- Research project
- – Western Pacific
We believe that good integrated water governance can help to successfully respond to the water challenges we face now and into the future. We believe there is always positive role that water managers can play.
The OECD define water governance as “… the set of rules, practices, and processes through which decisions for the management of water resources and services are taken and implemented, and decision-makers are held accountable.” The SIWI Water Governance Facility have a very similar definition“ [water governance]… refers to the political, social, economic and administrative systems in place that influence waters use and management. Essentially, who gets what water, when and how.”
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link and the same can be said for water governance. OECD has developed a good water governance framework considering 12 principles individually and together. Water managers need to understand that if even one governance principle is not considered, water systems can fail.
The planet is under an unprecedented level of water stress, which is expected to get worse. Currently 40% of people live is water stressed basins. This is expected to increase to 55% by 2050. Billions of people do not have access to clean water and sanitation and many that do are supplied by aging infrastructure. Further, unsustainable overuse and pollution of aquifers is common globally. All the while climate change is expected to make conditions hotter and drier, and extreme climate events, such as floods and droughts, will become more frequent and intense. Water governance will become more important to ensure everyone receives basic water and sanitation services in line with their human rights.
Even with this bleak outlook, studies indicate that water crises throughout the world are often crises of governance. The water sector intrinsically is a quagmire of stakeholders and interfaces each coming with their own political, social and economic nuances. Water governance needs to integrate different levels of government, consider the nexuses between the health, environment, food, energy, spatial planning, and regional development, manage cross boundaries water bodies, and consider different types of water, including potable water, irrigation, sanitation, hygiene, recycled water, storm water and environmental water.
Further, engaging with community and stakeholders is a key principle of water governance and vital to ensure everyone has agency with their water services in line with their human rights. More and more, poor water governance will more be highlighted and can no longer be accepted.
Globally, different service delivery models exist in different circumstances, varying in the level of central government control. An approach that would work in the public utilities of the US may not work in the private utilities of the UK. This spectrum, though not quite as broad, also exists in Australia.
We recognise the differences, but also the similarities, between the community governance approach applied to state owned utilities and the regulatory approach applied to private water sectors. In short, water governance and good water governance principles are crucial for the delivery of water services in any circumstance.
We are proud to be a partner in the Asian Water Development Outlook (AWDO). The AWDO monitors the water security in 49 Asian and Pacific countries across five key dimensions. Through the AWDO, we have been able to show that better water governance leads to better water security.
The heavily publicised Cape Town water crises in South Africa was a period of severe water shortage in the Western Cape region, mostly affecting the City of Cape Town. While the water crises in Cape Town was catalysed by a drought, poor water governance clearly played a role in delaying any emergency response and significantly exacerbated the impact to Cape Town and the agricultural economy.
We believe that ensuring our catchments are healthy, productive and resilient is the cornerstone to protecting our water sources and the environment. Everything we do, no matter where we live, has the potential to impact on our waterways downstream. Managing our waterways and natural assets at the catchment-level through integrated water management will improve catchment health and support the environment, economy and health of our communities.