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Information, education and communications principles

A sound information and knowledge base is needed for effective actions within all water-related activities.

Many developing countries lack sufficient data on hydrology, groundwater resources and water quality. Without a full range of scientific information concerning climate and the ecosystem, it is not possible to evaluate the resource, balance its availability against demand, or reach scientifically-informed decisions in key areas of water policy. Thus, the development of a water resources knowledge base is a pre­condition for an effective water policy.

Similarly, government authorities and agencies involved in water-related activity need proper information in order to function effectively.

This information includes data on technologies, strategies, approaches, alternative organisational models, and management information of all kinds.

Data collection systems need to be established, and integrated with one another, so that activities can be continuously monitored, impacts be assessed and adjustments made.

Surveys and research projects are needed to collect socio-cultural and economic as well as technical data.

Where projects are intended to benefit low-income communities, prior information is needed about attitudes and practices surrounding water supply ownership, access and use, and traditional methods of excreta disposal. Effective hygiene education depends on thorough knowledge of existing water-and human waste-related behaviours and beliefs. Baseline data on prevalence of water-related disease is an important aid to post-intervention monitoring of public health impacts.

Education is a vital component of water-related schemes if health and life enhancement benefits are to be achieved and sustained

Demand for water in low-income communities is associated with survival interests, convenience and reduction of time and labour spent by men, women and children in water-related tasks.

Beneficiary definitions of social well-being relating to water may not coincide with those of donors and programme agencies, whose principal concerns are usually linked to public health (or in schemes for agricultural water use, with crop production). There is also usually a higher demand for water supplies than for environmental sanitation, although sanitation is more essential to disease control.

Therefore, education in the linkages between unsafe water, inadequate excreta disposal, and disease should be integral to all schemes for low-income communities. Education programmes in environmental sanitation and personal hygiene may need to be biased towards women, given their special role in household water management and use. Children can also be targeted by school-based programmes.

Education is similarly needed in the environmental implications of water-related activities; in particular, farmers need to learn the value of water and the importance of water saving in irrigation. Without an understanding of the purposes of water resources management, user group participation in management decisions, especially in negotiations over competing user group needs, cannot be obtained; and if obtained, cannot be fruitful.


Communication and awareness building are essential ingredients in all forms of water resources management

The new thinking surrounding water resources management and the delivery of services requires extensive awareness-building among political leaders, decision-makers regarding water, professionals and academics, donors and NGOs. As yet, the emerging consensus is largely confined to members of the international water-associated community. To put its principles into operation and resolve the many practical dilemmas they raise will require widespread understanding of their implications.

Communications mechanisms, in the form of educational activity and public information campaigns, are also needed to increase community-level understanding of the linkages between water and health, to increase demand for all kinds of water-related services, and generate motivation and impart skills for service maintenance. Awareness-building among users also helps to create a climate favourable to community management of schemes, strong local participation, and the collection of water dues. (See Part III).

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