Earth Summit 2002   Chapter 18, Agenda 21 - Part I

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United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, 1992, "Earth Summit"

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


- Part I -


Programme Areas

A. Integrated water resources development and management  

B. Water resources assessment  

C. Protection of water resources, water quality and aquatic ecosystems  

D. Drinking-water supply and sanitation  

- Part II -

E. Water and sustainable urban development  

F. Water for sustainable food production and rural development  

G. Impacts of climate change on water resources  



18.1. Freshwater resources are an essential component of the earth's hydrosphere and an indispensable part of all terrestrial ecosystems. The freshwater environment is characterized by the hydrological cycle, including floods and droughts, which in some regions have become more extreme and dramatic in their consequences. Global climate change and atmospheric pollution could also have an impact on freshwater resources and their availability and, through sea-level rise, threaten low-lying coastal areas and small island ecosystems.

18.2. Water is needed in all aspects of life. The general objective is to make certain that adequate supplies of water of good quality are maintained for the entire population of this planet, while preserving the hydrological, biological and chemical functions of ecosystems, adapting human activities within the capacity limits of nature and combating vectors of water-related diseases. Innovative technologies, including the improvement of indigenous technologies, are needed to fully utilize limited water resources and to safeguard those resources against pollution.

18.3. The widespread scarcity, gradual destruction and aggravated pollution of freshwater resources in many world regions, along with the progressive encroachment of incompatible activities, demand integrated water resources planning and management. Such integration must cover all types of interrelated freshwater bodies, including both surface water and groundwater, and duly consider water quantity and quality aspects. The multisectoral nature of water resources development in the context of socio-economic development must be recognized, as well as the multi-interest utilization of water resources for water supply and sanitation, agriculture, industry, urban development, hydropower generation, inland fisheries, transportation, recreation, low and flat lands management and other activities. Rational water utilization schemes for the development of surface and underground water-supply sources and other potential sources have to be supported by concurrent water conservation and wastage minimization measures. Priority, however, must be accorded to flood prevention and control measures, as well as sedimentation control, where required.

18.4. Transboundary water resources and their use are of great importance to riparian States. In this connection, cooperation among those States may be desirable in conformity with existing agreements and/or other relevant arrangements, taking into account the interests of all riparian States concerned.

18.5. The following programme areas are proposed for the freshwater sector:

(a) Integrated water resources development and management;

(b) Water resources assessment;

(c) Protection of water resources, water quality and aquatic ecosystems;

(d) Drinking-water supply and sanitation;

(e) Water and sustainable urban development;

(f) Water for sustainable food production and rural development;

(g) Impacts of climate change on water resources.

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Programme Areas

A. Integrated water resources development and management

Basis for action

18.6. The extent to which water resources development contributes to economic productivity and social well-being is not usually appreciated, although all social and economic activities rely heavily on the supply and quality of freshwater. As populations and economic activities grow, many countries are rapidly reaching conditions of water scarcity or facing limits to economic development. Water demands are increasing rapidly, with 70-80 per cent required for irrigation, less than 20 per cent for industry and a mere 6 per cent for domestic consumption. The holistic management of freshwater as a finite and vulnerable resource, and the integration of sectoral water plans and programmes within the framework of national economic and social policy, are of paramount importance for action in the 1990s and beyond. The fragmentation of responsibilities for water resources development among sectoral agencies is proving, however, to be an even greater impediment to promoting integrated water management than had been anticipated. Effective implementation and coordination mechanisms are required.


18.7. The overall objective is to satisfy the freshwater needs of all countries for their sustainable development.

18.8. Integrated water resources management is based on the perception of water as an integral part of the ecosystem, a natural resource and a social and economic good, whose quantity and quality determine the nature of its utilization. To this end, water resources have to be protected, taking into account the functioning of aquatic ecosystems and the perenniality of the resource, in order to satisfy and reconcile needs for water in human activities. In developing and using water resources, priority has to be given to the satisfaction of basic needs and the safeguarding of ecosystems. Beyond these requirements, however, water users should be charged appropriately.

18.9. Integrated water resources management, including the integration of land- and water-related aspects, should be carried out at the level of the catchment basin or sub-basin. Four principal objectives should be pursued, as follows:

(a) To promote a dynamic, interactive, iterative and multisectoral approach to water resources management, including the identification and protection of potential sources of freshwater supply, that integrates technological, socio-economic, environmental and human health considerations;

(b) To plan for the sustainable and rational utilization, protection, conservation and management of water resources based on community needs and priorities within the framework of national economic development policy;

(c) To design, implement and evaluate projects and programmes that are both economically efficient and socially appropriate within clearly defined strategies, based on an approach of full public participation, including that of women, youth, indigenous people, local communities, in water management policy-making and decision-making;

(d) To identify and strengthen or develop, as required, in particular in developing countries, the appropriate institutional, legal and financial mechanisms to ensure that water policy and its implementation are a catalyst for sustainable social progress and economic growth.

