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Guiding principles

The centrepiece of these Guidelines is a strategic approach for the equitable, efficient and sustainable management of water resources.


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.

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