennium Development
Davos economic summit in January 2008, Goals to which the world has com-
U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said mitted itself. In short, we take the
that the Millennium Development Goals view that growth is a necessary, if
will not be met ‘unless there is a private, not sufficient, condition for broader
voluntary and government partnership’.5 development, enlarging the scope

6 World Water Development Report 3


Getting out of the box – linking water to decisions for sustainable development

for individuals to be productive and Box 1.1 Commitment of African heads of state to
creative.6 water as a key to sustainable development

Sustained growth requires water

WE, the Heads of State and Govern- prepare national strategies and action
Growth requires access to natural resourc- ment of the African Union, meeting at plans for achieving the [Millennium De-
es. The Growth Report acknowledges that we the 11th Ordinary Session of our Assem- velopment Goal] targets for water and
may be entering a period in which natural bly in Sharm el-Sheikh, Arab Republic of sanitation over the next seven (7) years;
resources, broadly defined, impose new Egypt, from 30 June to 1 July 2008,
limits on growth. But the report makes (e) Create conducive environment to
no major reference to the essential role of Recognizing the importance of water enhance the effective engagement of
water resources. World Water Development and sanitation for social, economic local authorities and the private sector;
Report 3, which places more emphasis on and environmental development of
development than its predecessors, makes our countries and Continent; . . . (f) Ensure the equitable and sustainable
use, as well as promote integrated man-
the case that the availability of water re-
Recognizing that water is and must re- agement and development, of national
sources and their management are deter- main a key to sustainable development and shared water resources in Africa;
minants of a country’s growth strategy. in Africa and that water supply and
sanitation are prerequisites for Africa’s (g) Build institutional and human re-
Africa provides a good example because human capital development; sources capacity at all levels including
both growth and water are major chal- the decentralized local government
lenges there. The African heads of state Concerned that there is an under­ level for programme implementation,
recognized the importance of water to de- utilization and uneven sharing of water enhance information and knowledge
velopment when they gathered in Sharm resources in Africa, and that remains a management as well as strengthen
el-Sheikh, Egypt, in mid-2008 and adopted growing challenge in the achievement monitoring and evaluation;
of food and energy securities. . . .
a declaration explicitly noting the role of
(h) Put in place adaptation measures to
water as a key to sustainable development WE COMMIT OURSELVES TO: improve the resilience of our countries
in the region (box 1.1). to the increasing threat of climate
(a) Increase our efforts to implement change and variability to our water
Societies do not become wealthy first and our past declarations related to water resources and our capacity to meet
then invest in water management; they and sanitation. the water and sanitation targets;
find ways to manage water and risk first,
which then leads to wealth. If they are (b) Raise the profile of sanitation by ad- (i) Significantly increase domestic
wise, they do this in a way that avoids dressing the gaps in the context of the financial resources allocated for imple-
pollution, cares for equity and otherwise 2008 eThekwini Ministerial Declaration menting national and regional water
on sanitation in Africa adopted by [the and sanitation development activities
ensures the sustainability of the resource.
African Ministers Council on Water]. and call upon Ministers of water and
finance to develop appropriate invest-
Investment in water infrastructure is (c) Address issues pertaining to agri- ment plans;
required to meet basic needs in rural areas cultural water use for food security as
and to enhance agricultural productivity provided for in the Ministerial Declara- (j) Develop local financial instruments
through better management of water. As tion and outcomes of the first African and markets for investments in the
development proceeds, with the shift to Water Week. water and sanitation sectors;
commercial and industrial activities in
urban areas, water has to be managed for And particularly; (k) Mobilize increased donor and other
energy and food production, transporta- financing for the water and sanitation
(d) Develop and/or update national initiatives. . . .
tion, flood control, and drinking water
water management policies, regulatory
and sanitation, as well as for industrial frameworks, and programmes, and Source: African Union 2008.
and commercial activities.

Asian Water Development Outlook 2007 high- It has little in the way of a detailed roadmap
lights the significant global development for water resources development, however.
challenge this represents.7 That report em-
phasizes a ‘multi­disciplinary and multi-sec- Benefits from investing in water
tor perspective [on water] around the Asia Many water investments have been evalu-
and Pacific region’ in facing the challenges ated by the rate of return of single-purpose
of sustaining growth. It highlights schemes without considering the addi-
tional benefits possible from multipurpose
important topics that have been projects.8 Increasingly, evidence is emerg-
neglected or are being inadequately ing of the direct economy-wide benefits
considered in most countries of of investments in water (see chapter 6).
the region. Among these is the For example, there is evidence that local
urgent need to address the inherent action on water management in China
interrelationships between water has delivered measurable improvements
and other important development- in local GDP.9 In the 335 counties in
related sectors, like energy, food, China with primary electrification from
and the environment. hydropower, annual average income per

Water in a changing world 7


Chapter 1G

Figure 1.2 The costs of disasters as a share of GDP are farmer rose 8.1% a year, nearly 3 percent-
much higher in poor countries than rich age points more than the national average.
countries In those communities 30 million people
upgraded their livelihoods from margin-
Total economic costs (US$ billions) Costs as share of GDP (percent) alized farming to off-farm labourers in
the industrial and services sector with-
700 14
out any negative impact on agricultural
600 12 production.
500 10
Evidence is also growing of the macro­
400 8 economic returns to investments in water
300 6 ­management – and the costs of failures to
invest. Disasters such as floods (resulting
200 4
from typhoons and hurricanes and from
100 2 rainfall exceeding the carrying capacity of
0 0 channels) and droughts hurt poor econo-
Richest countriesa Poorest countriesb mies more than wealthy ones, which are
better prepared to cope with such disasters
a. Annual GDP per capita above $9,361.
b. Annual GDP per capita below $760.
(figure 1.2).
Source: Delli Priscoli and Wolf 2009.
Investments in environmental sustain-
ability and water management to prevent
water­-related disasters can have large
Figure 1.3 US government investments in water payoffs, so countries need not wait to in-
infrastructure during 1930-96 yielded $6 in vest until they have achieved middle- or
damages averted for each $1 invested high-income status. Investments in water
infrastructure by the US Army Corps of
Investment in water infrastructure Engineers between 1930 and 1999, for
(1999 US$ billions, adjusted using Construction Cost Index)
example, yielded returns of $6 for each
800 $1 spent and controlled flood damage
700 despite rising population numbers and
Cumulative benefits
property value at risk over the period
(figure 1.3). The World Health Organiza-
tion (WHO) estimates returns of $3-$34,
400 depending on the region and technol-
300 ogy, for each $1 invested in safe drinking
200 water and basic sanitation.10 There is thus
Cumulative expenditures a strong case that improved coverage of
100 Annual benefits drinking water and sanitation contributes
0 to economic growth. Policy-makers can
1928 1934 1940 1946 1952 1958 1964 1970 1976 1982 1988 1994 1999
use these data to justify their actions,
identify areas of deficiency and better
Source: Based on Delli Priscoli and Wolf 2009. prioritize actions.11

Policy-makers also need to better under-

stand the benefits for national develop-
Box 1.2 Economic impacts of lack of adequate ment that result from sustainable water
sanitation facilities in South-East Asia management and provision of safe water.
Expanding safe drinking water and sanita-
tion services would drastically cut the loss
Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines providing safe water for households
and Viet Nam lose an estimated $9 bil- and reducing the production of fish
of life from water-related illness and free
lion a year because of poor sanitation in rivers and lakes ($2.3 billion). There up scarce health resources in developing
(based on 2005 prices), or approxi- are also environmental losses (loss of countries. Five thousand children die each
mately 2% of their combined GDP, ac- productive land, $220 million) and day from diarrhoea alone – one every 17
cording to the first regional study on tourism losses ($350 million). Univer- seconds.12 Upgrading water supply and
the economic impacts of poor sanita- sal sanitation would lead to an annual sanitation services can also improve educa-
tion, undertaken in South-East Asia by gain of $6.3 billion in the four coun- tion, allowing more girls to attend school
the World Bank Water and Sanitation tries. Implementing ecological sanita- instead of spending hours each day col-
Project. The highest economic costs tion approaches (latrines separating lecting water. Improved access would also
($4.8 billion for the four countries urine and fæces for use as fertilizer)
save millions of work days. The overall
combined) are from sanitation- and would be worth an estimated $270
hygiene-related diseases. Poor sanita- million annually.
economic loss in Africa alone due to lack
tion also contributes substantially to of access to safe water and basic sanita-
water pollution, adding to the cost of Source: Hutton, Haller, and Bartram 2007. tion is estimated at $28.4 billion a year, or
around 5% of GDP.13 Box 1.2 estimates the

8 World Water Development Report 3


Getting out of the box – linking water to decisions for sustainable development

costs of lack of access to adequate sanita- Box 1.3 Estimated costs of restoring essential
tion facilities for four South-East Asian ecosystems in the United States
The following are estimates for restor- by 2050 (www.coast2050.
Environmental degradation from water ing major essential ecosystems in gov/2050reports.htm).
pollution and excessive withdrawals also the United States. The cost exceeds
has negative economic impacts. For ex- $60 billion, and the total is likely to • Restoration of Chesapeake Bay:
ample, the damage cost of environmental be higher still as more information $19 billion for the Chesapeake Bay
degradation in the Middle East and North becomes available. Program (www.chesapeakebay.
Africa has been estimated at some $9 bil- net/fundingandfinancing.aspx
lion a year, or 2.1%-7.4% of GDP.14 Indus- • Everglades Restoration: $10.9 ?menuitem=14907).
trial countries are learning the enormous billion. Groundwork laid for
costs associated with restoring essential Everglades restoration, but • Restoration of Great Lakes: $8
projects are experiencing delays billion for Great Lakes restoration
ecosystems. In the United States the costs
(www8.nationalacademies. and protection priorities (www.
have been estimated at more than $60 bil- org/onpinews/newsitem.
lion and continue to rise as more becomes aspx?RecordID=11754). PolicySolutionsReport12-10-04.
known (box 1.3). pdf).
• Restoration of the Upper Mis-
Investing in water sissippi River: $5.3 billion for a • Restoration of California Bay
Investment flows to uses with the highest 50-year ecosystem restoration Delta: $8.5 billion (first seven
economic rate of returns. Currently, water plan (www.nationalaglawcenter. years) for large-scale ecosystem
often gives very low returns for very long org/assets/crs/RL32470.pdf). restoration initiatives (www.
payback periods primarily because of the
• Restoration of Coastal Loui-
way it is governed (see chapter 4). Much
siana: $14 billion towards a • Restoration of Missouri River – to
political interaction in the water sector Sustainable Coastal Louisiana be determined.
drives operations to ‘structural bankrupt-
cy’. It is not surprising that new investors
are not eager to enter the water sector. Figure 1.4 Water investment requires a holistic approach
Yet public investment in infrastructure is – links between pricing, financing and
declining. And so the needs of the water stakeholders
sector go unmet.
Investment • Objectives Financial
The challenges in financing water serv- plans • Technology requirements
ices have been well described in recent
years. Proposed solutions and innovative
responses are presented in the reports
of the World Panel on Financing Water Pricing strategies
Realistic finance • Part of sustainable cost recovery
Infrastructure15 and the Task Force on strategies • Trade-offs: financial, social, economic, environmental
Financing Water for All.16 Ultimately, there sustainability
are only three sources of financing: user • Leveraging effects: sources and skills
Ultimate sources • Payment schemes? Leveraging beneficiaries’
tariffs, public expenditure and external (filling the gap) willingness to pay
aid (official or philanthropical). Recourse • Users and beneficiaries
• Public budgets Financing mechanisms (bridging the gap)
to these sources should be preceded and • External aid • Payment schemes leveraging beneficiaries’
accompanied by efficiency measures to willingness to pay
control operating costs and by careful Leveraging • Attract funds and build appropriate finance packages
• To fill the gap (cost of capital)
project selection and design to ensure the • Increase users’
best return to scarce resources. willingness to pay
(services, efficiency,
reforms) Maximizing contributions to sector sustainability by
Many studies have attempted to estimate • To bridge the gap different stakeholders, including the private sector
the total investments that would be re- • Attract private • Increase efficiency: reduce cost, reduce gap
funds • Improve service: increase users’ willingness to pay
quired to provide adequate infrastructure • Integrate finance • Clarify roles and provide stability: attract funds
for water supply and sanitation. Typically packages • Elicit users’ needs: reduce cost/gap, increase
presented as global or regional estimates, willingness to pay
they often ignore the essential precondi-
tion of investments in institutions, reform, Source: Authors’ construction.
and implementation and management
capacities and in replacement of ageing
infrastructure. Because water can be man- attract loans or external aid to supplement
aged only locally, investments must also their own sources of capital.
be managed locally. Investing in water
requires a holistic approach (figure 1.4). Nonetheless, many developing countries,
Sound financial management, as illus- having applied all of the measures implied
trated in figure 1.4, will make it possible by such a process, will still lack the capital
for water authorities and governments to required to meet basic needs through

Water in a changing world 9


Chapter 1G

Today, poverty water resources development and service trade balances, accelerator impacts on
delivery. In those cases it is relevant to capital investment, business confidence
question how much external aid is avail- and the stock market.
strategies still offer able, where it is applied and whether the
only the prospect amount can or should be increased. In India water development evened out
the seasonal demand for labour, resulting
of aligning action Distributing the benefits of growth in major gains for the country.18 Fore-
on water with The 2007 U.K. Department for Interna- casts by the New Partnership for Africa’s
tional Development policy paper ‘Growth Development concerning African agricul-
poverty reduction, and Infrastructure’ stated that ‘Growth is ture’s contribution to growth and poverty
as few current the single most important way of pulling reduction are founded on the economic
people out of poverty’.17 It cites empiri- justifications of reduced food import bills,
poverty reduction cal literature attributing more than 80% more predictable import profiles, increased
strategies give of recent poverty reduction worldwide to export revenues and reduced poverty at
growth and less than 20% to redistribu- the household level.19
anything but tion (social protection). It gives the exam-
superficial ples of China, where 450 million people To attract development-oriented finance,
have been lifted out of poverty since 1979, the growth-increasing and poverty-
attention to
helped by exceptionally high growth ­reducing contributions of water resources
action on water rates, and Viet Nam, which experienced must be made explicit and specific at the
the most rapid reduction in poverty rates country level. Such specifics will influence
on record, from 75% in the late 1980s to the sources, costs, viability, sustainability
less than a third in 2002, thanks to high and instruments of finance. National,
growth rates. basin and local action plans are needed to
align water resources, economic growth
That poverty reduction is the overrid- and poverty reduction. Making such align-
ing policy concern is evidenced by the ments and other essential connections
primacy of poverty reduction strategies will be more successful within frameworks
and national development plans as the such as a round of poverty reduction
governing mechanisms for partnerships strategies, public expenditure reviews and
and finance from the international com- national development plans.
munity. As of mid-2008, 59 countries had
prepared full poverty reduction strategies Reducing poverty, which limits
and 11 more had completed preliminary access to water
poverty reduction strategies. This rep- The world must acknowledge the crisis of
resents a significant change. For many persistent underdevelopment and poverty.
years action on water that could deliver Since the end of the Second World War
benefits to the poor lacked government more than 3 billion people have ben-
frameworks that prioritized poverty efited from economic development, but
reduction and mobilization of financing. at least 2 billion people remain in need.
Today, poverty reduction strategies still Some 1.4 billion people lived in ‘absolute
offer only the prospect of aligning action poverty’ in 2005,20 a number that does not
on water with poverty reduction, as few take into account the recent wave of in-
current poverty reduction strategies give creases in energy and food prices.21 These
anything but superficial attention to ac- women, men and children daily face the
tion on water. consequences of poverty – disease, malnu-
trition and hunger. They have no capac-
Public expenditure reviews are another ity to prepare for natural disasters, such
tool to help decision-makers allocate as earthquakes and floods, or to respond
public funds. These reviews of government when they strike. The world community
spending can boost efficiency and equity, has set the Millennium Development
development impact and the accountabil- Goal target of halving the proportion of
ity of public spending. They can also in- people living in poverty by 2015. But we
crease the accountability and transparency are far from being on track, particularly in
of results and support governance reforms regions where the need is highest.
and anticorruption programs.
Human Development Report 2006 consid-
Economic justification for water invest- ers the experience of water and sanitation
ments come from their translation into as reinforcing the ‘long-standing human
economy-wide growth through employ- development lesson’ that rates of coverage
ment, capital and labour productivity, in access to water and sanitation rise with
taxes, government expenditure, revenue income on average (figure 1.5).22 Global
control, debt, purchasing power, balance Monitoring Report 2005 notes that in South
of payments, foreign exchange reserves, Asia an improving investment climate and

10 World Water Development Report 3


Getting out of the box – linking water to decisions for sustainable development

stronger policies, along with gains in basic Figure 1.5 Access to water and sanitation rises with
service delivery, have sustained rapid eco- income
nomic growth since 1990 and contributed
significantly to poverty reduction and to Population with sustainable access to improved drinking water source, 2006 (percent)

reaching the Millennium Development 100

Goals in some countries.23
The case for investing in Africa
Where investment in water has been 60
weak, GDP growth has been constrained
– by as much as 10% where the effects of
droughts, floods and natural hydrologic
variability are compounded in less devel-
oped economies. Where weak economic 0 5,000 10,000 15,000 20,000
growth has been accompanied by inad- GNI per capita, 2006 (purchasing power parity dollars)
equate investment in social protection, the
gap in achieving the Millennium Develop- Population with sustainable access to improved sanitation, 2006 (percent)
ment Goals has worsened in many coun-
tries, with devastating social impacts.
Africa, in particular, remains mired in
poverty (figure 1.6) despite recent eco- 60
nomic growth trends in some countries. In
developed countries water storage ensures
reliable sources of water for irrigation, 20
water supply and hydropower as well as a
buffer for flood management. Countries 0
0 5,000 10,000 15,000 20,000
in Africa store only about 4% of annual
renewable flows, compared with 70%-90% GNI per capita, 2006 (purchasing power parity dollars)

in many developed countries. About 340 Source: Based on data from WHO Statistical Information System (
million Africans lack access to safe drink-
ing water, and almost 500 million lack
access to improved sanitation facilities. Figure 1.6 Poverty remains high in sub-Saharan Africa
The First African Water Week, convened
in Tunis in March 2008, opened with Share of population living below the poverty line (percent)
a call for greater efforts to ensure water
security nationally and regionally. Donald
Kaberuka, president of the African Devel-
opment Bank Group, emphasized that 75

it is no longer acceptable that the
African continent continues to uti-
lize only 4% of its water resources, $1.00
when a huge proportion of the 25
people do not have access to safe
water, and when large populations
are faced with frequent floods and
1981 1984 1987 1990 1993 1996 1999 2002 2005
drought, in addition to food and
energy shortages. Action is urgently Note: Poverty lines in 2005 prices.
needed.24 Source: Based on Chen and Ravallion 2008, p. 41.

In June 2008 the MDG Africa Steering

Group published a number of concrete along the timeline from the Millennium
recommendations for scaling up opportu- Summit of 2000 and the 2015 target date
nities to address poverty in Africa.25 Their for attaining the Millennium Develop-
recommendations related to achieving the ment Goals. Making progress towards
Millennium Development Goals in Africa those goals will rise even higher on politi-
are summarized in table 1.1. cal agendas within the next six years.

Investing in water to reach the The Millennium Declaration placed safe

Millennium Development Goals drinking water and basic sanitation firmly
This third edition of the United Nations among the development objectives, mak-
World Water Development Report is being ing it a target of Millennium Development
published just beyond the half-way point Goal 7. But while adequate progress is

Water in a changing world 11


Chapter 1G

Table 1.1 Summary of scaling-up opportunities related to achieving the Millennium Development
Goals in Africa

Key multilateral financing Estimated public external

Scaling-up Summary of Policy mechanisms (among financing needs by 2010
opportunity key results leadership several funding sources) from all funding sources
Achieving the Comprehensive Secretary- All multilateral, bilateral and private Some $72 billion a year, of which
Millennium cross-sector public General and mechanisms providing high-quality, $62 billion (in 2007 terms) from
Development expenditure MDG Africa predictable financing Development Assistance Committee
Goals in Africa programmes Steering Group, members (following the Gleneagles
against clear G-8 leadership, G-8 meeting, Monterrey Consensus
quantitative African Union, and EU official development
targets private sector, assistance targets), with additional
foundations financing from non-Development
Assistance Committee donors,
developing country collaboration,
private foundations and innovative
private co-financing

Source: Based on MDG Africa Steering Group 2008, p. 32.

Box 1.4 Progress in meeting the Millennium These links served as an important advo-
Development Goal target on water supply cacy instrument during the International
and sanitation Year of Sanitation in 2008. High-profile in-
ternational attention has focused on basic
The world is on track to meet the Mil- by only 8 percentage points. With-
services in recent years, including decla-
lennium Development Goal target on out an immediate acceleration in rations at Brasilia (2003), Beppu (2007),
drinking water. Current trends suggest progress, the world will not achieve eThekwini (2008), Tunis (2008) and Sharm
that more than 90% of the global even half the sanitation target by el-Sheik (2008). Gaps in drinking water
population will use improved drinking 2015. Based on current trends, the and sanitation, in particular, have attract-
water sources by 2015. total population without improved ed political attention at the highest levels.
sanitation in 2015 will have de-
The world is not on track to meet creased only slightly, from 2.5 billion Development partnerships are helping
the Millennium Development Goal to 2.4 billion. countries that are off track for achieving
sanitation target. Between 1990 and
the Millennium Development Goals get
2006 the proportion of p­ eople with- Source: WHO and UNICEF Joint Monitoring
out improved sanitation decreased Programme 2008, pp. 8 and 23.
back on track. Intergovernmental efforts
are working to maintain the momentum
of the global commitments made since the
being made towards the provision of safe Millennium Declaration and of water-
drinking water, the sanitation target is far specific processes such as the G-8 Evian
from being met (box 1.4). Action Plan28(box 1.5). New initiatives,
such as the 2007 launch of the Millen-
And despite progress, the scale of the chal- nium Development Goal Africa Initiative
lenge remains massive. While the water by the UN system, have sought to reinvig-
supply target is being attained at a global orate the efforts of countries that are off
level, large regions of the world and many track in their progress towards achieving
countries are far from the target, and the Millennium Development Goals.
some risk backsliding. This is particularly
the case in sub-Saharan Africa and low- Sustaining the environment
income Arab states. In many places the Environmental sustainability, broadly,
sanitation targets will be missed by a wide refers to the ability of the environment
margin. to continue to support progressive social
and economic development and to provide
Both the drinking water and sanitation many types of ecosystem services (table
targets are vitally important. The contri- 1.2). Multistakeholder processes, such as
bution of improved drinking water and the World Commission on Dams, have
sanitation to the achievement of all the seen environmental sustainability rise
Millennium Development Goals is now in prominence as a factor influencing
well established.26 This report demon- water development decisions. And such
strates this link throughout; others have inter­national conventions as the United
elaborated the direct and indirect contri- Nations Convention to Combat Desertifi-
butions of water management across all cation and the United Nations Convention
the Millennium Development Goals.27 on Biodiversity have made water a global
Figure 1.7 depicts these links graphically. issue.

12 World Water Development Report 3


Getting out of the box – linking water to decisions for sustainable development

Figure 1.7 Cause-effect chains and links between water and the Millennium Development Goals

Terrestrial ecosystems

Irrigation River Aquatic ecosystems

crop depletion
Hunger production Water
alleviation harvesting Aquatic ecosystems
Eutrophication Groundwater-
Agricultural dependent Environmental
chemicals Nitrates in wetlands
groundwater sustainability
Polluted Water
Poverty water supply
alleviation sources
Income- goal
goal Industrial
generating production
activities Pollution
Aquatic ecosystems
goal (water
Human waste
supply and and
sanitation latrines

Source: Based on Cosgrove 2006, p. 38.

Today, water management crises are de- Box 1.5 High-Level Event on the Millennium
veloping in most of the world. UN-Water Development Goals, United Nations, New
reports that in just one week in mid- York, 25 September 2008: Extract from
November 2006 national media sources compilation of partnership events and
reported local but high-profile shortages commitments
in parts of Australia, Botswana, Canada,
China, Fiji, Kuwait, Liberia, Malawi, Paki- The event [Water and Sanitation for Force’ to reach [Millennium Develop-
stan, Philippines, South Africa, Uganda, All] reiterated the strong political ment Goal 7], and to make one annual
the United Arab Emirates and the United and diplomatic support for inter- global progress report and to hold one
States. 29 national efforts needed to address annual high-level review meeting.
the water and sanitation issues and
Generally regional phenomena, water enhance human security. It promoted Japan committed to establish a Water
crises can emerge as water shortages and good water cycle management and Security Action Team for Africa to pro-
the application of Integrated Water vide safe drinking water for 6.5 million
droughts, floods or both, now aggravated
Resources Management. It reaffirmed people and implement a water supply
by the consequences of climate change. the importance of formulation and capacity-building program that would
They may be natural or caused by de- implementation of national assistance train 5,000 people over the next five
mands that exceed supply, lack of infra- strategies building on the ‘Paris Dec- years. Tajikistan said it would host the
structure or poor water management. They laration on Aid Effectiveness’, while International Freshwater Forum in
may be the result of waste or abuse result- considering the specific needs and 2010 as a venue for a preliminary dis-
ing in pollution. Together they threaten resources of the recipient countries. cussion of achievements, challenges
the lives and livelihoods of billions of and experiences within the Interna-
people and risk irrevocably altering the The event emphasized the importance tional Decade Water for Life, 2005-15.
planet’s ecosystems. of mobilizing adequate international
and national financial resources for the The Netherlands said it would help
implementation of the national strate- provide access to safe drinking water
Every year in developing countries an es- gies and the need to strive towards and sanitation for at least 50 million
timated 3 million people die prematurely using sector-wide approaches; and de- people by 2015 having already signed
from water-related diseases. The largest veloped partnerships with civil society various agreements that will benefit
proportion of these deaths are among organizations, local authorities and the almost 30 million people, at a cost of
infants and young children, followed by private sector to implement national around €1.3 billion. Germany will con-
women, from poor rural families who lack strategies and action plans to improve tinue to train Central Asian water ex-
access to safe water and improved sani- the accessibility and quality of water perts. The Netherlands and the United
tation (box 1.6).30 More than 1 million and sanitation services as well as initia- Kingdom committed €106 million in
people die annually from malaria, the vast tives to establish a ‘Framework for Ac- joint funding for water and sanitation
tion’ to focus on the off-track countries, initiatives in developing countries over
majority in poverty-stricken Africa. Anoth-
including the possible consideration the next five years.
er 1 million people die from air pollution for a ‘Fast Track Initiative’ with catalytic
in urban areas. And everywhere the poor funding to install a High-Level ‘Task Source: UN 2008.
suffer most.

Water in a changing world 13


Chapter 1G

Table 1.2 Types of ecosystem services The value of water goes well beyond its
productive value (box 1.7). Citizens who
Cultivated/ realize this are calling for action to protect
Forests Oceans agricultural lands water, joined by business people who
Environmental • Food • Food • Food recognize the importance of protecting
goods • Freshwater • Fuel • Fuel the sources of the water on which they
• Fuel • Fibre depend. Many are even paying for such
• Fibre protection.31
Regulating • Climate regulation • Climate • Climate
services • Flood regulation regulation regulation Also to be considered is the impact of
• Disease regulation • Disease • Water climate change on environmental sustain-
• Water purification regulation purification ability. At the High-Level Event on the
Supporting • Nutrient cycling • Nutrient cycling • Nutrient cycling Millennium Development Goals at the
services • Soil formation • Primary • Soil formation United Nations in September 2008 discus-
production sion focused on the need for new adapta-
Cultural • Aesthetic • Aesthetic • Aesthetic tion strategies and for climate-resilient
services • Spiritual • Spiritual • Educational national development plans, especially for
• Educational • Educational the least developed countries:
• Recreational • Recreational

Source: Based on MEA 2005. Linkages between financing for

development and international
climate change financing were
Box 1.6 Malnutrition attributable to environmental discussed. It was also agreed that
risks all countries, including donor
countries, the UN system and the
Experts estimate that poor water and in early childhood leads to permanent Bretton Woods institutions, need to
sanitation services and hygiene prac- growth faltering, lowered immunity clarify the budgetary implications
tices and inadequate water resources and increased mortality. A recent of adaptation; ensure that adequate
management contribute to half of all large study from Bangladesh reveals finance mechanisms are in place;
cases of infant and child underweight, that dysentery and watery diarrhoea and help meet the additional costs
an estimate corroborated by a World together can retard weight gain by that climate-resilient development
Bank technical review of 38 recent 20%-25% compared with periods of
will entail.32
cohort studies (confidence interval no infections.
of 39%-61%). Evidence from several
of those studies demonstrates that Source: Prüss-Üstün and Corvalán 2006; Global crises and water
exposure to environmental health risks World Bank 2008; Alam et al. 2000.
While climate change will create impor-
tant pressures on water, it is not currently
Box 1.7 Water as capital the most important driver of these pres-
sures outside the water sector. The most
important drivers – forces and processes
Classical economists recognized land misleading for water. Prices are typi-
generated by human activities – are demo-
(all natural resources), labour and cally related to the capital outlays
produced capital as the basic sources required to deliver water (that is, for
graphics and the increasing consumption
of wealth. Neoclassical economists fo- the infrastructure and operations and that comes with rising per capita incomes
cused only on labour and capital, treat- maintenance charges), with little or (see chapter 2).
ing ‘land’ as another interchangeable no value attributed to the resource
form of capital. Natural resources were itself. Not only do undervalued water In the early stages of development popula-
considered abundant relative to de- resources tend to be overused, but tion growth is the most important driver.
mand and therefore not an important undervaluation also induces distorted But most of the projected growth in
focus for economics, whose task was to prices that provide poor information demand comes not from high-population-
allocate scarce resources – those whose about whether investments make growth countries but from countries with
use constrained alternative economic sense. Focusing only on capital costs
high rates of economic growth and large
opportunities. There was little consid- provides no insight into whether
eration of the environment’s dual role economic activities are creating value
current populations. As incomes permit,
as a source of valuable inputs and as a or whether the resource is running out people consume more. To start with, there
sink for the economy’s waste and pol- and needs to be conserved. will be a requirement for more water to
lution. Nor was much thought given produce food for tens of millions of people
to the possibility that the world might Water delivery is highly capital-inten- moving from one meal to two meals a day.
reach a scale of resource exploitation at sive, so produced capital will remain a Later, still more water will be needed for
which the capacity of both the source crucial focus for financial and econom- food production as people include more
and sink functions of the environment ic analyses of water investments. But meat in their diets. Changes in lifestyles
could become binding constraints on the value of water resources also mat- will require large amounts of water to
economic growth. ters, and water’s availability, quality
produce and process non-food goods and
and timing cannot simply be assumed.
The focus on produced rather
services (virtual water), further increas-
than natural capital is particularly Source: Bergkamp and Sadoff 2008. ing pressures on the quantity and quality
of water resources. Other demographic

14 World Water Development Report 3


Getting out of the box – linking water to decisions for sustainable development

drivers include rural-urban migration and data. But when the information is avail- the world is facing
migration in response to political conflict able, it will be possible to calculate the
global crises in
and environmental crises. country’s water balance and the water
footprints (volume of water used) of vari- energy, food, and
Other external forces that may create ous users. Using this information, water climate change and
either positive or negative pressures on managers can advise decision-makers in
water resources include pricing policies and other sectors of the feasibility of their global warming
subsidies for water and water-related goods, plans and the implications for water. that cannot
trade patterns, developments in science
and technology, consumption patterns, The Report provides ample evidence of adequately be
evolution of policies and laws, social move- all these facts. This is not the first time addressed without
ments and global and national politics. that professionals in the water sector have
attempted to bring them to the world’s considering the
Except for climate change, these forces attention. But this time the effort may role of water
will not create pressures directly (or only) be more successful, because this time the
on water management. The pressures will world is facing other global crises – in
be felt first at the level of sector ministers, energy, food and climate change and
whose responses will translate into strate- global warming – that cannot adequately
gies that affect the water sector. These be addressed without considering the role
ministers will have to make decisions of water.
under conditions of risk and uncertainty.
The better informed they are, the more Water for energy
likely they are to make the right decisions. Demand for energy – for heat, light, power
For water managers this means being able and transportation – is increasing rapidly
to provide reliable information about (see chapter 7). The price of energy com-
where and when water is available, of what modities has been rising as well. Volatile,
quality, where and how it is used, what the nominal price of oil – the benchmark
happens to wastewater, how much water commodity – rose from less than $25 a
leaves the country in exports of goods barrel eight years ago to about $100 early
that use water in their production (virtual in 2008 and more than $140 in June 2008.
water) and how much enters the country Within two months it fell below levels
in imports. This will be a challenge for projected for the longer term by the Energy
water managers in most countries, which Information Administration of the U.S. De-
lack the necessary measurements and do partment of Energy and was at $35 a barrel
not systematically collect the necessary on December 19, 2008 (figure 1.8). Energy

Figure 1.8 Historical and projected energy demand and oil prices show steadily rising demand and
rapidly rising prices

Btus (quadrillions) Nominal dollars per barrel

250 250
Projections Projections

200 200
High price

150 150
Natural gas


100 100

Low price

50 50


0 0
1980 1990 2000 2005 2010 2020 2030 1980 1990 2000 2007 2020 2030

Note: The reference case assumes average GDP growth of 2.4% a year, the high case assumes 3.0% a year, and the low case assumes 1.8% a year.
Source: Based on EIA 2005, 2008a.

Water in a changing world 15


Chapter 1G

The number of prices, particularly the oil prices that drive chapter 7). The recent steep rise in food
them, earlier reflected rising world de- prices (figure 1.9) has severely hurt many
countries without
mand and constraints. The recent financial food-importing countries. Rising demand
enough water crisis, which has slowed economic growth for food caused by growing populations
to produce their throughout the world, reducing anticipated and shifting diets, production shortfall in
demand, was largely responsible for the some countries, increased costs for key ag-
food is rising. low price of oil at the end of 2008. ricultural inputs such as fertilizers (driven
The situation can in turn by energy costs), bio­energy-related
The combination of high prices and a incentives in some countries and possible
be remedied by desire to substitute other sources of fuel financial speculation have all contributed
investing in water led to the recent increase in the produc- to the problem. The High-Level Conference
tion of bioenergy, which has potentially on World Food Security: The Challenges of
infrastructure, important impacts on water quality and Climate Change and Bioenergy, a Food and
markets, credit, availability. Hydropower may be a renew- Agriculture Organization summit in Rome
able and non-polluting source of energy on 3 June 2008, adopted a declaration ac-
agricultural in some countries. Water for cooling is knowledging ‘an urgent need to help devel-
technology and needed for all thermal sources of power, oping countries and countries in transition
including nuclear. In the United States expand agriculture and food production,
extension services
water withdrawn for cooling (39%) and to increase investment in agriculture,
equals agriculture’s share of water use. At agribusiness and rural development, from
the same time energy is required to lift both public and private sources’.34 It calls
groundwater, pump it through pipes and on donors to provide balance of payments
treat both groundwater and wastewater. and budget support to low-income food-
An estimated 7% of all energy produced importing countries.
is used for such purposes.33 Increased
demand for water through desalination At the summit Robert B. Zoellick, presi-
may increase energy demand in some dent of the World Bank, said that the Bank
countries, although marginally on a global recognizes that the energy-food nexus
scale. means that food prices will stay high and
that the ‘task is two-fold, to handle today’s
Water for food danger to those for whom securing food
Agriculture is by far the largest consumer has become a daily struggle, and turn
of freshwater – about 70% of all freshwater higher food prices into an opportunity
withdrawals go to irrigated agriculture (see for developing world agriculture, and

Figure 1.9 Wheat and rice prices have risen sharply in recent years

Historical and projected prices of wheat and rice, 1970-2017

Wheat Rice
US$ per tonne US$ per tonne

800 1,500
Projections Projections
Real price

Real price


400 750



Nominal price
Nominal price

0 0
1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 2017 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 2017

Source: Based on OECD and FAO 2008.

