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Rationale And Key Concepts


Water resources management

Guiding principles


The centrepiece of these Guidelines is a ‘strategic approach for the equitable, efficient and sustainable management of water resources’. The strategic approach proposed is based on internationally agreed core principles concerning the need to protect the aquatic eco-system, and to extend the health-giving and productive properties of freshwater resources equitably and efficiently among humankind, with special emphasis on poorer and underserved people.

The guiding principles elaborated here should be seen as a next level of principles based on the core principles already established by international consensus. Their most authoritative expression is encapsulated in the four over-arching principles agreed at the International Conference on Water and the Environment in Dublin in January 1992 .

While the core principles provide an underpinning basis for water-related policy, they are relatively remote from practitioner realities and offer little guidance for resolving the dilemmas and difficulties contained in their practical implementation. Therefore, as part of the development of a strategic approach, and to aid intellectual management of the new dimensions of water-related policy, these Guidelines present sub-sets of policy principles applicable at the programming and project level.

These are as follows:


These headings reflect the wider range of issues now considered essential for effective water resources management. However, many of the principles and categories are inter-related and interlinked.

The sets of principles broaden the framework within which water-related policy can be addressed in an organised fashion. As emphasised throughout these Guidelines, water is a renewable natural resource whose sound management affects developmental activity in many economic, productive, infrastructural and social sectors. The new thinking brings into play a very broad range of issues, with implications for project formulation and funding mechanisms. Reference to concerns outside theimmediate programming and project environment – such as sustainability of the resource over the long term, protection of water- dependent ecosystems, sustainability of service management, and enhancement of the wider urban or rural environment – need to be taken into account. The implications of adopting a much broader strategic approach to water cannot be underestimated. Few governments have addressed the whole range¡of practical changes required to respond satisfactorily to the core principles of the new consensus.

Activities at the macro-level(integrated water resources management, water policies, legislation, institutional change) and at the micro-level (user group participation,community-level operation and maintenance, subsidiarity,) are given moreweight proportionately than in the past. Technological issues and construction, which previously dominated programme formats, while remaining critical are now regarded as one set of considerations among many.

Although grouped, the principles are cross-cutting and universal,applicable to all types and aspects of water-related activities – from surveys, to human resources development, to construction of installations – whatever their physical, social or economic setting. Such principles should be seen as the bedrock of the strategic approach.

Their application is supposed to aid clear thinking about objectives and actions; an effort has been made not to overload users with criteria for programme formulation in such a way as to impede rather than aid their work.


Focus Areas

Programmatic contexts: Managing water resources equitably, efficiently and sustainably.

In chapter 2, sets of policy principles have been presented as the bedrock of a Strategic Approach for water-related programming and project activity. These principles provide an operational philosophy and framework for EC development co-operation in areas relating to water resources management and service delivery. In this chapter, the programming contexts for the application of the policy principles are presented. These have been called 'Focus Areas'. These Focus Areas allow programming contexts to be grouped according to four broad types of activity:

Priority themes for action

Overview of actions implied by adopting the Strategic Approach : Priority themes for action

The application of the Strategic Approach presented leads to decisions concerning actions.

This entails identifying problem areas and appropriate responses at every stage of the co-operation process. During the course of developing checklists for this purpose - which constitute the substance of Part II - a number of priority themes for action emerged.

They are presented in this chapter as an additional aid to the user. Many priority action themes are cross-cutting, both with regard to the guiding principles and between Focus Areas; almost all include actions related to management and institutional strengthening. Actions suggested will usually be carried out by governments, often with the support of donors; but many require partnership approaches, in which government agencies, the private sector, NGOs, community-based organisations, research organisations, and international, bilateral or NGO donors all have a part to play.

The building of partnerships is an inherent characteristic of the Strategic Approach, and one of its modalities. All the priority themes for action described below are "software" rather than "hardware" themes, reflecting the greater difficulty of addressing human rather than technical issues in water resources management and development - as in all development contexts.

But it is worth noting that almost all water-related programmes (except in Water Resources Assessment and Planning) include engineering of some kind, and that "hardware" will continue to consume a high proportion of water- related investment. Integrated management systems require that "hardware" and "software" should be interlinked.

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