18.10. In the case of transboundary water resources, there is a need for riparian States to formulate water resources strategies, prepare water resources action programmes and consider, where appropriate, the harmonization of those strategies and action programmes.

18.11. All States, according to their capacity and available resources, and through bilateral or multilateral cooperation, including the United Nations and other relevant organizations as appropriate, could set the following targets:

(a) By the year 2000:

(i) To have designed and initiated costed and targeted national action programmes, and have put in place appropriate institutional structures and legal instruments;

(ii) To have established efficient water-use programmes to attain sustainable resource utilization patterns;

(b) By the year 2025:

(i) To have achieved subsectoral targets of all freshwater programme areas.

It is understood that the fulfilment of the targets quantified in (i) and (ii) above will depend upon new and additional financial resources that will be made available to developing countries in accordance with the relevant provisions of General Assembly resolution 44/228.

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18.12. All States, according to their capacity and available resources, and through bilateral or multilateral cooperation, including the United Nations and other relevant organizations as appropriate, could implement the following activities to improve integrated water resources management:

(a) Formulation of costed and targeted national action plans and investment programmes;

(b) Integration of measures for the protection and conservation of potential sources of freshwater supply, including the inventorying of water resources, with land-use planning, forest resource utilization, protection of mountain slopes and riverbanks and other relevant development and conservation activities;

(c) Development of interactive databases, forecasting models, economic planning models and methods for water management and planning, including environmental impact assessment methods;

(d) Optimization of water resources allocation under physical and socio-economic constraints;

(e) Implementation of allocation decisions through demand management, pricing mechanisms and regulatory measures;

(f) Flood and drought management, including risk analysis and environmental and social impact assessment;

(g) Promotion of schemes for rational water use through public awareness-raising, educational programmes and levying of water tariffs and other economic instruments;

(h) Mobilization of water resources, particularly in arid and semi-arid areas;

(i) Promotion of international scientific research cooperation on freshwater resources;

(j) Development of new and alternative sources of water-supply such as sea-water desalination, artificial groundwater recharge, use of marginal-quality water, waste-water reuse and water recycling; (k) Integration of water (including surface and underground water resources) quantity and quality management;

(l) Promotion of water conservation through improved water-use efficiency and wastage minimization schemes for all users, including the development of water-saving devices;

(m) Support to water-users groups to optimize local water resources management;

(n) Development of public participatory techniques and their implementation in decision-making, particularly the enhancement of the role of women in water resources planning and management;

(o) Development and strengthening, as appropriate, of cooperation, including mechanisms where appropriate, at all levels concerned, namely:

(i) At the lowest appropriate level, delegation of water resources management, generally, to such a level, in accordance with national legislation, including decentralization of government services to local authorities, private enterprises and communities;

(ii) At the national level, integrated water resources planning and management in the framework of the national planning process and, where appropriate, establishment of independent regulation and monitoring of freshwater, based on national legislation and economic measures;

(iii) At the regional level, consideration, where appropriate, of the harmonization of national strategies and action programmes;

(iv) At the global level, improved delineation of responsibilities, division of labour and coordination of international organizations and programmes, including facilitating discussions and sharing of experiences in areas related to water resources management;

(p) Dissemination of information, including operational guidelines, and promotion of education for water users, including the consideration by the United Nations of a World Water Day.

Means of implementation

(a) Financing and cost evaluation

18.13. The Conference secretariat has estimated the average total annual cost (1993-2000) of implementing the activities of this programme to be about $115 million from the international community on grant or concessional terms. These are indicative and order of magnitude estimates only and have not been reviewed by Governments. Actual costs and financial terms, including any that are non-concessional, will depend upon, inter alia, the specific strategies and programmes Governments decide upon for implementation.

(b) Scientific and technological means

18.14. The development of interactive databases, forecasting methods and economic planning models appropriate to the task of managing water resources in an efficient and sustainable manner will require the application of new techniques such as geographical information systems and expert systems to gather, assimilate, analyse and display multisectoral information and to optimize decision-making. In addition, the development of new and alternative sources of water-supply and low-cost water technologies will require innovative applied research. This will involve the transfer, adaptation and diffusion of new techniques and technology among developing countries, as well as the development of endogenous capacity, for the purpose of being able to deal with the added dimension of integrating engineering, economic, environmental and social aspects of water resources management and predicting the effects in terms of human impact.

18.15. Pursuant to the recognition of water as a social and economic good, the various available options for charging water users (including domestic, urban, industrial and agricultural water-user groups) have to be further evaluated and field-tested. Further development is required for economic instruments that take into account opportunity costs and environmental externalities. Field studies on the willingness to pay should be conducted in rural and urban situations.

18.16. Water resources development and management should be planned in an integrated manner, taking into account long-term planning needs as well as those with narrower horizons, that is to say, they should incorporate environmental, economic and social considerations based on the principle of sustainability; include the requirements of all users as well as those relating to the prevention and mitigation of water-related hazards; and constitute an integral part of the socio-economic development planning process. A prerequisite for the sustainable management of water as a scarce vulnerable resource is the obligation to acknowledge in all planning and development its full costs. Planning considerations should reflect benefits investment, environmental protection and operation costs, as well as the opportunity costs reflecting the most valuable alternative use of water. Actual charging need not necessarily burden all beneficiaries with the consequences of those considerations. Charging mechanisms should, however, reflect as far as possible both the true cost of water when used as an economic good and the ability of the communities to pay.