16 World Water Development Report 3


Getting out of the box – linking water to decisions for sustainable development

for farmers in developing countries’.35 While other factors may also have contrib- Few countries
The summit highlighted the strong links uted to these lower levels of investment,
know how much
among food security, economic develop- economic uncertainty is a major factor.
ment, climate change, markets, develop- Uncertainty about the policy environ- water is being
ment assistance and energy and how ment in developing and emerging market used and for
actions have implications for other sectors. economies has always been a concern, but
While the role of water in agriculture was its influence has strengthened in the cur- what purposes,
discussed at the summit, the final declara- rently highly competitive global markets.38 the quantity and
tion did not mention water and water’s
strong links with these and many other The impact on developing countries will quality of water
issues. vary. Budgetary spending on infrastruc- that is available
ture is often cut during periods of finan-
Water scarcity may limit food production cial tightening, although for governments and that can
and supply, putting pressure on food prices that can afford it, investing in infrastruc- be withdrawn
and increasing countries’ dependence on ture can help counter an economic slow-
food imports. The number of countries and down. Private investment may also suffer,
without serious
regions without enough water to produce but since the private sector’s contribution environmental
their food is rising as populations increase. to the water sector has been relatively
consequences and
The situation can be remedied in many small, the sector is less exposed to any
developing countries by investing in water financial tightening. Countries depend- how much is being
infrastructure, markets, credit, agricultural ent on aid face uncertain times. Bilat- invested in water
technology and extension services. eral donors, important in funding water
investments, may be tempted to reduce management and
Underinvestment in water their aid budgets. Multilateral aid could be infrastructure
The energy and food crises are taking an important source of financing for the
place during a time of global financial cri- next few years, especially following recent
sis. A credit crunch has followed the finan- record multiyear replenishments of the
cial crises that began in the United States International Development Association,
and Europe in 2007 and spread around the African Development Fund and European
globe. The credit crunch has resulted in a Development Fund. Yet both bilateral and
slowdown in economic growth around the multilateral aid donors still appear not to
world. The International Monetary Fund recognize the contribution of the water
forecast in January 2009 that all industrial sector to growth, as indicated by the sec-
countries would face a period of reces- tor’s small share of total official develop-
sion and that some developing countries ment assistance in recent years (less than
are more at risk than others (box 1.8).36 4%; see table 4.4 in chapter 4).
According to the Commission on Growth
and Development ‘developing countries Inadequate information on water
are most vulnerable to sudden stoppages and water crises
of credit and sudden switches of interna- Managing water is made more difficult by
tional custom or supply.’37 the lack of knowledge and information re-
quired for decision-making and long-term
Developing countries most at risk include planning. Few countries know how much
those exporting directly to crisis-affected water is being used and for what purposes,
countries, those whose exports are expe- the quantity and quality of water that is
riencing falling world prices and those available and that can be withdrawn with-
whose exports have high income elasticity out serious environmental consequences
(luxury goods, including tourism). Declin-
ing tourism revenues and employment Box 1.8 International Monetary Fund updated
will directly affect the poor. Countries economic forecast for 2009
dependent on foreign direct investment,
remittances and development funds to
World growth is projected to fall to will likely continue to be difficult until
finance the current account deficit will 0.5 % in 2009, its lowest rate since forceful policy actions are imple-
also be at risk. Oil-importing countries World War II. Despite wide-ranging mented to restructure the financial
have already been hard hit by the period policy actions, financial strains remain sector, resolve the uncertainty about
of high oil prices. acute, pulling down the real economy. losses, and break the adverse feedback
A sustained economic recovery will loop with the slowing real economy.
The high rates of global savings and strong not be possible until the financial In emerging economies, financing
productivity growth in the three decades sector’s functionality is restored and conditions will likely remain acute for
before the financial crisis – when the stock credit markets are unclogged. some time – especially for corporate
of financial assets grew three times faster sectors that have very high rollover
Financial markets are expected to re- requirements.
than GDP – were not accompanied by
main strained during 2009. In the ad-
investments in physical assets, and their vanced economies, market conditions Source : IMF 2009, pp. 1-2.
levels are below those in the last decade.

Water in a changing world 17


Chapter 1G

Scarcity – low and how much is being invested in water Mozambique and the United States, parts
management and infrastructure (see chap- of the country may experience damaging
available water per
ter 13). intensive rainfalls while other parts suffer
capita – is forecast prolonged drought. These variations matter
to worsen where Underfunding of observation, monitoring most where they affect large populations.
and information systems leads to weak- Scarcity – low available water per capita
population growth nesses in infrastructure, research and – is forecast to worsen where population
is still high, as in development, and training and to reduced growth is still high, as in sub-­Saharan
efficiencies. Less is known with each pass- Africa, South Asia and some countries in
sub-Saharan Africa, ing decade, despite the availability of new South America and the Middle East.
South Asia and remote sensing and geographic informa-
tion system technologies that can simplify Adapting to climate change adds a critical
some countries in monitoring and reporting and despite the challenge to this picture for all countries,
South America and growing need for such information in an particularly for developing countries,
increasingly complex and rapidly changing whose capacity to adapt is low, and for
the Middle East world. Such information is vital not only at cities in coastal areas (see chapter 5). Even
a national scale but also at a global scale – if greenhouse gas concentrations stabilize
to inform the construction of global mod- in the coming years, some impacts from
els of the hydrologic cycle and decisions climate change are unavoidable. These in-
on where interventions, including external clude growing water stress, more extreme
aid, would be most useful. One move in weather events, higher levels of migration
that direction is the United Nations Eco- and the disruption of international mar-
nomic Commission for Europe Convention kets. Climate models show that extremes
on the Protection and Use of Transbound- of rainfall are likely to worsen, resulting
ary Watercourses and International Lakes, in more floods and droughts in regions
which requires signatories to exchange already affected – often regions with
data on water quality and quantity and low income levels per capita, widespread
pollution sources and the environmental absolute poverty, high population growth
conditions of transboundary waters. and rapid urbanization. If climate change
brings significant shifts in the availabil-
Climate change and water ity of water resources, patterns of human
Some parts of the world have no short- migration could be affected.
age of water. Others, such as North and
Southern Africa, the Middle East and parts These challenges cannot be separated from
of South Asia, South-East Asia and South the challenges of sustainable develop-
America, suffer scarcity because of low ment. For some developing countries the
annual rainfall. Others suffer seasonal incremental costs of adapting to climate
scarcity. Yet others suffer from extreme change will soon approach the current
rainfall, causing floods. Some suffer from value of aid inflows. The leaders of the
both low and extreme rainfall, at differ- G-8, meeting in Hokkaido, Japan, in July
ent times. In some large countries, such as 2008, committed to accelerating action
on technology development, transfer,
Box 1.9 Extracts from Declaration of Leaders Meeting financing and capacity building to support
of Major Economies on Energy Security and adaptation (box 1.9). Such action must
Climate Change at the G-8 Hokkaido, Toyako, include water resources, which will be
summit, 9 July 2008 most affected by climate change. A recent
United Nations Framework Convention on
Climate change is one of the great countries, particularly the most vulner- Climate Change document on adaptation
global challenges of our time. Con- able ones, to adapt to climate change. noted that:
scious of our leadership role in meet- This includes the development and
ing such challenges, we, the leaders dissemination of tools and methodolo- sector-specific adaptation planning
of the world’s major economies, both gies to improve vulnerability and adap- and practices were discussed in the
developed and developing, commit to tation assessments, the integration of areas of agriculture and food secu-
combat climate change in accordance climate change adaptation into overall rity, water resources, coastal zones
with our common but differentiated development strategies, increased im- and health. Those sectors were
responsibilities and respective capa- plementation of adaptation strategies,
selected based on their importance
bilities and confront the interlinked increased emphasis on adaptation
challenges of sustainable develop- technologies, strengthening resil-
to Parties and organizations as
ment, including energy and food ience and reducing vulnerability, and highlighted in their submissions.39
security, and human health. consideration of means to stimulate
investment and increased availability The world is right to be concerned about
We will work together in accordance of financial and technical assistance. climate change, which poses major threats
with our Convention commitments to to humans and ecosystems. The 2007
strengthen the ability of developing Source: G-8 2008. United Nations Climate Change Confer-
ence in Bali, Indonesia, acknowledged that

18 World Water Development Report 3


Getting out of the box – linking water to decisions for sustainable development

even the minimum predicted shifts in existing conflict, poverty and unequal while the world
climate for the 21st century, at more than access to resources, weak institutions, food
appears motivated
twice the 0.6° Celsius increase that has insecurity and incidence of diseases such
occurred since 1900, would be significant as HIV/AIDS.’41 He outlined ‘alarming, to respond to
and disruptive. The intergovernmental though not alarmist’ scenarios, includ- the impacts of
response has focused primarily on mitiga- ing limited or threatened access to energy
tion of climate change, embracing wide- increasing the risk of conflict, a scarcity future climate
ranging measures, including reducing of food and water transforming peaceful change, it remains
greenhouse gas emissions, transferring competition into violence, and floods and
clean technologies and protecting forests. droughts sparking massive human migra- unmotivated to act
These measures may slow climate change. tions, polarizing societies and weakening on water crises that
They will not halt or reverse it. the ability of countries to resolve conflicts
peacefully. are with us today
It will be two generations before these
measures begin to have an effect. And In Africa alone by 2020, 75-250 million
even if successful, they imply a consider- people may be exposed to increased water
ably changed future climate. (They are stress due to climate change. If coupled
not aimed at reversing changes already with increased demand, this will hurt live-
under way.) In the meantime people must lihoods and exacerbate water-related prob-
be protected from the consequences of lems.42 Research centres such as the Ox-
global climate change through adaptation ford Research Group43 are underpinning
measures. Adaptation, as embodied in the the security concerns of the United Na-
Nairobi Work Programme of the United tions, the European Union44 and national
Nations Framework Convention on Cli- governments45 about climate change and
mate Change, is based on gaining a better its impacts on water. The forces at work are
understanding of the impacts of climate global in scale, the aggregate result of the
change and making informed decisions on behaviour of all countries. Dealing with
practical measures.40 them will require international coopera-
tion and coordination. Yet at the same
The water situation and the vulnerability time national leaders must continue to act
of poor communities present a strong case and make decisions at a national level.
for action on climate change. Projections
warn of changes in water availability and As climate change and adverse water im-
quality that could have disastrous conse- pacts increase in politically charged areas,
quences. Water is the principal medium conflicts will likely intensify, requiring
through which climate change will affect new and rapid adaptive security strate-
economic, social and environmental con- gies. Hydrologic shocks that may occur
ditions. Changes in water availability will through climate change increase the risk
have economy-wide impacts. of major national and international secu-
rity threats, especially in unstable areas
Yet while the world appears motivated to (box 1.11). Adverse changes in internal,
respond to the impacts of future climate interjurisdictional and transboundary wa-
change, it remains unmotivated to act on ters can put food, social, health, economic,
the water crises that are with us today. political and military security at risk.
Even without climate change, development
is threatened in many regions by factors Some fragile states (map 1.1) have ex-
that we have already failed to address time perienced widespread conflict that has
and again. The Intergovernmental Panel resulted in the destruction of economic
on Climate Change’s April 2008 report on
water points this out clearly (box 1.10).
Box 1.10 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Security and water Technical Report on Water and Climate Change
Climate change, especially its implications
for scarce water resources, is a matter of Current water management practices information about current climate
collective security in a fragile and increas- may not be robust enough to cope variability into water-related man-
ingly interdependent world. At a 2007 UN with the impacts of climate change agement would assist adaptation to
Security Council debate on the impact of on water supply reliability, flood longer-term climate change impacts.
risk, health, agriculture, energy and Climatic and non-climatic factors,
climate change on peace and security UN
aquatic ecosystems. In many loca- such as growth of population and
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that
tions, water management cannot damage potential, would exacerbate
climate change has implications for peace satisfactorily cope even with current problems in the future. (very high
and security, as well as serious environ- climate variability, so that large flood confidence)
mental, social and economic implications, and drought damages occur. As a
especially ‘in vulnerable regions that face first step, improved incorporation of Source: IPCC 2008.
multiple stresses at the same time – pre-

Water in a changing world 19


Chapter 1G

Box 1.11 UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warns example, rehabilitation of damaged irriga-
that water shortages are increasingly driving tion infrastructure and expansion of water
conflicts supply and sanitation formed a significant
part of the 2006 Somali Rehabilitation and
‘The challenge of securing safe and the rains failed and water became
Reconstruction Plan.46 Similarly, rehabili-
plentiful water for all is one of the scarce. tation of infrastructure after major natural
most daunting challenges faced by disasters provides an opportunity to ad-
the world today. ‘Today everyone knows Darfur. More dress long-standing infrastructure deficits.
than 200,000 people have died. Sev-
‘Until only recently, we generally as- eral million have fled their homes. The need for action – now
sumed that water trends do not pose
much risk to our businesses. While ‘There are many factors at work in Water has remained too low on the list of
many countries have engaged in this conflict, of course. But almost political priorities for too long, a situation
waste-water treatment and some con- forgotten is the event that touched it
that cannot be allowed to continue. Action
servation efforts, the notion of water off – drought. A shortage of life’s vital
sustainability in a broad sense has not resource.
is required now. Lives and livelihoods de-
been seriously examined. pend on water for development. Changes
‘We can change the names in this sad in human behaviour and activity are ac-
‘Our experiences tell us that environ- story. Somalia. Chad. Israel. The occu- celerating, affecting demand for water and
mental stress due to lack of water may pied Palestinian territories. Nigeria. Sri its supply. Because investments have been
lead to conflict and would be greater Lanka. Haiti. Colombia. Kazakhstan. neglected, development is lagging, people
in poor nations. All are places where shortages of water are suffering and the environment is dete-
contribute to poverty. They cause riorating. The resources needed to address
‘Ten years ago – even five years ago – social hardship and impede develop- the problems of water management are
few people paid much attention to the ment. They create tensions in conflict-
minuscule compared with the financial
arid regions of western Sudan. Not prone regions. Too often, where we
many noticed when fighting broke out need water we find guns. . . .’
resources that have been pledged and se-
between farmers and herders, after cured to deal with carbon emissions or the
Source: Ban Ki-moon 2008. current financial crisis. After decades of
inaction, the problems are enormous. And
they will worsen if left unattended.
infrastructure. The vulnerability of affect-
ed populations is worsened by the state’s Although substantial, the challenges are
loss of control over the forces of law and not insurmountable. In part 4 the Report
order and ultimately by its loss of political shows how some countries and regional
legitimacy. Installing infrastructure and and local governments have solved similar
renewing institutional capacity following challenges. The decisions on development
conflict have the potential to set post- objectives and the allocation of human
conflict nations on a path to recovery. For and financial resources needed to meet

Map 1.1 Fragile states as defined by the International Development Association

Territory of
Kosovo Uzbekistan


Haiti Lao People's Democratic Republic

Mauritania Chad Myanmar
Gambia Sudan Djibouti Cambodia
Guinea-Bissau Nigeria
Central African
Guinea Papua New Guinea
Sierra Togo Republic
Leone São Tomé
Democratic Republic of the Congo Solomon Islands
Liberia and Príncipe
Côte Angola Comoros Timor-Leste Vanuatu
d’Ivoire Zimbabwe Tonga
Republic of
the Congo

Note: Fragile states are low-income countries that score below a threshold on the International Development Association’s Country Policy and Institu-
tional Assessment, a tool used to assess the quality of country policies. The list is prepared annually.
Source: Based on IDA 2007.

20 World Water Development Report 3


Getting out of the box – linking water to decisions for sustainable development

them are made or influenced by leaders Part 3 explores the state of water resources. The decisions
in government, the private sector and The uneven distribution over time and
on development
civil society. They are the ones who must space of water resources, and how that
recognize the role of water in attaining distribution is being modified, are funda- objectives and
their objectives – and demonstrate the will mental sources of the water crisis. Global the allocation
to act now. warming is expected to result in an inten-
sification, acceleration or enhancement of of human and
Structure of the Report the global hydrologic cycle. There is some financial resources
observational evidence that this is already
The Report has four parts. Part 1 exam- happening. In many places climate ex- needed to meet
ines water drivers – or what drives the tremes have become more frequent or more them are made
pressures on water. Externalities, mostly intense, with droughts and floods affecting
human-induced, create pressures on water. increasing numbers of people. Worldwide, or influenced
Human activities and processes of all types water observation networks are inadequate by leaders in
– demographic, economic and social – can for current needs and are at risk of further
exert pressures on water resources that decline. The data to understand and predict
government, the
need to be managed. These pressures are water quantity and quality are lacking. private sector and
affected by a range of factors such as tech-
civil society – not
nological innovation, climate change, and Part 4 is on responses and choices. It
policies, laws and financial conditions shows that we can do what it takes to man- by water managers
age water resources properly to avert crises or specialists
Part 2 is about using water. History shows and promote sustainable socio­economic
strong, mutual links between economic development. Others have already shown
development and water development. the way. But there is no one-size-fits-all
Steadily increasing demand for agricul- solution. The best mix of responses to a
tural products to satisfy the diverse needs specific country’s development objectives
of a growing population (for food, fibre and policy priorities to meet various water
and now fuel) has long been the main challenges depends on the availability of
driver behind agricultural water use. In a water of acceptable quality for its intended
situation of tight balance between food use and the country’s technical, financial,
supply and demand, climate events – institutional and human capacities and its
droughts in particular – have an increas- culture, political and regulatory frame-
ingly strong impact on food price volatil- works and markets.
ity. There is a growing need to protect
ecosystems and the goods and services Leaders within the water domain can
they produce and on which life and live- inform the processes outside their domain
lihoods depend. As competition among and manage water resources to achieve
demands on water increases, society will agreed socioeconomic objectives. But it
need to respond more effectively through is the leaders in government, the private
improved water management, policies sector and civil society who determine
and transparent and efficient water al- the directions that development will take.
location mechanisms. Recognizing this, they must act now!

10. Hutton and Haller 2004. 24. Kaberuka 2008.
1. There were exceptions, such as the de-
11. Schuster-Wallace et al. 2008. 25. MDG Africa Steering Group 2008.
velopment of the Tennessee River in the
United States beginning in the 1930s 12. UN-Water 2008. 26. WELL 2005.
under the Tennessee Valley Authority. 27. Poverty-Environment Partnership 2006.
13. WHO 2006.
2. Commission on Growth and Develop- 28. G-8 2003.
14. Hussein 2008.
ment 2008.
15. Winpenny 2003. 29. UN-Water 2007.
3. Phumpiu and Gustafsson 2007.
16. van Hofwegen 2006. 30. World Bank 2008.
4. See
17. DfID 2007, p. 2. 31. Worldwatch Institute 2008, pp. 117-21.
5. Speaking at the session Re-Thinking So-
18. World Bank 2003. 32. United Nations 2008.
cial Responsibility on 25 January 2008,
as cited in Maidmont 2008. 19. NEPAD 2002. 33. Hoffman 2004.
6. Commission on Growth and Develop- 20. Originally defined as $1.00 per day 34. FAO 2008.
ment 2008, p. 1. and revised to $1.25 in 2005 to reflect 35. Zoellnick 2008.
7. ADB 2007, p. vi. evolving purchasing power parity 36. IMF 2009.
8. The benefits of investing in water are 21. Chen and Ravallion 2008. 37. Commission on Growth and Develop-
presented in greater detail in chapter 6. 22. UNDP 2006, p. 6. ment 2008, p. 103.
9. SIWI 2005. 23. World Bank 2005. 38. Rajan 2006.

Water in a changing world 21


Chapter 1G

39. UNFCCC 2007. Alam, Dewan S., Geoffrey C. Marks, Ab- activities/diplomacy/gfsp/documents/
40. UNFCCC 2005. dullah H. Baqui, M. Yunus, and George Solana_security_report.pdf.
J. Fuchs. 2000. Association between FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization
41. UN Security Council 2007.
Clinical Type of Diarrhoea and Growth of of the United Nations). 2006. Rapid
42. IPCC 2008. Children under 5 Years in Rural Bangla- Growth of Selected Asian Economies: Les-
43. The Oxford Research Group, in a desh. International Journal of Epidemiology sons and Implications for Agriculture and
briefing paper on sustainable secu- 29 (5): 916-21. Food Security. Synthesis Report. Bangkok:
rity, argues that the effects of climate Ban Ki-moon. 2008. Address by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization of the
change – ­displacement of peoples, food Secretary-General to the session “Time United Nations.
shortages, social unrest – have long- is Running Out on Water,” of the Davos ———. 2008. Declaration of the High-Level
term security implications far greater World Economic Forum, 24 January Conference on World Food Security:
than those of terrorism and notes that 2008, in Davos, Switzerland. www. The Challenges of Climate Change and
the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office Bioenergy. High-Level Conference on
of Net Assessment takes the same view search_full.asp?statID=177. World Food Security, 3-5 June, Rome.
(Abott, Rogers, and Sloboda 2006,
Bergkamp, G., and C. W. Sadoff. 2008.
p. 7).
Water in a Sustainable Economy. In State declaration-E.pdf.
44. Such as the statement by the European of the World: Innovations for a Sustainable G-8. 2003. Water: A G8 Action Plan. G8
Commission and the Secretary General/ Economy. Washington, DC: Worldwatch Summit, 1-3 June, Evian, France.
High Representative for Foreign and Se- Institute.
curity Policy Javier Solana (2006, p. 2): ———. 2008. Declaration of Lead-
Chen, Shaohua, and Martin Ravallion. ers Meeting of Major Economies on
‘Investment in mitigation . . . as well
2008. The Developing World Is Poorer than Energy Security and Climate Change.
as ways to adjust to the unavoidable
We Thought, but No Less Successful in Hokkaido Toyako Summit, 9 July, Toyako,
should go hand in hand with addressing
the Fight against Poverty. Policy Research Hokkaido, Japan.
the international security threats created
Working Paper 4703. World Bank, Wash- policy/economy/summit/2008/doc/
by climate change.’
ington, DC. doc080709_10_en.html.
45. Such as U.K. Foreign Secretary Marga-
Commission on Growth and Develop- Hoffman, Allan R. 2004. The Connec-
ret Beckett’s statement in the 2007 UN
ment. 2008. The Growth Report: Strate- tion: Water and Energy Security. Energy
Security Council debate on the impact
gies for Sustained Growth and Inclusive Security, 13 August. Institute for Analysis
of climate change on peace and secu-
Development. Conference Edition. Wash- of Global Security.
rity that climate change exacerbates
ington, DC: World Bank. n0813043.htm.
many threats (UN Security Council
2007) and the testimony of Deputy Comprehensive Assessment of Water Man- House Permanent Select Committee
Director of National Intelligence for agement in Agriculture. 2007. Water on Intelligence and House Select
Analysis (NIA) Thomas Finger before for Food, Water for Life: A Comprehensive Committee on Energy Independence
a Joint House committee that an NIA Assessment of Water Management in Agri- and Global Warming. 2008. National
assessment found that sub-Saharan culture. London: Earthscan, and Colombo: Intelligence Assessment on the National
Africa, the Middle East and Central and International Water Management Institute. Security Implications of Global Climate
South-East Asia are most vulnerable to Cosgrove, W. J. 2006. Water for Growth Change to 2030: Statement for the
warming-related drought, flooding, and Security. In Water Crisis: Myth or Re- Record of Dr. Thomas Fingar, Deputy
extreme weather and hunger (House ality?: Marcelino Botin Water Forum 2004. Director of National Intelligence for
Permanent Select Committee on Intel- Peter Rogers, M. Ramon Llamas, and Analysis and Chairman of the National
ligence and U.S. House Select Com- Louis Martinez-Cortina, eds. London: Intelligence Council, 25 June 2008. U.S.
mittee on Energy Independence and Taylor and Francis. Congress, Washington, DC.
Global Warming 2008, p.13). Delli Priscoli, J., and A. T. Wolf. 2009. Man- Hussein, M. A. 2008. Costs of Environ-
46. UNDP and World Bank 2007. aging and Transforming Water Conflicts. mental Degradation: An Analysis in the
International Hydrology Series. Cam- Middle East and North Africa Region.
bridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Management of Environmental Quality 19
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IMF (International Monetary Fund). 2009. World Health Organization. www.who. to the High-Level Event on the Millen-
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IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Cli- Imbalances. Remarks by the Economic September, New York.
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Initiatives and Commitments relating

Water in a changing world 23

Understanding what drives

the pressures on water

Chapter Chapters 2-5

2 Demographic, economic and social drivers Tim Kasten
(UNEP) with the
3 Technological innovation support of Thomas
Chiramba (UNEP)
4 Policies, laws and finance
5 Climate change and possible futures Richard Connor

1 Authors: Richard Connor and Walter Rast

The amount of freshwater on Earth is Part 1 examines the processes behind

finite, but its distribution has varied the rising pressures on our water sup-
considerably, driven mainly by natural plies, identify the ones most likely to
cycles of freezing and thawing and have the greatest impact on the world’s
fluctuations in precipitation, water water resources in the coming dec-
runoff patterns and evapotranspiration ades and describe the context within
levels. which water will be managed. These
chapters describe what we know about
That situation has changed, however. the current situation and recent trends
Alongside natural causes are new and and forecast possible futures related to
continuing human activities that have processes that we refer to as drivers of
become primary ‘drivers’ of the pres- change and define as:
sures affecting our planet’s water sys-
tems. These pressures are most often a set of fundamental processes
related to human development and eco- that are external to the water sec-
nomic growth. Our requirements for tor and that directly or indirectly
water to meet our fundamental needs co-determine the evolution of the
and our collective pursuit of higher water system in terms of the qual-
living standards, coupled with the need ity, quantity and spatial distribu-
for water to sustain our planet’s fragile tion of the resource.
ecosystems, make water unique among
our planet’s natural resources. At the turn of the century the World
Water Vision exercise of the World
Chapters 2-5 describe these water driv- Water Council – the first and largest
ers and their interactions as they relate international effort to develop global
to the sustainability of water resources water scenarios – identified a series
and systems. They also examine how to of ‘driving forces’ that ‘represent key
make reasonable predictions about the factors, trends or processes which
future. Such forecasts are relevant for influence the situation, focal issues or
policy-making directed to water re- decisions, and actually propel the sys-
sources and for development activities, tem forward and determine the story’s
investment planning and other activi- outcome’.1 Using this definition, the
ties generally considered to be outside Vision team selected major drivers and
the domain of the water sector – or organized them into six clusters: demo­
‘outside the water box’. graphic, economic, technological,

social, governance and environmen- influenced by technological innovation

tal. This part of the ­Report draws on and agricultural and trade policies, all
these clusters, with the exception of the of which eventually affect the quality
environment, which is defined as a use and quantity of water.
and is covered extensively in part 2. To
this list we have added climate change, These drivers should not be considered
discussed in chapter 5 and throughout in isolation of related socioeconomic
the Report. This part of the Report also or political factors and other drivers.
describes many of the complex links Many natural links influence how driv-
between the drivers, which can cause ers affect changes, directly and indi-
both positive and negative feedback rectly. Water properties are governed by
impacts. biological, chemical and physical laws
that define the quantity and quality of
In describing drivers ‘external to the water resources and that are linked in
water sector’, we have sought to identify various ways. Temperature, a physi-
key forces or processes of change over cal factor, can affect the metabolism of
which water sector users, managers aquatic organisms, a biological proc-
and decision-makers have little direct ess. The excessive biological produc-
influence. Thus, water use sectors (ag- tion (such as excessive algal growth)
riculture, energy, domestic and indus- associated with increased temperature
trial) are not drivers even though they can degrade water quality, a chemical
have a major impact on the resource property.
because they are not external to the
water sector. The drivers of ­agriculture Superimposed on these natural process-
– and its demand for water – are such es are human activities that exacerbate
fundamental processes as population these processes, disrupting the natural
growth, changes in dietary preferences balance of water systems. The growth
as living standards rise, and increasing of algae or aquatic plants in a lake,
demand for non‑food agricultural prod- for example, is stimulated by excessive
ucts such as bioenergy. The drivers of nutrients and minerals washed into
change are the demographic, economic the lake as a result of human activities,
and social forces that, in combination, accelerating natural growth processes
exert pressures on the agriculture sec- to levels that can cause water quality
tor. This leads to an evolution in ag- degradation and interfere with benefi-
riculture practices, which can also be cial water uses.

Drivers are thus the forces and proc- ­ roduction, generally a water-intensive
esses generated by human activities. activity. The feedback loop of degraded
Consider governments’ efforts to im- water quality from livestock feedlot
prove citizens’ livelihoods and stand- runoff can diminish fish production
ards of living by increasing economic or alter its quality. There is also so-
growth. Economic growth is affected ciological evidence that urbanization
by a wide range of policy decisions, shifts fishing pressures from natural
from international trade to education water systems to artificial systems.
and public health, while the potential Thus, urbanization and globalization,
rate of economic growth can be affect- with changes in diets and lifestyles,
ed by demographic variables such as are strong drivers of water use, even
population distribution (local workforce though decisions made outside the
availability) and social characteristics water sector are driving them.
(workforce capacity) and by the avail-
ability of new technologies. Economic The result is a continuously increasing
activity also requires adequate quan- demand for finite water resources for
tities of natural resources, including which there are no substitutes. When
freshwater. And water availability is di- water resources of acceptable quality
rectly subject to the impacts of climate can no longer be provided in sustain-
change, which can exert additional able quantities to meet such demands,
pressures on other drivers. aquatic ecosystems can be overexploit-
ed as each sector or user group tries
A rising standard of living is typically to satisfy its own water needs at the
accompanied by increased consump- expense of others. The ultimate loser
tion and production of goods, along is the sustainability of the exploited
with rising demands for water-related aquatic ecosystems and the organisms
household services and water resources (including humans) dependent on them
to facilitate economic growth and re- for survival and well-being.
lated activities. Rising demand for meat
and fish in urbanized and emerging Note
market economies, for example, has in- 1. Gallopín and Rijsberman 2000,
creased fishery activities and livestock p. 18.

Chapter 2
economic and
social drivers
Authors: Gunilla Björklund, Richard Connor, Anne Goujon, Molly Hellmuth,
Patrick Moriarty, Walter Rast, Koko Warner and James Winpenny
Contributors: Arjen Hoekstra, Walter Rast and David Wiberg
Coordinator: Tim Kasten (UNEP)
Facilitator: Richard Connor

Key messages

Human activities and processes of all types – demographic, eco-

nomic and social – can exert pressures on water resources and
need to be managed.

These pressures are in turn affected by a range of factors such

as technological innovation, institutional and financial condi-
tions and climate change.

The rapid global rise in living standards combined with popula-

tion growth presents the major threat to the sustainability of
water resources and environmental services.

Demographic drivers land use and water use patterns, with

significant implications at local, regional
Authors: Richard Connor, Anne Goujon, and global levels. And the availability and
Molly Hellmuth and Koko Warner quality of water as well as trends in water
use can influence demographic processes.
Contributors: Walter Rast and David Wiberg
Key messages The world’s population is growing by
• Population dynamics (growth, age dis- about 80 million people a year, implying
tribution, urbanization and migration) increased freshwater demand of about
create pressures on freshwater resourc- 64 billion cubic metres a year.1 An esti-
es through increased water demands mated 90% of the 3 billion people who are
and pollution. expected to be added to the population
by 2050 will be in developing countries,
• Changes in the natural landscape many in regions where the current popula-
associated with population dynamics tion does not have sustainable access to
(migration, urbanization) can create safe drinking water and adequate sanita-
additional pressures on local fresh­ tion.2 Many governments lack the finan-
water resources and the need for more cial resources and institutional capacity to
water-related services. provide for these needs, while countries
that have experienced gains in the number
Demographic processes such as population of people with access to water supply and
growth, age distribution, urbanization sanitation services since 1990 may see
and migration create some of the great- these gains eroded by population growth.
est pressures on water resources quantity
and quality. These demographic proc- The demographics of the global population
esses directly affect water availability and are changing, with important implications
quality through increased water demands for water resources. By 2050, 22% of the
and consumption and through pollution world’s population is expected to be 60
resulting from water use. They affect water years old or older, up from 10% in 2005. At
resources indirectly through changes in the same time, the world has more young

Water in a changing world 29


1 Chapter 2D

the world will people than ever, with nearly half the world environment for their livelihood, can also
population being under the age of 25. induce migration.
have substantially
more people in While the world’s urban population grew The net implication of these demographic
vulnerable urban rapidly during the 20th century (from processes is clear: the world will have sub-
220 million to 2.8 billion), the next few stantially more people in vulnerable urban
and coastal areas decades will see an unprecedented scale of and coastal areas in the next 20 years. The
in the next 20 urban growth across developing countries. rate of slum formation is nearly the same
In Africa and Asia the urban population as the rate of urban growth. In areas with
years. In areas is expected to double between 2000 and already-scarce water resources water man-
with already-scarce 2030. By 2030 the towns and cities of the agers will have to look beyond the water
developing world will make up an estimat- sector for solutions. They will have to work
water resources ed 81% of urban humanity.3 closely with leaders in other sectors, such
water managers as education, health, social services and
Today, there are an estimated 192 million agriculture, to respond effectively to the
will have to look migrants worldwide, up from 176 million demographic challenge.
beyond the water in 2000.4 Coastal areas, with 18 of the
world’s 27 megacities (populations of 10 Population growth
sector for solutions
million or greater), are thought to face the We live in a demographically divided
largest migration pressures.5 About 75% world, with population still growing rapid-
of people residing in low-lying areas are ly in some regions (Africa and the Middle
in Asia, with the most vulnerable being East), ageing rapidly in others (Europe and
poor people. International migration is East Asia) and already declining in others
increasing as a result of such factors as (Europe; map 2.1).
demographic changes, economic dispari-
ties, trade liberalization, environmental Besides Eastern Europe and the former
changes and new communication tech- Soviet Union, where annual population
nologies. Impacts of climate change can growth is already negative, Australia,
substantially accelerate migration (see China, Japan, New Zealand and West-
chapter 5). Demographic changes affect ern Europe will also soon see shrinking
international migration in two ways. populations. Around 2060 South Asia and
Rapid population growth, combined with Pacific will also experience negative popu-
economic difficulties, push people to cit- lation growth rates. Other regions are less
ies, while a declining and ageing popula- susceptible to negative population growth
tion induces countries to accept migrants, forces. Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle
who are typically willing to work at much East will continue to experience high rates
lower wages than native workers. Water of population growth well into the future.
shortages and hazards, particularly where This timing will characterize most of the
people are directly dependent on the problems of water scarcity.

Map 2.1 Expected areas of population growth and decline, 2000-2080

Ratio of population 2080/2000

No data

Source: Lutz, Sanderson, and Scherbov 2008.

