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                                                        4 February 1997
                                                        ORIGINAL: ENGLISH

Fifth session
7-25 April 1997

             Comprehensive assessment of the freshwater resources
                                 of the world

                        Report of the Secretary-General

     "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."

     "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."

     From Agenda 21, chapter 18, paragraphs 18.6 and 18.8, as adopted
by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio
de Janeiro, June 1992.


                                                                     Paragraphs          Page

SUMMARY ....................................................  1 - 26               4

INTRODUCTION ............................................... 27 - 31          8

      RESOURCES ............................................ 32 - 79             10

      A. Water availability ...............................  33 - 37              10

      B. Water uses .......................................  38 - 41                 12

      C. Water scarcity ...................................  42 - 43               15

      D. Human-induced stresses ...........................  44 - 58       16

         1.   Quantity ..................................... 44 - 45                   16

         2.   Impacts of demand for water .................. 46 - 50      18

         3.   Water pollution issues ....................... 51 - 58           19

      E. Human health at risk due to water problems .......59 - 66   21

         1.   Water supply, sanitation and health .......... 59 - 64        21

         2.   Health effects of other contaminants ......... 65 - 66        25

      F. Stress on land resources .........................  67 - 68              25

      G. Extent and geographical distribution of water
         stresses due to scarcity .........................  69 - 71                 27

      H. Coping capability based on income levels .........72 - 73   29

      I. Freshwater vulnerability .........................  74 - 79              31

         1.   High-income countries with low water stress ..    75     31

         2.   High-income countries with high water stress .    76     31

         3.   Low-income countries with low water stress ...77 - 78   31

         4.   Low-income countries with high water stress ..    79       32


      A. Driving forces of change .........................  81 - 83                 33

      B. Outlook and challenges that lie ahead ............  84 - 96          35

         1.   Water needs for food production .............. 88 - 91            37

         2.   Water supply and sanitation and health ....... 92 - 93          38

         3.   What will happen? ............................ 94 - 96                    38

III.  CONCLUSIONS AND POLICY OPTIONS .......97 - 177          38

      A. Elements of a water strategy:  general
         considerations ...................................  97 - 129                       38

         1.   Making water available to increase food
              production ...................................101 - 108                        39

         2.   Access to drinking water supply and sanitation
              needs to be dramatically increased ...........109 - 112          41

         3.   Water pollution must be reduced to protect
              human health and the rest of the environment .113 - 114     41

         4.   Need for cooperation is clearly demonstrated
              for transboundary waters .....................115 - 117               42

         5.   Water needs to be considered a resource
              having an economic value .....................118 - 122              42

         6.   Building human and institutional capacity to
              solve our water problems .....................123 - 125              43

         7.   Access to reliable data is presently
              inadequate ...................................126 - 129                       44

      B. Strategy development ............................. 130 - 135              45

      C. Policy options for country categories ............ 136 - 155       46

         1.   High-income countries with low water stress ..141 - 142  47

         2.   High-income countries with high water stress .143 - 145  47

         3.   Low-income countries with low water stress ...146 - 149  48

         4.   Low-income countries with high water stress ..150 - 155  48

      D. Actions:  recommendations ........................ 156 - 177           49


1.   The assessment presented in the present report shows that in many
countries, both developing and developed, current pathways for water use are
often not sustainable.  There is clear and convincing evidence that the world
faces a worsening series of local and regional water quantity and quality
problems, largely as a result of poor water allocation, wasteful use of the
resource, and lack of adequate management action.  Water resources constraints
and water degradation are weakening one of the resource bases on which human
society is built.

2.   Water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of the population
increase during this century, and already a number of regions are chronically
water-short.  About one third of the world's population lives in countries
that are experiencing moderate-to-high water stress partly resulting from
increasing demands from a growing population and human activities.  By the
year 2025, as much as two thirds of the world population could be under stress

3.   Water shortages and pollution are causing widespread public health
problems, limiting economic and agricultural development, and harming a wide
range of ecosystems.  They may put global food supplies in jeopardy, and lead
to economic stagnation in many areas of the world.  The result could be a
series of local and regional water crises with global implications.