18.17. The role of water as a social, economic and life-sustaining good should be reflected in demand management mechanisms and implemented through water conservation and reuse, resource assessment and financial instruments.

18.18. The setting afresh of priorities for private and public investment strategies should take into account (a) maximum utilization of existing projects, through maintenance, rehabilitation and optimal operation; (b) new or alternative clean technologies; and (c) environmentally and socially benign hydropower.

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(c) Human resources development

18.19. The delegation of water resources management to the lowest appropriate level necessitates educating and training water management staff at all levels and ensuring that women participate equally in the education and training programmes. Particular emphasis has to be placed on the introduction of public participatory techniques, including enhancement of the role of women, youth, indigenous people and local communities. Skills related to various water management functions have to be developed by municipal government and water authorities, as well as in the private sector, local/national non-governmental organizations, cooperatives, corporations and other water-user groups. Education of the public regarding the importance of water and its proper management is also needed.

18.20. To implement these principles, communities need to have adequate capacities. Those who establish the framework for water development and management at any level, whether international, national or local, need to ensure that the means exist to build those capacities. The means will vary from case to case. They usually include:

(a) Awareness-creation programmes, including mobilizing commitment and support at all levels and initiating global and local action to promote such programmes;

(b) Training of water managers at all levels so that they have an appropriate understanding of all the elements necessary for their decision-making;

(c) Strengthening of training capacities in developing countries;

(d) Appropriate training of the necessary professionals, including extension workers;

(e) Improvement of career structures;

(f) Sharing of appropriate knowledge and technology, both for the collection of data and for the implementation of planned development including non-polluting technologies and the knowledge needed to extract the best performance from the existing investment system.

(d) Capacity-building

18.21. Institutional capacity for implementing integrated water management should be reviewed and developed when there is a clear demand. Existing administrative structures will often be quite capable of achieving local water resources management, but the need may arise for new institutions based upon the perspective, for example, of river catchment areas, district development councils and local community committees. Although water is managed at various levels in the socio-political system, demand-driven management requires the development of water-related institutions at appropriate levels, taking into account the need for integration with land-use management.

18.22. In creating the enabling environment for lowest-appropriate-level management, the role of Government includes mobilization of financial and human resources, legislation, standard-setting and other regulatory functions, monitoring and assessment of the use of water and land resources, and creating of opportunities for public participation. International agencies and donors have an important role to play in providing support to developing countries in creating the required enabling environment for integrated water resources management. This should include, as appropriate, donor support to local levels in developing countries, including community-based institutions, non-governmental organizations and women's groups.

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B. Water resources assessment

Basis for action

18.23. Water resources assessment, including the identification of potential sources of freshwater supply, comprises the continuing determination of sources, extent, dependability and quality of water resources and of the human activities that affect those resources. Such assessment constitutes the practical basis for their sustainable management and a prerequisite for evaluation of the possibilities for their development. There is, however, growing concern that at a time when more precise and reliable information is needed about water resources, hydrologic services and related bodies are less able than before to provide this information, especially information on groundwater and water quality. Major impediments are the lack of financial resources for water resources assessment, the fragmented nature of hydrologic services and the insufficient numbers of qualified staff. At the same time, the advancing technology for data capture and management is increasingly difficult to access for developing countries. Establishment of national databases is, however, vital to water resources assessment and to mitigation of the effects of floods, droughts, desertification and pollution.


18.24. Based upon the Mar del Plata Action Plan, this programme area has been extended into the 1990s and beyond with the overall objective of ensuring the assessment and forecasting of the quantity and quality of water resources, in order to estimate the total quantity of water resources available and their future supply potential, to determine their current quality status, to predict possible conflicts between supply and demand and to provide a scientific database for rational water resources utilization. 18.25. Five specific objectives have been set accordingly, as follows:

(a) To make available to all countries water resources assessment technology that is appropriate to their needs, irrespective of their level of development, including methods for the impact assessment of climate change on freshwaters;

(b) To have all countries, according to their financial means, allocate to water resources assessment financial resources in line with the economic and social needs for water resources data;

(c) To ensure that the assessment information is fully utilized in the development of water management policies;

(d) To have all countries establish the institutional arrangements needed to ensure the efficient collection, processing, storage, retrieval and dissemination to users of information about the quality and quantity of available water resources at the level of catchments and groundwater aquifers in an integrated manner;

(e) To have sufficient numbers of appropriately qualified and capable staff recruited and retained by water resources assessment agencies and provided with the training and retraining they will need to carry out their responsibilities successfully.

18.26. All States, according to their capacity and available resources, and through bilateral or multilateral cooperation, including cooperation with the United Nations and other relevant organizations, as appropriate, could set the following targets:

(a) By the year 2000, to have studied in detail the feasibility of installing water resources assessment services;

(b) As a long-term target, to have fully operational services available based upon high-density hydrometric networks.