30 World Water Development Report 3


Demographic, economic and social drivers 1

Most population growth will occur in believed to be better than in rural areas. Most population
developing countries, mainly in regions But in informal urban areas residents
growth will occur
that are already in water stress and in have little access to safe drinking water or
areas with limited access to safe drinking adequate sanitation services, increasing in developing
water and adequate sanitation facilities. the danger of water- and sanitation-related countries and
More than 60% of the world’s population diseases. It is through such informal urban
growth between 2008 and 2100 will be in areas that most urban growth occurs. mainly in regions
sub-Saharan Africa (32%) and South Asia that are already
(30%). Together, these regions are expect- In addition to the sociological and health
ed to account for half of world population implications of increased population den- in water stress, in
in 2100. Such rates of population growth sity in urban settlements, urbanization has areas with limited
will have major social and environmental unique environmental impacts. Urbaniza-
impacts, given the level of economic de- tion is accompanied by the transformation access to safe
velopment in many affected countries. of natural land surfaces into impervious drinking water
surfaces, such as streets, parking lots, roofs
Age distribution and other types of structures that block
and adequate
The age of the population will influence the percolation of rainwater and snowmelt sanitation facilities
consumption and production patterns, into soil. Such construction increases the
with attendant impacts on natural re- flow velocity of water over the land surface,
source needs, including freshwater. The carrying polluting materials into receiv-
resource needs and services associated ing water systems, degrading water quality
with increasing longevity will include and causing local pollution problems. This
greater provision of medicines, medical urban drainage effect has increased the
facilities and health-care providers. For frequency of flash floods, causing casual-
younger people the globalization of trade ties and infrastructure damage.
and advertising tempts those in develop-
ing countries to want more and those in Migration
developed countries who already have Migratory populations include traditional
more to want even more. These needs and groups of subsistence-level pastoralists
wants translate into higher consumption and agriculturalists, as well as family
and production patterns, requiring addi- groups and individuals seeking greater
tional resources, including freshwater. opportunities and refugees fleeing the
consequences of war, conflict or natural
Urbanization and the growth of disasters. Refugees often pass through
informal human settlements camps or informal settlements that may
In 2008 world population was estimated to be artificially sustained by aid agencies or
be equally split between urban and rural governments. The result is the rapid de-
areas, marking the transition from a rural nuding of the surrounding area as people
dominated to an urban dominated world. search for water and fuel wood in order
By 2030 the number of urban dwellers to survive – ­leading to soil degradation,
is expected to be about 1.8 billion more deforestation, land clearing and a scarcity
than in 2005 and to constitute about of potable water. Migratory pastoralists
60% of the world’s population (figure 2.1),
while the number of rural inhabitants is Figure 2.1 By 2030 about 60% of the world’s population
expected to decline slightly from 3.3 bil- is expected to live in urban areas
lion to 3.2 billion. Almost all (95%) of the
increase in urban populations is expected Share of population residing in urban areas, 2005 and 2030 (percent)
in developing countries, especially in
Africa and Asia, where the urban popula- 2005
tion is projected to double between 2000 2030
and 2030.6 Urbanization rates are much
lower in developed countries and are even 60
declining in some countries.
Despite the continuing growth of mega-
cities – which require natural resources 20
and create waste in quantities not seen
in human history­– most of the world’s 0
urban populations live in cities with fewer World Africa Asia Europe Latin Northern Oceania
than 500,000 inhabitants. The growth of America America
and the
small and mid-size cities will have signifi- Caribbean
cant impacts on water resources. In most
Note: Regions are official UN regions.
established or formal urban areas access Source: United Nations 2006b.
to water supply and sanitation services is

Water in a changing world 31


1 Chapter 2D

The relation and agriculturalists can also have signifi- One positive outcome of migration is the
cant localized impacts on the surrounding lessening of the pressures on the vacated
between water
landscape through such practices as over- lands, which may allow some ecosystems
and migration grazing of livestock and slash and burn to recover. In Europe and North America
is two-way: agriculture. While generally considered the rural exodus has resulted in the growth
rural dwellers, these migrants frequently of new parklands in some locations.
water stressors constitute a large share of those seeking
drive migration, better economic opportunities and better Challenges
access to water and sanitation services, With rapidly ageing populations in some
and migration shelter, health services and food stocks places and rapidly ageing populations
contributes to in established urban areas, leading to the combined with a shrinking population
proliferation of informal communities on in others, it is important to consider the
water stress the fringes of cities. quality dimensions of education and
health as well as the quantitative dimen-
The relation between water and migration sions of population size and age structure
is two-way: water stressors drive migration, in addressing the water needs of evolving
and migration contributes to water stress. communities. To meet the challenges of
Water stressors, such as water scarcity and rapid urban population growth, decision-
flooding, can trigger migration decisions. makers can focus on positive factors that
The social, economic and political context affect fertility decline – social develop-
in which water stresses occur will influ- ment, investments in health and educa-
ence the migration response. And if the tion, empowerment of women and better
natural environment becomes inhospita- access to reproductive health services – in
ble, people are motivated to move to areas contrast to antimigration approaches.
where their locally specific knowledge may
no longer apply. Once people move, their Economic drivers
places of destination must provide them
with water resources, which can lead to Authors: Richard Connor, Walter
further environmental stresses. Rast and James Winpenny
Contributor: Arjen Hoekstra
In these situations the arrival of additional
people can worsen existing water crises and Key messages
strain the capacity of the urban infrastruc- • Growth and changes in the global
ture. Water conflicts can be exacerbated economy are having far-reaching im-
through migration or the presence of pacts on water resources and their use.
refugees, and the fragile balance of human
populations and water resources can be • Growing international trade in goods
upset. Increasingly, links between environ- and services can aggravate water stress
mental issues, including water, and security in some countries while relieving it in
issues, including migration, have become others through flows of ‘virtual water’,
a topic of scientific research and policy particularly in the form of imported
debate. Climate change, which is predicted agricultural commodities.
to lead to greater frequency and intensity of
extreme weather events, is likely to result in Global economic expansion affects water
an overall increase in the displacement of through growth in the number of con-
people in the future (see chapter 5). sumers and through changes in their
consumption habits, in the way goods and
Estimates of potential environmentally services are produced and in the location
displaced people range from 24 million to of activities, all of which affect interna-
almost 700 million who could be displaced tional trade. Growth in global output
by water-related factors, including develop- is currently estimated to slow to 2.2%
ment projects designed to relieve future in 2009, though this will likely be less
water availability stresses.7 Part of the because of the economic volatility aris-
complexity in unraveling the connection ing from the global financial crisis.8 The
between migration and environmental growth output is also unevenly distrib-
factors such as water resources is that peo- uted. Several emerging market economies
ple rely indirectly or directly on the envi- are registering continuously high growth
ronment for their livelihoods. In addition, rates, transforming them into major global
development policies and political and economic forces. Brazil, China, India and
economic stability – or the lack of it – can the Russian Federation are, on Goldman
affect both migration and water resources. Sachs’ latest forecast, expected to overtake
Given these complexities, it is difficult to the combined economic strength of the
estimate the magnitude of potential migra- G-8 by 2032.9 Even sub-Saharan Africa,
tion as a result of environmental factors. long a growth straggler, is experiencing

32 World Water Development Report 3


Demographic, economic and social drivers 1

growth rates of 6% or more, fuelled largely to goods and services, increased transport The gains from
by oil and commodities. and energy needs and global access to in-
globalization have
novation and knowledge all play a role in
Water is affected by economic forces, while globalization – and all have an impact on not been evenly
the state of water resources has a strong water resources and the environment. distributed: many
feedback to the economy. In periods of
water shortages public authorities are Globalization has raised the productiv- people remain on
likely to close factories and divert water ity and living standards of people in the the fringes, and
from farmers to release water supplies for countries that have opened themselves
households. Water contamination from to the global marketplace. However, the some have fallen
industrial effluents may result in factory gains from globalization have not been further behind
closures and relocation, while the deple- evenly distributed. Many people remain on
tion and contamination of groundwater the fringes, and some have fallen further
may compel industries to relocate. Lack behind. Exclusion, grinding poverty and
of water storage infrastructure may cause environmental damage create dangers. An
heavy economic losses from flooding and estimated 1.4 billion people – often referred
drought. Polluted water has high costs for to as the ‘bottom billion’ – live on just
human health. In short, adequate invest- $1.25 a day.11 Those who suffer the most
ments in water management, infrastruc- usually have the least to start with – indig-
ture and services can yield a high econom- enous peoples, women in developing coun-
ic return by avoiding such related costs.10 tries, the rural poor and their children.

Globalization – used here as shorthand for In many cases rapid economic growth has
the increasing international flows of goods failed to provide opportunities for these
and services, people, investments and poorest of the poor. Social services remain
­finance – may make the situation worse, severely unfunded, and environmental and
but it can also provide solutions. Producing energy problems, including water quality
and exporting goods and services with a and lack of service delivery, are acute. In
large water footprint (the volume of water advanced economies increased economic
used in producing the goods and services insecurity has been associated with rising
consumed) could aggravate the problems inequality and the squeezing of social
of a water-scarce economy. Yet such an provisioning. In middle-income countries
economy could gain from importing economic shocks, accelerated trade liberali-
goods with a high water content (import- zation and premature de­industrialization
ing virtual water). Companies can escape have constrained economic diversification
their local water problems by relocating to and formal job creation. Elsewhere, intrac-
other countries. However, growing corpo- table poverty has fed a vicious circle of
rate awareness of a firm’s water footprint economic insecurity and political instabil-
is leading to greater transparency about ity and, on occasion, communal violence.12
the impact of a firm’s supply chain on its Such situations increase the threat of
water environment. Globalization is also degrading water resources and reducing
enabling the spread of water expertise pro- environmental services.
vided by international firms and through
global communications of service provid- In addition to these indirect pressures are
ers in other countries. These companies are the direct pressures, such as proliferation
a key part of water solutions through the of invasive species. Related to the increas-
desalination, re-use and wastewater treat- ing exchange of goods through interna-
ment technologies they bring with them. tional shipping, invasive species have
caused enormous environmental damage
The following sections focus on economic to aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.
processes that have exerted pressures on
water resources and how they are man- The global food crises and the rising
aged. In addition to globalization, these cost of fuel and energy
processes include the global food and fuel Reversing decades of low prices, the two-
crises and international trade (virtual water year period 2006-08 has seen sharp, and
and increasing awareness of the water foot- largely unanticipated, increases in food
prints of production and services). prices. Because poor people spend one-half
to three-quarters of their income on food,
Globalization a steep increase in the price of rice, grains
While economic integration is a dominant and edible oils is tantamount to a large
feature of globalization, social, cultural, po- reduction in income. While in the long
litical and institutional aspects are also im- run higher food prices are an opportunity
portant. Changes in consumption patterns for those who live and work in rural areas
through growing demands and easier access (especially if they have the technology and

Water in a changing world 33


1 Chapter 2D

The world will the inputs – including water – needed to fibres and narcotics over food commodities.
raise their productivity to its full poten- Many major food-producing countries have
need almost 60%
tial), in the short run higher prices create reacted to the crisis by restricting exports to
more energy in a crisis for the urban and rural poor. help contain prices at home, driving inter-
2030 than in 2002. Although Africa and other low-income national prices still higher. Global markets
countries are particularly vulnerable, even in food have become temporarily fragment-
Water is needed middle-income countries are at risk if they ed. The recent food crisis has encouraged
for the production lack well developed safety nets. countries to re-consider food self-sufficien-
cy, giving it prominence over purely eco-
of energy of all According to the Commission on Growth nomic considerations. This will likely have
types, so expansion and Development, there are many po- an impact on national food and agriculture
tential causes for the steep food price policies for several years, with implications
of energy supply increases. Contributing factors include for water resources management.
will affect water rising demand, shifting diets, droughts,
increased costs of agricultural inputs (such A drive towards food self-sufficiency would
resources as fertilizers) and policies that encourage have undesirable consequences for nation-
the use of agricultural land and output for al water security, especially for countries
bioenergy production. Although there is in arid regions. Such policies, though
no consensus yet on the relative impor- beneficial for rural development, increase
tance of these factors, many believe that a country’s national water footprint and
policies favouring bioenergy over food forfeit growth in higher-income, less
need to be reviewed.13 The 2008 Declara- water-intensive sectors.
tion of the High-Level Conference on
World Food Security: The Challenges of Crude oil prices have also risen sharply in
Climate Change and Bioenergy cautions: recent years – from under $25 a barrel in
2002 to more than $150 in July 2008 before
We are convinced that in-depth dropping back to just under $40 in early
studies are necessary to ensure that January 2009. Among the likely contribut-
production and use of biofuels is ing factors to the rise is increased demand
sustainable in accordance with the linked to economic growth in emerging
three pillars of sustainable devel- market economies. This growing demand
opment and takes into account has also increased pressure to exploit new
the need to achieve and maintain sources of oil. Many of these, such as the
global food security.14 tar sands in Western Canada, have a very
high water – and ­environmental – footprint
Other longer-term factors may also have (see chapter 3). Increasing oil prices are also
been at play. The low agricultural prices likely linked to the overall increase in the
prevailing until recently may have led gov- cost of energy, which has been rising stead-
ernments to neglect investments in rural ily since the early 1970s (figure 2.2).
infrastructure, research and development,
storage and food security programmes that Like food security, energy security is im-
were once a priority. In parallel, agricultur- portant for GDP growth. According to the
al policies in many countries encouraged International Energy Agency, the world will
non-food commodities such as bioenergy, need almost 60% more energy in 2030 than
in 2002, with economic growth in develop-
Figure 2.2 The cost of energy to consumers has been ing countries driving most of the increase.15
rising since the 1970s Development of hydropower is one energy
strategy to reduce dependence on fossil
Estimated energy costs, 1970-2005 (nominal US$ per million Btus) fuels and limit greenhouse gas emissions,
and developing countries possess significant
hydropower potential. Water is needed for
14 the production of energy of all types (see
12 chapter 7), so expansion of energy sup-
10 ply will affect water resources and related
environmental services. Energy to support
growth within urban centres will depend
6 largely on water resources management
4 responses to centralized power production.
Growth in small towns will likely rely more
on off-grid renewable energy sources.
1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005
High prices can provide incentives for
Source: Based on EIA 2008. greater efficiency in fuel consumption and
agricultural production and can generate

34 World Water Development Report 3


Demographic, economic and social drivers 1

more income for people in rural areas. High or lakes cross national boundaries. What Countries with
fuel prices are likely to spur the develop- transforms water into a global issue is trade
water shortages
ment of alternative energy types like wind in goods and services with a substantial
and solar, which require little water, and water content either in the finished product can import water-
many countries also benefit from higher or in its production (so-called virtual water). intensive goods
tax proceeds when energy prices rise – Providing water and wastewater services to
resources that could be used for further households, industries and farmers can also and services, while
investments in efficiency and development. have implications for international trade. water-abundant
Water and trade: virtual water Countries with water shortages can im- countries can
and growing awareness of water port water-intensive goods and services, take advantage
footprints while water-abundant countries can take
The concepts of water footprints and advantage of their bountiful water sup- of their bountiful
virtual water are used to describe the rela- plies through exports. While this benefi- water supplies
tions among water management, interna- cial trade happens broadly at a regional
tional trade and politics and policies, and level (box 2.1), many countries have trade
through exports
water resources use as it pertains to human patterns that do not promote or benefit
consumption. Water footprints measure from this advantage. Through patterns of
how much water is used in the production consumption and imports, countries can
and consumption of goods and services (as aggravate water shortages and pollution of
well as how much pollution is generated), their water supplies. Trade distortions and
while virtual water is a tool for determin- failure to properly price water resources
ing the movement of water through inter- may worsen the water-related problems of
national trade. trading partners (see map 7.3 in chapter 7
and map 8.1 in chapter 8).
Because water is heavy relative to its value,
it is not feasible to transport it in bulk over Many companies are beginning to un-
long distances, with the exception of lim- derstand the need to measure their water
ited schemes for drinking water. Thus, water footprint, including that of their sup-
is predominantly a local concern, although ply chains, and to relieve water stress in
it becomes a regional issue where rivers the communities where they operate.

Box 2.1 Virtual water

Water-intensive products are heavily would require 15.6 billion m3 a year. From volume of water used for agricultural
traded over large distances, as countries a global perspective this trade in cereals production.
import and export water in virtual form as saves 8.5 billion m3 of water a year. De-
agricultural and industrial commodities. spite some trade from countries with low Many countries, including Japan, Mexico
The global volume of virtual water flows in water productivity to countries with high and most countries in Europe, the Middle
commodities is 1,625 billion cubic metres productivity, global water savings through East and North Africa, have net virtual
(m3) a year, accounting for about 40% of international trade of agricultural products water imports (see map). Water security in
total water consumption. About 80% of has been estimated at about 350 billion many countries thus strongly depends on
these virtual water flows relate to agricul- m3 a year, equivalent to 6% of the global external water resources (see chapter 7).
tural products trade,
and the remainder to Regional virtual water balances and net interregional virtual water flows related to trade in
industrial products agricultural products, 1997-2001

Global virtual water 15.8

trade can save water 10.2
if products are traded
from countries with 15.1
high water productiv- 75.8
49.0 15.5

ity to countries with Net virtual water imports

low productivity. For (billions of cubic metres per year) 49.0
-108 North America
example, Mexico -107 South America
imports wheat, maize -70 Oceania 12.2
-45 North Africa 19.2 29.0
and sorghum from the -30 South-East Asia

United States, which -16 Central Africa

requires 7.1 billion m3 -5 Southern Africa
2 Central America
of water a year in the 13 Former Soviet Union
United States to pro- 18 Eastern Europe
47 Middle East Regional virtual water balance (billions of cubic metres per year)
duce. If Mexico pro- 150 Central and Southern Asia
duced the imported 152 Western Europe

crops domestically, it Source: Based on Hoekstra and Chapagain 2008.

Water in a changing world 35


1 Chapter 2D

A growing middle Motivating companies to assess their water which is more water-intensive than the
footprints is the desire to gain the good- simpler diets they are replacing.18 Likewise
class is consuming
will of customers and potential custom- in the services sector, tourism and recrea-
much more milk, ers and the need for cost control and risk tion are creating an increasingly large water
bread, eggs, management, including safeguarding footprint in host societies.
access to the water essential for their
chicken and beef, operations. Recent business initiatives to The concepts of virtual water and water
the production support sustainable water management footprints are useful in illustrating the
include the CEO Water Mandate launched true influence of economic activity on
of which is more at the 2007 UN Global Leadership Forum, water. With greater awareness should come
water-intensive the World Economic Forum’s call for a measures to improve water productivity
‘coalition’ of businesses to engage in water (‘output per drop’) in water-stressed envi-
than the simpler management partnerships and the World ronments and to reduce the polluting side
diets they are Business Council for Sustainable Develop- effects of production.
ment’s creation of a water diagnostic tool
replacing and water scenario planning supports.16 Challenges
Globalization is bringing increasing eco-
Water is increasingly viewed as a potential nomic opportunities to many, while leav-
threat and constraint to economic growth. ing behind some who need them most: the
As an example, China’s remarkable eco- world’s poorest people living in the least
nomic growth has been accompanied by developed countries. The first challenge is
serious environmental problems, most no- to shift this balance so that the less fortu-
tably water shortages in the north and pol- nate can have access to basic products and
lution from wastewater effluents across the services, including sustainable access to
country (box 2.2). Massive projects begun safe drinking water and adequate sanita-
to divert extensive water resources from tion services.
the south to its more populated north will
doubtless result in major environmental A second major challenge is to ensure that
and social issues. the cumulative action of economic activi-
ties and all other water drivers does not
Trade and investment patterns are ultimate- overwhelm nature’s ability to provide for
ly driven by demand, and changes in con- human needs. The expansion and growth
sumption and lifestyle accompany rising of the global economy, and the resulting
income levels in all countries. ‘How much increases in human consumption, drive
water do people drink?’ (on average, 2-5 human demands to use more natural re-
litres a day in developed countries) is much sources, including freshwater. However, the
less relevant than ‘How much water do goods and services provided by ecosystems
people eat?’ (3,000 litres a day in developed (such as water, biodiversity, fibre, food, feed
countries, according to one estimate).17 Eco- and climate) are finite and vulnerable. Bal-
nomic growth in emerging market econo- ancing economic development and envi-
mies is driving the growth of a middle class ronmental sustainability – and all the driv-
that is consuming much more milk, bread, ers influencing these links – ­remains a core
eggs, chicken and beef, the production of requirement for sustainable development.

Box 2.2 Water: a brake on economic growth and Social drivers

corporate prospects
Authors: Gunilla Björklund, Richard
Connor, Anne Goujon, Patrick Moriarty,
While the scarcity of freshwater is felt In the next two to five years many com-
acutely in Africa and West Asia, water panies will need to adapt to water avail-
Walter Rast and James Winpenny
scarcity is already an economic con- ability concerns, including water stress
straint in major growth markets such and flooding; water quality concerns, Key messages
as China, India and Indonesia, as well including increasingly contaminated • Social drivers influence human per-
as commercial centres in Australia surface and groundwater supplies; and ceptions and attitudes about the envi-
and the western United States. If cur- water access concerns, specifically com- ronment, including water resources, in
rent consumption patterns continue, petition with other water users. Corpo- turn influencing the pressures people
two-thirds of the world’s population rate leaders who prepare careful water exert on water through water demands
will live in water-stressed condi- strategies for managing medium-term and uses.
tions by 2025. Compounding – and business risks and opportunities will not
politicizing – these challenges is the only be prepared to meet the future –
reality that fully a third of the world’s gaining advantage in some of the key,
• Changes in lifestyles are one of the
population lacks access to sufficient and most water-constrained, global principal drivers of change. They
quantities of safe water to meet their ­markets – but can also help shape it. reflect human needs, desires and
basic needs. attitudes (as illustrated in consump-
Source: Pacific Institute 2007. tion and production patterns), which
are influenced by such social drivers

36 World Water Development Report 3


Demographic, economic and social drivers 1

as culture and education and by evidence to believe that the two may not Whatever actions
economic drivers and technological necessarily be in conflict. First, some proc-
are taken to reduce
innovation; the rapid global rise in liv- esses are irreversible (for example aquifer
ing standards combined with popula- depletion and contamination) and need to poverty, it must
tion growth presents the major threat be halted now. Second, the state of water re- also be recognized
to the sustainability of water resources sources – and the environment in ­general –
and the environment. affects the poor disproportionately, so atten- that increasing the
tion to environmental sustainability must economic well-
Social drivers are mainly about individual especially recognize their urgent needs. And
rather than collective actions and about third, investments in environmental protec- being of the very
the way people think and act on a day-to- tion, water management and water supply poor will ultimately
day basis. The four social drivers consid- and sanitation services, among others, can
ered here are poverty, education, cultures have high pay-offs in economic benefits. translate into
and value systems, and lifestyles and higher demand for
consumption patterns. But whatever actions are taken to reduce
poverty, it must also be recognized that
natural resources,
Poverty increasing the economic well-being of including water
Poverty leaves people with few choices. the very poor will ultimately translate
They must do what is necessary for their into higher demand for natural resources,
survival, whatever the environmental including water. This will require trade-
consequences. Slash-and-burn agricultural offs, especially where these resources are
practices, overexploitation of inland fisher- lacking or over-exploited.
ies and the proliferation of informal settle-
ments around urban areas in developing Education
countries attest to this reality. And even as An educated populace typically has a better
many developing countries have addressed understanding of the need for sustainable
problems of hunger and malnutrition, use of aquatic ecosystems and the impor-
water quality has been degraded and per tant environmental goods and services
capita water availability has worsened. The they provide. Education can also lead to
poorest communities are also commonly greater water use efficiency. For example,
in areas most vulnerable to the impacts of knowledge of water systems, new materials
climate change and variability, including and emerging technologies (such as pack-
unstable hillsides and low-lying coastal age treatment plants) can help extend water
areas, and lack the capacity to cope with services to informal areas. Knowledge of
natural disasters. water conservation practices also facilitates
improved water use efficiency in these areas.
The inadequate water resources and sanita-
tion facilities associated with poverty re- More education enables people to improve
sult in such environmental consequences their economic circumstances, leading to
as water pollution and degraded aquatic empowerment, better health and longer
ecosystems, often the source of poor life expectancy. At the community level
people’s livelihoods. High levels of water- the education of broad segments of society
associated disease (such as schistosomiasis, can accelerate the demographic transition,
malaria, trachoma, cholera and typhoid) through declines in fertility and infant
are also common. And many people living mortality rates (figure 2.3). An educated
in poverty engage in artisanal activities,
such as metal working, that can generate Figure 2.3 The fertility rate declines with rising female
large quantities of water pollutants. literacy, 1990

Poor people often pay the highest relative Total fertility rate (births per woman)
prices for water. Inhabitants of informal
settlements, for example, do not normally
receive water delivery services from central
water supply agencies, but typically pay
exorbitant prices for drinking water (some-
times of dubious quality) from local water
dealers. And in rural areas in developing 3

countries people can spend hours each day 2

fetching water. 1
10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
History suggests that some initial level of
Literacy rate, adult females (percent)
economic development may be necessary
before attention is given to environmental Source: Institute for Statistics 2006; World Population Prospects Database.
sustainability. However, there is sufficient

Water in a changing world 37


1 Chapter 2D

An educated society is also more likely to be democratic driver, particularly at the household and
and politically stable, working to reduce community levels. As described in box 2.3,
populace typically
inequity and promote the acceptance of this ongoing process brings about social,
has a better cultural diversity. Thus, education not only environmental and health benefits that
understanding fosters economic growth, but also increases can have positive repercussions for the
expectations of a better quality of life for community as a whole in how water serv-
of the need for individuals, their families and society. ices are received and managed.
sustainable use of
While education is fundamental to im- The perceived values of natural resources
aquatic ecosystems proved economic and social well-being, reflect cultural perspectives as well as
and the important in many fast-growing countries in Africa, economic perspectives. Lakes and reser-
South Asia and elsewhere, the predicted voirs, for example, provide many valuable
environmental growth in population is likely to depress services, including water for drinking
goods and services school enrolment. Because of budget and and sanitation, agriculture, industry and
capacity constraints, schools may not livestock uses and, in the case of reser-
they provide. be able to cope with the growth in the voirs, for electricity generation. They
Education can also number of children to be enrolled. serve as buffers against water shortages
and excesses and as contaminant sinks
lead to greater
In many settings access to schooling also for their drainage basins. They provide
water use efficiency is linked to improved access to safe drink- food and economic livelihoods through
ing water and sanitation facilities. Separate fisheries, aquaculture and environmental
sanitation facilities in schools for boys tourism. They are important aquatic eco-
and girls have been shown to increase the systems and provide habitat for rare and
attendance of girls and are also important threatened species. And they can possess
for maintaining a minimum comfort level important cultural and religious values
for female teachers. Improving access to that emphasize humanity’s connections
water and sanitation facilities, by increas- to the natural world. Which of these uses
ing family incomes, enables households are pursued or emphasized depends largely
to pay for school fees and equipment. And on the cultural perspectives and economic
a reduced incidence of water- and sani- values assigned to them by society.
tation-related diseases contributes to less
absenteeism and better performance. One of the most powerful manifestations
of cultural values is religious belief. Many
Culture and values religions describe the role of humanity
Culture describes the patterns of human as both a moulder and a steward of the
activities and the symbolic structures that environment. Virtually all of the world’s
impart significance and importance to major religions see a spiritual challenge
these activities (such as art, institutions, in the ecological crises evident today.19
science, beliefs and moral systems). Because Religious beliefs that highlight humanity
such structures are passed from generation as a steward, rather than master, of the en-
to generation, culture can be defined as the vironment can be a powerful influence in
way of life for an entire society. developing and sustaining the awareness
of societies and communities of their roles
In several regions the empowerment of in using and conserving natural resources,
women has emerged as an important including water.

Box 2.3 The role of women within the water sector and the importance of gender mainstreaming

In most developing countries gender coverage women collect water from drains, women, more girls attending school and
inequity persists in access to and control ditches or streams that are often infected increased income opportunities for women.
of a range of productive, human and with pathogens and bacteria, causing
social capital assets. Consequently, the severe illness or even death. In addition, The immediate action by water sector
core components of poverty (capability, women spend considerable time collecting participants is to ensure gender main-
opportunity, security and empowerment) water at the expense of income-generating streaming in any planned action, including
differ along gender lines. activities. This also exposes them to sexual legislation, policies and programmes in all
abuse and other forms of violence and areas and at all levels. This will ensure that
In the water sector women labour to leaves less time for girls to attend school. the voices of marginalized and disadvan-
provide water for household needs while taged women and men are integrated in
men make decisions about water resources Lessons from Africa and the rest of the design, implementation, monitoring and
management and development at both world have demonstrated that increased evaluation of policies and programmes
the local and national levels. Women draw participation by women in decision-making and therefore help to achieve sustainable
water for household use, transport it home leads to better operation and maintenance water provision for all.
and store it until it is used for cooking, of water facilities, better health for the
cleaning and washing. In areas of low water community, greater privacy and dignity for Source: Adapted from Mutagamba 2008.

38 World Water Development Report 3


Demographic, economic and social drivers 1

Religious beliefs can also sometimes ac- consumer who ate 20 kilograms (kg) of The desire for a
celerate the degradation of these resources. meat in 1985 will eat more than 50 kg in
better lifestyle
One example is the Hindu practice of 2009,21 increasing demand for grain to
cremating their deceased family members feed livestock. Assuming that 1 kg of grain is arguably one
in funeral pyres and placing their ashes requires 1,000 liters of water to produce, of the most
into the Ganges River, which is consid- the annual water footprint of this change
ered holy. However, incomplete cremation in diet for some 1.3 billion Chinese will powerful human
results in incompletely burned human translate into a need for 390 cubic kilo- motivations, and
remains being put into the river, caus- metres (km3) of water. Similar changes are
ing degraded water quality and increas- taking place in other countries with grow- the production of
ing the potential for the transmission of ing economies. For the extremely poor, goods to satisfy
waterborne diseases. The custom is deeply eating even two meals a day instead of one
rooted in religious beliefs, making it dif- can substantially increase per capita water these growing
ficult to address with a strictly scientific consumption (see box 7.4 in chapter 7). human wants
rationale. Religious significance has been
observed for water systems in other socie- As this example suggests, lifestyles and
is often not
ties around the world. consumption patterns are, in essence, the possible without
sum of all drivers. They bring together
the overuse of
Lifestyles and consumption patterns economic growth, technological innova-
Lifestyles and associated consumption tion, the evolution of culture and values, natural resources
choices are increasingly considered the most population dynamics (population growth
important drivers affecting water resources, and the number of people who have
along with population growth. And the reached a certain standard of living) and
pressures these drivers generate can be governance (how wealth is distributed).
transmitted through trade and investment
activities to other regions. As standards Challenges
of living rise in developing countries and Once people’s survival needs are met, their
countries undergoing economic transition, wants become more prominent. These
the demand for larger homes and for ‘lux- wants usually focus on increasing human
ury’ items such as kitchen appliances, cars comfort and convenience and are generally
and other vehicles and the energy to run, associated with rising consumption of ma-
heat and or cool them is increasing the de- terial goods and non-essential services such
mand for the resources required to produce, as travel and leisure. The desire for a better
generate and operate them. Thus, human- lifestyle is arguably one of the most power-
ity’s environmental footprint is expanding ful human motivations, and the rapid glo-
dramatically. And despite some laudable bal rise in living standards, combined with
efforts to develop cleaner technologies to population growth, poses the major threat
shrink this footprint (see chapter 3), popula- to the sustainability of water resources and
tion growth and the changing lifestyles and the environment. The production of goods
consumption choices associated with rising to satisfy these growing human wants is
living standards will continue to threaten often not possible without the overuse
the sustainability of water resources and the of natural resources. Further, it is accom-
environment. panied by the production of wastes and
other non-useful by-products. Unrestrained
The evolution of eating habits and changes fulfillment of the desire for a better lifestyle
in diets as living standards rise are among will be accompanied by environmental
the most important drivers of agricul- stresses, many of them unprecedented.
tural water use for several crops in many
countries. The quantity of water used per The major challenge is to reconcile human
person for food production depends on needs and human wants with the abil-
a society’s dietary habits, in particular ity of nature to provide or replenish the
on the relative importance of meat and resources to produce them. Global society
dairy products in diets. Massive social and must address the dual goal of enhancing
economic changes taking place in many human well-being and lifestyles while
developing countries are lifting millions of ensuring the sustainability of the ecosys-
people out of poverty and creating a new tems and environmental conditions that
middle class with increasing demands for provide the desired goods and services.
such food as milk, bread, eggs, chicken Achieving this goal will prove impossible
and beef to complement their traditional unless humans recognize and better un-
and less water-intensive diets.20 derstand the links between their actions
and the condition and sustainability of the
A simple calculation illustrates the im- natural environment. Raising awareness
pacts of changing food habits on water to bring about behavioural change is one
resources. It is estimated that the Chinese approach, but a still elusive goal.

Water in a changing world 39


1 Chapter 2D

Notes Washington, DC: Government Printing Sachs.

1. Hinrichsen, Robey, and Upadhyay 1997. Office. points1/Indias_Rising_Growth_Potential.
aer.pdf. pdf.
2. United Nations 2007.
FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization SIWI (Stockholm International Water
3. UNFPA 2007.
of the United Nations). 2008. Declara- Institute). 2005. Making Water a Part of
4. United Nations 2006a. tion of the High-Level Conference on Economic Development: The Economic
5. Morton, Boncour, and Laczko 2008. World Food Security: The Challenges of Benefits of Improved Water Management
Climate Change and Bioenergy. High and Services. Stockholm: Stockholm
6. UNFPA 2007.
Level Conference on World Food Secu- International Water Institute.
7. Klaus Töpfer, former head of the United rity, 3-5 June, Rome. United Nations. 2006a. Trends in Total
Nations Environment Programme, talks
Gallopín, G. C., and F. Rijsberman. 2000. Migrant Stock: The 2005 Revision. New
of 22-24 million environmental migrants
Three Global Water Scenarios. Interna- York: Population Division, Department
(Biermann 2001), whereas Norman
tional Journal of Water 1 (1): 16-40. of Economic and Social Affairs, United
Myers (2005) reports ‘at least’ 25 million
Hinrichsen, D., B. Robey, and U. D. Upad- Nations.
in 1995 (latest date for a comprehensive
assessment), especially in the African hyay. 1997. Solutions for a Water-Short ———. 2006b. World Urbanisation Prospects:
Southern Sahara, Central America, World. Population Reports Series M, no. The 2005 Revision. Fact Sheet 3. New
China and South Asia. Myers expects the 14. Baltimore, MD: Population Informa- York: Population Division, Department of
number to reach 50 million by 2010. tion Program, Johns Hopkins School of Economic and Social Affairs, United Na-
The United Nations Refugee Agency Public Health. tions.
(UNHCR 2002, p. 12) estimated that Hoekstra, A. Y., and A. L. Chapagain. cations/WUP2005/2005WUP_FS3.pdf.
there were approximately 24 million 2008. Globalization of Water: Sharing the ———. 2007. World Population Prospects:
people around the world who fled their Planet’s Freshwater Resources. Oxford: The 2006 Revision. New York: Population
homes because of floods, famine and Blackwell Publishing. Division, Department of Economic and
other environmental factors. Christian Social Affairs, United Nations.
IEA (International Energy Agency). 2006.
Aid released a report in 2007 estimat-
World Energy Outlook 2006. Paris: Organi- ———. 2008. World Economic and Social Sur-
ing that up to 685 million people were
sation for Economic Co-operation and vey 2008: Overcoming Economic Insecurity.
forced to move because of environ-
Development, and International Energy New York: Department of Economic and
mental factors, including development
Agency. Social Affairs, United Nations.
projects such as dams that inundated
large areas of inhabited land. All of these IMF (International Monetary Fund). UN-HABITAT (United Nations Human
estimates are from OSCE (2007). 2008a. World Economic Outlook Up- Settlements Programme). 2006. State
date: Rapidly Weakening Prospects Call of the World’s Cities 2006/7. London:
8. More information on the revised fore-
for New Policy Stimulus. Washington, Earthscan.
cast can be found in IMF 2008a.
DC: International Monetary Fund. www. UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund).
9. Poddar and Yi 2007. 2007. State of World Population 2007:
10. SIWI 2005. update/03/. Unleashing the Potential of Urban Growth.
11. World Bank 2008. ———. 2008b. World Economic Outlook: Fi- New York: United Nations Population
nancial Stress, Downturns, and Recoveries. Fund.
12. United Nations 2008.
Washington, DC: International Monetary UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund).
13. Commission on Growth and Develop- Fund. 2006a. Childinfo: Monitoring the Situa-
ment 2008.
Institute for Statistics. 2006. World Educa- tion of Children and Women, Child Mor-
14. High Level Conference on World Food tion Indicators Data Centre Literacy Sta- tality Info Database. www.childmortality.
Security 2008, article 7.f. tistics. Paris: United Nations Educational, org/.
15. IEA 2006. Scientific and Cultural Organization. ———. 2006b. The State of the World’s Chil-
16. WBCSD 2006. Lutz, W., W. Sanderson, and S. Scher- dren 2007: The Double Dividend of Gender
17. World Economic Forum 2008. bov. 2008. The Coming Acceleration of Equality. New York: United Nations
Global Population Ageing. Nature 451 Children’s Fund.
18. Wiggins 2008. (20): 716-19. WBCSD (World Business Council on
19. Bassett, Brinkman, and Pedersen 2000. Morton, A., P. Boncour, and F. Laczko. Sustainable Development). 2006. Busi-
20. Wiggins 2008. 2008. Human Security Policy Challenges. ness in the World of Water: WBCSD Water
21. Wiggins 2008. Forced Migration Review: Climate Change Scenarios to 2025. Washington, DC:
and Displacement. Issue 31. Oxford, World Business Council on Sustainable
United Kingdom: Refugee Studies Cen- Development.
References tre, University of Oxford. Wiggins, Jenny. 2008. Feature: Developing
Bassett, Libby, John T. Brinkman, and Mutagamba, Maria Lubega. 2008. The Tastes. Financial Times Magazine, 27-28
Kusumita P. Pedersen. 2000. Earth Role of Women within the Water Sector January.
and Faith. A Book of Reflection for Action. and The Importance of Gender Main- -cbb2-11dc-97ff-000077b07658.html
Nairobi: Interfaith Partnership for the En- streaming. The 5th World Water Forum ?nclick_check=1
vironment and United Nations Environ- Newsletter 4. World Bank. 2008. World Development Indica-
ment Programme. Pacific Institute. 2007. At the Crest of a Wave: tors 2008. Washington, DC: World Bank.
Commission on Growth and Develop- A Proactive Approach to Corporate Water World Economic Forum. 2008. Managing
ment. 2008. The Growth Report: Strate- Strategy. Oakland, CA: Business for Social Our Future Water Needs for Agriculture,
gies for Sustained Growth and Inclusive Responsibility and the Pacific Institute. Industry, Human Health, and the Envi-
Development. Conference Edition. Wash- Poddar, Tushar, and Eva Yi. 2007. Global ronment. Discussion Document for the
ington, DC: World Bank. Economics Paper Issue no. 152: India’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
EIA (Energy Information Administra- Rising Growth Potential. Goldman Sachs 2008.
tion). 2008. Annual Energy Review 2007. Global Economic Website, Goldman download/whitepaper_uploadfile_2.pdf.

40 World Water Development Report 3


Demographic, economic and social drivers 1

Chapter 3
Authors: Richard Connor and Walter Rast
Contributor: Gunilla Björklund
Coordinator: Tim Kasten (UNEP)
Facilitator: Richard Connor

Key messages

Technological innovation is driven largely by both human

wants and needs.

Technological innovation can create both positive and negative

pressures, sometimes simultaneously, resulting in increased or
decreased water demand, supply and quality.

Technological innovation is one of the most unpredictable driv-

ers. It can create rapid, dramatic and unexpected changes, both
in pressures and solutions.

Impediments to the dissemination of technology must be over-

come if developing countries are to benefit from innovations
developed in richer countries.