4.   This report finds that in some cases people have taken action to reduce
demand and pollution, thus relieving water stress.  However, far more
widespread and sustained action is essential to reverse many of the
unsustainable trends.  This report presents policy options designed to improve
understanding of how to reach sustainable levels of water use, while
satisfying a wide range of needs including agricultural irrigation, industrial
5.   There is a steady increase in the number of regions of the world where
human demands are outstripping local water supplies, and the resulting water
stress is limiting development, especially of poor societies.  Owing largely
to poverty, at least one fifth of all people do not have access to safe
drinking water, and more than one half of humanity lacks adequate sanitation.
At any given time, an estimated one half of the people in developing countries
suffer from water- and food-related diseases caused either directly by
infection, or indirectly by disease-carrying organisms that breed in water and

6.   Water demands are so high that a number of large rivers decrease in
volume as they flow downstream, with the result that downstream users face
shortages, and ecosystems suffer, both in the rivers and in adjacent coastal
areas.  Many underground water resources, known collectively as groundwater,
are being drained faster than nature can replenish them.

7.   A growing number of the world's rivers, lakes and groundwater aquifers
are being severely contaminated by human, industrial and agricultural wastes.
Not only does the pollution affect freshwater quality, but much of it flows
into the world's oceans, threatening marine life.  The future health of the
oceans depends heavily on how the freshwater systems are managed.

8.   High withdrawals of water, and heavy pollution loads have already caused
widespread harm to a number of ecosystems.  This has resulted in a wide range
of health effects, in which humans have been harmed by eating food from
contaminated ecosystems.  Reproductive failures and death in various wildlife
species, particularly at higher levels in the food chain, are being reported
in various regions of the world.  In addition, rising human demands will put
increasing pressure on ecosystems.  As more water is withdrawn for human uses,
there is an increasing need to make certain that an adequate water supply to
wetlands, lakes, rivers and coastal areas is maintained to ensure the healthy
functioning of ecosystems.

9.   However, there are bright spots to be noted.  There have been some
significant improvements in water quality, particularly when citizen pressure
for clean-ups grew, and Governments and industry responded.  Most developed
countries have begun treating an increasing part of their municipal sewage,
and a number of their industries are reducing discharges of many toxic
substances.  As a result, there have been improvements in the health of some
wildlife species, and reduced risks to human health.

10.  Some countries have also made impressive reductions in the amount of
water needed for irrigation, industrial and municipal purposes by using more
effective water management systems and better technologies.  These
improvements were usually driven by shortages, and by increases in the price
of water.  Improved irrigation water management leads to less seepage and
pooling of water which have a favourable impact on the transmission of
vector-borne diseases such as malaria and schistosomiasis.

11.  On balance, these gains have not reversed either the general trend
towards water shortages, or the widespread decline in water quality.  A number
of studies by United Nations agencies show that many countries lack the
capacity to carry out comprehensive water resources assessments that include
not only water quantity and quality but also other factors such as changes in
population and industrial development.  There is a need for countries to
strengthen their capabilities in this regard in order to be able to meet more
effectively current and future stresses on their water resources.

12.  There are driving forces of change that could make water problems worse,
unless actions are taken.  Those forces include a world population that is now
at 5.7 billion, and is heading towards a figure of 8.3 billion by the year
2025.  Much of this increase will be in the rapidly growing urban areas of
developing countries, many of which are already experiencing serious water

13.  Another driving force will be increasing consumption of food and
industrial goods produced using water.  Irrigation already accounts for
70 per cent of the water taken from lakes, rivers and underground sources, and
there will be pressure to use more water to produce food for the increasing
population.  An increasing number of water-short countries will have to make
choices about the amount of water they allocate for food production as
compared with other uses.  They may find that limited water resources are more
profitably invested in producing goods that can be exported to buy food,
rather than in trying to grow all their food at home.  Countries will also
face increasing demands for water supplies for industrial development,
hydroelectric generation, navigation, recreation and domestic use.  Unless
development stays within the limits of water supplies, there could be
shortages that hamper economic development.