18.27. All States, according to their capacity and available resources, and through bilateral or multilateral cooperation, including the United Nations and other relevant organizations as appropriate, could undertake the following activities:

(a) Institutional framework:

(i) Establish appropriate policy frameworks and national priorities;

(ii) Establish and strengthen the institutional capabilities of countries, including legislative and regulatory arrangements, that are required to ensure the adequate assessment of their water resources and the provision of flood and drought forecasting services;

(iii) Establish and maintain effective cooperation at the national level between the various agencies responsible for the collection, storage and analysis of hydrologic data;

(iv) Cooperate in the assessment of transboundary water resources, subject to the prior agreement of each riparian State concerned;

(b) Data systems:

(i) Review existing data-collection networks and assess their adequacy, including those that provide real-time data for flood and drought forecasting;

(ii) Improve networks to meet accepted guidelines for the provision of data on water quantity and quality for surface and groundwater, as well as relevant land-use data;

(iii) Apply standards and other means to ensure data compatibility;

(iv) Upgrade facilities and procedures used to store, process and analyse hydrologic data and make such data and the forecasts derived from them available to potential users;

(v) Establish databases on the availability of all types of hydrologic data at the national level;

(vi) Implement "data rescue" operations, for example, establishment of national archives of water resources;

(vii) Implement appropriate well-tried techniques for the processing of hydrologic data;

(viii) Derive area-related estimates from point hydrologic data;

(ix) Assimilate remotely sensed data and the use, where appropriate, of geographical information systems;

(c) Data dissemination:

(i) Identify the need for water resources data for various planning purposes;

(ii) Analyse and present data and information on water resources in the forms required for planning and management of countries' socio-economic development and for use in environmental protection strategies and in the design and operation of specific water-related projects;

(iii) Provide forecasts and warnings of flood and drought to the general public and civil defence;

(d) Research and development:

(i) Establish or strengthen research and development programmes at the national, subregional, regional and international levels in support of water resources assessment activities;

(ii) Monitor research and development activities to ensure that they make full use of local expertise and other local resources and that they are appropriate for the needs of the country or countries concerned.

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Means of implementation

(a) Financing and cost evaluation

18.28. The Conference secretariat has estimated the average total annual cost (1993-2000) of implementing the activities of this programme to be about $355 million, including about $145 million from the international community on grant or concessional terms. These are indicative and order of magnitude estimates only and have not been reviewed by Governments. Actual costs and financial terms, including any that are non-concessional will depend upon, inter alia, the specific strategies and programmes Governments decide upon for implementation.

(b) Scientific and technological means

18.29. Important research needs include (a) development of global hydrologic models in support of analysis of climate change impact and of macroscale water resources assessment; (b) closing of the gap between terrestrial hydrology and ecology at different scales, including the critical water-related processes behind loss of vegetation and land degradation and its restoration; and (c) study of the key processes in water-quality genesis, closing the gap between hydrologic flows and biogeochemical processes. The research models should build upon hydrologic balance studies and also include the consumptive use of water. This approach should also, when appropriate, be applied at the catchment level.

18.30. Water resources assessment necessitates the strengthening of existing systems for technology transfer, adaptation and diffusion, and the development of new technology for use under field conditions, as well as the development of endogenous capacity. Prior to inaugurating the above activities, it is necessary to prepare catalogues of the water resources information held by government services, the private sector, educational institutes, consultants, local water-use organizations and others.

(c) Human resource development

18.31. Water resources assessment requires the establishment and maintenance of a body of well-trained and motivated staff sufficient in number to undertake the above activities. Education and training programmes designed to ensure an adequate supply of these trained personnel should be established or strengthened at the local, national, subregional or regional level. In addition, the provision of attractive terms of employment and career paths for professional and technical staff should be encouraged. Human resource needs should be monitored periodically, including all levels of employment. Plans have to be established to meet those needs through education and training opportunities and international programmes of courses and conferences.

18.32. Because well-trained people are particularly important to water resources assessment and hydrologic forecasting, personnel matters should receive special attention in this area. The aim should be to attract and retain personnel to work on water resources assessment who are sufficient in number and adequate in their level of education to ensure the effective implementation of the activities that are planned. Education may be called for at both the national and the international level, with adequate terms of employment being a national responsibility.

18.33. Recommended actions include:

(a) Identifying education and training needs geared to the specific requirements of countries;

(b) Establishing and strengthening education and training programmes on water-related topics, within an environmental and developmental context, for all categories of staff involved in water resources assessment activities, using advanced educational technology, where appropriate, and involving both men and women;

(c) Developing sound recruitment, personnel and pay policies for staff of national and local water agencies.