Technological change takes different developed countries (where much of the

forms, each with different potential technology is generated) to developing
impacts on the environment. Some in- countries (which are less able to afford or
novations reduce environmental pressures generate it), inhibit the ability of develop-
(by lowering emissions or using water ing countries to stay economically and
resources more efficiently, for example), environmentally competitive.
while others increase them (by increasing
water demands for their production, for In the water sector the expansion of
example). Most innovations create both scientific knowledge and technological
positive and negative pressures on the applications is changing the way water is
environment, while the main purpose of used, cleaned and reused to meet human,
technology is to make processes (produc- economic and environmental needs.
tion, transformation and communication, Industries are investing in new technolo-
for example) more efficient, which general- gies and processes that reduce water use
ly means more cost-effective, the environ- and wastewater discharges. Household
mental benefits of some technologies have consumers are being offered water-saving
also yielded broader economic benefits. In technologies such as low-flush toilets,
recent decades, for example, greater envi- low-flow showers and faucet aerators.
ronmental regulation and corporate social Agricultural productivity is being lever-
responsibility, combined with pressures aged by drip irrigation and maintained by
from society, have prompted cleaner and soil fertility and conservation techniques.
more environmentally friendly technolo- Water supplies are being enhanced in
gies and increased their overall value. many countries through innovative waste-
water treatment and reuse techniques.
Disseminating technology is as important And breakthroughs continue in desalina-
as developing it. Controls on the dis- tion: advances in technologies and energy
semination of technology, especially from efficiency in the past decade have made

Water in a changing world 41


1 Chapter 3T

Water supplies are desalination an economic option for water can have positive benefits – reducing water
supplies in coastal cities (see figure 9.3 and demand and increasing water availability
being enhanced
box 9.5 in chapter 9).1 (for example, rainwater harvesting) – while
in many countries others can increase water demands (such
through innovative This chapter looks at six areas – in which as using crops to produce bioenergy). In
water-related technologies are emerging analysing technological advances and
wastewater rapidly – that are likely to exert strong interventions, it is also useful to distin-
treatment and pressures on the supply, use and manage- guish their structural elements (such as
ment of water resources: environmental re- construction of a plant, dam or irrigation
reuse techniques search and development, renewable energy, system) and their non-structural elements
information and communications technol- (including public awareness campaigns,
ogy, biotechnology, bioenergy and nanote- educational programmes and information
chnology. It also describes the challenges sharing). This section outlines some key
and difficulties associated with the dissem- technology areas and provides some in-
ination of technology, which is especially sight on how new developments can affect
important for developing countries. water resources.

Recent trends and advances in Environmental research and

science and technology development
Many developed countries have in-
Key message creased their investment in environmen-
• Technological innovation is driven tal research and development (R&D) to
largely by both human wants and encourage new technologies to improve
needs. environmental quality (figure 3.1). Perhaps
more important, developed countries also
People are the ultimate drivers of change encourage research by the private sec-
on a global scale, through both their tor through subsidies and tax incentives
needs (their requirements for survival) and for specific types of research. This has
their wants (their desires for products and been much less the case in most develop-
services that enhance safety, comfort and ing countries, however, because of the
well-being). Although not true every- many competing claims on their limited
where or to the same degree, technological financial resources. Thus, the main path
advances that address these wants and of technology transfer is from developed
needs are a major reason why many people countries to developing countries.
enjoy a standard of living that includes
access to safe drinking water and adequate The focus of the R&D activities varies with
sanitation. national sustainable development priori-
ties and interests and available funding.
It is sometimes difficult to determine Germany, for example, has focused on
whether technology development drives clean processes and production technolo-
water demands or whether increasing water gies, Norway on energy and the environ-
demands associated with human activities ment and the United States on climate,
drive technology. Some new technologies water and hydrogen as an energy source.

Figure 3.1 Many developed countries have increased There also appears to be a correlation
their investment in environmental research between environmental regulations and
and development environmental technology, with regula-
tion spurring industries and water use sec-
Share of environmental R&D in total government R&D, 1981-2005 (percent) tors to address water availability and water
quality. Environmental regulations may be
5 Korea, Rep.
counterproductive in facilitating envi-
Germany ronmental technology in some situations,
however, since once required standards are
met, incentives to engage in further tech-
France nology development may dissipate.
United Kingdom Renewable energy
Japan The renewable energy sector has seen
remarkable innovation over the past two
United States decades. Innovation has accelerated in
response to recent public and political
1981 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005
pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emis-
Source: Based on OECD 2008. sions thought to be contributing to
global climate change. First-generation

42 World Water Development Report 3


Technological innovation 1
(hydropower and biomass combustion) Figure 3.2 The use of renewable energy sources rose
and second-generation (solar heating and worldwide between 1990 and 2004
wind power) technologies are now being
followed by third-generation technologies Average annual change in renewable energy production, 1990-2004 (percent)
such as concentrated solar power, ocean 25
energy, enhanced geothermal systems and World
integrated bioenergy systems. As these 20
innovations have lowered relative costs,
the use of renewable energy resources has 15
risen worldwide (figure 3.2).
If current policies are maintained, global
energy demands are expected to grow by 5
as much as 55% through 2030, according
to the International Energy Agency.2 China 0

and India alone would account for about Solid Geothermal Hydro Waste/biogas/ Solar Wind Total primary
biomass liquid biomass energy supply
45% of this projected increase (based on
conservative economic growth figures), and Source: Based on OECD 2008.
developing countries overall for 74%. Elec-
tricity generation from hydroelectric and
other renewable energy resources is project- inaccessible, the water footprint of oil tar
ed to increase at an average annual rate of sands is likely to increase dramatically.
1.7% between 2004 and 2030, for an overall
increase of 60%. Although renewable Information and communications
energy would still account for only a small technology
part of total energy demand, the increase in Advances in information and communica-
renewable energy production could have a tions technology can affect the cost and
large impact on water resources, especially effectiveness of monitoring ecosystem
increases in hydropower generation. health and quality. Reductions in the costs
of sensors, coupled with satellite-based
Future development of hydropower will wireless data transfer, have greatly facili-
be limited by two main factors. One is tated the monitoring of water resources
the spatial and geophysical potential for (water quality, water levels, flow rates and
new hydropower installations. In many so on) and the delivery of water-related
developed countries, including Australia, services, all in real time.
the United States and much of Western
Europe, most of the suitable sites for hy- Improved monitoring through advanced
dropower installations have already been information and communications tech-
developed (see map 7.6 in chapter 7). The nology can intensify the environmental
second limiting factor is financial invest- effectiveness of policy measures, from the
ment capacity, which has been the pri- improved tracking of potentially hazard-
mary constraint in developing countries, ous materials to the monitoring of emis-
including in most of Africa. Pressure from sions from large stationary and smaller dif-
environmental groups opposed to dams, fuse (non-point) and mobile sources. The
particularly to large dams, may also con- greatest number of patents for monitoring
strain future hydropower development. environmental impacts between 1978
and 2002 was granted for water pollution
Since renewable energy resources alone are treatment, attesting to the importance of
not sufficient to meet the predicted dra- information and communications technol-
matic increase in energy demands through ogy innovations in the sustainable man-
2030, fossil fuel extraction and develop- agement of water resources. Still lacking,
ment of nuclear energy will continue to however, are adequate original field data
increase, as will their impacts on water required for ground-proofing, monitor-
resources and the environment. Coal con- ing and forecasting data and for informed
sumes about 2 cubic metres (m3) of water decision-making (see also chapter 14).
per megawatt hour of electricity generated,
nuclear power about 2.5 m3 and petroleum Biotechnology and genetically
about 4 m3. Extracting petroleum from modified organisms
Canada’s tar sands, which have received Plant and animal breeding has increased
much criticism as an ‘unclean’ source of agricultural productivity and therefore
oil, consumes an estimated 20-45 m3 of affected water productivity. Progress has
water per megawatt hour, nearly 10 times been concentrated in crop and animal pro-
that for conventional oil extraction. Thus, ductivity and resistance to pests, disease
as fossil fuel sources become increasingly and weather extremes.

Water in a changing world 43


1 Chapter 3T

Biotechnology can The green revolution of the 1970s and currently used, for example, in biological
1980s is an example of the dramatic effects processes in municipal wastewater treat-
have a valuable
of how taking advantage of technological ment plants to treat or break down organic
role in addressing advances can improve the livelihoods and materials in wastewater. Micro-organisms
water scarcity and incomes of the poor. The principal tech- that can more efficiently break down oil
nologies involved in the green revolution pollution in aquatic ecosystems and soils
quality challenges were irrigation, fertilizer and pest control, following oil spills or other industrial
in both developed together with high-yielding varieties of accidents are receiving attention. Similar
maize, wheat and rice. The green revolu- avenues may become evident for research
and developing tion in Asia doubled cereal production into the treatment of other types of water
countries, during 1970-95, while increasing the land pollutants.
area devoted to cereals by only 4%. By the
especially in late-1990s it was clear that many people, Bioenergy
agriculture including segments of the poorest popula- Bioenergy, derived most commonly from
tion groups, had reaped substantial ben- plant materials, is a renewable energy
efits from higher incomes, less expensive source that is less likely to increase carbon
food and increased demand for their la- dioxide emissions that contribute to global
bour associated with the green revolution. warming (in contrast to fossil fuels, which
return long-stored carbon to the atmo-
The green revolution also demonstrates sphere). Cellulose, including agricultural
that unintended consequences can ac- residues, waste products and woody bio-
company new technologies. The exces- mass, is also showing promise as a bioen-
sive use of agrochemicals has polluted ergy source (see chapter 7).
waterways, while wasteful irrigation has
contributed to water scarcity in some areas This new technology is not without
and to water logging and soil salinization problems. For maize and sugarcane used
in others. High livestock concentrations to create bioenergy, a major problem is the
have contributed to the spread of disease. need for large quantities of water to grow
As monoculture of crops for export or for the crops (see box 7.2 in chapter 7) and for
use as animal feed replaced traditional considerable quantities of fossil fuel energy
polyculture techniques, the economic out- for tillage, fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation,
comes for some small farmers deteriorated harvesting and transport machinery, and
as increased production of cereal crops processing.3 Research is currently focused
caused prices to fall and crop susceptibility on the development of second-generation
to pests and plant diseases spread. In- bioenergy, converting wood, crop residues
creased agricultural production also led to and other biomass sources into liquid bio-
higher water demands, exacerbating water fuel. Non-food crops such as jatropha do
scarcity problems in some arid and semi- not require the intensive management and
arid regions (see chapter 8). soil quality that food crops need and there-
fore may not compete directly with food
Genetically modified organisms are a more crops for resources (water and good agricul-
recent agricultural advance. A genetically tural land). Second-generation bioenergy
modified organism is an organism whose technology has the potential to increase
genome has been altered through genetic energy yields significantly, but may not be
engineering. A large share of food crops, commercially viable for 5-10 years.
such as corn, cotton and soybeans, have
been genetically modified to increase Producing bioenergy from crops tradition-
yields and resistance to pests and chemical ally grown as food will require additional
herbicides. Although this technology of- agricultural production to make up for the
fers the potential for developing drought- lost food sources, and more water as well.
resistant crops, with obvious advantages Increased bioenergy production has also
for water-scarce regions, little progress resulted in a significant increase in some
has been made towards this goal, and food prices by diverting grain traditionally
no breakthrough is expected in the near grown for food.4 More than one-third of
future. maize production in the United States in
2008 was being used to produce ethanol5
Micro-organisms are an especially prom- and about half the vegetable oils produced
ising avenue, since there is considerable in the European Union were being used
knowledge and experience in genetic for biodiesel fuel.6 Although the impact
experimentation with them. As decompos- is extremely difficult to assess, bioenergy
ers of organic material, they are capable production is estimated to have caused
of breaking down or otherwise neutral- up to 70%-75% of the rise in the global
izing many types of polluting materials prices of some food stocks, including ap-
in the environment. Micro-organisms are proximately 70% of the increase in maize

44 World Water Development Report 3


Technological innovation 1
prices.7 Higher energy prices worldwide metals from water supplies. Research is Nanotechnology
and a weak US dollar are believed to have exploring the use of nanoparticles as
shows particular
caused the remainder.8 catalysts for chemical reactions of other
materials as a means of degrading them promise for
Bioenergy production also causes environ- and for removing salts and heavy met- desalinization,
mental impacts unrelated to climate, par- als. Such treatments could be targeted to
ticularly impacts arising from agricultural chemicals for which existing technologies water purification,
practices (see chapter 7). Examples include are inefficient or costly and could eventu- wastewater
tillage-based soil erosion, eutrophication ally permit human use of heavily polluted
from fertilizer runoff, increased pesticide and saline water for drinking, sanitation treatment and
loads to aquatic habitats and biodivers- and irrigation. monitoring
ity loss from land use changes. Further,
the use of bioenergy could spawn other For water monitoring nanotechnology
problems, as reductions in greenhouse gas encompasses new and enhanced sensors
emissions (from switching from fossil fuels for detecting biological and chemical
to biofuels) could be offset by the clearing water contaminants present in very low
of new land to make room for more crop concentrations. New sensor technology,
production. Cutting down forests could re- coupled with micro- and nanofabrication
lease carbon dioxide and reduce biodivers- technology, may eventually lead to the
ity. Under conditions of water scarcity, development of highly accurate and port-
producing fuel for automobiles instead of able sensors.
producing food to feed a growing popu-
lation becomes less socially acceptable, There are also impediments to the large-
especially in developing countries. scale use of nanotechnologies to address
water resources issues. While many
Nanotechnology nanotechnologies are already in use, many
Nanotechnology, the design and manu- are still at varying stages of research or
facture of extremely small electronic development. Thus, although such tech-
circuits and mechanical devices built at the nology could help developing countries
molecular level of matter, shows particular increase water treatment or remediation
promise for water resources. Key areas are efficiency and reduce costs associated with
desalinization (see box 9.5 in chapter 9), traditional treatment methodologies, it
water purification, wastewater treatment is unclear when nanotechnology-based
and monitoring. The first three areas in- applications will be ready for wide-scale
volve the use of nanofiltration technology, use. And even though nanotechnologies
nanomaterials and nanoparticles to remove may prove very efficient and cost-effective
or reduce water contaminants. Monitoring over the long term, initial acquisition and
involves the use of nanosensors. application costs are high in many cases.
Using such technologies also will require
Many nanotechnology-based approaches the technical capacity to maintain and
are less a major departure from traditional operate them.
methods of addressing such issues than
a means of improving existing applica- There also are some risks associated with
tions and devices.9 Seawater desalinization nanotechnology-based approaches, spe-
plants are already in operation around the cifically the possibility that engineered
world, and many technologies can effec- nanoparticles used to catalyse chemical
tively remove microbes and other contam- reactions may end up in water systems.
inants from water. And although operation Little is yet known about how such
efficiencies vary, wastewater treatment materials may interact with biological
plants also exist in many developed and organisms, so the possibility of toxic-
developing countries. ity to humans and ecosystems must be
Nanotechnology has the potential to
greatly improve water quality and quan- The technology dissemination
tity through water treatment or remedia- challenge
tion. Nanofiltration membranes and other
advanced filtration materials can facilitate Key message
water desalinization and increased water • Technology is constantly evolving,
reuse and recycling, improving desaliniza- and the availability of technologies
tion efficiency and reducing associated can differ widely between developed
costs (especially for energy). Another and developing countries because
emerging area is the development of nano­ of impediments to dissemination
materials, which can act as a ‘sponge’ to of research and adaptation to local
enhance the removal of specific heavy conditions.

Water in a changing world 45


1 Chapter 3T

With the bulk Technological progress is both a determi- that of newer technologies (figure 3.3).
nant and an outcome of rising incomes. Many of these older technologies require
of technological
At the national level it can occur through infrastructure that is expensive to cre-
innovation invention and innovation, the adoption ate and maintain and that relies on large
originating and adaptation of existing but new-to- numbers of people with scarce technical
the-market technologies and the spread of skills. In addition, the diffusion of older
in developed technologies across individuals, firms and technologies today depends on the inten-
countries, the public sector within a country. sity and efficiency with which government
services were delivered in the past, many
introducing With the bulk of technological innova- of which have a poor record.
appropriate tion originating in developed countries,
introducing appropriate technologies into The rates of acceptance and application
technologies developing countries is a key challenge of of newer technologies have been higher
into developing development. It requires both the willing- than those of older technologies because
ness to transfer the technology and the rates of acceptance and application are
countries is a capacity to pay for, absorb, adapt and use more directly correlated with income. The
key challenge of the technology so that it generates long- infrastructure for newer technologies such
term benefits. as mobile phones and the Internet is gen-
erally less expensive to create and requires
Exporting technology to developing fewer (although more skilled) workers to
countries operate and maintain. Moreover, with
The number of patents and scientific regulatory reform in many countries the
journal articles focusing on technology is private sector now offers these services in
strongly correlated with GDP per capita.10 a competitive environment, rather than
Most developing countries lack the ability in the state-owned, monopolistic environ-
to generate innovations at the technologi- ments of the past. Supplying such new
cal frontier. Moreover, relatively undevel- technologies has thus been more respon-
oped domestic technology sectors and the sive to market demands and less con-
lure of better economic and scientific op- strained by the stringencies of government
portunities abroad draw highly educated budgets or state enterprises. Furthermore,
nationals from many developing countries demands for such products have been
to cutting-edge research sectors in high- boosted by low end-user costs, resulting
income countries. from competitive pricing strategies, and
the characteristics of some newer technol-
The lack of advanced technological com- ogies that lend themselves to sharing more
petence in developing countries means readily than do some older technologies.
that technological progress occurs there
mainly through the adoption and adapta- Absorptive capacity for technology
tion of existing technologies. The penetra- Most technological progress in develop-
tion of older technologies, such as fixed- ing countries has been achieved through
line telephones, electric power networks, absorption and adaptation. A country’s
transportation, health care and water ability to absorb, adapt and apply foreign
services – many ultimately provided by technologies depends mainly on its expo-
governments – has tended to lag behind sure to foreign technologies (the pace at

Figure 3.3 The absorption of older and more recent technologies depends on more than income


Absorption of older innovations, 2000-05
Absorption of newer innovations, 2000-03



High-income Upper-middle-income Lower-middle-income Low-income
countries countries countries countries

Note: Each bar represents a single country.

Source: Based on World Bank 2008.

46 World Water Development Report 3


Technological innovation 1
which technologies diffuse across coun- environment has an internal system of maintaining
tries) and its ability to absorb, adapt and checks and balances for its own mainte-
a sustainable
use the technologies to which it is exposed nance and that of the animals and plants
(the pace at which technologies diffuse that inhabit it. Humanity has acquired relationship
within a country). Successful use depends technologies that can radically affect these between people
on the technological absorptive capacity natural checks and balances.
of the economy – the macroeconomic and and the natural
governance environment, which influ- Many positive impacts are associated with environment
ences the willingness of entrepreneurs to technological advances, such as a reduced
take risks on new and new-to-the-market burden of disease and loss of life due to requires
technologies – and the level of techno- medical advances, decreased malnutrition maintaining a
logical literacy and advanced skills in the due to the green revolution and other agri-
population. cultural advances, and increased economic balance between
livelihoods due to industrialization and the technologies
Government policy also has a crucial urbanization and attendant technologies.
role. Governments are often the primary But maintaining a sustainable relationship
we develop to
delivery channel for technologies such as between people and the natural environ- meet human needs
electricity, fixed-line telephones, trans- ment requires maintaining a balance
and nature’s ability
portation infrastructure and medical and between the technologies we develop to
educational services. And government meet human needs and nature’s ability to to supply them
policy can create a business environ- supply them. And there is ample evidence
ment that facilitates firm entry and exit that this balance is not being achieved in
and that is not hostile to exploiting new many places around the world, as dem-
technologies. Too often, government onstrated by excessive water abstractions,
regulations or features of the domes- degraded water quality, and damaged
tic market prevent firms from making aquatic ecosystems and biological commu-
money by exploiting a new technology, nities. Some of these impacts result from
thus impeding the spread of technology ignoring the environmental consequences
within a country. Policy should also en- of human development actions. Others
sure that R&D and dissemination efforts result from ignorance of the many, often
give priority to creating and introducing subtle, interactions between the natural
products for which a market (domestic environment and the human activities
or foreign) exists and to helping firms that fundamentally affect it.
exploit those opportunities.
Consider crop-based bioenergy produc-
Investing in research and tion. The increased production and use
development of bioenergy to reduce greenhouse gas
Countries do well to invest in technology emissions associated with the burning of
research and development. Research and fossil fuels must be balanced against the
extension programmes in agriculture, the rising need for water resources, associ-
sector that consumes the most water, have ated pollution and sufficient agricultural
exceptionally high internal economic rates land on which to grow the crops to supply
of return (table 3.1). crop-based bioenergy. An unintended im-
pact has been rising prices for some foods,
Many resource constraints can be over- as cereal crops are currently used for the
come by technological capital and sup- production of bioenergy rather than for
porting institutions. Productivity gains, food. Our choices of technology require
including genetic improvements that appropriate consideration of their benefits
enable more production per unit of land, and costs, including their negative envi-
also enable more production per unit of ronmental impacts.
water. For most developing countries gains
in agricultural productivity arise from Table 3.1 Return on investments in agricultural research
investments in adaptations of inventions and extension
produced in developed countries.
Median internal rate of return
Challenges Investment (percent)a
A major technology challenge is how Agricultural extension programmes 41
to balance the benefits and risks of new
Applied research 49
technologies. For the first time in human
history, technology has provided hu- Pre-invention science 60
manity with the means to reshape the a. The internal rate of return is the rate of discount at which the present value of benefits is
structure and functioning of the natural equal to the present value of costs.
environment and thus to alter the possibil-
Source: FAO 2000.
ities for future development. The natural

Water in a changing world 47


1 Chapter 3T

Notes FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization Mitchell, Donald. 2008. A Note on Rising
1. Bergkamp and Sadoff 2008. of the United Nations). 2000. Agri- Food Prices. Policy Research Working
cultural Production and Productivity in Paper 4682, Development Prospects
2. IEA 2007. Developing Countries. In The State of Group, World Bank, Washington, DC.
3. Pimentel and Patzek 2005. Food and Agriculture 2000. Rome: Food OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-
4. Mitchell 2008. and Agriculture Organization of the operation and Development). 2008.
United Nations. OECD Environmental Outlook to 2030.
5. US Department of Agriculture 2008.
———. 2008. Soaring Food Prices: Facts, Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-
6. Mitchell 2008.
Perspectives, Impacts and Actions operation and Development.
7. Mitchell 2008. Required. HLC/08/INF/1. Background Pimentel, D., and T. W. Patzek. 2005.
8. FAO 2008. paper for the High-Level Conference on Ethanol Production Using Corn, Switch-
World Food Security: The Challenges of grass, and Wood; Biodiesel Production
9. Hillie et al. 2005, p. 43; Berger 2008.
Climate Change and Bioenergy, Rome, Using Soybean and Sunflower. Natural
10. World Bank 2008. 3-5 June 2008. Resources Research 14 (1, March): 65-76.
Hillie, T., M. Munasinghe, M. Hlope, and US Department of Agriculture. 2008.
References Y. Deraniyagala. 2005. Nanotechnol- Grain and Oilseeds Outlook for 2008.
Berger, M. 2008. Nanotechnology and ogy, Water and Development. Global Prepared for the Agricultural Out-
Water Treatment. Nanowerk web- Dialogue on Nanotechnology and the look Forum, February 21-22, Crys-
site. Poor: Opportunities and Risks. Meridian tal City, VA.
spotid=4662.php. Institute, Washington, DC. forum/2008_Speeches/Commodity/
Bergkamp, G., and C. W. Sadoff. 2008. ———. 2007. World Energy Outlook 2007. GrainsandOilseeds.pdf.
Water in a Sustainable Economy. In State Paris: Organisation for Economic Co- World Bank. 2008. Global Economic
of the World: Innovations for a Sustainable operation and Development and Interna- Prospects 2008: Technology Diffusion in
Economy. Washington, DC: Worldwatch tional Energy Agency. the Developing World. Washington, DC:
Institute. World Bank.

48 World Water Development Report 3


Technological innovation 1
Chapter 4
Policies, laws
and finance
Authors: Gunilla Björklund, Stefano Burchi, Richard Connor,
William Cosgrove, Sarah Hendry, Patrick Moriarty,
Walter Rast, Léna Salamé and James Winpenny
Contributors: Jack Moss, Monica Scatasta, Jon Martin Trondalen and
World Water Assessment Programme Expert Group on Legal Issues
Coordinator: Tim Kasten (UNEP)
Facilitator: Richard Connor

Key messages

Effective policy and legal frameworks are necessary to develop,

carry out and enforce the rules and regulations that govern
water use and protect the resource.

Water policy operates within a context of local, national, re-

gional and global policy and legal frameworks that must all
support sound water management goals.

Legitimate, transparent and participatory processes can effec-

tively mobilize input for designing and implementing water re-
sources policy and create a strong deterrent to corruption.

Although water is often described as a ‘gift of nature’, harness-

ing and managing it for the wide variety of human and ecologi-
cal needs entail financial costs.

While there may appear to be many financing options for water

resources development, governments still have only three basic
means of financing them: tariffs, taxes and transfers through
external aid and philanthropy.

Policy-makers need to make political decisions on socially and

environmentally acceptable trade-offs among different objec-
tives and on who bears the costs of such compromise.

Policies and laws Water policy, developed at international

and national levels, can lead to the estab-
Authors: Gunilla Björklund, William lishment of international, national and
Cosgrove, Patrick Moriarty, Walter local laws. Effective implementation and
Rast and Léna Salamé enforcement require an adequate institu-
tional and governance framework – one
Contributors: Richard Connor, Jon Martin
that is legitimate, transparent and par-
Trondalen and World Water Assessment
ticipatory and that has proper safeguards
Programme Expert Group on Legal Issues
against corruption. The legal system
Effective policy and legal frameworks within which water law operates can be a
are necessary to develop, implement and strong instrument of change – or a severe
enforce rules and regulations for control- impediment to progress.
ling water uses. Although policy and law
go hand in hand, they are fundamentally Water law sets the framework for stake-
different. Policy serves mainly as a guide holders’ use of water resources and
for decision-makers. Law provides a set of responds to pressures from demographic,
enforceable rules. economic and social drivers. Policy‑makers

Water in a changing world 49


1 Chapter 4

Because use water law to establish the rules of the processes. As an example, the EU Water
game for water users within a given com- Framework Directive, negotiated by the
the political
munity, country or region. EU member states, requires intranational,
negotiations multilevel institutional structures, includ-
involved in global International and regional water ing legal systems, to ensure implementa-
policy tion of the directive for transboundary
and regional International goals and objectives for river basins and groundwater as well as
conventions or water resources, negotiated at UN meet- national river basins (box 4.1).
ings, conferences and summits or in
water-sharing ministerial-level sessions of the World International and regional legal
agreements are Water Forum, can be viewed as political frameworks
benchmarks. Because the political nego- International water law is part of public in-
meant to avoid tiations involved in global and regional ternational law. The rules of international
conflicts between conventions or water-sharing agreements law apply to sovereign states. But because
are meant to avoid conflicts between dif- there is generally no higher authority to
different uses or ferent water uses or users, they serve as enforce such rules, individual countries
users of water, they drivers for water management. The global must generally ensure their own compli-
policy framework for water began with the ance. The first step in enforcement is
serve as drivers for
Stockholm Declaration of 1972, followed identifying the applicable rules.
water management by other important international mile-
stones over the years (see appendix 2). These rules are found in treaties, interna-
tional custom, general principles of law
Ratifying conventions means assenting and the writings of ‘learned publicists’.1
to implement the actions and activities Treaties usually provide the most accessible
agreed to by the involved parties. Imple- source of law, but the other sources cannot
mentation requires that the proper institu- be ignored. In the non-navigational uses
tions exist, that national laws are compat- of international watercourses, rules of cus-
ible with convention requirements and tomary law are often invoked by countries
that political and financial measures are in the absence of codified law. A treaty ap-
in place to ensure popular participation. plies only to parties to the treaty and only
It also requires a policy framework with after the treaty has come into force and is
operational goals, objectives and follow-up thus legally binding. Finally, the norma-
tive content (requirements) of the treaty
Box 4.1 The EU Water Framework Directive – uneven rules must be established and agreed to by
implementation all parties involved to determine whether
a country’s actions are in accordance with
its treaty obligations.
The EU Water Framework Directive and programme for each river basin
for water protection and manage- district.
ment provides for the identification Law may also be developed at a regional
of European waters and their char- In a 2007 report the European Com- level. Such law typically supersedes na-
acteristics on the basis of individual mission noted that several EU member tional law. Treaties may operate regionally
river basin districts and the adoption states may fail to meet the targets, between two or more countries. Regional
of management plans and meas- particularly because of the physical bodies such as the European Union may
ures for each water body. Entered deterioration of aquatic ecosystems as also create law for their members. EU law,
into force 22 December 2000, the a result of overexploitation of water unlike international law, can be directly
directive seeks to prevent and reduce resources, and the high levels of pol- binding on its members and has strong
pollution, promote sustainable water lution from diffuse sources. The report
enforcement mechanisms.
use, protect the aquatic environ- also cited problems in meeting the
ment, improve the status of aquatic deadlines for incorporating the direc-
ecosystems and mitigate the effects tive into national law. However, the In most cases the directly applicable law is
of floods and droughts through the establishment of river basin districts national law, which ensures implementa-
management of inland surface wa- and the designation of competent tion of any international treaties that a
ters, groundwater, transitional waters national authorities appear to be well country has signed. Within national law
and coastal waters. under way. The European Commission the specific law-making powers and hier-
finished with recommendations for archies of laws are determined by the con-
Within four years of the directive’s addressing the reported shortcom- stitutional arrangements within a jurisdic-
entry into force, member states were ings, integrating sustainable manage- tion. National law also includes customary
to complete an analysis of the char- ment of water resources into national
law as well as water laws directly relating
acteristics of each river basin district, policies, maximizing public participa-
a review of the impacts of human tion and giving advance notice of
to water resources (for example, pollution
activities on their water resources, an its plans for future European water control and water abstraction permits).
economic analysis of water use and management policy. In addition to the formal legal framework
a registry of areas requiring special and the customary laws that national law
protection. Within nine years they Source: European Parliament and Council formally codifies and recognizes, there are
were to produce a management plan 2000; CEC 2007. also water rules and rights by which water
user collectives and other actors abide.

50 World Water Development Report 3


Policies, laws and finance 1

These hybrid sets of water rules, common For developing countries the long-term There are
in most parts of the world, are often cru- goal of such legislation is poverty reduc-
cial in everyday water affairs and conflict tion through a well managed and sustain-
resolution. able water sector. Associated goals include differences
efficient service delivery, protection of between managing
There are also many other areas of law consumer rights, financial sustainability
not directly addressed to water issues that and service coverage to the poor in both water resources
nevertheless affect management of the urban and rural areas. and delivering
water environment. These include land
use planning, environmental assessment, Governance of the water sector is complex water services.
nature conservation and environmental and involves actors beyond the water sec- It is misleading,
law. Public health laws influence the sup- tor. The actors can be national legislatures
ply of water and sanitation, as does land and governments, other sector agencies, therefore, to
tenure reform. Individuals are reluctant to local governments, river basin authori- discuss resources
invest in sanitation where they have no se- ties, representatives of indigenous peo-
curity of tenure, nor will water companies ples, consumer bodies, private companies
lay pipes in such land. Legal provisions and others. Who is involved may differ and services
on freedom of information and access to with the issues concerned – for example,
delivery in the
justice, human rights and other constitu- surface waters, groundwater, coastal waters
tional measures are also important parts of or wetlands. Effective action on such a same institutional
a governance framework. complex group of interests requires open context
communication and strong coordination
Conflicts and regional instability (or facilitated by an appropriate legislative and
stability) can influence water demand and regulatory framework. The Government
use, particularly in water-scarce regions. of Australia recognized this need when it
This is the case where competition arises adopted the Commonwealth Water Act
between different water uses within a in 2007 and subsequent regulations (box
country or where water disputes exist 4.2).5
between countries, as between Bangla-
desh and India over the Ganges River and There are fundamental differences be-
among the riparian countries along the tween managing water resources and
Danube River. (This subject is discussed delivering water services. Managing water
further in chapter 9.) There are more than resources involves a wide range of insti-
400 registered agreements over shared tutions at local, state, national, regional
watersheds,2 most between two riparian and international levels. Delivering water
countries. Although the UN Convention services (including administration) usually
on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses falls under the authority of elected local
of International Watercourses was adopted officials and specific local institutions. It is
by the UN General Assembly in 1997, it misleading, therefore, to discuss resources
has not yet been ratified by a sufficient management and services delivery in the
number of countries to enter into force. same institutional context.
One of the most successful conventions
on water resources is the regional United Decentralization, for example, can affect
Nations Economic Commission for Europe how water resources and water distribu-
Convention on the Protection and Use of tion services are managed. It is a political
Transboundary Watercourses and Inter- process, however, not necessarily a water-
national Lakes, convened in Helsinki in specific solution to providing improved
March 1992.3 This convention, entered water services. It requires that water insti-
into force in 1996 and currently ratified by tutions integrate the physical watershed
35 countries, serves as a driver for water and administrative boundaries, nesting
management in participating countries. these within each other at different scales.
Success with such integration for catch-
National legal framework: managing ment bodies below the river basin scale
water resources and service delivery has been limited, however, with evidence
Law and policy are interconnected, with from countries like South Africa suggest-
particular legislation derived from water ing that such integration may often be too
policy in many cases.4 Making laws op- complex to implement.
erational is often a painstaking process,
because of the need to develop implemen- Table 4.1 shows the range of measures
tation regulations and manuals on inter- required to address water rights and water
preting the law. Often implementation is management. Table 4.2 shows additional
by trial and error, requiring feedback and measures that may be required to address
the establishment of practices and cases the provision of water services. The tables
on how to interpret aspects of water law. draw from a study across four jurisdictions

Water in a changing world 51


1 Chapter 4

Box 4.2 Australian water law reform

Australian states have been reforming their for supportive legal regimes. For example, state there will be a structure for river
water laws within a framework set out by there may be a need for a secure registry basin management and stakeholder en-
the Commonwealth government, called of water rights, similar to a registry of land gagement through water resources plans
the National Water Initiative. The initiative rights. produced by the states. These plans will
is intended to provide security of entitle- allocate water, and only when a plan is in
ments to water, including ecosystems use. There are also consequences for infrastruc- place will it be possible to trade water, as
It has a formula for sharing risk between ture. For example, Queensland separates for example under the Queensland Water
government and users should water avail- the ownership and management of distri- Act of 2000.
ability change in the future due to climate bution facilities (irrigation networks) from
change or other factors. the storage infrastructure (dams), and The first requirement is thus to have a
users of the irrigation networks cannot opt sound system to manage water and allo-
The National Water Initiative and related out of operating costs without the consent cate it to users, which should be the focus
policies require water trading, which of the licence holder, to avoid leaving the of water law reforms, especially where
enables water to be properly valued system without an owner. If water were human and financial resources are limited.
and allocated to higher-value uses. But to be traded out of an irrigation area, the Only a planned system can account for the
this means that water rights have to be previous owners might no longer pay for public good elements of water. Markets
separated from land rights, which can in the system, leaving the new owners with a alone cannot.
turn make it difficult for small-scale farms liability but no income.
to survive. This has implications for equity Source:;
and the potential need for structural ad- However, Australian states do not rely on Roper, Sayers, and Smith 2006; Queensland
justment funds. It also has consequences water trading to manage water. In every Government 2000; Hendry 2006.

