Sustaining Our Waters into the 21st Century

by Jan Lundqvist, Linköping University, Sweden and Peter H. Gleick, Pacific Institute, USA
This report elaborates on the policy approaches and policy options that would facilitate a long term sustainable water use, building on other background material for the Assessment and on the outcome of an international workshop.

Water planners and managers have to deal with many challenges as we approach the 21st century. Among the multiple functions that water fulfils, the basic human and ecosystems needs are of paramount importance. Water is also indispensable for food production, for industrial development and for a wide range of activities and processes in the landscape as well as in society. Involvement of users and sharing of responsibilities and management tasks is a pre-requisite for proper choice of technological and organisational approaches.

It is argued that allocation of finite water resources must be agreed upon through political and socio-economic negotiations and that due consideration must be given to the various functions that water fulfils in society and in the landscape. Intersectoral co-ordination and choices are particularly demanding and current sectoral allocations may have to be reviewed. In particular, the issue of national food-sufficiency versus national food self-reliance needs to be addressed in national policies and in international agreements on global food security.

The report urges that more attention is given to the qualitative aspects of water. Threats of water quality degradation will increasingly affect human and ecosystem health, as well as industrial development.

Water is recognised as a vital resource for life, human and societal development and environmental sustainability. Related to this basic view, is also a wide acceptance that water should be treated as an economic and social good and that management must aim for the most worthwhile use ensuring equity concerns, efficiency and environmental sustainability.