(d) Capacity-building

18.34. The conduct of water resources assessment on the basis of operational national hydrometric networks requires an enabling environment at all levels. The following national support action is necessary for enhanced national capacities:

(a) Review of the legislative and regulatory basis of water resources assessment;

(b) Facilitation of close collaboration among water sector agencies, particularly between information producers and users;

(c) Implementation of water management policies based upon realistic appraisals of water resources conditions and trends;

(d) Strengthening of the managerial capabilities of water-user groups, including women, youth, indigenous people and local communities, to improve water-use efficiency at the local level.

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C. Protection of water resources, water quality and aquatic ecosystems

Basis for action

18.35. Freshwater is a unitary resource. Long-term development of global freshwater requires holistic management of resources and a recognition of the interconnectedness of the elements related to freshwater and freshwater quality. There are few regions of the world that are still exempt from problems of loss of potential sources of freshwater supply, degraded water quality and pollution of surface and groundwater sources. Major problems affecting the water quality of rivers and lakes arise, in variable order of importance according to different situations, from inadequately treated domestic sewage, inadequate controls on the discharges of industrial waste waters, loss and destruction of catchment areas, ill-considered siting of industrial plants, deforestation, uncontrolled shifting cultivation and poor agricultural practices. This gives rise to the leaching of nutrients and pesticides. Aquatic ecosystems are disturbed and living freshwater resources are threatened. Under certain circumstances, aquatic ecosystems are also affected by agricultural water resource development projects such as dams, river diversions, water installations and irrigation schemes. Erosion, sedimentation, deforestation and desertification have led to increased land degradation, and the creation of reservoirs has, in some cases, resulted in adverse effects on ecosystems. Many of these problems have arisen from a development model that is environmentally destructive and from a lack of public awareness and education about surface and groundwater resource protection. Ecological and human health effects are the measurable consequences, although the means to monitor them are inadequate or non-existent in many countries. There is a widespread lack of perception of the linkages between the development, management, use and treatment of water resources and aquatic ecosystems. A preventive approach, where appropriate, is crucial to the avoiding of costly subsequent measures to rehabilitate, treat and develop new water supplies.


18.36. The complex interconnectedness of freshwater systems demands that freshwater management be holistic (taking a catchment management approach) and based on a balanced consideration of the needs of people and the environment. The Mar del Plata Action Plan has already recognized the intrinsic linkage between water resource development projects and their significant physical, chemical, biological, health and socio-economic repercussions. The overall environmental health objective was set as follows: "to evaluate the consequences which the various users of water have on the environment, to support measures aimed at controlling water-related diseases, and to protect ecosystems". 1/

18.37. The extent and severity of contamination of unsaturated zones and aquifers have long been underestimated owing to the relative inaccessibility of aquifers and the lack of reliable information on aquifer systems. The protection of groundwater is therefore an essential element of water resource management.

18.38. Three objectives will have to be pursued concurrently to integrate water-quality elements into water resource management:

(a) Maintenance of ecosystem integrity, according to a management principle of preserving aquatic ecosystems, including living resources, and of effectively protecting them from any form of degradation on a drainage basin basis;

(b) Public health protection, a task requiring not only the provision of safe drinking-water but also the control of disease vectors in the aquatic environment;

(c) Human resources development, a key to capacity-building and a prerequisite for implementing water-quality management.

18.39. All States, according to their capacity and available resources, through bilateral or multilateral cooperation, including the United Nations and other relevant organizations as appropriate, could set the following targets:

(a) To identify the surface and groundwater resources that could be developed for use on a sustainable basis and other major developable water-dependent resources and, simultaneously, to initiate programmes for the protection, conservation and rational use of these resources on a sustainable basis;

(b) To identify all potential sources of water-supply and prepared outlines for their protection, conservation and rational use;

(c) To initiate effective water pollution prevention and control programmes, based on an appropriate mixture of pollution reduction-at-source strategies, environmental impact assessments and enforceable standards for major point-source discharges and high-risk non-point sources, commensurate with their socio-economic development;

(d) To participate, as far as appropriate, in international water-quality monitoring and management programmes such as the Global Water Quality Monitoring Programme (GEMS/WATER), the UNEP Environmentally Sound Management of Inland Waters (EMINWA), the FAO regional inland fishery bodies, and the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar Convention);

(e) To reduce the prevalence of water-associated diseases, starting with the eradication of dracunculiasis (guinea worm disease) and onchocerciasis (river blindness) by the year 2000;

(f) To establish, according to capacities and needs, biological, health, physical and chemical quality criteria for all water bodies (surface and groundwater), with a view to an ongoing improvement of water quality;

(g) To adopt an integrated approach to environmentally sustainable management of water resources, including the protection of aquatic ecosystems and freshwater living resources;

(h) To put in place strategies for the environmentally sound management of freshwaters and related coastal ecosystems, including consideration of fisheries, aquaculture, animal grazing, agricultural activities and biodiversity.