– Scotland, England, South Africa and example, the environment is not granted
Queensland, Australia.6 any water licences, while in South Africa
decision-makers are debating how to put
Key policy and regulatory issues water law on environmental protection
Although water allocation systems can be into practice. Lawmakers must address
difficult to establish, managing competing public policy implications, including
water uses requires clear, widely accepted equity and water reallocations in times of
allocation rules, especially where water is drought or other emergencies. And permit
scarce. Water allocation systems should systems should be sufficiently flexible
balance equity and economic efficiency. to adapt to global changes and climate
Environmental concerns also require variability.
equal attention, though they are often
neglected in the process. In Chile, for Much water governance takes place outside
formalized legal systems, particularly in
Figure 4.1 Formal and informal legal framework of developing countries (figure 4.1). Such
water rights ‘traditional’ rights systems form a dynamic
mixture of rules, principles and organi-
zational forms of different origins. They
Normative combine local, national and global rules
domain and often mix indigenous, colonial and
Technical and contemporary norms and rights. Impor-
biophysical tant sources for these complex, local rights
domain National
systems tend to be state laws, religious
international law laws (whether formal or indigenous),
law ancestral laws, market laws and the rights
Political and frameworks of multiple water project
Local domain interventions, which often set their own
water regulations.
Market Religious
law law Local water rights thus exist in conditions
of legal pluralism, where rules and princi-
Development ples of different origins and legitimization
project coexist and interact.7 In the eyes of water
Organizational law Cultural and users in many parts of the world, legiti-
domain spiritual
domain mate water authority and water rights are
not restricted to official law. Water users
also clearly distinguish water rights as
defined by lawyers (officially codified or
Source: Based on Boelens 2008. recognized) from their own, living rights

52 World Water Development Report 3


Policies, laws and finance 1

Table 4.1 Laws addressing water rights and water management

Options for provision

Integrated water resources
Legislative management and river Water rights and Water quality and
requirement basin planning abstraction licensing water pollution
High-level • Primary law • Ownership or trusteeship of • High-level duties on water users
principles, • Ownership or trusteeship of resource if not in water resources (e.g., sustainable and beneficial
purposes and resource management law use, no waste, efficiency)
duties • Equity, water efficiency and • High-level duties on water users
integration (e.g., sustainable and beneficial
• Priority uses in law or policy (e.g., use)
basin plans) • Priority uses in law or policy (e.g.,
basin plans)
Catchment • Catchment based • Licence in accordance with • Licence in accordance with
planning • Alignment with administrative catchment plans if they exist catchment plans if they exist
• Coordination with other strategic
planning processes (e.g., land
use, biodiversity)
Define water • Surface and groundwater Control all waters: Control all waters:
environment • Coastal waters • Surface and groundwater • Surface and groundwater
• Wetlands • Coastal waters • Coastal waters
• Wetlands • Wetlands
Regulatory Water authority: Water authority: Water authority or environmental
structure • Government department • Government department authority:
• Agency • Agency • Coordination mechanisms
• Stakeholder-led • Stakeholder-led
Participation Stakeholder engagement for Stakeholder engagement through Stakeholder engagement through
planning in primary law water resources management water resources management
framework framework
Licensing Status of plan: Integrated water use licences for Integrated water use licences
• Regulatory (direct licensing) abstraction and discharge? for abstraction and discharge
• Indirect (sets targets) (dependent on regulatory structure)?
• Managerial (sets targets,
Tiered system • Tiered system (e.g., general rules • Tiered system (e.g., general rules
(proportionate) and full licences) and full licences)
• Exemptions (e.g., domestic use, • Emission, quality and ecological
subsistence use, volume limits) standards – progressive approach
• Management of diffuse pollution
Licence Duration, review periods and tests Duration, review periods and tests
conditions for grant, review and reallocation for grant, review and reallocation
Water trading Prohibit, permit and encourage

Source: Hendry 2008.

Understanding the nature of water rights Participatory water management

in each system and water territory thus Participants in the consensus-building
requires taking into account their multi- World Water Vision exercise indicated
layered bundles: their rights to use and that the Vision could be achieved only if
withdraw, operate, supervise and manage, empowered individuals and communities
and control. Focusing only on the local participated at all levels of decision-mak-
level is clearly inadequate. Multistakehold- ing on water resources management. Their
er platforms or other arenas for achieving concerns were pragmatic, driven more by
common goals and establishing patterns considerations of governance systems than
of governance – which include recogniz- by equity. Thus the World Water Vision
ing informal water rights, empowering report concluded that
marginalized social and ethnic groups
and representing all interested parties in Both public and private manage-
allocation and decision-making – have the ment of water will improve through
potential to ensure fairer and smoother greater accountability, transpar-
reallocation of water resources (box 4.3). ency, and rule of law. Incentives

Water in a changing world 53


1 Chapter 4

Table 4.2 Laws addressing provision of water services

Legislative requirement Options for provision

Regulators • Ministry, sector agency (e.g., water industry commission, office of water
Economic, duties of supply and quality standards services) or multiutility (e.g., competition authority)
Environmental • Ministry or environment agency
• Separate consumer body?
Providers • Local government • Private company
• Water board or agency
Vertical disintegration and integration • Abstraction, treatment, distribution and supply
Horizontal disaggregation and aggregation • Regional (‘competition by comparison’?)
Private sector involvement • Forbidden? • Build-operate-transfer
• Public sector preference? • Leases and concessions
• Short-term contracts • Divestiture
Constitutional and • High level
human rights • Additional enforcement mechanisms
High-level duties • Universal service obligation • Consumer protection
(on regulators, providers and users) • Conservation, efficient use (water • Competition
efficiency) • Economic efficiency and return on
• Sustainable and secure supply capital
Duties of supply • Universal (progressive?) • Reasonable cost
• In service areas • Drinking water customer service
Tariffs, metering and disconnections • Banded • Presumption of metering
• Two-part • Powers to disconnect or limit supply
• Free basic service for non-payment
• Participation in tariff-setting
Emergency powers • Climate and drought • Infrastructure failure
• Pollution incident • Ministers, water providers and
Storm water • Incorporate storm water management into water services provision (and
potentially into abstraction licensing and pricing)
Conservation and demand management • High-level duties on conservation and efficient use
• Highest appropriate standards for built environment, grey water reuse

Source: Hendry 2008.

must improve for all stakeholders. by religious organizations. Issue-related

More community participation will organizations such as the Council of
provide a sense of ownership and Canadians and IUCN–International Union
empowerment to local stakehold- for Conservation of Nature may also be
ers. The role of education in mak- important contributors at a national or
ing this process possible cannot regional scale. Where such organizations
be overestimated. Public access to exist, they should be involved in the par-
information will provide an incen- ticipatory processes. A thorough analysis
tive to elected officials and private of the contributions of the NGO sector to
operators, who will be held respon- the Millennium Development Goals and
sible for results, including maxi- to water management, showing the unique
mizing social welfare. It will also characteristics of different kinds of NGOs,
reduce opportunities for corruption their contributions, their limitations and
and for capture of the system by a perspective on their future role would
powerful elites.8 be a useful contribution to the related
Role of non-governmental organizations. Non-
governmental organizations (NGOs) can Participation in the irrigation sector. Along
play a valuable role in a country or local with market tools (such as privatization
community. Normally operating outside and removal of subsidies), water manage-
the formal government, NGOs may be ment policies have been shaped by calls
community-based organizations, poverty- for a more participatory development
focused large external organizations approach that advocates smaller govern-
such as Oxfam and the Bill and Melinda ment and local participation in govern-
Gates Foundation, and charities funded ance, management and financing. At the

54 World Water Development Report 3


Policies, laws and finance 1

same time, to comply with the structural Corruption undermines poverty reduc- Corruption remains
adjustments required by international tion efforts and impedes economic, social
a poorly addressed
financial institutions in the last few dec- and sustainable development. Poor people
ades, governments have decreased public generally suffer most from corruption, governance issue in
spending in most sectors and disengaged overpaying for water service delivery or the water domain
from them. Such strategies have led to bearing the health burdens arising from
major changes in water management, par- lack of sustainable access to safe drinking
ticularly in irrigation, where governments water. The indirect costs of corruption are
have embarked on reform.9 also high. There is a strong correlation
between access to adequate water and sani-
One of the most important and far- tation and infant mortality (see chapter 6).
­reaching reforms is the irrigation manage-
ment transfer that has been taking place Corruption can lead to uncontrolled pol-
in more than 57 countries on 5 continents lution of water sources, overpumping and
(box 4.3). Overall, this transferring of depletion of groundwater, lack of plan-
responsibility and authority for managing ning, uncontrolled degradation of ecosys-
irrigation systems from the public sector tems, weakened flood protection, urban
to the community has forced a new look expansion leading to heightened water
at how services are provided to users and a tensions, and other harmful effects. In
move from supply-driven to demand-driv- water-scarce southern Spain tens of thou-
en approaches. And the closer involvement sands of properties have been developed
of water user associations has resulted in illegally, particularly in seaside resorts.
increased accountability, transparency In the Andalucian city of Ronda this
and responsibility, as has been reported in practice led to a severe governance crisis,
China and Mexico, for example.10 and pollution now jeopardizes water sup-
plies.14 Where corruption is widespread,
Participation reduces corruption achieving the Millennium Development
Global Corruption Report 2008: Corruption in Goals will take much longer – not only
the Water Sector estimates that corruption with much higher cost in direct invest-
in the water sector can raise the invest- ment in services and management, but
ment costs of achieving the Millennium also in indirect costs, such as water-related
Development Goals target for water and diseases and loss of lives, ecosystems and
sanitation by almost $50 billion.11 Cor- productive capacities. It also threatens
ruption in the sector includes falsified
meter readings, distorted site selection of Box 4.3 Experience with irrigation management
boreholes or abstraction points for irriga- transfer
tion, collusion and favouritism in public
procurement and nepotism in the alloca-
Irrigation management transfer is the system, followed by difficulties with
tion of public positions. transfer of responsibility and author- fee recovery.
ity for managing irrigation systems
Corruption remains a poorly addressed to water user associations. It began Overall, the results have been mixed.
governance issue in the water domain. in the 1960s in Taiwan, Province of Financial sustainability and lack of
This domain is a high-risk sector for cor- China; Bangladesh; and the United clarity about the financial and technical
ruption because water service provision States; in the 1970s in Mali, New assistance provided to water user asso-
is a near natural monopoly. The resource Zealand and Colombia; and in the ciations by the government have been
is becoming increasingly scarce in many 1980s in the Philippines, Mexico, a concern. Monitoring and evaluation
countries, and the water domain involves Tunisia and the Dominican Republic. are essential. The concept of ‘farmer
It peaked in the 1990s in Turkey, participation’ was often translated
large and often complex construction
Morocco, Australia, Peru, Albania into a fixed set of principles, such as
contracts. Furthermore, water has multi- and Zimbabwe, but still continues volumetric control, cost recovery, water
functional characteristics and is used and in countries such as Pakistan and pricing, economic, water use efficien-
managed by a mix of private and public Sudan (2000), India (2001) and China cies and downstream control, that
stakeholders.12 (2002), each with unique experiences were not relevant in all contexts. For
and results. example, Andean farmer-managed irri-
Corruption – on a petty or grand scale gation systems typically have upstream
– occurs across the water spectrum and The Food and Agriculture Organi- control techniques and management
among all water sector actors. According zation of the United Nations and structures, which provide transparency
to Global Corruption Report 2008, in some International Water Management and ease of operation. For them, par-
Institute database on experience ticipating in water distribution usually
countries corruption siphons off as much
with irrigation management transfer means involving everyone in the sys-
as 30% of the budget.13 By diverting funds provides information on the key fac- tem’s management and decisions on
from investment or operation and mainte- tors that motivated adoption of the water distribution to individual fields.
nance, corruption reduces access to water. new policy. The most commonly cited
And for many poor people, paying bribes is a shortage of government funds Source: Garces-Restrepo, Vermillion, and
is the only means of securing access to for operating and maintaining the Muñoz 2007; Boelens 2008.
water supplies.

Water in a changing world 55


1 Chapter 4

Corruption is an existing achievements by undermin- characteristics of the country or commu-

ing institutions and the sustainability of nity will make a significant contribution
important driver
infrastructure. to meeting this challenge. But a greater
of uncontrolled challenge is to ensure that such laws and
pollution of Legitimate, transparent and participatory the regulations that support them make a
processes can be effective in garnering difference on the ground by effectively ad-
water sources, support for the design and implementa- ministering and enforcing them. And the
overpumping tion of water resources policy and of security of rights in the resource must be
deterring corruption. But participatory adjudicated by an effective, impartial, ex-
and depletion processes require adequate institutional, peditious and transparent judicial system.
of groundwater, policy, legal and economic instruments.
Political leadership is required to put these Financing – the missing link
lack of planning processes in place and demonstrate sup-
and uncontrolled port for them. International assistance and Authors: Richard Connor, William Cosgrove,
interventions to reduce corruption will Walter Rast and James Winpenny
degradation have only limited effect if political will is
Contributors: Jack Moss and Monica Scatasta
of ecosystems, absent.
Virtually all water-related activities,
diminishing flood
Implementing regulations whether structural (infrastructure) or
protection, urban Water resources management is under- not (planning, data collection, regula-
expansion leading pinned by a functioning legal system that tion, public education and so on), require
includes: money to develop, implement and carry
to heightened out. Even if all the necessary policies and
water tensions • Water resources legislation, the laws are in place, lack of funding will
province of the legislature and the bring necessary actions to a standstill.
and other executive. Adequate funding and the willingness to
harmful effects invest in water management and infra-
• Implementation and administration structure are therefore major determinants
of legislation, the province of the of the availability of sufficient quantities
executive. of water of acceptable quality.

• Adjudication of civil disputes among Although water is often described as a

water litigants, the province of the ‘gift of nature’, harnessing and manag-
judiciary. ing water for human and ecological needs
entail financial costs. These costs are often
• Prosecution of criminal offenders by widely ignored, underestimated or under-
the executive and the judiciary. funded, with the result that important
functions and assets are neglected and
Following adoption of a law by the under­provided, while existing assets and
legislature, the executive needs to ad- services deteriorate.
dress relevant details not included in the
legislation by preparing implementa- Three functions are involved in water
tion regulations. Neither legislation nor management, each with associated costs:
implementation regulations will make
much difference, however, unless they • Water resources management and
are effectively administered by the water development, including watershed
resources administration. Nor will they and river basin development, stor-
secure rights in the resource unless a judi- age, flood-risk management, envi-
ciary can adjudicate disputes effectively, ronmental protection and pollution
impartially, expeditiously and trans- abatement.
parently. Finally, the legislation needs
vigorous enforcement and systematic • Water services to municipalities and
monitoring, using a set of indicators to households, commerce and industry,
gauge effectiveness and improve system agriculture, and other economic sec-
performance. tors, including the costs of wastewater
treatment, rehabilitation, operations
Challenges and maintenance and inadequate
Water resources development and man- infrastructure.
agement in the interests of national
development objectives require effective • Integrative functions, such as water
policy and legal frameworks that also sector policy development, research,
respect deeply rooted customary practices. monitoring, administration, legisla-
Participatory processes that take account tion (including compliance and en-
of the social, economic and cultural forcement) and public information.

56 World Water Development Report 3


Policies, laws and finance 1

The costs associated with these func- or regional benefits to be gained from lack of political
tions are either capital (investment) costs managing the resource. Capital invest-
support, poor
or annual recurrent costs, both variable ment costs tend to be covered largely
and fixed. To function properly, the water by governments, except where assets governance,
sector must cover all costs – not just those are privately owned (for example, farm- underresourcing
of major physical infrastructure – in a ers who have their own infrastructure).
sustainable way. That means ensuring reli- The international community provides and
able, predictable finance from government mainly ‘catalytic’ funding to jumpstart underinvestment
revenues (taxes), the sale of water services projects, which includes providing
or long-term aid commitments. financial guarantees. Decisions made at in the water
the international and national govern- sector have led
Financing is often a limiting factor in ef- ment levels are most likely to be outside
fectively managing the water sector. The the ‘water box’, while local user concerns to infrastructure
solution is to focus not only on increasing more directly address specific systems for deterioration,
flows of funds to the sector but also on water supply and sanitation.
achieving a realistic balance between the
the breakdown
demand for and supply of financing to en- Investment in water management of services
sure financial sustainability. Demand for capacity
and ultimately
funds needs to be rationalized by develop- The water sector has been plagued by
ing realistic investment plans, minimiz- lack of political support, poor govern- customer
ing the recurrent costs of service delivery ance, under­resourcing and under­ dissatisfaction
and ensuring the sustainability of water investment. These ills are manifested in
resources and the safe and reliable delivery non-­transparency, lack of accountability,
of services to maintain users’ willingness unsustainable economics, high levels of
to pay. unaccounted for water and low revenue
collection. They have led to infrastructure
The logic differs for the three sources of deterioration, the breakdown of services
finance for the water sector. The ra- and ultimately customer dissatisfaction.
tionale for local user financing is users’ Figure 4.2 illustrates how this combination
consumption of the resource and local of factors creates a vicious cycle of low
authorities’ responsibility in most cases funding, weak political support and poor
for the main decisions about water serv- service provision. Breaking this vicious
ices and tariffs. The rationale for national cycle will require more than investments
government finance is often the national in hardware.

Figure 4.2 If the vicious cycle of low funding is reversed, the benefits to society will be enormous

Funds lost to system:

Potential investments • Non-recovery
driven away by • Corruption
perception of high Inadequate • Rents
risk and low returns investment



Low fee revenues

Low and low willingness
perception of to increase tax-
value based water

Good quality human Loss of positive

resources driven away
by lack of opportunity
and low achievement Low service and increase of
quality negative

Source: J. Moss based on ideas from A. Mathys; Moss et al. 2003.

Water in a changing world 57


1 Chapter 4

In most urban Investment is also required in the op- easy to postpone, are widely neglected.
eration and maintenance of physical The result is infrastructure that deterio-
public water
infrastructure so that it meets appropri- rates to a level that can no longer provide
systems charges ate standards and functions efficiently. reliable access to safe drinking water to
barely cover the Operations and maintenance are ne- those who are nominally receiving the
glected nearly everywhere in favour of service. Leakage (loss) rates of 50% are not
recurrent costs new infrastructure investments, regardless uncommon in urban distribution systems.
of operation and of the country’s level of development. In Much of the apparatus for treating waste-
the United States bringing water supply water is also failing. According to a report
maintenance. and sewerage infrastructure up to current by the Task Force for the Implementation
In rural areas standards will cost more than $1 trillion of the Environmental Action Program
over the next 20 years, with hundreds of for Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central
neglect of billions more required for dams, dikes and Asia, municipal water utilities have now
operation and waterway maintenance.15 The World Busi- become the main polluters of surface
ness Council for Sustainable Development waters in many East European, Caucasus
maintenance and estimates that the total costs of replacing and Central Asian countries. The task
cost recovery ageing water supply and sanitation infra- force reports that up to 90% of nitrogen
structure in industrial countries may be as and phosphorus discharges into the Black
contribute to
high as $200 billion a year.16 Investment and Caspian Seas originate from riverine
widespread in physical infrastructure must be accom- inputs, which mostly transport municipal
non-­functionality panied by the ‘soft’ infrastructure of poli- wastewaters.19
cies and legal systems (as described earlier)
and human capacity.17 Yet much bilateral In rural areas neglect of operation and
aid for sanitation and drinking water fails maintenance budgets and cost recovery
to achieve a balance between soft and contribute to widespread non-­functionality.
hard infrastructure (figure 4.3). A recent survey of almost 7,000 rural water
schemes in Ethiopia found that 30%-
In most urban public water systems charges 40% were non-functional.20 A shortage of
often barely cover the recurrent costs of finance for wages, fuel, materials and spare
operation and maintenance, leaving little parts was a common factor.
or no funds to recover the capital costs of
modernization and expansion. A survey of The deficit in financing, especially for
such systems in 132 cities in high-, middle- operation and maintenance costs, is a sub-
and low-income countries found that 39% stantial addition to the investment costs
did not recover even their operation and of achieving the Millennium Develop-
maintenance costs (true of 100% of cities ment Goals. Although governments often
in South-East Asia and the Maghreb).18 turn to external aid to fill financing gaps,
donors also seem to favour financing new
Moreover, water infrastructure deteriorates infrastructure over operation and mainte-
over time. To keep it functioning properly nance (see figure 4.3).
requires routine repairs, service and re-
placement of worn parts. These activities, High costs of new and remedial
Figure 4.3 New infrastructure seems to dominate donor While operation and maintenance costs
investments in drinking water and sanitation have been especially neglected, water
infrastructure has not been funded at
Share of investment (percent) Infrastructure ‘Soft’ support anything close to the required level. Many
networks and installations in mature
100 economies are ageing and deteriorating.
Member states of the European Union are
75 committed to upgrading their water and
wastewater treatment systems to comply
with EU environmental legislation. But
many urban water systems in Eastern
Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia are in
25 poor condition, with no similar plans for
Sanitation Drinking water upgrades. In developing and emerging
market economies the pace of growth and
Austria Germany France European Austria France European
urbanization, combined with rising en-
Commission Commission vironmental expectations, is creating the
need for costly new investments.
Note: Soft support includes support for policies, legal systems and human capacity building.
Source: Based on data from UN-Water 2008. Table 4.3 gives a sense of the magnitude
of investment requirements over the next

58 World Water Development Report 3


Policies, laws and finance 1

20 years for water supply and wastewa- Table 4.3 Annual capital requirements for water supply
ter services infrastructure and the gap and wastewater services and water financing
between financing needs and projected gaps, by region, 2006-25
revenues, by region. These calculations do
not include other sizeable funding require- (US$ billions)
ments, such as water resources develop-
ment and management and water govern- Capital Low Medium High
ance.21 Raising and spending these huge Region needed gap gap gap
sums will require quickening the pace of Eastern Europe,
reform (including water pricing) across the Caucasus and
water services industry, with implications Central Asia 28.1-40.5 13.4 20.0 26.1
for both regulators and consumers. North America 23.9-46.8 3.3 4.9 21.4
Latin America 4.3-6.5 2.9 4.0 5.1
The cost of rehabilitating or decommis-
sioning existing infrastructure is likely to Developed Asia
be enormous. Repairing, strengthening or and China 38.2-51.4 29.5 32.9 36.5
modifying older dams, for instance, will Rest of world 14.3-22.6 18.5 22.4 26.1
entail sizeable outlays. In extreme cases Total 92.4-148.0 67.5 84.2 115.2
decommissioning a dam may be a rational
Note: The gaps refer to the difference in projected investment needs for three different
decision (where it has outlived its purpose, estimates of their size and existing sources of revenue from tariffs, official development
where it is old and unsafe, where sedimen- assistance and government budgets and loans.
tation is high or where river flows need Source: Owen 2006.
to be maintained for fisheries and other
ecosystems). Rehabilitating or decommis-
sioning also depends on whether the costs UN-Water Global Annual Assessment of
of maintaining the dam exceed its expect- Sanitation and Drinking-Water: 2008 Pilot
ed future economic and financial benefits. Report – Testing A New Reporting Approach
Both rehabilitation and decommissioning (GLAAS report) looks at the constraints to
costs are site specific.22 progress towards the sanitation target from
the human resources, institutional capac-
The cost of new water supply is rising. In ity and financial system capacity perspec-
developed countries and in many places tives (figure 4.4).
elsewhere, the easiest investments for ex-
ploiting water resources have already been Operation, maintenance and rehabilita-
made. With available dam sites decreas- tion remain critical challenges. Respond-
ing, water tables falling and the distances ents to the GLAAS survey indicated that
between the point of abstraction and flooding events and earthquakes were the
water use increasing, the costs of exploita- main causes of damage to infrastructure.24
tion and supply are rising. Costs are also Increased weather variability linked to
pushed up by the growing need to treat
water before use. Figure 4.4 In the few countries surveyed financial system
constraints weighed heavily on achieving the
Sanitation has been severely neglected. Esti- Millennium Development Goals sanitation
mates of the cost of achieving the 2015 target
Millennium Development Goal target for
sanitation vary widely, due to differences Sanitation sector capacity in GLAAS pilot countries with data; latest available data, 2005-07
in approach and a weak information base. (number of countries)
Very high High Medium Low Very low
The World Health Organization estimates
the total annual cost of meeting the tar- 7
get at just over $9.5 billion. 23 If estimates 6
of current costs are correct, resources in
the sanitation sector would have to be
almost doubled to meet the 2015 target 4
(although estimates of current spending
probably underestimate the contribu-
tions by households to their own sanita- 2
tion services). If the full cost of tertiary 1
wastewater treatment for waste streams
in urban areas is added, the total rises to 0
Human Institutional Financial system
$100 billion, the current value of total resources capacity capacity
annual official development assistance.
More cost-effective alternatives need to Note: GLAAS is Global Annual Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water.
be explored – urgently – if the sanitation Source: Based on data from UN-Water 2008.
target is to be met.

Water in a changing world 59


1 Chapter 4

Figure 4.5 Household expenditure and private sector to invest in operation, maintenance and
investments in drinking water supply are capital rehabilitation for drinking water
generally unknown and sanitation systems.25 These expendi-
tures are difficult to assess because many
Funding sources for drinking water in GLAAS pilot countries with data, latest are hidden in sector budgets or are not
available data, 2006-07 (percent)
Internal private sector Households
accounted for, as in the case of many
Internal government External funding private sector and household investments
100 (figure 4.5). Data in the GLAAS report,
available for three of the seven pilot coun-
75 tries, indicate that external funding – for
many countries the main source of funds
for drinking water and sanitation system
50 investments – is directed mainly to infra-
structure projects.
Reviewing and revising investment needs
(the demand side of financing) by reduc-
ing costs are as important in closing the
Ghana Madagascar Mongolia Nepal Uganda Viet Nam
financing gap as finding new sources of
Note: GLAAS is Global Annual Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-Water. funds. The full cycle of expenditures has
Source: Based on data from UN-Water 2008. to be considered, from operation and
maintenance to technological choices
about equipment and its eventual replace-
climate change and armed conflict bring ment or upgrading. For example, improv-
added risk. ing collection efficiency and reducing
unaccounted for losses in distribution
African countries, recognizing the urgency systems can make more water available for
of the situation, signed the eThekwini new consumers and help fund operations.
Declaration in February 2008 in Durban, Demand-side considerations also include
South Africa, committing them to prepare such under­lying determinants as coverage
or update national sanitation and hygiene levels, services levels and environmental
policies, allocate budget funds for sanita- regulations.
tion, improve sanitation information and
monitoring tools and increase capacity. The Fund disbursements can also be acceler-
declaration also called on external support ated, so that disbursement delays do not
agencies to provide financial and technical cause new funding to be postponed. Inef-
assistance for sanitation and hygiene pro- ficient budgeting and budget allocation
motion and to improve aid coordination. processes can lead to such disbursement
delays. To ensure that funds are disbursed
Sources of financing more efficiently during the budget period,
There are three sources of revenue for funds can be allocated to regions of a
financing water supply and sanitation country or to local authorities according
services: to their relative capacity to implement
projects. Finalizing the budget process
• User tariffs, including payment for before the budget year starts makes it pos-
environmental services, which can sible to begin disbursements in the first
include cross-subsidies within the sec- quarter of the year.
tor or from other sectors (for example,
electricity or other municipal services). A strategic financial plan, based on an
in-depth examination of all demand- and
• Public expenditures funded by taxation. supply-side aspects affecting the financing
gap, will help ensure the financial sustain-
• Transfers in the form of external aid, ability of projects. It will direct investment
from official or philanthropic sources. choices towards the most financially and
functionally appropriate processes and
External borrowing (debt, equity and technologies, thus maximizing benefits.
bonds, facilitated by risk-management And it will make projects more attractive
instruments such as guarantees) can help to external financiers by reducing the
spread payments over time for large up- perception of risk.
front investments and manage the overall
cost of financing. A lot of funds move through the water
system but is used inefficiently. Examples
The 2008 GLAAS pilot report raises con- include high payments to informal provid-
cerns about countries’ limited resources ers outside the public networks, payments

60 World Water Development Report 3


Policies, laws and finance 1

to corrupt operators to obtain water from Box 4.4 Dalian water supply project in China –
networks and large public subsidies that successful expansion of services
end up in the wrong hands. Households
spend large sums on coping strategies,
Dalian, a port city at the southern The project achieved its objectives. All
such as time and money spent on alterna- end of the Liaodong Peninsula, in constructed facilities were operat-
tive sources of water and on household northeastern China, was declared ing satisfactorily, and the 73,000
water filters. an ‘open’ coastal city in 1984 and residential water connections in Dalian
given considerable autonomy in exceeded the predicted number. The
Tariffs – pricing water and willingness to its economic planning. The Dalian project also increased water supply to
pay. The obvious source of finance for the Economic and Technology Develop- commerce and industry, removing po-
recurrent costs of water services is user ment Zone, established in 1988, tential constraints to economic expan-
charges, supplemented by government has become one of China’s most sion and improving the investment
subsidies. The continuing underpricing successful economic zones. By the environment. The project evaluation
early 1990s, however, water short- confirmed two important findings.
of water to consumers encourages waste
ages had become a serious constraint Local government commitment was
and use of water for low-value purposes in to economic growth. Many areas had the most important contributor to the
all sectors, depriving the sector of essen- water service for only a few hours a success of the project. And water con-
tial funds. This is a major contributor to day. Frequent service disruptions had sumers will accept the need for higher
underinvestment in water infrastructure, major public health implications. The tariffs once they are convinced that
management and services and imposes Dalian Water Supply Project, begun services are adequate and reliable.
heavy costs on society. in the mid-1990s, provided new Water tariffs were increased substan-
infrastructure to address the water tially from 1995 to 2001, at an average
Maintaining the quality and reliability of shortages and meet increasing water annual rate of 12.8%.
services is essential (box 4.4), even if there demands.
Source: ADB 2004.
is a parallel push for increased access, since
these characteristics affect users’ willing-
ness to pay. Transparency, accountability
and operational efficiency in service provi- is that payments should not exceed 3% (in
sion are also essential to user satisfaction. some cases 5%) of net household income.
Affordability also needs to be determined. In practice, surveys show that in devel-
It is based on macroaffordability­– of in- oped countries households connected to
vestment choices (driven by coverage, serv- urban public systems pay on average 1% of
ice levels, technology and other choices) incomes on water bills, including the cost
and the cost efficiency of service provision of sewerage, which may be double that for
– and household affordability, determined water. Such an average is not a very reli-
by current expenditure on water and sani- able indicator, however, especially given
tation services (including the hidden costs the wide variability among income levels
of securing access when people lack access in a country. Generally speaking, poorer
to formal services and the consequences of groups tend to pay a higher share of
access to unsafe services) and their willing- household income for water. In developing
ness to pay for improved service levels. countries the picture is complicated by the
widespread use of informal and small-scale
Charging for water. Although prices can be private water distributors charging full
strong drivers of positive change in a well market prices; in these cases the poorest
functioning economic system, in practice, households can pay 3%–11% of income on
prices have had a relatively minor role in water.27
managing water demand. Many people are
deeply ambivalent about using water prices As recognition of this inequitable eco-
to manage water resources or are strongly nomic burden on the poor has spread,
opposed to pricing water at the cost re- pressure on governments and service
quired to deliver it to consumers, espe- providers has increased to ensure delivery
cially in the politically sensitive segments of a minimal supply of potable water to all
of agriculture and urban households. As a households at a reasonable price. Achiev-
result, water is often grossly underpriced. ing this objective would require tariff
rates based on a household’s ability to pay
One survey of municipal water utilities and subsidies that cover the excess cost of
in low-income countries found that 89% service delivery for those who can least
had no cost recovery measures in place, afford to pay.
9% had partial cost recovery of operation
and maintenance costs, and only 3% made Where pricing is used to cover water sup-
any effort to recoup the costs of capital ply costs (for example, cities committed
outlays.26 to water demand management, private
irrigation schemes, markets for irrigation
A common yardstick for assessing the af- water and penalties for water pollution), it
fordability of water charges for households is an important driver of reforms. Where

Water in a changing world 61


1 Chapter 4

Where prices prices cannot adjust to financial realities, Multipurpose water projects that cross-
stresses emerge as water shortages, water subsidize irrigation and household water
cannot adjust
waste, inefficient water use, inadequate use from hydropower revenues are another
to financial water infrastructure investments and form of tariff-based financing. The hy-
realities, stresses poor water-related services. Water quality dropower components of dams and water
may be inconsistent, and maintenance storage schemes tend to perform better
emerge as water and rehabilitation of distribution systems financially than the associated irrigation
shortages, water may be neglected. Capital investment projects, which often fail to recover both
may also be inadequate, resulting in the operating and capital costs. Thus, the
waste, inefficient failure to develop adequate water supply power element cross-subsidizes irrigation
water use, and sanitation services. However, even and other water users – and often naviga-
in situations where pricing is actively tion, flood control and other public goods
inadequate water used to cover water supply costs, the long as well. In the United States this kind of
infrastructure history of water as a public good means cross-subsidy was a planned part of the
that water prices have been heavily sub- management of the Grand Coulee Dam in
investments sidized by tax-­f unded distributions from the Columbia River Basin and of the major
and poor water- individuals and corporations that may river basin development works of the Ten-
not be direct beneficiaries of the services nessee Valley Authority.30
related services
Role of the private sector. Several reports
In agriculture some farmers rely on public conclude that the private sector provides
irrigation systems while others have pri- very few water supply and sanitation serv-
vate arrangements (for example, ground- ices in developing countries. The United
water and water harvesting systems). In Nations Development Programme’s Human
privately owned systems energy subsidies Development Report 2006, for example,
(for pumping water) are a key factor af- estimates that although the number of
fecting efficiency. Farmers using public people served by the private water sec-
irrigation systems often pay little or noth- tor grew from roughly 50 million in 1990
ing towards recurrent costs and usually to 300 million in 2002, less than 3% of
nothing towards the capital costs of the people in developing countries are cov-
irrigation infrastructure. This affects how ered by private or partially private com-
farmers use water, as one survey in India panies.31 These figures almost certainly
discovered: understate the real scale of private sector
service provision, since they consider only
Farmers have no incentive to use larger-scale private operations and invest-
water efficiently as charges are ments. Private operators also include small
too low and are based on the area and medium-size companies with fixed or
irrigated. Inefficient water use mobile distribution systems as well as the
has led to severe environmental much larger spread of informal operators
problems – rising groundwater that cover huge swathes of low-income
levels, water-logging and soil salin- urban areas.
ity. Administration is ineffective.
Assessment and collection of fees The substantial role of small and medium-
is often carried out by different size entrepreneurs and operators is just
departments, or a department not beginning to be studied (figure 4.6). A
related to irrigation. Farmers need World Bank report found 10,000 small
to be involved in setting rates, service providers in a limited sample of 49
because at present they simply op- countries,32 while an International Insti-
pose any suggestion of an increase tute for Environment and Development
in price. 28 study estimates that the global number
may exceed 1 million.33 In addition, the
Though widely accepted, the ‘polluter provision of infrastructure by property de-
pays’ principle has not had a major impact velopers has not been examined but could
on polluters’ behaviour or on raising funds be substantial.
that could be allocated for environmental
purposes, with the exception of developed The landscape for private water opera-
countries and a much smaller number tors today is very different from that of
of developing countries. Although not a a decade ago. Several major multination-
financing source, the alternative method als have withdrawn from international
of water pollution quotas has similarly projects, leaving just two or three to
been limited to the industrial, urbanized pursue system concessions, build-operate-
economies, with almost negligible success- transfer and management contracts,
ful examples from developing countries especially in the Middle East, China and
(see chapter 8).29 South-East and East Asia. The gap is being

62 World Water Development Report 3


Policies, laws and finance 1

filled by new private water companies Figure 4.6 Private water operators have a substantial
based mainly in China, South-East Asia, role in developing and developed countries
the Russian Federation and Latin America,
servicing emerging local and regional Urban residents served, 1991-2007 (millions)
markets. Small-scale and informal water 200
providers have continued to enlarge their
share of urban markets in developing
countries. 150

A high proportion of the contracts won 100

by the new market entrants are for desali- Spain
nation and wastewater treatment, which
address the growing water scarcity in arid 50 Other developed countries
United Kingdom
regions and the serious pollution caused
by untreated municipal wastewater. The 0
diversity of the new market entrants, their 1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007
access to local sources of finance and their
typically good political connections augur Source: Based on data from Marin 2009.
well for successful implementation.

External private investment in the water Figure 4.7 External private investment in the water
sector is significant, of the same order as sector, though variable, has been significant
that of official development assistance since the early 1990s
(figures 4.7 and 4.8). The domestic private
sector is becoming a water funding source US$ billions
in some middle-income countries, where 12
powerful local conglomerates are moving
into water services, drawing on their own 10
equity and that of other local commercial
sources. Further down the financial scale
small informal operators dominate large 6
portions of the water market in urban and
peri-urban communities. Although some 4
of these operators invest in networks, most
use mobile facilities, financed by their
own equity or short-term credit. At the 0
street level bottled water sellers have pro- 1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007
liferated. A necessity in many areas across
Note: Refers to management and lease contracts, concessions (or management and opera-
developing countries, where failing public
tion contracts with major private capital commitments), greenfield projects and divesti-
supply systems are often contaminated by
tures for potable water generation and distribution and sewerage collection and treatment.
wastewater or storm water, the use of bot- Source: World Bank Private Participation in Infrastructure Database (http://ppi.worldbank.
tled water is a lifestyle choice in developed org).