14.  Water pollution will continue to increase unless more effort is put into
pollution prevention, increasing sewage treatment, and employing cleaner and
more water-efficient forms of industrial production.  This means using
substances that are less toxic, and reducing the release into the environment
of potentially harmful materials that are used in agriculture, industry and

15.  Because of increasing competition among demands for a finite resource,
there is already a growing perception of water as an economic good and as a
tradable commodity.  As human demands grow, so will the price of water and
possibly food prices, placing a heavier burden on the poorer strata of the
world's population.  Economic planners often neglect to account for the amount
of water that will be needed for certain forms of development, especially food
production, for the world of 2025.

16.  Countries, often working in regional groups and with international
institutions such as the United Nations, need to develop a broad range of
water strategies based on the best information available.  There is a need to
use water more efficiently, reduce pollution, provide people with access to
safe drinking water and sanitation, and work for a global trading system in
which countries that lack enough water to grow all their own food will have
access to food grown in water-rich regions.  Concerted actions are needed at
the local, national and international levels.  These include incorporating
water into economic analyses, which should change consumption patterns and
reduce demand for water.  Poverty alleviation will be closely linked to the
success of water policies.

17.  About 300 major river basins, and many groundwater aquifers cross
national boundaries.  It is essential for riparian countries to find ways of
cooperating over the development and management of these transboundary water
sources, if they are to maximize mutual benefits from the use of the resource.

18.  There are many technologies for reducing water use.  In some countries,
waste water is already being treated and used for irrigation.  A number of
industries have developed or adopted water management techniques and
technologies that greatly reduce water use.  Irrigation can become much more
efficient in delivering water directly to plants, and still be designed and
maintained in a way that avoids or minimizes such harmful side effects as
waterlogging and salinization of the soil.  Changing to crops using less water
together with sequencing and shifting growing seasons can reduce water use
substantially as well.

19.  The amounts of water available and its quality are directly related to
such activities as forestry, farming, urban developments and industrial
strategies.  To make water use more sustainable, planners at all levels need
to understand water issues, and make them a central part of their development
plans.  The wise management of both water quantity and quality has to be a
central part of health, economic and social policies.

20.  Water management must adopt an integrated approach, taking into account
a wide range of ecological, economic and social factors and needs.  Decision-
making should include full public participation, with all sectors of society.
The fact that, in developing countries, women are the main providers of water
for household uses, makes it critical to involve them at all levels in the
decision-making process.

21.  In making decisions about water resources management it is important to
have overall planning and coordination, but it is also helpful to delegate as
much responsibility as possible to the lowest appropriate levels.  This helps
to ensure participation of more people with a stake in the success of water

22.  Water used for development should be considered natural capital, an
economic good, and the market place can help to decide where its services are
best used to generate wealth.  It is important to ensure that the way in which
water resources are developed does not result in worsening poverty.

23.  Because of the lengthy period of planning, design and construction of
large water resources projects, it is crucial for decision makers to start
making plans based on the best evidence available.  It is no exaggeration to
say that water resources projects to meet the needs of societies and economies
in the year 2025 must be started or be in an advanced planning stage within
the next few years.  It is essential to plan and design new projects in ways
that avoid the past mistakes that resulted in excessive water use and degraded
water quality.

24.  The world faces many challenges over use of the environment as a source
of natural resources and as a sink for wastes.  Water has to be considered one
of the main issues facing the world.  It is as important as atmospheric
change, deforestation, protection of biodiversity and desertification, all of
which are linked to water management.  Many of the negative trends will take
years to reverse, so it is imperative that actions to reverse them begin

25.  All people require access to adequate amounts of clean water for such
basic needs as drinking, sanitation and hygiene.  In return, those who use
water have a responsibility to see that water is used wisely and not degraded.