18.40. All States, according to their capacity and available resources, and through bilateral or multilateral cooperation, including United Nations and other relevant organizations as appropriate, could implement the following activities:

(a) Water resources protection and conservation:

(i) Establishment and strengthening of technical and institutional capacities to identify and protect potential sources of water-supply within all sectors of society;

(ii) Identification of potential sources of water-supply and preparation of national profiles;

(iii) Preparation of national plans for water resources protection and conservation;

(iv) Rehabilitation of important, but degraded, catchment areas, particularly on small islands;

(v) Strengthening of administrative and legislative measures to prevent encroachment on existing and potentially usable catchment areas;

(b) Water pollution prevention and control:

(i) Application of the "polluter pays" principle, where appropriate, to all kinds of sources, including on-site and off-site sanitation;

(ii) Promotion of the construction of treatment facilities for domestic sewage and industrial effluents and the development of appropriate technologies, taking into account sound traditional and indigenous practices;

(iii) Establishment of standards for the discharge of effluents and for the receiving waters;

(iv) Introduction of the precautionary approach in water-quality management, where appropriate, with a focus on pollution minimization and prevention through use of new technologies, product and process change, pollution reduction at source and effluent reuse, recycling and recovery, treatment and environmentally safe disposal;

(v) Mandatory environmental impact assessment of all major water resource development projects potentially impairing water quality and aquatic ecosystems, combined with the delineation of appropriate remedial measures and a strengthened control of new industrial installations, solid waste landfills and infrastructure development projects;

(vi) Use of risk assessment and risk management in reaching decisions in this area and ensuring compliance with those decisions;

(vii) Identification and application of best environmental practices at reasonable cost to avoid diffuse pollution, namely, through a limited, rational and planned use of nitrogenous fertilizers and other agrochemicals (pesticides, herbicides) in agricultural practices;

(viii) Encouragement and promotion of the use of adequately treated and purified waste waters in agriculture, aquaculture, industry and other sectors;

(c) Development and application of clean technology:

(i) Control of industrial waste discharges, including low-waste production technologies and water recirculation, in an integrated manner and through application of precautionary measures derived from a broad-based life-cycle analysis;

(ii) Treatment of municipal waste water for safe reuse in agriculture and aquaculture;

(iii) Development of biotechnology, inter alia, for waste treatment, production of biofertilizers and other activities; (iv) Development of appropriate methods for water pollution control, taking into account sound traditional and indigenous practices;

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(d) Groundwater protection:

(i) Development of agricultural practices that do not degrade groundwaters;

(ii) Application of the necessary measures to mitigate saline intrusion into aquifers of small islands and coastal plains as a consequence of sealevel rise or overexploitation of coastal aquifers;

(iii) Prevention of aquifer pollution through the regulation of toxic substances that permeate the ground and the establishment of protection zones in groundwater recharge and abstraction areas;

(iv) Design and management of landfills based upon sound hydrogeologic information and impact assessment, using the best practicable and best available technology;

(v) Promotion of measures to improve the safety and integrity of wells and well-head areas to reduce intrusion of biological pathogens and hazardous chemicals into aquifers at well sites;

(vi) Water-quality monitoring, as needed, of surface and groundwaters potentially affected by sites storing toxic and hazardous materials;

(e) Protection of aquatic ecosystems:

(i) Rehabilitation of polluted and degraded water bodies to restore aquatic habitats and ecosystems;

(ii) Rehabilitation programmes for agricultural lands and for other users, taking into account equivalent action for the protection and use of groundwater resources important for agricultural productivity and for the biodiversity of the tropics;

(iii) Conservation and protection of wetlands (owing to their ecological and habitat importance for many species), taking into account social and economic factors;

(iv) Control of noxious aquatic species that may destroy some other water species;

(f) Protection of freshwater living resources:

(i) Control and monitoring of water quality to allow for the sustainable development of inland fisheries;

(ii) Protection of ecosystems from pollution and degradation for the development of freshwater aquaculture projects;

(g) Monitoring and surveillance of water resources and waters receiving wastes:

(i) Establishment of networks for the monitoring and continuous surveillance of waters receiving wastes and of point and diffuse sources of pollution;

(ii) Promotion and extension of the application of environmental impact assessments of geographical information systems;

(iii) Surveillance of pollution sources to improve compliance with standards and regulations and to regulate the issue of discharge permits;

(iv) Monitoring of the utilization of chemicals in agriculture that may have an adverse environmental effect;

(v) Rational land use to prevent land degradation, erosion and siltation of lakes and other water bodies;

(h) Development of national and international legal instruments that may be required to protect the quality of water resources, as appropriate, particularly for:

(i) Monitoring and control of pollution and its effects in national and transboundary waters;

(ii) Control of long-range atmospheric transport of pollutants;

(iii) Control of accidental and/or deliberate spills in national and/or transboundary water bodies;

(iv) Environmental impact assessment.

Means of implementation

(a) Financing and cost evaluation

18.41. The Conference secretariat has estimated the average total annual cost (1993-2000) of implementing the activities of this programme to be about $1 billion, including about $340 million from the international community on grant or concessional terms. These are indicative and order of magnitude estimates only and have not been reviewed by Governments. Actual costs and financial terms, including any that are non-concessional, will depend upon, inter alia, the specific strategies and programmes Governments decide upon for implementation.