Government financing from public revenues. Figure 4.8 Official development assistance to the water
The public sector accounts for more than supply and sanitation sector is rising again
70% of investment in the water sector.34 after a decline during the 1990s
There are marked differences in how – and
how much – governments finance and Official development assistance to the water sector ($ billions)
subsidize the water sector. In many poor
countries, where fiscal constraints are
severe, water supply is only one of many Development Assistance Committee countries, annual
priority sectors that governments are
under domestic pressure or international
commitment to finance. Development Assistance Committee
countries, moving average
Funding for infrastructure has varied with
Multilateral agencies, moving average
economic development and urbanization. 1
At earlier stages the central government
generally supports infrastructure provi- 0
Multilateral agencies, annual

sion through subsidies and administrative 1971 1976 1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006
assistance (box 4.5). As countries develop,
the portion of central government support Source: Based on OECD-DAC 2008.
declines, and the cost of environmental

Water in a changing world 63


1 Chapter 4

G-8 leaders in services is transferred to users, polluters during the 1970s and 1980s but decreased
and local governments. during the 1990s, with less aid for large
June 2002 made
infrastructure, before rising again in 2000
a commitment to Some countries that have benefited from (see figure 4.8).
give priority to debt relief or from the oil and commodi-
ties boom have transformed their public Support from multilateral agencies re-
the water sector finances, but this has not necessarily mained relatively stagnant from the 1970s
translated into improved water service – when it was about the same as bilateral
provision. Several emerging market assistance – until about 2000, when both
economies, with large concentrations sources of financial aid began to increase.
of poor, unserved populations, are in But it still remained substantially less than
stronger budgetary positions than they official development assistance from bilat-
were a decade ago, though this is being eral sources.
placed at risk by the recent fluctuations
in the cost of oil, power and food and the Leaders at the meeting of the G-8 in
global financial crisis, with subsidies rising Evian, France, in June 2002 made a com-
accordingly. Improving budgetary circum- mitment to give priority to the water
stances provide opportunities for increas- sector. Official development assistance
ing investments in the development of the increased substantially in the years im-
water sector. mediately thereafter. While the amount
going to the water supply and sanitation
Financing through external aid. Official sector increased, aid to the other water
development assistance from donor coun- sectors remained relatively unchanged
tries and multilateral donors to the water (table 4.4). However, overall lending for
supply and sanitation sector increased water remained at less than 6% of total
official development assistance, and the
Box 4.5 Subsidizing water supply and sanitation in share of total lending declined.
the Republic of Korea
External assistance from philanthropic
sources, such as foundations and reli-
In the Republic of Korea the central For municipal water supply, revenue
government provides direct subsi- from tariffs now covers an increasing
gious groups, highlights an awareness of
dies for water supply and sanitation share of production costs, rising from the importance of water and sanitation.
infrastructure to local governments 69% in 1997 to 83% in 2005. For re- Although these funds are generally much
or service providers. The amount gional water supply systems supplied lower than those from multilateral and
of the subsidy depends on the size by the national water company, Korea bilateral sources, a few of the largest foun-
of the city and the type of facility. Water Resources Corporation (K- dations (for example, the Bill and Melinda
Subsidies differ for construction and water), full cost recovery was achieved Gates Foundation) can rival some bilateral
operation. Typically, subsidies are by 2004. Tariffs still fall short of actual sources.
50%-80% for water source develop- costs for sewage treatment. During
ment in rural areas and 50% for local 1997-2004 the central government
Recent financing initiatives – a new
waterworks improvements. Waste- paid 53% of the total investment costs
water treatment is eligible for a 50% for sewage treatment, using proceeds financing agenda
grant, and sludge treatment for loans from the national liquor tax. Over the last five years there have been
of 30%-70%. several key initiatives on shaping the agen-
Source: OECD forthcoming. da of international water financing, nota-
bly the World Panel on Financing Water
Infrastructure (chaired by Michel Camdes-
Table 4.4 Commitments of official development assistance sus), the Task Force on Financing Water
from bilateral and multilateral agencies, 2004-06 for All (chaired by Angel Gurria) and the
UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on
(US$ millions) Water and Sanitation (UNSGAB). Financ-
ing Water for All, the report of the World
Sector 2004 2005 2006 Panel on Financing Water Infrastructure,
Water transport 416 503 304
addresses the financial architecture of
the global water sector, including many
Hydropower plants 755 480 652 proposals to improve its governance.35 The
Agricultural water resources 608 830 790 Gurria task force report focuses on fac-
Water supply and sanitation 3,127 4,405 3,879 tors influencing the demand for finance
and the scope for developing the financial
Total water sector 4,951 6,218 5,625
capacity of subnational entities.36 The
Total all sectors 79,431 107,078 104,369 UNSGAB stresses the importance of capac-
Water sector as share of all sectors (%) 6.2 5.8 5.4 ity building, especially in local authorities,
and inspired creation of the Global Water
Source: OECD, DCD/DAC 2007. Operators Partnership Alliance for peer
group support.37

64 World Water Development Report 3


Policies, laws and finance 1

These initiatives occurred while domestic and finance. Among recently created Lenders and
savings in emerging market economies finance facilities that operate at this
were growing rapidly and local capital level are the African Water Facility,
markets were developing. Sharp rises in the EU Water Facility and the Rural have pursued
the price of oil and other primary com- Water Supply and Sanitation Ini- opportunities
modities had enriched producer countries tiative of the African Development
and transformed their public finances, Bank. in sound water
while causing budgetary problems in companies, solvent
primary-commodity-importing coun- • Developing guarantees and risk-sharing
tries. International commercial finance instruments. Guarantees and other municipalities
for water has become sharply polarized. forms of credit enhancement can lift and profitable
Lenders and portfolio38 investors have local borrowers and bond issuers over
eagerly pursued opportunities in sound the critical threshold of creditwor- projects, but many
water companies, solvent municipalities thiness and mitigate specific risks. countries and
and profitable projects (such as desalina- International financial institutions
tion), but many countries and munici- and other agencies have improved
municipalities have
palities have been relegated to financial their capacity for risk sharing, and been relegated
backwaters. several new bodies have been formed
to financial
specifically for this purpose (such as
Recent policy developments GuarantCo).40 backwaters
A number of policies and financing tools
have been developed to respond to this • Developing local capital markets and
new agenda:39 local-currency finance. A number of
countries (such as India and South Af-
• Increasing commitments of official de- rica, some countries in Latin America
velopment assistance for water – and in and South-East and East Asia) have
more user-friendly forms. International municipalities and utilities with suffi-
aid for water has bottomed out and cient financial standing to attract loan
commitments are starting to rise, led finance or to issue their own bonds. A
by a few donor agencies. significant proportion of the unserved
populations (almost a half for water
• Using official development assistance and more than a third for sanitation)
to leverage other financial sources. An live in countries classified as middle
approach that has made a promising income, with the potential to raise
beginning in Kenya and elsewhere is subsovereign finance of this type.
to use output-based aid to promote
microfinance. • Increasing role of small-scale local water
providers. It is estimated that small-
• Establishing national water financing scale providers serve 25% of the urban
strategies. Governments in Africa, population in Latin America and East
Eastern Europe and the Caucasus and Asia and 50% in Africa and South East
Central Asia and elsewhere are pro- Asia.41
ducing coherent financing strategies,
supported by programmes of the Or- • Instituting tariff reform and the princi-
ganisation for Economic Co-­operation ple of sustainable cost recovery. In most
and Development, the EU Water cases tariffs will be the main source
Institute, the World Bank Water and of revenue for covering the recurrent
Sanitation Program and other agencies costs of water services, although full
and programmes. cost recovery through tariffs is rarely
feasible in poor countries. Sustainable
• Promoting finance to subsovereign enti- cost recovery focuses on securing all
ties. In most countries responsibil- three of the basic sources of revenue
ity for water services is devolved to for water and sanitation services
subsovereign layers of administration. (tariffs, taxes and external aid) as pre-
Donors have been adapting their dictable sources of revenue for water
products and procedures to facilitate operators, which can be used to lever-
the provision of finance to subsover- age other sources of funding.
eign agencies.
• Paying for environmental services.
• Establishing facilities to provide finance ­Environmental goods and services
at decentralized levels. Much of the take many forms, including potable
development of household water water supply, irrigation water, flood
and sanitation services arises from control benefits, water for transporta-
community initiatives, organization tion and aesthetic benefits. Payment

Water in a changing world 65


1 Chapter 4

systems for such environmental funding requirements with cost-effective

services are easier to implement and management that focuses on demand
administer for more visible and direct as well as supply. Full cost recovery has
uses (such as admission costs for rec- been advocated as a solution to the water
reational uses). financing crisis for many years. In the
real world, however, water resources
Challenges management and services delivery always
Developing and managing water resourc- receive some level of subsidy. Keeping
es to meet human needs and maintain es- in mind the obligation to meet the basic
sential ecosystems entail financial costs. water services needs of all, the challenge
The challenge is both to have more funds for policy-­makers is to make decisions
flow to the water sector and to ensure its about the acceptable trade-offs among
financial sustainability. Sound, strategic different objectives and about who bears
financial planning is needed to balance the costs.

Notes 36. van Hofwegan and Task Force on Dardenne, B. 2006. The Role of the Private
1. United Nations 1945. Financing Water for All 2006. Sector in Peri-urban or Rural Water Services
37. UNSGAB 2006. in Emerging Countries. ENV/EPOC/GF/
2. Transboundary Freshwater Dispute SD(2006)2. Organisation for Economic
Database (www.transboundarywaters. 38. Purchase of a fixed-interest security, Co-operation and Development, Environ- such as a bond, or equity shares giving ment Directorate, Paris.
3. less than 10% ownership of a company.
EAP Task Force for the Implementation of
4. This section draws on Boelens 2008. 39. For a full description of these and other the Environmental Action Program for
policies and tools, see Winpenny 2003
5. Government of Australia 2008. Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central
and van Hofwegen and Task Force on Asia. 2007. Financing Water Supply
6. Hendry 2008. Financing Water for All 2006. and Sanitation in EECCA Countries and
7. See von Benda-Beckmann, von Benda- 40. Winpenny 2005. Progress in Achieving the Water-Related
Beckmann, and Spiertz 1998. 41. Dardenne 2006; McIntosh 2003. Millennium Development Goals. Paris:
8. Cosgrove and Rijsberman 2000, p. 64. Organisation for Economic Co-operation
and Development.
9. Garces-Restrepo, Vermillion, and Muñoz
2007. References European Parliament and Council. 2000.
ADB (Asian Development Bank). 2004. Directive 2000/60/EC of the European
10. Garces-Restrepo, Vermillion, and Muñoz
Evaluation Highlights of 2003. Manila, Parliament and of the Council of 23
Philippines: Asian Development Bank. October 2000: Establishing a Frame-
11. Transparency International 2008. work for Community Action in the Field
ASCE (American Society of Civil Engi-
12. Stålgren 2006. neers). 2008. 2005 Report Card on of Water Policy. Official Journal of the
13. Transparency International 2008. European Communities 22 (12). http://
America’s Infrastructure. 2008 Update.
14. Transparency International 2008. American Society of Civil Engineers.
15. ASCE 2008. PDF.
16. WBCSD 2005. Garces-Restrepo, C., D. Vermillion, and
Boelens, R. 2008. The Rules of the Game
17. United Nations 2008, p. vii. G. Muñoz. 2007 Irrigation Management
and the Game of the Rules: Normaliza-
Transfer: Worldwide Efforts and Results.
18. Global Water Intelligence 2004. tion and Resistance in Andean Water
FAO Water Reports No. 32. Rome: Food
Control. PhD diss., Wageningen Univer-
19. EAP Task Force 2007. and Agriculture Organization of the
sity, The Netherlands.
20. Winpenny 2008. United Nations.
Bosworth, B., G. Cornish, C. Perry, and F.
21. Rees, Winpenny, and Hall 2008. Global Water Intelligence. 2004. Tariffs:
van Steenbergen. 2002. Water Charg-
Half Way There. Oxford, UK: Global
22. World Commission of Dams 2000. ing in Irrigated Agriculture: Lessons
Water Intelligence.
23. Hutton and Haller 2004. from the Literature. Report OD 145, HR
Wallingford, Ltd., Wallingford, UK. www. Government of Australia. 2008. Water Act
24. UN-Water 2008. 2007. Act 137. C2007A00137. www.
25. UN-Water 2008. outputs/od145.pdf.
26. Olivier 2007. Act1.nsf/0/80C5168EF63926C2CA2574
CEC (Commission of the European Com-
27. UNDP 2006. munities). 2007. Towards Sustainable
Water Management in the European Hendry, S. 2008. Analytical Framework for
28. Bosworth et al. 2002.
Union – First Stage in the Implementa- National Water Law Reform/Analytical
29. Kraemer et al. 2003. tion of the Water Framework Directive Framework for Reform of Water Services
30. World Commission on Dams 2000. 2000/60/EC. Communication from the Law. PhD diss., University of Dundee,
Commission to the European Parlia- United Kingdom.
31. UNDP 2006.
ment and the Council [SEC(2007) 362] Hutton, Guy, and Laurence Haller. 2004.
32. Kariuki and Schwartz 2005. [SEC(2007) 363], Brussels. Evaluation of the Costs and Benefits of
33. McGranahan and Owen 2006. Cosgrove, W., and F. Rijsberman. 2000. Water and Sanitation Improvements at
34. UNDP 2006. World Water Vision: Making Water Every- the Global Level. Geneva: World Health
body’s Business. London: Earthscan. Organization.
35. Winpenny 2003.

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Kariuki, M., and J. Schwartz. 2005. Small- Development Co-operation Directo- rity. New York: Department of Economic
Scale Private Service Providers of Water rate, Development Assistance Commit- and Social Affairs, United Nations.
Supply and Electricity. World Bank Work- tee). 2007. Development Database on UNSGAB (United Nations Secretary Gen-
ing Paper 074, World Bank, Washington, Aid Activities: Creditor Reporting System: eral’s Advisory Board on Water and
DC. Aid Activities in Support of Water Supply Sanitation). 2006. Hashimoto Action
Kraemer, R. A., Z. G. Castro, R. S. da and Sanitation. Paris. Plan (formerly known as The Compendi-
Motta, and C. Russell. 2003. Economic document/0/0,2340,en_2649_34447 um of Actions). United Nations Secretary
Instruments for Water Management: _37679488_1_1_1_1,00.html. General’s Advisory Board on Water and
Experiences from Europe and Implications Olivier, A. 2007. Affordability: Principles and Sanitation, New York.
for Latin America and the Caribbean. Practice. Presentation to Organisation for UN-Water. 2008. UN-Water Global Annual
Washington, DC: Inter-American Devel- Economic Co-operation and Development Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking-
opment Bank. Expert Meeting on Sustainable Financing Water (GLAAS): 2008 Pilot – Testing a
Marin, Philippe. 2009. Public-Private for Affordable Water Services: From Theory New Reporting Approach. Geneva: World
Partnerships for Urban Water Utilities: to Practice, 14-15 November, Paris. Health Organization.
A Review of Experiences in Developing Owen, David Lloyd. 2006. Financing Water van Hofwegan, Paul, and Task Force on Fi-
Countries. Public-Private Infrastructure and Wastewater to 2025: From Necessity nancing Water for All. 2006. Enhancing
Advisory Facility and World Bank, Wash- to Sustainability. New York: Thomson Access to Finance for Local Governments:
ington, DC. Financial. Financing Water for Agriculture. Chaired
McGranahan, G., and D. L. Owen. 2006. Queensland Government. 2000. Water by Angel Gurria. Marseille, France: World
Local Water and Sanitation Companies Act 2000. Act 34. Brisbane, Queensland. Water Council.
and the Urban Poor. Human Settlements von Benda-Beckmann, K., F. von Benda-
Discussion Paper (Water 04). London: ACTS/2000/00AC034.pdf. Beckmann, and J. Spiertz. 1998. Equity
International Institute for Environment Rees, J., J.Winpenny, and A. Hall. 2008. and Legal Pluralism: Taking Customary
and Development. Water Financing and Governance. GWP Law into Account in Natural Resource
McIntosh. A. C. 2003. Asian Water Supplies: Technical Committee, Background Paper Policies. In Searching for Equity: Concep-
Reaching the Urban Poor. Manila: Asian 12, Global Water Partnership. tions of Justice and Equity in Peasant Irriga-
Development Bank, and London: Inter- Roper, H., C. Sayers, and A. Smith. 2006. tion, ed. R. Boelens and G. Dávila. Assen,
national Water Association. Stranded Irrigation Assets. Staff Working The Netherlands: Van Gorcum.
Moss, J., G. Wolff, G. Gladden, and E. Gut- Paper, Australian Government Produc- WBCSD (World Business Council for Sus-
tieriez. 2003. Valuing Water for Better tivity Commission, Melbourne. www. tainable Development). 2005. Water
Governance: How to Promote Dialogue Facts and Trends. World Business Council
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Economic Values. White paper for the Stålgren, P. 2006. Worlds of Water: Worlds ton, DC.
Business and Industry CEO Panel for Apart. How Targeted Domestic Actors WCD (World Commission of Dams).
Water. Presented at the CEO plenary Transform International Regimes. Göte- 2000. Dams and Development: A New
session of the Third World Water Forum, borg University, Göteborg, Sweden. Framework for Decision-Making. London:
10 March, Osaka, Japan. www.wbcsd. Earthscan.
Transparency International. 2008. Global
Valuing_water_report.pdf. Corruption Report 2008: Corruption in the Winpenny, James. 2003. Financing Water
Water Sector. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge For All. Report of the World Panel on Fi-
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coming. Strategic Financial Planning for Council, 3rd World Water Forum, and
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———. 2008. Creating Value for All: Strategies
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ment Co-operation Directorate.

Water in a changing world 67


Chapter 5
Climate change
and possible
Authors: Richard Connor, Gilberto Gallopín, Molly Hellmuth and Walter Rast
Contributors: Joeseph Alcamo, BertJan Heij and World Water
Assessment Programme Expert Group on Scenarios
Coordinator: Tim Kasten (UNEP)
Facilitator: Richard Connor

Key messages
There is evidence that the global climate is changing. The main
impacts of climate change on humans and the environment
occur through water.

Climate change is a fundamental driver of changes in water re-

sources and an additional stressor through its effects on other ex-
ternal drivers.

Policies and practices for mitigating climate change or adapting

to it can have impacts on water resources, and the way we man-
age water can affect the climate.

Chapters 2-4 have described how external drivers, influencing how much water we
drivers exert pressure on water resources. need. Climate change can directly affect
These drivers of change are strongly inter- the hydrologic cycle and, through it, the
connected, creating complex challenges quantity and quality of water resources
and opportunities for water managers (see chapter 11). It can lower minimum
and decision-makers. Apart from extreme flows in rivers, affecting water availability
events (such as droughts and floods), and quality for its flora and fauna and for
climate change is seldom the main stressor drinking water intake, energy produc-
on sustainable development, although the tion (hydropower), thermal plant cooling
direct and indirect impacts of increasing and navigation. Anthropogenic climate
climate variability can impede and even change can also directly affect demand for
reverse development gains (see figure 5.1 water, when demand for crops increases in
for a depiction of climate change proc- certain seasons, for instance (see chapter 7
esses, characteristics and major threats). for the implications of climate change on
Climate change may not fundamentally uncertainty in agriculture). The other driv-
alter most of the world’s water challenges, ers, by contrast, exert pressure on various
but as an additional stressor it makes water use sectors that, in turn, affect water
achieving solutions more pressing. resources.

All of the potential impacts of climate- Managing water has always been about
­related disasters, including economic managing naturally occurring variability.
losses, health problems and environmental Climate change threatens to make this
disruptions, will also affect – and be af- variability greater, shifting and intensify-
fected by – water. ing the extremes, and introduces greater
uncertainty in the quantity and quality
Climate change differs from the other of supply over the long term (see part 3).
drivers. It is the only supply-side driver, More subtly, climate change may alter the
ultimately determining how much water timing, magnitude and duration of precip-
we have; the other drivers are demand-side itation events, which could pose problems

68 World Water Development Report 3


Climate change and possible futures 1

Figure 5.1 Climate change: processes, characteristics and threats

Main climate characteristics

Changes in
Ice cap

Climate change processes

Average Gulf Stream
temperature Abrupt modification
rise climate
Carbon “global change Europe
cycle warming”
Human activities (enhanced)
Increase in
surface Sea level
Urbanization Carbon Cyclones
Land use oxide A spanner in Floods
changes the climate wheel Heat
Deforestation Loss of
Greenhouse traditional
gas emissions

Diseases Disasters

Transport Biodiversity

Fossil fuel
Heating Economic

Major threats

Source: Based on UNFCCC 2007a.

for the sustainability of water supplies and interlinking pressures into account in
the continuity of treatment. identifying scenarios, or ‘possible futures’.

The decisions and policies put in place The influence of climate change
today for mitigation (such as reducing on the other drivers of change
greenhouse gas emissions, applying clean
technologies and protecting forests) and The relationships between climate change
adaptation (such as expansion of rain- and the other drivers are complex and
­water storage and water conservation prac- interwoven. This section summarizes the
tices) can have profound consequences influence of climate change on the other
for water supply and demand both today five major drivers: demographic processes,
and over the long term.1 Climate change economic growth, social change, techno-
also adds to the uncertainty surrounding logical innovation and policies, laws and
all the other drivers. Thus, examining finance.
climate change forces considerations of the
interconnectedness of all the drivers. This Demographic processes
chapter focuses on the pressures that cli- The impacts of anthropogenic climate
mate change can exert on the other drivers change, including increased water scar-
and outlines a process for taking these city and flooding and accelerated glacial

Water in a changing world 69


1 Chapter 5C

Weather-related melting and sea level rise, have the that substantial population displacements
potential to accelerate human migration. will take place within the next 30-50
disasters such
Drought, desertification and other forms years, particularly in coastal zones. All of
as floods and of water scarcity are already estimated to these climate change refugees will require
droughts are affect as many as one-third of the world’s shelter, water and sanitation services.
people and are predicted to worsen.
undermining Economic growth
economic The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change and its accompanying risks
Climate Change (IPCC) report notes that have direct and indirect effects on develop-
development millions of people in densely populated ment and economic growth. Sea level rise,
in many of the low-lying coastal areas risk increasing climate variability and weather extremes
exposure to flooding by storm surges such as heat waves, floods and droughts
world’s least over the 21st century.2 The IPCC expects are severe, direct threats to human life and
developed sea level rise to exacerbate floods, storm property (see chapter 12). Tackling them
surges, erosion and other coastal hazards. requires mobilizing resources that may
countries, causing Global warming can expand the endemic have to be reallocated from other invest-
human suffering zones of water-related infectious diseases ments. Their damage can substantially
like dengue, malaria and schistosomiasis, harm a country’s gross domestic product
and disrupting
making it increasingly difficult for people (GDP). Economic performance is especially
economic activities to remain in affected areas. Recurring affected in developing countries because of
floods or storm surges, if not managed their high and direct dependence on natu-
effectively, could drive large numbers of ral resources, notably rain-fed agriculture
people permanently from their homes. (see chapter 7), and their inadequate access
Current IPCC projections of rising tem- to economic and technological resources.
peratures and sea levels and increased
intensity of droughts and storms suggest Adverse climate conditions such as in-
creased floods and droughts can also result
Figure 5.2 GDP growth tracks rainfall variability in in the underperformance of investments.
Ethiopia (1983-2000) and Tanzania (1989-99) Climate uncertainty and unpredictability
can be powerful barriers to investments,
Ethiopia and ultimately to economic growth, even
in years when climate conditions are
Rainfall variability (percent deviation from the mean) GDP growth (percent) favourable. The changing climate also
60 8 complicates infrastructure design and
long-term investment planning. And inter-
40 nal and cross-border migration, driven by
20 growing pressure on natural resources, can
create tension among population groups
0 4 and between countries.3
There is clear evidence of a relationship
–40 between climate variability and economic
performance in countries in which agricul-
–60 0 ture is a large share of GDP, as in Ethiopia
1983 1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000 and Tanzania (figure 5.2). Evidence also
suggests a strong relationship between
economic development and vulnerability
to disaster. Across developing countries
Rainfall variability (percent deviation from the mean) GDP growth (percent) losses associated with disasters are so large
20 30
as to undermine development and poverty
reduction goals. And yet climate risks are
20 seldom adequately considered in infra-
10 structure designs, agriculture investments
10 and water management plans.
0 0
Weather-related disasters such as floods
–10 and droughts are undermining economic
–10 development in many of the world’s least
developed countries, causing human
–20 –30
suffering (see table 12.1 in chapter 12)
1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 and disrupting economic activities (table
5.1). And substantial financial and other
Source: Based on van Aalst, Hellmuth, and Ponzi 2007. development resources are being diverted
each year to post-disaster relief, emergency

70 World Water Development Report 3


Climate change and possible futures 1

assistance, reconstruction and rehabilita- Table 5.1 Economic impacts of flood and drought in Kenya,
tion. Poorly managed climate risks also 1997-2000
exact an indirect toll by discouraging
private investment. With climate change Costs Share of total
and inadequate climate risk management, Impact area ($ millions) (percent)
investors lack the reliable infrastructure, 1997-98 El Niño flood impact
predictable human resources and stable
Transport infrastructure 777 89
markets needed to promote investment.
Health sector 56 6
An estimated 40% of development invest- Water supply infrastructure 45 5
ments are currently at risk, according to Total flood impact 878
analyses by the Organisation for Economic
Share of GDP 1997-98 (percent) 11
Co-operation and Development (OECD).4
These analyses indicate that while many 1998-2000 La Niña drought impacts
development efforts contribute to reduc- Industrial production 1,400 58
ing vulnerability to climate variability and Hydropower 640 26
change, climate risks are seldom explicitly
Agricultural production 240 10
factored into development projects and
programmes. Similar issues affect sector Livestock 137 6
and national development strategies. Total drought impact 2,417
Share of GDP 1998-2000 (percent) 16
The potential impacts of climate change
on the global economy received interna- Source: World Bank 2004.
tional attention with the release of The
Stern Review in 2006.5 It concluded that by
2050 extreme weather could reduce global Box 5.1 The cost of adapting to climate change
GDP by 1% and that, unabated, climate
change could cost the world at least 5% in
Estimates of the costs of climate change at $28-$67 billion and as high as
GDP each year. If even more dramatic pre-
impacts vary because they depend $100 billion a year several dec-
dictions come to pass, the cost could rise on future greenhouse gas emissions, ades from now. Estimates of the
to more than 20% of GDP. Such declines mitigation measures and assumptions additional investments needed
could in turn lead to an overall drop in of- about anthropogenic climate change it- in water supply infrastructure in
ficial development assistance, exacerbating self and about how effectively countries 2030 are $11 billion, 85% of it in
the struggle of poor people and countries will adapt to it. The following are some developing countries.
to adapt and develop their water resources. estimates of the costs of adaptation for
Some other estimates of the costs of adapt- developing countries: • Oxfam estimates the current costs
ing to climate change are in box 5.1. of adaptation to climate change
• World Bank estimates of the for all developing countries at
additional costs to adapt or more than $50 billion a year.
Social change
climate-proof new investments
Unlike the more obvious effects of climate range from $9 to $41 billion a While there is considerable debate
change on demographic processes or the year. And a recent update by the about these estimates, they provide
global economy, the additional pressures United Nations Development useful order-of-magnitude numbers
that climate change is likely to exert on Programme put the mid-range of for assessing resources available for ad-
social change are often more subtle. Man- the costs of adaptation at about aptation. Current Global Environment
aging climate-related risk is a key enabler $37 billion a year in 2015. Facility funds (about $160 million) are
of development. Identifying and reducing several orders of magnitude too little
the risks associated with climate-related • The United Nations Framework to meet these projected needs.
­hazards – including droughts, floods, Convention on Climate Change
estimates additional investments Source: World Bank 2006; UNDP 2007;
cyclones, rising sea levels and extreme
for adaptation to climate change UNFCCC 2007b; Oxfam 2007.
temperatures – can help to protect people,
livelihoods and assets, thereby promoting
the achievement of economic develop- unless societal exposure and vulnerability
ment goals. are reduced.

Climate change and greater climate vari- The most likely societal effects of climate
ability will increasingly affect the poorest change will come from changes in lifestyle
and most marginalized groups, making and consumption patterns. Reflecting
them even more vulnerable to the impacts human needs and wants, changes in life-
of climate change. Climate uncertainty – style and consumption patterns are among
the inability to anticipate climate extremes the most important drivers of change (see
– hurts investment and innovation and chapter 2). In emerging market economies
limits the success of other development rising standards of living are boosting
interventions. In inhabited hazard-prone demand for high-level goods and services,
areas disasters and losses are inevitable many with a large ecological and water

Water in a changing world 71


1 Chapter 5C

Some interventions footprint. In the world’s richest countries, the global community unites to combat
meanwhile, growing awareness of climate climate change, although in many devel-
in the water
change is slowly inducing people to alter oped countries most of the ‘best’ sites for
system might be their lifestyles and live in a more sustain- hydropower installations have already
counterproductive able manner. Large cars are being replaced been developed (see map 7.6 in chapter
by smaller, more energy-efficient vehicles 7). Some of the climate-­related benefits of
when evaluated in in some places, and governments are of- hydropower are illustrated in box 5.2.
terms of mitigation fering subsidies for purchasing energy‑ef-
ficient appliances. But these changes alone However, there is evidence that hydro-
of climate change are unlikely to substantially counteract the electricity generation can also generate
pressure from rising living standards in considerable amounts of greenhouse gases,
emerging market economies. which are released from sediment and
decaying organic matter at the bottom
Technological innovation waters of reservoirs.7 Artificially flooded
Climate change will be a major driver of reservoirs of sufficient depth can experi-
technological innovation and transfer.6 ence anaerobic conditions as organic
Massive amounts of new investments will matter decomposes and, when the bottom
be required over the next 30 years to meet waters are disturbed, emits large quanti-
the growing energy needs of develop- ties of methane and other greenhouse
ing countries. Investments in adaptation gases. The problem arises most frequently
will be necessary to safeguard vulnerable in warmer climates, where reservoirs are
groups and infrastructure. prone to stratification and where there is
year-round algal growth.
The relationship between climate change
mitigation measures and water can be re- Biofuels, an alternative to fossil fuels in
ciprocal. Mitigation measures can adverse- transport, are another means of reduc-
ly influence the quantity and condition ing greenhouse gas emissions. Higher oil
of water resources and their management, prices in recent years have made bioenergy
while some water management policies more competitive. World Energy Outlook
and measures can increase greenhouse gas 2006 projected an average rate of growth
emissions and affect other sectoral mitiga- of bioenergy production of 7% a year.8 By
tion measures. Thus, interventions in the 2030 biofuels are expected to meet 4% of
water system might be counterproductive road-transport fuel demand worldwide,
when evaluated in terms of mitigation of up from 1% today. But careful attention
climate change. also must be given to minimizing nega-
tive externalities associated with produc-
For example, many developed countries ing bioenergy, such as upward pressure
are shifting energy production from ther- on food prices and the impact on food
mal energy plants that burn fossil fuels security.9
and emit large quantities of greenhouse
gases to ‘clean’ energy sources. Thus, Developing countries will need to rely
significant increases in the development on technology development and transfer
of hydroelectric installations, a source of in mitigating and adapting to climate
clean electricity, could be anticipated as change. That will require removing obsta-
cles to technology transfer and providing
Box 5.2 Micro-hydro plants in Nepal are expected to incentives for accelerating and scaling
provide electricity access to 142,000 households up transfers, along with cooperating on
and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions research and development (see chapter 3).
According to the United Nations Frame-
work Convention on Climate Change
Nepal has vast hydro resources. micro-hydro plants are being installed
(UNFCCC), most technologies for adapt-
And while only about 27% of rural for local communities by prequali-
households are connected to a power fied private companies that receive
ing to climate change are already available
grid (the urban share is 90%), off-grid subsidies and technical assistance. in developing countries, and examples of
power generated by micro-hydro Installation of micro-hydro plants will successful implementation and operation
plants provides many rural households be phased in until 2011. The micro- abound, from coastal revetment to vac-
with electricity for lighting, milling hydro power plants, which qualify for cination programmes.10
and other needs. The generating emission reduction credits under the
capacity of these plants varies from 5 Clean Development Mechanism, will Policies, laws and finance
to 500 kilowatts. reduce greenhouse gas emissions by Climate change can stress political govern-
replacing diesel fuel used for lighting ance structures by increasing management
Through a project supported by the and milling.
and budget requirements for public serv-
World Bank, the United Nations Devel-
opment Programme and the gov- Source:
ices to mitigate climate change or to cope
ernments of Denmark and Norway, 9G19LTLEH0. with its impacts, including public health
care (box 5.3), disaster risk reduction and

72 World Water Development Report 3


Climate change and possible futures 1

public security. As stress mounts, the Box 5.3 Health and climate change
resilience of already unstable social and
political structures lessens, especially in
Climate change can affect health of the projected impacts of climate
countries with limited resources. At the
through multiple pathways, such as change on health are avoidable.
international level pressures build on greater frequency and intensity of Climate change is expected to exac-
governance systems to combat climate heat waves, fewer cold-related ill- erbate some health problems rather
change, mainly through the UNFCCC and nesses, increased floods and droughts, than cause new diseases to emerge.
growing public awareness. changes in the distribution of vector- Strengthening public health preven-
borne diseases and effects on the risk tion strategies, including improving
Most efforts have focused on mitigation of disasters and malnutrition. The water supply and sanitation services
strategies, which are especially important overall balance of impacts on health and disease surveillance, would be an
for policies in energy (a major water use is likely to be negative, and popula- essential part of any effective response.
sector), international trade and transporta- tions in low-income countries are
likely to be particularly vulnerable to Source: Haines et al. 2006; Campbell-
tion. In many countries climate change
the adverse effects. However, many Lendrum, Corvelan, and Neira 2007.
issues fall under the authority of the min-
istry for environment or natural resources.
But as regional carbon trading markets
emerge and as economies become ever the overall costs of adapting to climate
more carbon-constrained, the ministries of change.
finance and planning will need to become
more directly involved. Challenges for the impact of climate
change on water resources and
Most governance structures today are too management
weak to tackle current water problems, One of the most pressing challenges of cli-
much less prepare for emerging problems, mate change is addressing the vulnerabil-
including climate change. And there is ity of human populations, particularly the
still very little evidence about which types poor, to the impacts of extreme hydrologic
of governance responses work in which events, such as floods, storm surges and
contexts and what their impacts are on droughts. Over the longer term the effects
water equity, efficiency and sustainability. of incremental climate change are likely
Water reforms in most countries have not to influence decisions about food security,
considered the implications of climate energy security and land use, all with vital
change or other major drivers of water use implications for water resources and man-
and the need for long-term planning. agement and environmental sustainability
(see chapter 7). In this context climate
Effective funding mechanisms are lacking change can intensify existing pressures,
for developing countries to support ad- thereby increasing risk, vulnerability and
aptation to climate change, which affects uncertainty.
development at many levels. In Africa the
impacts of climate change are expected For water managers anthropogenic climate
to range from increased energy short- change poses a new set of challenges –
ages, reduced agricultural production, because they can no longer plan, design
worsening food security and malnutri- and operate hydrologic systems based on
tion to the increasing spread of disease, historical statistics. Climate change means
more humanitarian emergencies, growing learning to manage under increased
migratory pressures and increased risks uncertainty. Climate change is a new risk
of conflict over scarce land and water to be taken into account in policy devel-
resources. Africa is least able to meet the opment, planning and operations at the
costs of adapting to these impacts, yet global, basin, national, local and company
it receives the least from current carbon levels. It calls for increasing use of ‘climate
finance mechanisms. Its governance knowledge’ to better understand climate
structures and capacity are not ready for variability at different time scales, to assess
the inter­sectoral action that adaptation the socioeconomic impacts observed in
requires.11 the past, to monitor current conditions of
relevant environmental factors (climate,
Supporting developing country efforts to vegetation, water, diseases) and to provide
design adaptation strategies also requires the best possible information on future
better analysis. Information is needed at climate, from seasons to decades, for spe-
the local level, incorporating country- cific decisions and activities. Addressing
­specific characteristics and sociocultural the threats and opportunities of climate
and economic conditions. At the macro- change and its impacts on water resources
level information on both rich and poor and supplies is vital for even the most
countries is required to support inter- remote rural areas as part of a broader
national negotiations and to identify developmental agenda.

Water in a changing world 73


1 Chapter 5C

the water Although water is an important compo- Scenarios, which are sets of equally plau-
nent in most energy-generating processes, sible futures, differ from forecasts, which
drivers interact
its role in climate change mitigation policy are individual interpretations of a most
and can have is minor. Where water and climate change probable future based on extrapolation of
even more of an are most strongly linked is in adaptation the best available information. Scenarios
policy, which functions in highly dynamic are not forecasts. Because the real world
impact on future hydrologic, social, economic and demo- is so complex, forecasts are often wrong –
water resources graphic contexts. For water adaptation especially those involving a time horizon
measures to be effective, however, there of 20 years or more. Scenarios provide a
collectively must be complementary climate change means of looking beyond the water sector
than they can mitigation measures outside the water in search for an adequate causal under-
sector. standing of different water issues.
Because climate variability and change af- Scenarios can contribute to several goals in
fect all the major water drivers, adaptation the pursuit of sustainable water resources:
measures are needed in all sectors. Over
the long term adaptation means applying • The need for a long-term view. A long-
a long-term, climate-focused approach term view of water for sustainable
to existing policies and programmes. But development requires taking into
because the poor are the most vulnerable account the slow unfolding of some
and the least able to cope with change, it hydrologic, environmental and social
is particularly important to strengthen the processes and allowing time for water-
link between adaptation to climate change works investments and water mitiga-
and economic development – a difficult tion schemes to yield results.
challenge. Over the shorter term the best
approach might be to manage climate • The need to make decisions in a context
variability by prioritizing risk-reduction of high uncertainty. Decision-makers in
strategies and reinforcing the capacity of the water sector must often address
hydrometeorological services to provide water management issues against a
information for development needs. background of rapidly changing envi-
ronmental conditions and increasing
Each country will face its own challenges uncertainty. The uncertainty results
and must determine how to respond in from both a limited understanding of
the short, medium and long run. With human and ecological processes and
multiple challenges but limited financial the intrinsic indeterminism of com-
and natural resources and capacities, coun- plex dynamic systems. Further, water
tries will need to make hard choices about resources futures depend on future
water use and allocation. human choices, which are unknown.

