Water crises prompt governments to seek help from end-users UN University book

Scarce water supplies demand a new approach, say experts

More than a billion people lack sufficient clean water to meet their basic needs; 27 nations don't have enough water and another 16 are 'water stressed'. The UN predicts that rising demand for water will threaten human and ecological health over the next generation. As public health, development, economies and nature suffer, governments are becoming more aware of the need to ensure access to clean water.

A book published in February by United Nations University Press argues that governments are realising that getting the public more involved will improve the management of water resources by improving decision-making and problem-solving.

"Governments recognise that to avoid further crises and successfully manage their scarce and valuable water resources it is beneficial to get end-users directly involved" says Dr. Libor Jansky, a Senior Academic at United Nations University in Tokyo, Japan. Dr. Jansky co-edited the book with Dr. Juha Uitto, a Senior Adviser at the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Evaluation Office in New York, USA.

The editors state that the crucial knowledge for the successful management of water is already there: within government departments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and among water users themselves.

But Dr. Jansky says the focus of water management policies needs to change. "Water management normally focuses on rivers, lakes and water tables, but it is important to also explore other issues such as cross-border water flows, inter-basin transfers, and even 'virtual' water transfers through the export of water-intensive crops and manufactured goods," he says. "Human welfare and environmental sustainability demand that we adopt a broader perspective and new techniques."

The authors examine the best approaches and techniques for public involvement. They identify conventional and emerging methods and practices for successfully engaging users and other stakeholders. They also discuss the many benefits, including raising the profiles of otherwise marginalised water users and improving their access to clean water resources on a sustainable basis.

Among the innovations are information technology tools for giving water users a voice in the decision-making process. "IT tools are helping the UN, governments and NGOs to improve our understanding of water supplies, how they are used and how different decisions can affect the livelihoods of immediate users and others 'downstream'," says Dr. Jansky.

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New Book Announcement
"Enhancing Participation and Governance in Water Resources Management: Conventional Approaches and Information Technology"
Edited by senior UN officials Libor Jansky and Juha I. Uitto
ISBN 9280811207
Website: http://www.unu.edu/unupress/2005/enhancingparticipation.html


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