(b) Scientific and technological means

18.42. States should undertake cooperative research projects to develop solutions to technical problems that are appropriate for the conditions in each watershed or country. States should consider strengthening and developing national research centres linked through networks and supported by regional water research institutes. The North-South twinning of research centres and field studies by international water research institutions should be actively promoted. It is important that a minimum percentage of funds for water resource development projects is allocated to research and development, particularly in externally funded projects.

18.43. Monitoring and assessment of complex aquatic systems often require multidisciplinary studies involving several institutions and scientists in a joint programme. International water-quality programmes, such as GEMS/WATER, should be oriented towards the water-quality of developing countries. User-friendly software and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Global Resource Information Database (GRID) methods should be developed for the handling, analysis and interpretation of monitoring data and for the preparation of management strategies.

(c) Human resource development

18.44. Innovative approaches should be adopted for professional and managerial staff training in order to cope with changing needs and challenges. Flexibility and adaptability regarding emerging water pollution issues should be developed. Training activities should be undertaken periodically at all levels within the organizations responsible for water-quality management and innovative teaching techniques adopted for specific aspects of water-quality monitoring and control, including development of training skills, in-service training, problem-solving workshops and refresher training courses.

18.45. Suitable approaches include the strengthening and improvement of the human resource capabilities of local Governments in managing water protection, treatment and use, particularly in urban areas, and the establishment of national and regional technical and engineering courses on the subjects of water-quality protection and control at existing schools and education/training courses on water resources protection and conservation for laboratory and field technicians, women and other water-user groups.

(d) Capacity-building

18.46. The effective protection of water resources and ecosystems from pollution requires considerable upgrading of most countries' present capacities. Water-quality management programmes require a certain minimum infrastructure and staff to identify and implement technical solutions and to enforce regulatory action. One of the key problems today and for the future is the sustained operation and maintenance of these facilities. In order not to allow resources gained from previous investments to deteriorate further, immediate action is required in a number of areas.

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D. Drinking-water supply and sanitation

Basis for action

18.47. Safe water-supplies and environmental sanitation are vital for protecting the environment, improving health and alleviating poverty. Safe water is also crucial to many traditional and cultural activities. An estimated 80 per cent of all diseases and over one third of deaths in developing countries are caused by the consumption of contaminated water, and on average as much as one tenth of each person's productive time is sacrificed to water-related diseases. Concerted efforts during the 1980s brought water and sanitation services to hundreds of millions of the world's poorest people. The most outstanding of these efforts was the launching in 1981 of the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade, which resulted from the Mar del Plata Action Plan adopted by the United Nations Water Conference in 1977. The commonly agreed premise was that "all peoples, whatever their stage of development and their social and economic conditions, have the right to have access to drinking water in quantities and of a quality equal to their basic needs". 2/ The target of the Decade was to provide safe drinking-water and sanitation to underserved urban and rural areas by 1990, but even the unprecedented progress achieved during the Decade was not enough. One in three people in the developing world still lacks these two most basic requirements for health and dignity. It is also recognized that human excreta and sewage are important causes of the deterioration of water-quality in developing countries, and the introduction of available technologies, including appropriate technologies, and the construction of sewage treatment facilities could bring significant improvement.


18.48. The New Delhi Statement (adopted at the Global Consultation on Safe Water and Sanitation for the 1990s, which was held in New Delhi from 10 to 14 September 1990) formalized the need to provide, on a sustainable basis, access to safe water in sufficient quantities and proper sanitation for all, emphasizing the "some for all rather than more for some" approach. Four guiding principles provide for the programme objectives:

(a) Protection of the environment and safeguarding of health through the integrated management of water resources and liquid and solid wastes;

(b) Institutional reforms promoting an integrated approach and including changes in procedures, attitudes and behaviour, and the full participation of women at all levels in sector institutions; (c) Community management of services, backed by measures to strengthen local institutions in implementing and sustaining water and sanitation programmes;

(d) Sound financial practices, achieved through better management of existing assets, and widespread use of appropriate technologies.

18.49. Past experience has shown that specific targets should be set by each individual country. At the World Summit for Children, in September 1990, heads of State or Government called for both universal access to water-supply and sanitation and the eradication of guinea worm disease by 1995. Even for the more realistic target of achieving full coverage in water-supply by 2025, it is estimated that annual investments must reach double the current levels. One realistic strategy to meet present and future needs, therefore, is to develop lower-cost but adequate services that can be implemented and sustained at the community level.