There tends to be a push and pull effect • The need to include non-quantifiable
between identifying adaptation needs factors. The world’s water system
based on a climate change rationale and includes and is influenced by many
anchoring response options in baseline factors that are difficult to quantify
development activities. This separation (such as cultural and political vari-
between climate adaptation and develop- ables and processes), as well as factors
ment is artificial. Governments need to that can be quantified and modelled
design climate-smart development policies mathematically (such as hydrologic
and programmes, in part by strengthening and climatological dynamics and eco-
sectoral capacities. nomic factors). Qualitative scenario
analyses can provide insight into
Identifying possible futures: the these factors that simulation models
need for scenarios cannot.

Each of the water drivers is dynamic and • The need for integration and breadth.
continues to evolve, as do the direct and Water resources must be viewed holis-
indirect pressures they exert on water tically, considering both their natural
resources. Thus, it is difficult to draw a state and the need to balance compet-
comprehensive picture of the future by ing demands – domestic, agricultural,
examining each driver independently. The industrial and environmental – to
drivers interact and can have even more of ensure sustainability. Decisions on
an impact on future water resources collec- land use can affect the availability and
tively than they can individually. Future condition of water resources, while
scenarios that consider these interactions decisions about water resources can
offer a more holistic picture. also affect the environment and land

74 World Water Development Report 3


Climate change and possible futures 1

use. Decisions about economic and In 2006 the World Business Council for new global water
social futures can affect hydrology Sustainable Development (WBCSD) pro-
scenarios are
and ecosystems. And decisions at the duced three scenarios focusing on the role
international, national and local levels of business and water.13 Its three storylines needed. Existing
are connected. Sustainable manage- focus on efficiency (more value per drop), global water
ment of water resources requires security (meeting the basic needs of all)
systemic, integrated decision-making and interconnectivity (a ‘whole system’ scenarios do not
that recognizes the interdependence approach; table 5.2). In another example fully incorporate
of decisions; scenarios are particularly using driver categories similar to those in
helpful for this purpose. this Report, the Global Environment Outlook each of the
(GEO4) report of 2007 generated four dif- drivers described
• The need for perspective. Qualitative ferent scenarios: markets first, policy first,
scenarios provide guidance, perspec- security first and sustainability first.14 in this chapter
tive and context for computer models
and sectoral studies, while models Despite these recent endeavours, expe-
and studies provide consistency and rience indicates that new global water
feasibility checks for some elements of scenarios are needed. Existing global water
water scenarios, as well as numerical scenarios do not fully incorporate each of
estimates of the modelled variables. the drivers described in this chapter. The
Further, global scenarios provide a scenarios are either outdated (those of the
context for scenarios on a smaller World Water Vision) or partial, incomplete
geographic scale (local, watershed, or sectoral (WBCSD, GEO4). In addition,
national or regional). Many important the evolution of the drivers and the logic
changes in a river basin are deter- behind their storylines need to be exam-
mined by factors from outside the ined and possibly redefined in view of
study area. developments both inside and outside the
water sector since 2000. Finally, important
• The need to organize understanding new policy initiatives have emerged since
for decision-making. Decision-makers the last world water scenarios, such as the
may have difficulty identifying the adoption of the Millennium Development
elements from different studies that Goals.
are most relevant for their decisions.
Scenarios are developed with decision- Challenges for summarizing the
making in mind. They are constructed pressures of external drivers on
to focus attention on causal processes water resources
and decision points, the unfolding of
alternatives and the branching points Multiple external drivers exert pressures
at which human actions can signifi- on water resources through changes in
cantly affect the future. water demands and uses. Some of these
pressures are summarized in the table at
• The need for an arena for conversation
among water stakeholders. Scenarios Table 5.2 The three water scenarios of the World Business
provide common frameworks for Council for Sustainable Development, to 2025
mapping and highlighting critical
concerns of diverse stakeholders and Scenario ‘Hydro’ ‘Rivers’ ‘Ocean’
identifying alternatives – setting the Water challenge Efficiency (more Security Interconnectivity
stage for discussions, debates and drops for less and (quantity and (taking the whole
negotiation. more value per quality for all) system into
drop) account)
Over the past decade several global scenar- Business challenge Innovation Social license to Business role in
ios have been developed for the water sec- operate water governance
tor. One of the most comprehensive was
The five key story • Hard times in • The security • Unintended
the scenario work for the World Water Vi- themes huge towns deficit consequences
sion in 2000.12 The Vision generated three • Huge • Two sides of • Global Fair Water
scenarios: a technology, economics and opportunities the river Movement
private sector scenario in which private • High-stakes • The trust • The tipping
sector initiatives lead research and devel- innovation deficit point
opment and globalization drives economic • Hydro economy • Access and • Accountability
growth, but the poorest countries are left • Beyond legacy equity tools
behind; a values and lifestyles scenario in systems • Political • Networked
which sustainable development is a global reallocation – global water
local solutions governance
priority, with emphasis on research and
development in the poorest countries; and
Source: WBCSD 2006.
a business-as-usual scenario.

Water in a changing world 75


1 Chapter 5C

the beginning of part 2. The challenge is by the pressures imposed by rising living
to get decision-makers inside and outside standards), which involve demographic,
the water sector to adopt appropriate meas- social and economic factors but are also
ures to reduce the negative pressures on influenced by technology and govern-
water and increase the positive pressures. ance. Generating a picture of this com-
plex future would be greatly assisted
Making this challenge more difficult are by the development of a set of future
the links between drivers (as illustrated scenarios.

Notes IEA (International Energy Agency). 2006. Development. Nairobi: United Nations
1. IPCC 2008. World Energy Outlook 2006. Paris: Organi- Environment Programme.
sation for Economic Co-operation and UNFCCC (United Nations Framework
2. Nicholls et al. 2007.
Development, and International Energy Convention on Climate Change). 2006.
3. van Aalst, Hellmuth, and Ponzi 2007. Agency. Application of Environmentally Sound
4. OECD 2005. IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Cli- Technologies. Technical Paper FCCC/
5. Stern 2006. mate Change). 2008. Technical Paper TP/2006/2, United Nations Frame-
on Climate Change and Water. IPCC- work Convention on Climate Change,
6. IPCC 2008.
XXVIII/Doc.13, Intergovernmental Panel New York.
7. Giles 2006. on Climate Change, Geneva. www.ipcc. docs/2006/tp/tp02.pdf.
8. IEA 2006 ch/meetings/session28/doc13.pdf. ———. 2007a. Climate Change: Impacts, Vul-
9. FAO 2008. Nicholls, R. J., P. P. Wong, V. R. Burkett, J. nerabilities and Adaptation in Developing
10. UNFCCC 2006. O. Codignotto, J. E. Hay, R. F. McLean, Countries. Bonn, Germany: United Na-
S. Ragoonaden, and C. D. Woodroffe. tions Framework Convention on Climate
11. van Aalst, Hellmuth, and Ponzi 2007. 2007. Coastal Systems and Low-lying Change.
12. Cosgrove and Rijsberman 2000. Areas. In Climate Change 2007: Impacts, ———. 2007b. Investment and Financial
13. WBCSD 2006. Adaptation, and Vulnerability, eds. M. Flows to Address Climate Change. Back-
L. Parry, O. F. Canziani, J. P. Palutikof, ground paper, United Nations Frame-
14. UNEP 2007.
P. J. van der Linden, and C. E. Hanson. work Convention on Climate Change,
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University New York.
References Press.
van Aalst, M., M. Hellmuth, and D.
Campbell-Lendrum, D., C. Corvalán, and OECD (Organisation for Economic Co- Ponzi. 2007. Come Rain or Shine: Inte-
M. Neira. 2007. Global Climate Change: operation and Development). 2005. grating Climate Risk Management into
Implications for International Public Bridge over Troubled Waters: Linking African Development Bank Operations.
Health Policy. Bulletin of the World Health Climate Change and Development. Paris: African Development Bank Working
Organization 85: 235-37. Organisation for Economic Co-operation Paper 89, African Development Bank,
and Development. Tunis.
Cosgrove, W., and F. Rijsberman. 2000.
World Water Vision: Making Water Every- Oxfam. 2007. Adapting to Climate Change WBCSD (World Business Council for
body’s Business. London: Earthscan. – What’s Needed in Poor Countries, and Sustainable Development). 2006.
Who Should Pay. Oxfam Briefing Paper Business in the World of Water: WBCSD
FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization 104, Oxfam International, Oxford, UK. Scenarios to 2025. Washington, DC:
of the United Nations). 2008. The State
of Food and Agriculture 2008: Biofuels: Stern, N. 2006. The Stern Review: The World Business Council for Sustainable
Prospects, Risks, and Opportunities. Rome: Economics of Climate Change. London: Development.
Food and Agriculture Organization. Cabinet Office, HM Treasury. World Bank. 2004. Towards a Water-Secure
Giles, J. 2006. Methane Quashes Green UNDP (United Nations Development Kenya. Water Resources Sector Memo-
Credentials of Hydropower. Nature 444 Programme). 2007. Human Develop- randum, Report 28398-KE. World Bank,
(7119): 524-25. ment Report 2007/2008: Fighting Climate Washington, DC.
Change. Human Solidarity in a Divided ———. 2006. Clean Energy and De-
Haines, A., R. S. Kovats, D. Campbell- World. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. velopment: Towards an Investment
­Lendrum, and C. Corvalan. 2006.
Climate Change and Human Health: UNEP (United Nations Environment Framework. Paper DC2006-0002.
Impacts, Vulnerability and Public Health. Programme). 2007. Global Environ- Development Committee, World Bank,
Public Health 120 (7): 585-96. ment Outlook 4 (GEO4): Environment for Washington, DC.

76 World Water Development Report 3

Using water

Climate change and possible futures


6 Water’s many benefits Chapters 6-9

7 Evolution of water use Jean-Marc Faurès
8 Impacts of water use on water systems and the environment
9 Managing competition for water and the pressure on ecosystems Domitille Vallée

2 Author: Domitille Vallée

History shows a strong link between on local resources. The effects of water
economic development and water re- depleting and polluting activities on
sources development. Abundant exam- human and ecosystem health remain
ples can be drawn of how water has largely unreported or difficult to meas-
contributed to economic development ure, and the need grows stronger for
and how development has demanded effective protection of ecosystems and
increased harnessing of water. Such the goods and services they produce –
benefits came at a cost and in some on which life and livelihoods depend.
places led to increasing competition As competition among demands on
and conflicts between users and pres- water increases, society will need to
sure on the environment. respond with improved water manage-
ment, more effective policies and trans-
While demand from all sectors is on parent and efficient water allocation
the rise, in most places it is agriculture mechanisms. The drivers described in
that accounts for the bulk of water use. part 1 create pressures on society that
Steadily rising demand for agricultural lead to changes in water use (see table).
products to satisfy the diverse needs
of a fast growing population (for food, The 2003 and 2006 editions of The
fibre and now fuel) has been the main United Nations World Water Develop-
driver behind agricultural water use – ment Reports examined many aspects
and such demand is expected to contin- of water use. Some, such as the use
ue to grow. In parallel, changing life- of groundwater, are covered more
styles and consumption patterns and extensively in this edition. Similarly,
rapidly growing cities and industries the availability of new information is
are claiming increasing amounts of reflected in the treatment here of water
water and are putting heavy pressure supply and sanitation.

Drivers create pressures that influence water use patterns

Demographic Economic Social Technological Policies, laws Climate
Users growth growth change innovation and finance change
Agriculture Rising demand Rising demand Environmen- Greater agricul- Agriculture and Shifts in crop
for food and for meat, fish tally sensitive tural water trade policy patterns,
subsequent and high-value behavioural productivity (subsidies, greater reliance
pressure on agricultural changes can import/ on irrigation in
land and water products lead to more export quotas, places, gener-
resources vegetarian etc.) dictates ally greater
diets crop yields crop evapo­
and water transpiration
Energy Rising demand Rising demand Awareness can Greater Energy policy Change in
and pressure to and pressure lower demand efficiency (pro- (and price production
develop more to develop duction and speculation) patterns, with
energy sources more energy supply) dictates supply different water
tion lifestyles
sources, some- sources (hydro demands
can increase Development
times ‘dirty’ and renewa- (quantity
demand of new or
resources (e.g., bles, fossil, and quality
‘dirty’ sources
tar sands) nuclear) implications)
Health Urbanization Greater access Education Increasing Health care Shifting limits
and potential to medical increases quality of and education and timing of
for increased services, safe good health health care policy (e.g., vector-borne
disease water and possibilities universal cover- diseases
transmission sanitation age, subsidies)
negative Greater vulner-
impacts (e.g., ability of the
pesticides) poor (floods,
droughts, dis-
ease outbreaks)
Industry Increased Positive feed- Rising living Can increase Can promote Increased
demand for back loop standards or decrease or impose uncertainty
basic goods change environmental standards and risk
and services demands for impacts (both
resources Can prompt
consumer in some cases)
needs and energy
environmental and water
degradation efficiency
Environment Increased Can increase Awareness can Can increase Can impose Threatens
competition natural lower impact or decrease protection ecological
for land and resource use impacts – measures balances
resources and pollution sometimes
tion lifestyles Leads to shift-
can increase ing habitats
Poverty Growth of Can aid in pov- Increasing Low-cost Can impose Will affect the
focus informal erty reduction expecta- technologies equity rules on poor the most
human if services and tions for poor are increasingly allocation and
Impacts will
settlements opportunities communities accessible pricing policies
affect develop-
are available
May hinder ing countries
Increased need efficient provi- (with limited
for natural sion of needed resources)
resources to services more than
fuel economic developed
growth countries

Source: Compiled by Richard Connor.


Chapter 6
Water’s many benefits
Authors: Gunilla Björklund, Andy Bullock, Molly Hellmuth,
Walter Rast, Domitille Vallée and James Winpenny
Contributors: Moses Abukari, Cecile Brugère, Rudolf Cleveringa,
Richard Connor, Jennifer Hauc, Walter Huppert, Jean Margat,
Audrey Nepveu, Mary Renwick, Guido Santini, Eva Schiffer and World
Water Assessment Programme Expert Group on Storage
Coordinator: Jean-Marc Faurès (FAO)
Facilitator: Domitille Vallée

Key messages

Water has always played a key role in economic development,

and economic development has always been accompanied by
water development.

Investment in water management has been repaid through live-

lihood security and reductions in health risks, vulnerability
and ultimately poverty.

Water contributes to poverty alleviation in many ways –

through sanitation services, water supply, affordable food and
enhanced resilience of poor communities faced with disease,
climate shocks and environmental degradation.

Water of the right quality can improve health through better

sanitation and hygiene and, when applied at the right time, can
enhance the productivity of land, labour and other productive
inputs. In addition, healthy freshwater ecosystems provide mul-
tiple goods and services essential to life and livelihoods.

People have traditionally settled near economies water is often the most im-
water sources. An adequate and depend- portant factor for agricultural production
able source of water is needed to sustain and other livelihood activities.3 In urban-
humanity and to support future growth based, labour-intensive manufacturing
and development. Investment in water economies water is needed for nearly all
management has been repaid through in- productive activities.4 Secure access to
creased livelihood security and reductions water with reliable storage and irrigation
in health risks, vulnerability and ultimate- has boosted economic growth in many of
ly poverty.1 Poverty reduction is closely the developed economies of the Americas
linked to enhanced access to water.2 and Europe, and through the green revolu-
tion in Asia has enabled the transforma-
Where economic growth has been strong tion of agriculture-based economies to in-
and prosperity has been fairly equitably dustrial and emerging market economies.5
distributed, poor individuals and house-
holds have been able to reach the targets Past efforts of development and water
of the Millennium Development Goals. use have often ignored the water needs
Conversely, where governments are unable of life on Earth and have placed at risk
or unwilling to deliver the basic services, the resources on which life depends (see
water emerges among the most pressing chapter 8). The links connecting water
issues (box 6.1). resources, the environment and economic
sectors are complex. As a result, our under-
Experience shows that access to water is standing of all the ways that natural proc-
fundamental for economic growth and esses influence human well-being remains
livelihoods. In rural and agriculture-based incomplete, impeding our ability to ensure

80 World Water Development Report 3


Water’s many benefits 2

sustainable economic and social develop- Box 6.1 Water services are a crucial element of
ment. This chapter explores our current nation-building in fragile states
understanding of the links between water
and growth, poverty reduction, health and
The importance of water services is themselves’. While each fragile state
the environment. especially apparent in societies where is fragile in different ways and for
normal social life and political struc- different reasons – war, post-conflict
Water for economic tures have broken down. Categorizing recovery, major natural catastrophe,
development them as fragile states, the UK Depart- prolonged mismanagement and politi-
ment for International Development cal repression – a striking commonal-
Water development is essential to growing defines these as countries ‘where the ity in reports from aid agencies is the
economies. Over the centuries the world has government cannot or will not deliver prominence of water and sanitation in
witnessed an unprecedented expansion in core functions to the majority of its relief and reconstruction programmes.
urban water supply, irrigation, dam storage, people, including the poor’. Among The rapid restoration of viable water
the most important functions of the services is often a crucial ingredient of
drainage, water transport facilities and other
state for poverty reduction is ‘the abil- nation-building in these fragile states.
water schemes as development has occurred ity to protect and support the ways
at different rates in different regions. in which the poorest people sustain Source: DfID 2005, p. 7; OECD 2008.

Water development and growth

Water infrastructure supports growth and reforms, openness to global trading systems
poverty reduction and should be planned and advances, supply chains and regional
by taking the possible impacts into account production networks. Storage, irrigation,
(box 6.2). The principal drivers of growth urban water supply and wastewater have all
and change have often come from out- been part of the enabling infrastructure.
side the domain of water managers. Water These have been led by public policies and
development has largely responded to and microeconomic developments (productiv-
been affected by developments in the wider ity changes, capital and input accumu-
political economy, such as market-oriented lation, and technology). In some cases

Box 6.2 Storing water for development

For millennia people have tried to control fuels and the need to shift towards cleaner management, and water supply for large
and store irregular water flows by creating energy production. Emerging market econ- urban areas. Their management is com-
reservoirs and storing water to regulate omies with fast-growing industries and plex because storage can frequently com-
seasonal flows, limit floods and overcome cities need to secure more energy. China, promise needs for other uses (for example,
dry spells. India and Thailand and many countries in the need to lower reservoir water levels for
Latin America are looking to invest in water flood control, maintain levels for energy
Today, in parts of many countries demand infrastructure in neighbouring countries (as production and replicate natural flows for
exceeds available runoff. These countries South Africa has done in Lesotho), if neces- protection of species). Integrated water
depend on dams and water harvesting sary to secure their water futures. management at the basin level using real-
systems to control irregular storm runoff. time hydrologic information from weather
The situation is particularly acute in arid Water storage is a particularly important radar and computer models of individual
and semi-arid areas where rainfall periods component of flood management. Its im- reservoirs allows optimum management
are short and floods can be especially portance will likely increase in a changing of storage and release to satisfy domestic,
destructive. Demands are often seasonal, global climate, especially in regions where agricultural, industrial and environmental
relating not only to agriculture, but also to the severity of storms is projected to requirements.
peak demands for tourism and hydro- intensify and where precipitation may be
power production. Increasingly, it will be higher. The potential for increased storms Dams, especially large dams, are contro-
impossible to do without some form of and extreme rainfall events means that versial, as they leave a heavy footprint on
water storage, either surface (reservoirs or dams and other large-scale infrastructure the natural environment and often displace
water-harvesting systems) or underground will need to be built to higher engineering large numbers of people, sometimes dis-
(cisterns and aquifers). Global changes, in standards, to withstand future risks. rupting traditional societies. Nevertheless,
particular the impacts of climate change, many countries continue to plan for such
elevate the need for water storage to a Small- and large-scale storage comple- large infrastructure projects to increase
higher priority. ment one another. Smaller decentral- storage capacities and meet other needs
ized and participatory water harvesting considered vital to improve development
Food production has always been an systems have increased water availability and avoid crises. Such projects should
important driver of water storage. In and, consequently, agricultural produc- strive to balance the desired objectives –
countries where the majority of the people tion, at household and community levels, ­economic growth and reduced ­vulnerability
live in rural areas, irrigation is increasingly especially among the poor. A diversity – with the likely associated environmental
indispensable to ensure reliable supplies of of storage types and capacities reduces and social costs. Each storage project must
water during the growing season. vulnerability to catastrophic events. evaluate the trade-offs involved. The World
Commission on Dams has provided a basic
Satisfying demand for energy through hy- Large storage projects may represent framework for such an assessment.
dropower has also led to the construction a more appropriate solution for multi­
of dams. This becomes more imperative purpose projects that provide hydropower, Source: WWAP Expert Group on Storage 2008;
with the highly fluctuating cost of fossil irrigation, flood control and drought WCD 2000.

Water in a changing world 81


2 Chapter 6

Figure 6.1 The shift of economies from agriculture-based runoff is extremely variable, the potential
to industrialized, 1965-2001 ability to store floodwater has the dual
advantage of saving water for later use
Agriculture’s contribution to growth in three types of economies, 1990-2005 (percent) while protecting human settlements and
80 development infrastructure.
Actual poverty data Agriculture-based
Predicted poverty data countries
60 Poverty data over time Can we afford not to invest in water?
India (1965-94) Evidence of the macroeconomic returns to
40 investment in water is growing. The cost
of a series of major typhoons and resulting
20 flood damage in post-war Japan has been
Brazil (1970-96)
Indonesia (1970-96) estimated at 5%-10% of GNP. Investment
China in soil conservation and flood control
Urbanized countries
countries following legislation in the early 1960s
-20 reduced the impact of flood damage to less
0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0
than 1% of GNP.6 A rise in investment in
Rural poor/total poor, 2002
domestic water use was accompanied by a
Note: Arrows show paths for Brazil, China, India and Indonesia. sharp drop in reported illnesses and death
Source: Based on World Bank 2007. from infectious water-borne diseases and a
virtual end to related infant deaths.7
infrastructure development has been pro-
moted by specific sectors in the economy There are even more examples of the
that directly benefit from them, while the economic cost of lack of investment in
costs are usually borne by society at large. water. In Kenya the combined impact of
the winter floods of 1997/98 and drought
Agriculture – especially food ­production – between 1998 and 2008 has been esti-
has historically been a first stage of national mated at $4.8 billion – effectively a 16%
development (figure 6.1). For example, the reduction in GDP (see table 5.1 in chap-
Republic of Korea’s industrial take-off in the ter 5).8 Evidence suggests that floods and
1960s was preceded by decades of rapid ag- drought in Kenya translate into a direct
ricultural growth, with productivity driven annual loss of 22% of GDP over a 2.5 year
by comprehensive land reform that saw period. The Mozambique floods of 2000
smallholdings displace traditional tenant caused a 23% reduction in GDP and a
farming. In Thailand poverty fell from 57% 44% rise in inflation. Inability to tackle
in 1962 to 10% in 2002, with initial de- hydrologic variability in Ethiopia has been
clines led by growth in agricultural produc- estimated to cause a 38% decline in GDP
tion. Viet Nam laid the foundation for rapid and a projected 25% increase in poverty
post-war economic growth through liber- for 2003-15.9 Worldwide, more than 7,000
alization of markets and macroeconomic major disasters have been recorded since
stability, together with increased security 1970, causing at least $2 trillion in damage
of land tenure that permitted transfers of and killing at least 2.5 million people.10
land-use rights. Between 1990 and 2003,
as the economy grew at 7.5% a year and Improving water management would help
agriculture at 4.2%, the $1 a day poverty countries reduce the damage of climate
index dropped from 50.7 to 13.1. Agricul- variability and the extreme events that
tural productivity improvements largely can cripple economies. Year after year, the
drove gains in the early reform period as human costs of delayed investments are
Viet Nam became the world’s second largest mounting.
exporter of rice, coffee and pepper. During
this period of sustained economic growth, GDP, water investments and water use
Asia witnessed a major expansion in irriga- While the links between water develop-
tion infrastructure in water storage, urban ment and GDP are strong, they are also
water supply and wastewater treatment. complex. Asian Water Development Outlook
2007 emphasizes the need for a multidis-
Development in a country or community ciplinary and multisector perspective on
is constrained by the abilities to gain ac- water in the Asia and Pacific region to face
cess to water and – should the resource the challenges of sustaining growth.11 The
become scarce – to make the necessary report highlights the need to address the
economic, social and environmental trade- links between water and other important
offs (see chapter 16). Changes in rainfall development-related sectors, such as en-
and more variable runoff as a result of ergy, food and the environment.
climate change are likely to reduce water
availability and represent a clear challenge Actions that target rural economies will
for development (see chapter 11). Where benefit the largest number of people. As of

82 World Water Development Report 3


Water's many benefits 2

2007, 3 billion people live in rural areas, literature.13 Water contributes to pov-
most of them dependent on agriculture for erty alleviation in many ways – through
their livelihood. Agricultural economies sanitation services, water supply, afford-
are especially vulnerable to lack of water able food and enhanced resilience of poor
during critical crop-growing seasons. Their communities to disease, climate shocks
performance is influenced by the ability to and environmental degradation. Water
secure and control water through infra- of appropriate quantity and quality can
structure, such as water harvesting storage, improve health and, when applied at the
reservoirs and canals, and the ability to right time, can enhance the productivity
transport it to crops when required. of land, labour and other inputs.

Investments in physical infrastructure The daily water supply for multiple

must be accompanied by investments in household uses is determined by the
‘soft’ infrastructure, the dense network of time, labour and financial costs required
institutions and human capacity needed to to access water. The economic and social
secure spaces in which individuals, house- returns from water access for different uses
holds, firms and communities are able to determine net livelihood benefits or losses.
pursue their day-to-day activities with a
reasonable degree of predictability and sta- Figure 6.2 The relation between freshwater use and level
bility and with due regard for the interests of development is inconclusive
of others.12 Investments are also required
for the operation and maintenance of Freshwater withdrawal per capita, 2002 (cubic metres per year)
physical infrastructure (see chapter 9). 2,500

However, while there is a strong relation 2,000

between water investment and growth, the
relation between the quantity of water used 1,500
and a country’s level of development is
inconclusive (figure 6.2). Many water-poor 1,000
economies have developed, while the ratio
of water use to GDP in many developed 500
countries has been declining (figure 6.3).
0 10,000 20,000 30,000 40,000 50,000
Water and poverty reduction
GDP per capita, 2002
The relationship between water and pover- Source: Data on water withdrawal, AQUASTAT; data on GDP per capita, World Bank.
ty is widely discussed in the development

Figure 6.3 The ratio of water use to GDP has been declining in many countries

Cubic metres of water per dollar of GDP

6 Egypt 0.5 Portugal

India Spain
Iraq Russian
China Federation
5 Morocco United
Iran, Islamic States
0.4 Italy
Cyprus Japan
Jordan Greece
4 Turkey Canada
Tunisia Israel
Algeria 0.3 United
Libyan Arab Kingdom
Jamahiriya France
3 Saudi Arabia Germany
Malta Sweden


0 0.0
1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 1997 2000 1975 1980 1985 1990 1997 2000

Source: Based on Margat and Andréassian 2008.

Water in a changing world 83


2 Chapter 6

The poorest Benefits or losses may take the form of three on less than $1 a day.16 More than 660
reduced vulnerability to shocks, increased million people without adequate sanitation
populations in the
productive capacity, increased social live on less than $2 a day, and more than
world have the benefits and increased capacity to main- 385 million on less than $1 a day. This evi-
lowest access to tain service levels. Studies in India show dence highlights clearly the financing diffi-
clear evidence of poverty alleviation and culties of improving access through house-
water supply and income gains for all rural groups, even the hold investment. This is important because
sanitation services landless, through increased working days households, not public agencies, often make
as a result of improved access to water.14 the largest investment in basic sanitation,
and are the most with the ratio of household to government
dependent on Distributing the benefits of growth investment typically being 10 to 1.17
A major lesson of Human Development
water resources Report 2006 on poverty and the global With household poverty widespread, the
for sustainable water crisis is that the distribution of burden has shifted to governments. A
economic growth affects the rate at which strong social and economic case has been
livelihoods. the growth is converted into poverty made over the past decade for investments
They are at the reduction.15 Thus, every 1% increase in in water supply and sanitation as essen-
growth has reduced poverty by about 1.5% tial prerequisites for economic growth.
losing end of
in Viet Nam – twice the 0.75% reduction There is also evidence that more equitable
the equity curve, in Mexico, with its larger income gap. The economic growth in Asia has delivered im-
most vulnerable report records that some countries, such as proved water supply and ­sanitation – with
Bangladesh and Thailand (for sanitation) rising wealth making possible household
to changing and Sri Lanka and Viet Nam (for water), investments in basic services and higher
environmental and have performed far better than expected government expenditure for basic services.
solely on the basis of income, as compared WaterAid in its 2005 response to the Cam-
social conditions with others, such as India and Mexico (for dessus Report of 2003 points to growth as
and most likely sanitation). The lesson is that income mat- an enabler of government finance for the
ters but that policy shapes the conversion provision of basic services: ‘For national
to be adversely of income into human development. governments in developing countries to
affected by the double their allocations to water, their
The poorest populations in the world have national incomes need to rise substan-
vagaries of climate the lowest access to water supply and sani- tially. This requires, amongst other things,
tation services and are the most dependent a healthy balance of trade and a growing
on water resources for sustainable liveli- national economy.’18
hoods. They are at the losing end of the
equity curve, most vulnerable to changing Rising levels of income inequality may
environmental and social conditions and make access to services more difficult for
most likely to be adversely affected by the those who most need it. The UN Depart-
vagaries of climate. As noted in Human ment of Economic and Social Affairs sug-
Development Report 2006, access to water gests a package of universal social policies
in many developing countries mirrors the and targeted economic policies tailored to
distribution of wealth. The Millennium individual country conditions. The pack-
Development Goals and other poverty re- age would be based on a strong ‘social con-
duction efforts such as Poverty Reduction tract’ to provide a ‘global social floor’ that
Strategy Papers have been designed specifi- provides a minimum level of security –
cally to address these types of inequities. including water security – in line with the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.19
One clear message from the past decade of
poverty reduction initiatives is the diver- The different situations and water
sity of approaches to development. Unlike needs of the urban and rural poor
health and education, which are firmly Some 1.4 billion people are classified as
ensconced in the arena of social services, poor:20 44% in South Asia, about 24% each
water management has often tended to fall in sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia, and
between the economic and growth agenda 6.5% in Latin America and the Caribbean.
or the human development and basic serv- The water-related needs of poor people dif-
ices agenda. Neither agenda has held sway fer in urban and rural contexts.
across all countries.
The urban poor often live in informal settle-
Human Development Report 2006 unequivo- ments following rapid urban growth: 77%
cally identifies the crises in drinking water of the population in Latin America is urban;
and sanitation as a crisis for the poor, on 38% in Africa. Those figures are expected to
the evidence that almost two in three rise over the next few decades with pro-
people lacking access to safe drinking water jected urban expansion. People in informal
survive on less than $2 a day and one in settlements live without many of life’s basic

84 World Water Development Report 3


Water's many benefits 2

necessities: safe drinking water, adequate Box 6.3 Land tenure and access to water and sanitation
sanitation services, access to health services,
durable housing and secure tenure.21 Afford-
Provision of safe water and adequate with a large informal population, the
able, safe, piped water is available to only a
sanitation is often affected by systems utilities offered to extend water lines
small share of low-income urban dwellers. of land tenure. Where sanitation is to the perimeter of slums. Metered
The financing of water services is the key to provided by individuals, as is common connections to the households would
expanding access, but the illegal status of in rural areas, there is little incentive be managed by resident associations or
the large majority of slum dwellers is often to invest without security of tenure. non-governmental organizations and
a barrier to access to finance or support Where governments seek to im- paid for by residents. The residents and
(box 6.3). Many informal settlements are in prove the provision of public services the utilities gained from this solution
flood-prone areas and are especially vulner- through government provision, which as both water costs in slums and illegal
able to environmental hazards.22 Thus, large may involve contracts with private sec- connections were cut by 25%. There
populations of slum dwellers live at high tor providers, service providers usually are other examples where improved
require a land right (ownership or lease land tenure led to better service to the
risk of disease.
tenure) before concluding a contract poorest and to better performance by
to provide services. public agencies, such as strategies to
For the rural poor, who make up some 75% facilitate access to tenure title (India)
of the world’s poorest people, access to Resolving these issues requires an or integrated land tenure security or
water is essential both for basic needs and integrated approach across government improvement programmes (Morocco,
for productive purposes. Lack of access is departments and related institutions South Africa, Thailand and Zambia).
often the main factor limiting their ability to ensure that the agencies responsible
to secure their livelihoods. The Food and for land and property rights recognize Source: Ben Fawcett and Diana Mitlin,
Agriculture Organization of the United the public and personal health benefits International Water Association, based on
Nations and the International Fund for Ag- of sanitation and consequent improve- UNDP 2006;; World
ments in the social and economic stand- Water Assessment Programme Expert Group
ricultural Development have been working
ing of the poor. In Manila, a megacity on Legal Issues.
on a response matrix for rural poverty in
Africa to provide planners and policy-mak-
ers with a conceptual framework to identify Table 6.1 Water and the characteristics of rural livelihoods
appropriate context-specific interventions
tailored to the needs of diverse groups of Manifestation Manifestation
rural people (table 6.1 and figure 6.4).23 of characteristic of characteristic
Characteristic of among low-income among high-income
Although interventions are needed in rural livelihood populations populations
several areas, water is a key factor because Agricultural output (crops
it plays a central role in agriculture, it is a and livestock yield) Low High
frequent constraint on production and it Health and water access Poor Good
provides a focal point around which other
Direct natural resource
interventions can be organized (box 6.4). dependency High Low
Strategies to reduce rural poverty need
Susceptibility to flood and
to focus on improving productivity in
drought risk High Low
­agriculture – for most, the main source of
income. Gains require substantial interven- Knowledge and adaptive
tions to improve farm-level access and con- capacity Traditional Sophisticated
trol and management of water resources. Source: Sullivan et al. forthcoming.

There are many links between rural and

urban areas, and in most places there are potential could benefit no more than 18%
no sharp boundaries between rural and of the basin’s rural poor, even considering
urban spaces. Families often depend on off-farm multipliers. 25 This argues for a
both urban and rural locales to make dual approach, with interventions to reduce
a living. The share of rural household farmers’ vulnerabilities to rain-fed agricul-
incomes from non-farm sources, includ- ture as an essential accompaniment to the
ing migrants’ remittances, is 60% in South development of both smallholder irrigation
Asia, 40% in Latin America and 30-50% and large-scale infrastructure to support
in sub-Saharan Africa (reaching as high as macroeconomic growth.
80%-90% in Southern Africa).24
Unless the growth and poverty-reducing
Questions remain about how best to realize contributions of water resources are made
the potential benefits of water management more explicit and specific at the country
opportunities to assist the poor – particu- level, development-oriented finances are
larly about how to most effectively engage unlikely to follow. Those specifics will
the potential of limited water resources influence decisions about the sources,
for all poor people. For example, evidence costs, viability, sustainability and instru-
from the Zambezi Basin shows that even ments of development finance. But only
full development of the basin’s irrigation national and local action plans can secure

Water in a changing world 85


2 Chapter 6

Figure 6.4 Different categories of rural inhabitants in Africa

Large-scale farmers (commercial)

Large-scale infrastructure investments; improve
political, fiscal and legal environment; supervision

≈10% Emerging smallholders (market-oriented)

Cost-sharing on irrigation investment; improve
market access, land tenure, credit

Traditional farmers (smallholder, mainly subsistence)

Irrigation investment; targeted subsidies;
improve market access, land tenure;
increase resilience to climate shocks

Highly vulnerable population (survival)

75%-80% Social, vunerability reduction
programmes; basic services; rural
employment; highly subsidized

Source: Based on Faurès and Santini 2008.

Box 6.4 Four water dimensions of rural livelihoods

A livelihood approach puts people at the World map of the rural water livelihoods index, 2008
centre of development strategies, connect-
ing their ability to move out of poverty
with their capacities and assets. Water’s
importance as an asset is determined by
the quantity available daily for household,
agriculture and livestock consumption and
by its ability to stimulate economic and
social returns.
Rural water
A 2008 joint pilot project of the Food and livelihood index
Agriculture Organization and the Interna- High
tional Fund for Agricultural Development Medium-high
proposes a rural water livelihoods index Medium-low
and a draft framework for assessing the
No data
performance of water-related interven-
tions for reducing rural poverty. The index
considers four water-related components Note: Lower values reflect relatively worse conditions.
that influence rural livelihoods: access to Source: Sullivan et al. forthcoming.
basic water services, crop and livestock
water security, clean and healthy water index (a composite index that attempts to water investment are to be found where
environment, and secure and equitable to capture the relationship between income and livelihoods are the lowest, in
water entitlement. water and poverty). It is limited to eight sub-Saharan Africa.
subindicators for which data are available
The rural water livelihoods index is estab- at the country level for most of the world. Source: Poverty Environment Partnership 2006;
lished on the model of both the human Though imperfect, a world mapping of Faurès and Santini 2008; Sullivan 2002; Sullivan
development index and the water poverty the index shows that the highest returns et al. 2003; Sullivan et al. forthcoming.

the necessary alignments among water throughout the world depend on subsist-
resources, economic growth and poverty ence activities such as small-scale vegeta-
reduction. Formalizing those alignments ble gardening, fish rearing, livestock water-
within a new round of poverty reduction ing, brick making, basket making, textile
strategies, which are more growth‑orient- weaving, beer brewing and other handi-
ed, will help make the essential connec- crafts that require water. These activities
tions explicit. often also provide a much-needed source
of income. Better water access for domestic
Benefits of multiple-use approaches and agricultural use is likely to result in
A multiple-use approach to meeting the improved outcomes for poor households,
water needs of poor communities can by improving household productivity
bring multiple benefits. Poor households and health and releasing labour into the

86 World Water Development Report 3


Water's many benefits 2

household production system, stimulating and ongoing costs for most service levels
household income growth.26 and technology options, making multiple-
use services more likely to be sustained.
Poor households use water from natural
streams, from human-made structures When poor people can access water for
(irrigation canals and wells) and from rain- such household use and for small-scale
water harvested for small-scale irrigation productive water points, they are better
or domestic purposes. Although few water able to avoid hunger and survive droughts.
sources have a single use or user, a single- A multiple-use approach can improve
use perspective has dominated thinking health and reduce the incidence of water-
on water development and services (box borne diseases and lower child mortality.
6.5), particularly where communities It can also contribute to gender equity by
provide water supply systems in rural and reducing the time women spend fetching
poor peri-urban areas. water. In rural areas this approach could

Multiple-use water systems yield both

financial and non-financial benefits (fig- Box 6.5 Defining water services: single or multiple uses?
ure 6.5). Evidence from around the world
indicates that if the multiple-use reality Water services are defined as the Multiple-use approaches involve plan-
were acknowledged and investments were provision of water of a given quality, ning, finance and management of
made to upgrade single-purpose systems quantity and reliability at a speci- integrated water services for multiple
to serve multiple functions, more than 1 fied place. The definition emphasizes domestic and productive uses based
billion poor people could benefit.27 For outputs – what people receive – rather on consumer demand. ‘Domestic +’
than infrastructure. approaches involve provision of
example, upgrading domestic systems to
water services for domestic as well
provide 100 litres per person per day could
Single-use approaches involve design, as productive activities. ‘Irrigation +’
generate income of $40-$80 per capita per finance and arrangement of water approaches involve provision of water
year. In South Africa this approach resulted services for a single intended use, such services for irrigation as well as do-
in improved income as the productive use as for irrigation or domestic purposes, mestic and non-irrigation productive
of domestic water rose from 17% of average the most important single-use services activities.
household income in villages with limited in rural areas. Single-use approaches
water to 31% in villages with adequate pro- are the standard model of water serv-
vision.28 The income generated by multiple- ice delivery. Source: Renwick et al. 2007.
use services can enable repayment of initial

Figure 6.5 Benefits of a multiple-use approach to water

Domestic+ irrigation+ services progressively and Size of benefit/poverty impact

synergistically broaden benefits of single-use
Domestic+ Irrigation+
services and more comprehensively address the
multidimensional aspects of poverty.
Low High Low High

Improved of livelihoods;
Time food security/ reduced Equity and
Health savings Income nutrition vulnerability empowerment

multiple-use services

multiple-use services

multiple-use services

Basic domestic or
basic irrigationa

a. Assumes no unplanned uses as they cannot ensure sustainable generation of benefits.

Source: Renwick et al. 2007.

Water in a changing world 87


2 Chapter 6

Access to safe provide water for garden plots to meet Saving children
household needs. The under-five mortality rate is an impor-
water and
tant social indicator of development. It is
adequate Water and health an indicator of the quality of life, includ-
sanitation services ing the income and education of parents,
Access to safe water and adequate sanita- the efficacy of health services and access to
has proved to be tion services has proved to be one of the safe drinking water and sanitation services.
one of the most most efficient ways of improving human It is also easily measured and so is consid-
health. The World Health Organization ered a good indicator of progress towards
efficient ways has estimated the economic costs that can the Millennium Development Goals. In
of improving be avoided through adequate sanitation 2000 diarrhoea accounted for 17% of the
and the economy-wide returns to vari- 10.6 million deaths in children younger
human health ous levels of investment in water supply than five, and malaria for 8%.29 Undernu-
and sanitation services (table 6.2). Every trition is an underlying cause of 53% of all
$1 invested in improved water supply and deaths in children younger than five.
sanitation yields gains of $4-$12, depend-
ing on the type of intervention. Global under-five mortality has fallen
from 93 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 72
Almost one-tenth of the global disease per 1,000 in 2005 – a decline of 22.5% –
burden could be prevented by improv- but the pace of progress has been uneven
ing water supply, sanitation, hygiene and across regions and countries. The decline
management of water resources. Such has been slowest in sub-Saharan Africa.
improvements reduce child mortality and
improve health and nutritional status in a Benefits of improved access to water and
sustainable way. They yield multiple social sanitation for health
and economic benefits, enhancing well- Improvements in drinking water, sanita-
being and, indirectly, people’s access to tion, hygiene and water resources manage-
health-related services. Upgrading water ment could have a particularly large impact
supply and sanitation services could also on diarrhoea, malaria and malnutrition
improve education outcomes by enabling (table 6.3). But investments in improved
more girls to attend school instead of water supply and sanitation would also
fetching water, while providing sanitary make a difference for many neglected tropi-
facilities in schools encourages higher cal diseases (such as intestinal nematode
female enrolment in secondary schools infections, lymphatic filariasis, trachoma
and improves the working environment and schistosomiasis) that have environ-
for female teachers. There is thus a strong mental transmission pathways. Another
conceptual case that improved coverage of water health issue of increasing concern is
drinking water and sanitation contributes naturally occurring chemical ­contaminants
to meeting the Millennium Development – notably arsenic and fluoride (see box 8.3
Goals and to accelerated growth. in chapter 8). Such contaminants underline
the need for simple and reliable water qual-
Table 6.2 Benefit-cost ratio by water and sanitation ity monitoring systems and have important
intervention in developing regions and Eurasia implications for the definition of ‘safe’
drinking water used to monitor progress
Annual towards international targets, such as the
benefits Benefit-cost Millennium Development Goals.
Intervention ($ millions) ratio
Halving the proportion of people without Benefits go well beyond human health
access to improved water sources by 2015 18,143 9 Access to safe drinking water and adequate
Halving the proportion of people without sanitation services is vital to human
access to improved water sources and health but has other important benefits
improved sanitation by 2015 84,400 8 ranging from the easily identifiable and
Universal access to improved water
quantifiable (costs avoided, time saved)
and sanitation services by 2015 262,879 10 to the more intangible and difficult to
measure (convenience, well-being, dignity,
Universal access to improved water
privacy and safety).
and improved sanitation and water
disinfected at the point of use by 2015 344,106 12
In cost-benefit analyses the major benefits
Universal access to a regulated piped water
of improving access to water and sanita-
supply and sewerage connection by 2015 555,901 4
tion derive from the time savings associ-
Note: Benefit-cost ratio is total benefits divided by total costs. The higher the ratio, the ated with closer location of facilities. Easy
greater the benefits relative to the costs. Projects with a benefit-cost ratio greater than 1 access translates into increased produc-
have greater benefits than costs.
Source: Prüss-Üstün et al. 2008. tion, higher school attendance and more
leisure time. The case is exceptionally

88 World Water Development Report 3


Water's many benefits 2

Table 6.3 Major diseases attributable to environmental factors

Annual global burden Percent of

attributable to water, total burden
sanitation and hygiene attributable to
Deaths DALYa environmental
Disease (thousands) (thousands) factors Environmental pathways
Diarrhoea 1,523 52,460 94 Water supply, sanitation, hygiene
Malnutrition 863 35,579 50 Water supply, sanitation, hygiene,
water resources management
Malaria 526 19,241 42 Water resources management
Lymphatic filariasis 0 3,784 66 Water supply, sanitation
Intestinal nematodes 12 2,948 100 Sanitation
Trachoma 0 2,320 100 Water supply, hygiene, flies
Schistosomiasis 15 1,698 100 Water supply, sanitation, water resources management
Japanese encephalitis 13 671 95 Water resources management
Dengue 18 586 95 Water supply, sanitation

a. Disability adjusted life year, a summary measure of population health. One DALY represents one lost year of healthy life.

Source: Adapted from Prüss-Üstün and Corvalán 2006; Prüss-Üstün et al. 2008.

strong for sanitation, where the economic processing of products from sanitation sys-
cost of inaction is enormous. Without tems (into biogas, fertilizer, soil condition-
improving sanitation, it will be difficult ers or irrigation water, for example).
to fully achieve the Millennium Develop-
ment Goals. Reducing diarrhoeal diseases
Some 1.4 million children die each year
In addition, urban sanitation systems from preventable diarrhoeal diseases. Or-
comprise a range of processes that repre- dinary diarrhoea remains the major killer
sent new business opportunities. These among water-, sanitation- and hygiene-
may include small-scale service provision related diseases, contributing to 43% of
for construction of system components deaths.30 Sub-Saharan Africa and South
and the collection, transport, storage and Asia are the most affected regions (map 6.1).

Map 6.1 Diarrhoea deaths in 2004

Sub-Saharan Africa
South Asia
East Asia and Pacific
Middle East and North Africa
Latin America and Caribbean
Europe and Central Asia
High-income countries

Source: WHO 2008.

Water in a changing world 89


2 Chapter 6

Adequate Adequate sanitation and hand-­washing Fighting malaria

after defecation helps break the chain World Malaria Report 2005 states that
sanitation and
of transmission of fæcal-oral disease. 31 malaria continues to exact an unaccept-
hand-­washing after There is strong evidence that hand- able toll on the health and economic
defecation helps ­washing with soap prevents not only welfare of the world’s poorest communi-
diarrhoea but also acute respiratory ties.34 During the past decade malaria
break the chain infections, both major killers of children resurged or increased in intensity in Africa
of transmission of ages 1 month to 5 years. For example, in and South-East Asia after interruption
squatter settlements of Karachi, Pakistan, of eradication efforts and re-emerged in
fæcal-oral disease hand-­washing with soap cut episodes of several Central Asian and Transcaucasian
diarrhoea and acute respiratory infec- countries. Of the estimated 350-500 mil-
tions in half. 32 Hand-­washing even lion clinical disease episodes occurring
without water (in sand, for example), also annually, around 60% are in sub-Saharan
significantly reduces the likelihood of Africa, as are 80% of the deaths. Most of
diarrhoea, emphasizing the importance the more than 1 million Africans who die
of hygiene as well as water provision in from malaria each year are children under
improving health. age five.

Combating malnutrition How much malaria could be eliminated by

Malnutrition accounts for about a third managing the environment – by elimi-
of the disease burden in low- and middle- nating stagnant water bodies, modifying
income countries.33 Lack of access to reservoir contours, introducing drainage
adequate, safe food, partly related to water or improving irrigation ­management –
resources management, is one cause of differs across regions with variations in
malnutrition, but up to 50% of malnutri- vector habitats, with a global average of
tion is related to repeated diarrhoea or 42% (see table 6.3). Malaria control pro-
intestinal nematode infections as a result grammes that emphasize environmental
of unclean water, inadequate sanitation or management are therefore highly effective
poor hygiene (see table 6.3). in reducing malaria illness and malaria-
related death.35 Much of the attention in
Low height-for-age (stunting), an indica- international malaria research and control
tor of chronic undernutrition, is useful for has focused on medical solutions, such as
long-term monitoring of the cumulative drugs and vaccines, but developing new
effects of poverty, unclean water and in- tools and approaches for malaria preven-
adequate sanitation and a high infectious tion and control, including innovation in
disease burden (map 6.2). vector control, is essential.

Map 6.2 Geographical pattern of stunting in children under age five on a country basis

40.0% and higher

Less than 20.0%
No data

Source: WHO 2007.

90 World Water Development Report 3


Water's many benefits 2

Maintaining ecosystem services shoreline stabilization and protection, Growing pressure
nutrition cycling and retention, water
on water resources
How water is managed affects the health purification, preservation of biodiversity,
of ecosystems. Growing pressure on water and recreation and tourism. The Nakivubo affects ecosystems
resources affects ecosystems and threat- swamp, for example, provides wastewater and threatens the
ens the ecosystem goods and services on treatment services worth some $363 mil-
which life and livelihoods depend. lion to the citizens of Kampala, Uganda.37 ecosystem goods
In Uganda alone the use of inland water and services on
The natural environment provides food, resources is worth almost $300 million
essential natural resources and other life- a year in forest catchment protection, which life and
supporting goods, services and benefits erosion control and water purification livelihoods depend
for people, animals and plants. In addi- services. Almost 1 million urban dwellers
tion to supporting the production of food rely on natural wetlands for wastewater
and fibres, freshwater ecosystems regulate retention and purification services.38
environmental flows, purify wastewater Natural wetlands in the Zambezi Basin in
and detoxify wastes, regulate climate, Southern Africa have a net present value
provide protection from storms, mitigate of more than $64 million – $16 million
erosion and offer cultural benefits, includ- in groundwater recharge, $45 million in
ing significant aesthetic, educational and water purification and treatment services
spiritual benefits. and $3 million in attenuation of flood-re-
lated damage costs.39 Rice fields – human-
The diversity of ecosystem services varies made wetlands in the Ramsar Convention
with the type of ecosystem and the ways ­t ypology – offer a large range of ecosys-
in which this multifunctionality is man- tem services that can be enhanced or
aged (figure 6.6).36 Aquatic ecosystems pro- diminished depending on management
duce significant economic benefits, includ- decisions about the use of water and its
ing flood control, groundwater recharge, productive functions (see figure 6.6).

Figure 6.6 Agricultural systems can be managed to produce one

ecosystem function or a range of ecosystem services

Provisioning services Regulating services Supporting services Cultural services

Natural ecosystem Intensive cropland

Crop Crop
production production
Recreation Fuel Recreation Fuel
wood wood

Regulation Regulation
Nutrient of water Nutrient of water
cycling balance cycling balance

Soil Pest Soil Pest

formation control formation control
Climate Climate
regulation regulation

Multifunctionality in rice fields Alder-cardamom system

Rice Commercial timber

production and fuel wood
Religious land- Fish Fertility transfer Cardamom
scape values to other systems seed

enhancement Ducks,
in human- frogs, Soil Fodder for
dominated snails conservation livestock
Water storage,
Climate lowering of Watershed Soil fertility
air temperature peak floods, conservation improvement
Prevention of groundwater Nitrogen
soil erosion recharge

Source: Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture 2007, figure 6.4.

Water in a changing world 91


2 Chapter 6

It is critical that Across developing countries 10% of under- withdrawal at the basin level. It is critical
nourished people depend on direct access that allocations to the ‘environment’ or
allocations to the
to natural resources, in particular fresh- ‘nature’ not be considered ‘wasted water’.
‘environment’ or water ecosystems.40 They are vulnerable to Most such allocations can be considered
‘nature’ not be any degradation of these ecosystems or to in terms of benefits to people, recogniz-
changes in the water cycle that affect their ing that these in-situ uses may constrain
considered ‘wasted functioning. This is the case for pastoral- other uses, particularly during dry peri-
water’. Most such ists moving with their herds from one ods. Concerns for environmental services
water source and pasture area to another, often happen too late, when water use has
allocations can for capture fishers vulnerable to water gone beyond the capacity of the envi-
be considered in pollution and river water depletion and ronment to cope and when competition
for forest-dependent people who are hurt is critical. This is the result of decision
terms of benefits when forests are cleared for agriculture processes that do not promote informed,
to people or for construction of dams or other large impartial and balanced outcomes – and
infrastructure. These people are often as would not do so even if better valuations
voiceless as ecosystems in the water alloca- were at hand. Water still continues to
tion process. often be allocated on a first-come, first-
served sector basis.
Because of the interconnection between
freshwater ecosystems and their services, Map 6.3 pinpoints areas where respecting
developing one service (for example, food environmental water requirements has be-
production through increased irrigation) come urgent because water use is reaching
automatically affects others. The manage- limits that threaten to undermine our life
ment objective is to balance the delivery and development support base – particu-
of all services collectively so that ecosys- larly for people who are most vulnerable
tems are used optimally and development and dependent on the environment for
becomes sustainable. their livelihood.

Nature has to be recognized as a water Our reliance on nature and its abun-
stakeholder because it provides impor- dance must be matched by the care we
tant services to society. Ways of valuing take of the agro-ecosystems on which
ecosystem services remain highly contro- we depend. There are pastures in the
versial, however, and implementation of Alps, oases in Morocco and irrigation
environmental regulations is still limited systems in the Philippines that have
(see chapter 9). In any case, defining been used for centuries with no dimi-
an environmental water requirement – nution of their productive capacities or
even if imperfect – provides a voice for beauty. Rice terraces cascading down the
nature in allocation decisions for water Ifugao in the Philippines represent the

Map 6.3 Water stress level of major river basins, around 2002

(Yellow River) Basin,
Water stress indicator China
Low < 0.3


High ≥1.0 Orange River Basin,

Africa (Botswana, Lesotho, Murray-Darling Basin,
No discharge
Namibia, South Africa) Australia
Major river basins

Source: Based on Smakhtin, Revenga, and Döll 2004.

92 World Water Development Report 3


Water's many benefits 2

Box 6.6 Agro-ecosystems and sustainability: an example from Peru

The central Andes are a primary centre of origin level), and potatoes mainly at medium altitudes
for potatoes. Up to 177 varieties have been (3,500-3,900 metres above sea level). Areas at and
domesticated by generations of Aymara and above 4,000 metres are used mostly as rangeland
Quechua in the Cusco and Puno valleys. Many but are also cultivated with high-altitude crops.
cultural and agricultural treasures from the Inca In the high plateau, around Lake Titicaca, farmers
civilization have been carefully preserved and dig trenches around their fields and fill them with
improved over centuries to guarantee living con- water. Warmed by sunlight during the day, the
ditions in areas that are more than 4,000 metres water gives off warm steam when temperatures
above sea level. drop at night. the steam serves as frost protec-
tion for several varieties of potatoes and other
One of these is the terracing system used to con- native crops, such as quinoa. This method is under
trol land degradation and that allows cultivation consideration for use in irrigation areas in Peru as
of steep slopes at altitudes ranging from 2,800 an adaptation to climate change.
metres to 4,500 metres. Maize is cultivated in
the lower areas (2,500-3,500 metres above sea Source:

collective efforts of countless generations not only provide food, but they also eat
of farmers who developed an ingenious larvae and weeds in the flooded fields,
irrigation system that allowed them to reducing the cost, labour and pollution
share water and develop rice varieties risks involved in fertilization and insect
that survive at over 1,000 metres. In the control.41 The sophisticated terracing sys-
combination rice-fish systems of Zhe- tem in the central Andes in Peru allows
jiang Province in China, which date from cultivation of steep slopes at different
the Han Dynasty 2,000 years ago, fish altitudes (box 6.6).

Notes 19. United Nations 2008. Achieving Water Security for Asia. Manila,
1. Poverty Environment Partnership 2006. 20. World Bank 2007. Philippines: Asian Development Bank.

2. World Bank 2007. 21. UN-HABITAT 2006. Biemans, Hester, Ton Bresser, Henk
van Schaik, and Pavel Kabat. 2006.
3. Comprehensive Assessment of Water 22. Worldwatch Institute 2007. Water and Climate Risks: A Plea for
Management in Agriculture 2007. 23. Faurès and Santini 2008. Climate Proofing of Water Development
4. UNIDO 2007. 24. Tacoli 2007. Strategies and Measures. 4th World
5. World Bank 2007. Water Forum, Cooperative Program on
25. World Bank 2005b.
Water and Climate, Wageningen, The
6. Japan Water Forum and World Bank 26. Faurès and Santini 2008. Netherlands.
27. Renwick et al. 2007. Comprehensive Assessment of Water
7. Prüss-Üstün et al. 2008.
28. Renwick et al. 2007. Management in Agriculture. 2007.
8. Gichere, Davis, and Hirji 2006. Water for Food, Water for Life: A Compre-
29. WHO 2007.
9. Biemans et al. 2006; Grey and Sadoff hensive Assessment of Water Management
30. Prüss-Üstün et al. 2008. in Agriculture. London: Earthscan, and
31. Ejemot et al. 2008; Fewtrell et al. 2005. Colombo: International Water Manage-
10. United Nations 2008.
32. Luby et al. 2005. ment Institute.
11. APWF 2007.
33. Laxminarayan, Chow, and Shahid-Salles DfID (Department for International
12. United Nations 2008. Development). 2005. Why We Need to
13. GWP Technical Committee 2003; Hus- Work More Effectively in Fragile States.
34. Roll Back Malaria, WHO, and UNICEF
sain and Hanjra 2003; Lipton, Litchfield, London: Department for International
and Faurès 2003; UNDP 2006. Development.
35. Keiser et al. 2005.
14. World Bank 2005a. DfID (Department for International Devel-
36. MEA 2005. opment) Sanitation Reference Group.
15. UNDP 2006.
37. Worldwatch Institute 2007. 2008. Water Is Life, Sanitation Is Dignity,
16. UNDP 2006. Final Draft1. DfID Sanitation Policy Back-
38. UNEP 2007.
17. DfID 2008. Research in India has shown ground Paper, Department for Interna-
that between 1985/86 and 1991/92 gov- 39. Turpie et al. 1999. tional Development, London. www.dfid.
ernment investment in the construction 40. Comprehensive Assessment of Water
of latrines increased coverage by 2.2%. Management in Agriculture 2007. water-sanitation-background.pdf.
At the same time, a national census Ejemot, R., J. Ehiri, M. Meremikwu, and
41. Lu and Li 2006.
found that access to latrines was much J. Critchley. 2008. Hand Washing for
higher, suggesting that about 8% of rural Preventing Diarrhoea. Cochrane Database
households across the country had in- References of Systematic Reviews, Issue 3. Art. No:
vested their own time and money in the APWF (Asia-Pacific Water Forum). 2007. CD004265. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.
construction of latrines (DfID 2008). Asian Water Development Outlook 2007: CD004265.pub2.
18. Narayanan 2005; Winpenny 2003.

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Faurès, J.-M., and G. Santini, ed. 2008. Handwashing on Child Health: A Ran- Sullivan C. A., A. Cohen, J.-M. Faurès, and
Water and the Rural Poor – Interventions domised Controlled Trial. Lancet 366 G. Santini. Forthcoming. The Rural Water
for Improving Livelihoods in Sub-Saharan (9481): 225-33. Livelihoods Index: A Tool to Prioritize Water-
Africa. Rome: Food and Agriculture Margat, J., and V. Andréassian. 2008. related Interventions for Poverty Reduction.
Organization of the United Nations L’eau, les Idées Reçues. Paris: Editions le Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization
and International Fund for Agricultural Cavalier Bleu. of the United Nations and International
Development. Fund for Agricultural Development.
MEA (Millennium Ecosystem Assess-
Fewtrell, L., R. B. Kaufmann, D. Kay, W. ment). 2005. Ecosystems and Human Sullivan, C. A., J. R. Meigh, A. M. Gi-
Enanoria, L. Haller, and J. M. Colford. Well-Being: Wetlands and Water Synthe- acomello, T. Fediw, P. Lawrence, M.
2005. Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene sis. Washington, DC: World Resources Samad, S. Mlote, C. Hutton, J. A. Allan,
Interventions to Reduce Diarrhoea in Less Institute. R. E. Schulze, D. J. M. Dlamini, W.
Developed Countries: A Systematic Re- Cosgrove, J. Delli Priscoli, P. Gleick, I.
Narayanan, Ravi. 2005. Financial Water
view and Meta-analysis. Lancet Infectious Smout, J. Cobbing, R. Calow, C. Hunt,
Report – Critical Issues to Be Addressed.
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Letter. Third World Water Forum and
Gichere, Samuel, Richard Davis, and S. Malomo, E. L Tate, D. O’Regan,
Water Aid. www.financingwaterforall.
Rafik Hirji. 2006. Climate Variability and S. Milner, and I. Steyl. 2003. The Water
Water Resources Degradation in Kenya: Poverty Index: Development and Appli-
Improving Water Resources Development cation at the Community Scale. Natural
and Management. World Bank Working Resources 27 (3): 189-99.
OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-
Paper Series 69, World Bank, Washing- Tacoli, Cecilia. 2007. Links between Rural
ton, DC. operation and Development). 2008.
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Service Delivery in Fragile Situations: Key
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DAC Discussion Paper. Off-print of the
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Paper 8: Poverty Reduction and IWRM. Barnes. 1999. Economic Valuation of the
Poverty-Environment Partnership. 2006.
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The World Conservation Union Regional
Hussain, I., and M. A. Hanjra. 2003. Does Management. Poverty-Environment
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South-East Asia. Water Policy 5 (5-6): and%20water.pdf. Programme). 2006. Human Develop-
429-42. ment Report 2006. Beyond Scarcity: Power,
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Winpenny, James. 2003. Financing Water for ———. 2005b. Zambezi River Basin, Sus- ———. 2007. World Development Report
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Water in a changing world 95


Chapter 7
Evolution of
water use
Authors: Richard Connor, Jean-Marc Faurès, Johan Kuylenstierna,
Jean Margat, Pasquale Steduto, Domitille Vallée and Wim van der Hoek
Contributors: José Aguilar-Manjarrez, Rizaldi Boer, Robert Bos,
Cécile Brugère, Ann Cann, Olivier Dubois, Karen Frenken, Arjen Y. Hoekstra,
Jippe Hoogeveen, John Jorgensen, Jon Lane, Darren Saywell and Stefania Vannuccini
Coordinator: Jean-Marc Faurès (FAO)
Facilitator: Domitille Vallée

Key messages

While most of the old challenges of water supply, sanitation and envi-
ronmental sustainability remain, new challenges such as adaptation to
climate change, rising food and energy prices, and ageing infrastruc-
ture are increasing the complexity and financial burden of water man-
agement. Population growth and rapid economic development have led
to accelerated freshwater withdrawals.

Trends in access to domestic water supply indicate substantial improve-

ment in the past decade, putting most countries on track to achieve the
water supply target of the Millennium Development Goals. However,
sanitation is lagging well behind, and most sub-Saharan African coun-
tries and many rural areas still show unsatisfactory records for both
water supply and sanitation.

Steadily increasing demand for agricultural products to satisfy the

needs of a growing population continues to be the main driver behind
water use. While world population growth has slowed since the 1970s
and is expected to continue its downward trend, steady economic de-
velopment, in particular in emerging market economies, has translated
into demand for a more varied diet, including meat and dairy products,
putting additional pressure on water resources.

After agriculture, the two major users of water for development are indus-
try and energy (20% of total water withdrawals), which are transforming
the patterns of water use in emerging market economies. Water and energy
share the same drivers: demographic, economic, social and technological
processes put pressure on both energy and water. The recent acceleration
in the production of biofuels and the impacts of climate change bring new
challenges and add to the pressures on land and water resources.

Freshwater ecosystems provide an extensive array of vital services to

support human well-being. A variety of economic and recreational
activities such as navigation, fisheries and pastoral activities depend
on direct use of water in healthy ecosystems. Yet some environmental
services receive inadequate policy attention and are endangered by the
way development sectors use water.

The previous chapters have demonstrated of people and ecosystems. Water plays
the multiple benefits of water: its use as a strategic role for both on-stream uses
an economic backbone and an essential (navigation, fisheries and freshwater eco-
element for industrial and energy produc- systems) and off-stream ones (productive
tion systems, its use in human activities sectors, human well-being and terrestrial
and its vital importance to the well-being ecosystems).

96 World Water Development Report 3


Evolution of water use 2

While most of the old challenges of of use globally, both within sectors and A challenge
water supply, sanitation and environ- across users. Growing uncertainty regard-
in managing
mental sustainability remain unsolved, ing water resources – particularly linked
new ­challenges – including adaptation to to climate change (described in chapter 5) water resources
climate change, volatile food and energy – is expected to exacerbate water scarcity is our scattered
prices and ageing infrastructure – are trends.
adding to the complexity and financial knowledge
burden of water management. A challenge in managing water resources of patterns of
is our scattered knowledge of patterns of
The 2003 and 2006 editions of the World water use (box 7.1; see also chapter 13). water use
Water Development Report detailed the Monitoring systems and modelling abili-
multiple sectoral uses of water for human ties require substantial improvement to
well-being and ecosystems. Over the last measure progress in addressing challenges
three years exhaustive reviews of selected for water uses.
issues have brought to light additional
information on water supply and sanita- Total global freshwater use is estimated at
tion,1 agriculture2 and the environment.3 about 4,000 cubic kilometres (km3) a year.4
This chapter summarizes some of the Another 6,400 km3 of rainwater is also
findings of these studies, focusing on the used ‘directly’ in agriculture. Nature is the
main challenges confronting the water most important user of water. An estimat-
community in the immediate and long- ed 70,000 km3 of water a year are evapo-
term future. rated from forest, natural (uncultivated)
vegetation and wetlands.5 Evaporation
Water use in the world from human-made reservoirs is difficult to
estimate but is considerable in arid areas
Population growth and rapid economic and is estimated to be about 200 km3 a
development have accelerated freshwater year. For example, an estimated 10 km3
withdrawals (see map 10.1 in chapter 10 – about 12% of the total storage in Lake
on mismatch in distribution of runoff and Nasser, upstream of the High Aswan Dam
population). Our somewhat patchy knowl- at the high storage level – are lost through
edge of water use shows high variability evaporation each year.6

Box 7.1 How much do we know about water uses?

Our knowledge of water use is as poor as As an example, the table below shows the metered by a volumetric device. That
our knowledge of water resources – perhaps extent of metering of agricultural water means that water withdrawal figures are a
poorer. Information is largely incomplete – use and self-supplied industries in the six mix of measurements and estimates (when
particularly for agriculture, the largest user – major French river basins. Only half the no metering is available).
and is lacking altogether for some countries. water used in agriculture is effectively
Only limited disaggregated information
exists, and even this shows deficiencies of Uncertainty of statistics on water uses: importance of metering agriculture
validity and homogeneity and provides and industrial withdrawals in France
extremely poor information on trends.
(Percentage of water withdrawals that is metered unless otherwise indicated)
The quality of information systems varies Use for agriculture Use for self-
with each country, but there are common or irrigation supplied industries Total use
difficulties: From From From From (cubic
surface ground- surface ground- kilometres
• Statistics on the magnitude of demand Basin water water water water a year)
and withdrawal are often estimated
rather than based on data that are Adour-Garonne 72 62 82 66 2.30
measured or collected from censuses. Artois-Picardie 90 100 95 100 0.67
The level of uncertainty varies, but is
Loire-Brittany 80 95 40 69 3.62
particularly high for agriculture.
Rhine-Meuse 0 0 90 81 5.05
• Sectors of use are not defined homoge- Rhone-Mediterranean 30 57 87 86 17.13
neously and are not well disaggregated.
Seine-Normandy 75 89 37 91 3.06
• Adequate historical datasets are rare, Total 43 74 73 84 31.81
and the dates of available statistics are
Total volume (cubic
not always explicit.
kilometres a year) 3.39 1.38 2.72 1.48
• Lack of agreed terminology leads to   No metering  Less than 45% of  Less than 75% of
discrepancies in data compilation and withdrawals metered withdrawals metered
analyses. Source: IFEN 2006, based on 2001 data from the basin agencies.

Water in a changing world 97


2 Chapter 7E

But we know only part of what humans use: in quantity (withdrawals) and quality
only the volume of water used off‑stream (returns of lower quality; for definitions
(withdrawn) is generally measured (or es- of key terms relating to water use, see box
timated), and only a part of what is with- 7.2). For this reason these are discussed in
drawn is effectively consumed. Most of the greater detail in the rest of chapter 7 (uses)
flow is returned – usually at a lower ­quality and in chapter 8 (impacts).
– to the water systems, where it can be
reused. Agriculture is by far the most signifi- The many realities of water use
cant consumer of water, particularly in dry Water use is uneven across countries. The 10
areas where irrigation has been developed. largest water users (in volume) are India,
China, the United States, Pakistan, Japan,
The consumptive uses of freshwater from Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Mexico
agriculture, industry and domestic sectors and the Russian Federation (map 7.1).
place the greatest pressures on natural Total water use at the country level ranges
systems (see table 10.5 in chapter 10), both from 646 km3 a year (India) to less than

Box 7.2 Water withdrawal, demand and consumption

Water use refers to water that is being put Consumption by sector

to beneficial use by humans. Detailed Uses Consumption of water withdrawn (percent)
water accounting, however, requires more
precise definition of terms. Domestic (urban) 10-20
Industry 5-10
Water withdrawal is the gross amount of
Energy (cooling) 1-2
water extracted from any source in the
natural environment for human pur- Agriculture (irrigation)
poses. Differentiating withdrawals by Surface irrigation 50-60
type of source is useful to understand
the pressure put on different parts of the Localized irrigation 90
evaporated, transpired, incorporated into in other sectors (domestic industries; see
Water demand is the volume of water products or crops, consumed by humans table). The return flow may be restored to
needed for a given activity. If supply is or livestock, or otherwise removed from the water system either as groundwater
unconstrained, water demand is equal to the immediate water environment. infiltrated through permeable soils or
water withdrawal. directly drained into rivers or other fresh-
Water consumption is high in agriculture, water bodies.
Water consumption or consumptive use re- where water is consumed by evapo-
fers to that part of water withdrawn that is transpiration of crops, and typically low Source: Margat and Andréassian 2008.

Map 7.1 Water withdrawals highlight discrepancies between regions and between the largest
and smallest consumers, around 2001



479 630


Cubic kilometres a year

More than 100



Less than 10


98 World Water Development Report 3


Evolution of water use 2

30 million cubic metres (m3) a year in some average of 600 m3 (map 7.2). Water with-
tropical African countries (Cape Verde and drawals are highest in arid and semi-arid
the Central African Republic). National areas, where irrigation is most needed for
averages may hide large discrepancies in agricultural production, and are lowest in
water resources and withdrawals between tropical countries.
and within countries. In large countries
such as China and the United States water Water use is uneven across sectors. Agri-
demands are concentrated in limited culture is by far the main user of water.
parts of the country, in general where Irrigated agriculture accounts for 70%
agriculture needs to be irrigated or where of water withdrawals, which can rise to
economic development is occurring. In more than 80% in some regions (table
addition, long-term annual or multiannual 7.1). Although increasing in urbanized
averages mask large temporal differences. economies, industrial (including energy)
use accounts for only 20% of total water
Water withdrawals per person is a better use and domestic use for about 10%.7
indicator of the impact of population on water. Water withdrawals for energy generation –
Water withdrawals per person range from ­hydropower and thermo-cooling – are on
20 m3 a year in Uganda to more than the rise, but energy is one of the economic
5,000 m3 in Turkmenistan, with a world sectors that consumes the least water and

Map 7.2 Annual water withdrawals per person by country, world view, 2000

Cubic metres a year

Less than 100
More than 1,000
No data

Source: Based on FAO-AQUASTAT global maps (

Table 7.1 Water resources and withdrawals, 2000

(Cubic kilometres per year unless otherwise indicated)

Water withdrawals Withdrawals

Renewable Total Agriculture Industry Domestic (urban) as percent of
water water renewable
Region resources withdrawals Amount Percent Amount Percent Amount Percent resources
Africa 3,936 217 186 86 9 4 22 10 5.5
Asia 11,594 2,378 1,936 81 270 11 172 7 20.5
Latin America 13,477 252 178 71 26 10 47 19 1.9
Caribbean 93 13 9 69 1 8 3 23 14.0
North America 6,253 525 203 39 252 48 70 13 8.4
Oceania 1,703 26 18 73 3 12 5 19 1.5
Europe 6,603 418 132 32 223 53 63 15 6.3
World 43,659 3,829 2,663 70 784 20 382 10 8.8

Source: Based on Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture 2007.

Water in a changing world 99


2 Chapter 7E

Around 20% of it returns most of the water withdrawn industry and energy – are met by withdraw-
back to the water system (about 95%). This als from renewable sources, either surface
total water used
is only a partial picture of sectoral usage as water or groundw