18.50. All States, according to their capacity and available resources, and through bilateral or multilateral cooperation, including the United Nations and other relevant organizations as appropriate, could implement the following activities:

(a) Environment and health:

(i) Establishment of protected areas for sources of drinking-water supply;

(ii) Sanitary disposal of excreta and sewage, using appropriate systems to treat waste waters in urban and rural areas;

(iii) Expansion of urban and rural water-supply and development and expansion of rainwater catchment systems, particularly on small islands, in addition to the reticulated water-supply system;

(iv) Building and expansion, where appropriate, of sewage treatment facilities and drainage systems;

(v) Treatment and safe reuse of domestic and industrial waste waters in urban and rural areas;

(vi) Control of water-associated diseases;

(b) People and institutions:

(i) Strengthening of the functioning of Governments in water resources management and, at the same time, giving of full recognition to the role of local authorities;

(ii) Encouragement of water development and management based on a participatory approach, involving users, planners and policy makers at all levels;

(iii) Application of the principle that decisions are to be taken at the lowest appropriate level, with public consultation and involvement of users in the planning and implementation of water projects;

(iv) Human resource development at all levels, including special programmes for women;

(v) Broad-based education programmes, with particular emphasis on hygiene, local management and risk reduction;

(vi) International support mechanisms for programme funding, implementation and follow-up;

(c) National and community management:

(i) Support and assistance to communities in managing their own systems on a sustainable basis;

(ii) Encouragement of the local population, especially women, youth, indigenous people and local communities, in water management;

(iii) Linkages between national water plans and community management of local waters;

(iv) Integration of community management of water within the context of overall planning;

(v) Promotion of primary health and environmental care at the local level, including training for local communities in appropriate water management techniques and primary health care;

(vi) Assistance to service agencies in becoming more cost-effective and responsive to consumer needs;

(vii) Providing of more attention to underserved rural and low-income periurban areas;

(viii) Rehabilitation of defective systems, reduction of wastage and safe reuse of water and waste water; (ix) Programmes for rational water use and ensured operation and maintenance;

(x) Research and development of appropriate technical solutions;

(xi) Substantially increase urban wastewater treatment capacity commensurate with increasing loads;

(d) Awareness creation and public information/participation:

(i) Strengthening of sector monitoring and information management at subnational and national levels;

(ii) Annual processing, analysis and publication of monitoring results at national and local levels as a sector management and advocacy/awareness creation tool;

(iii) Use of limited sector indicators at regional and global levels to promote the sector and raise funds;

(iv) Improvement of sector coordination, planning and implementation, with the assistance of improved monitoring and information management, to increase the sector's absorptive capacity, particularly in community-based self-help projects.

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Means of implementation

(a) Financing and cost evaluation

18.51. The Conference secretariat has estimated the average total annual cost (1993-2000) of implementing the activities of this programme to be about $20 billion, including about $7.4 billion from the international community on grant or concessional terms. These are indicative and order of magnitude estimates only and have not been reviewed by Governments. Actual costs and financial terms, including any that are non-concessional, will depend upon, inter alia, the specific strategies and programmes Governments decide upon for implementation.

(b) Scientific and technological means

18.52. To ensure the feasibility, acceptability and sustainability of planned water-supply services, adopted technologies should be responsive to the needs and constraints imposed by the conditions of the community concerned. Thus, design criteria will involve technical, health, social, economic, provincial, institutional and environmental factors that determine the characteristics, magnitude and cost of the planned system. Relevant international support programmes should address the developing countries concerning, inter alia: (a) Pursuit of low-cost scientific and technological means, as far as practicable;

(b) Utilization of traditional and indigenous practices, as far as practicable, to maximize and sustain local involvement;

(c) Assistance to country-level technical/scientific institutes to facilitate curricula development to support fields critical to the water and sanitation sector.

(c) Human resource development

18.53. To effectively plan and manage water-supply and sanitation at the national, provincial, district and community level, and to utilize funds most effectively, trained professional and technical staff must be developed within each country in sufficient numbers. To do this, countries must establish manpower development plans, taking into consideration present requirements and planned developments. Subsequently, the development and performance of country-level training institutions should be enhanced so that they can play a pivotal role in capacity-building. It is also important that countries provide adequate training for women in the sustainable maintenance of equipment, water resources management and environmental sanitation.

(d) Capacity-building

18.54. The implementation of water-supply and sanitation programmes is a national responsibility. To varying degrees, responsibility for the implementation of projects and the operating of systems should be delegated to all administrative levels down to the community and individual served. This also means that national authorities, together with the agencies and bodies of the United Nations system and other external support agencies providing support to national programmes, should develop mechanisms and procedures to collaborate at all levels. This is particularly important if full advantage is to be taken of community-based approaches and self-reliance as tools for sustainability. This will entail a high degree of community participation, involving women, in the conception, planning, decision-making, implementation and evaluation connected with projects for domestic water-supply and sanitation.

18.55. Overall national capacity-building at all administrative levels, involving institutional development, coordination, human resources, community participation, health and hygiene education and literacy, has to be developed according to its fundamental connection both with any efforts to improve health and socio-economic development through water-supply and sanitation and with their impact on the human environment. Capacity-building should therefore be one of the underlying keys in implementation strategies. Institutional capacity-building should be considered to have an importance equal to that of the sector supplies and equipment component so that funds can be directed to both. This can be undertaken at the planning or programme/project formulation stage, accompanied by a clear definition of objectives and targets. In this regard, technical cooperation among developing countries owing to their available wealth of information and experience and the need to avoid "reinventing the wheel", is crucial. Such a course has proved cost-effective in many country projects already.

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