26.  It will be vital to monitor and report on progress in dealing with water
issues.  Among the indices that measure the effectiveness of water management

     (a) Human health, which has a direct correlation with vector- and water-
borne diseases and water supply and sanitation;

     (b) Environmental health, which correlates with water use and pollution

     (c) Food production, with its correlation with nutrition, and the
availability of affordable water.


27.  A growing number of regions face increasing water stresses because more
people are both polluting water and demanding more of it for all uses, and
water is, after all, a renewable but finite resource.  They are thus suffering
from scarcities caused by failure to adapt to the amount of water that is
regularly made available by rain and snowfall.

28.  Concern over the global implications of water problems was voiced as far
back as the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in
1972.  It has been the focus of a number of meetings, including the United
Nations Water Conference in Mar del Plata, Argentina, in 1977, the Global
Consultation on Safe Water and Sanitation for the 1990s in New Delhi, India,
1990, and the International Conference on Water and the Environment:
Development Issues for the 21st Century, in Dublin, Ireland, and the United
Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,
both in 1992.  Since then, the Ministerial Conference on Drinking Water and
Environmental Sanitation, in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, in 1994, has
reinforced these concerns.  Most recently, the Committee on Natural Resources
noted with alarm that some 80 countries, constituting 40 per cent of the
world's population, were already suffering from serious water shortages and
that, in many cases, the scarcity of water resources has become the limiting
factor to economic and social development.  It further noted that
ever-increasing water pollution had become a major problem throughout the
world, including coastal zones.  The Commission on Sustainable Development, at
its second session in 1994, noted that in many countries a rapid deterioration
of water quality, serious water shortages and reduced availability of fresh
water were severely affecting human health, ecosystems and economic

29.  The Commission on Sustainable Development requested this comprehensive
assessment of the freshwater resources of the world, to be submitted to it at
its fifth session, and to the General Assembly at its special session in 1997.
This assessment was prepared by a number of United Nations organizations, the
Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development of the United
Nations Secretariat, the Department for Development Support and Management
Services of the United Nations Secretariat, the Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United
Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the World Bank, the World
Health Organization (WHO) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO),
working in collaboration with the Stockholm Environment Institute, and with
the advice of experts on a wide range of subjects.  The support given to this
project by the Governments of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and
Canada is acknowledged with sincere appreciation.

30.  The recommendations in this report were guided by the content of reports
from previous conferences, particularly the report of the Dublin Water
Conference (A/CONF.151/PC/112, annex II) and chapter 18 of Agenda 21. 1/  More
recent information has also been evaluated, particularly on water availability
and use.

31.  This assessment provides an overview of major water quantity and quality
problems with the aim of helping people understand the urgent need to deal
with these issues before they become even more serious.  In spite of its
limitations, the available information provides the basis for a broad
understanding of the problems facing various regions of the world, and of the
nature and magnitude of the global implications of not dealing with these

                          [ Figure 1 not shown ]

Figure 1. Water plays many complex roles in human activities and
natural systems. A comprehensive approach must thus relate to water
use from many different aspects. The assessment describes the human
interaction within the economic, social and environmental framework.
It seeks to point out how the systems are interacting through
different global linkages such as cultural influences, environmental
impacts, global governance and trade, showing that the socio-
ecological system is complex with connections within and between the
different subsystems.

                    FRESHWATER RESOURCES

32.  Freshwater is one of the most essential of the elements that support
human life and economic growth and development.  It is irreplaceable for the
purposes of drinking, hygiene, food production, fisheries, industry,
hydropower generation, navigation, recreation and many other activities.
Water is equally critical for the healthy functioning of nature, upon which
human society is built.

                            A.  Water availability

33.  Many people have an image of the world as a blue planet, for 70 per cent
of it is covered with water.  The reality is that 97.5 per cent of all water
on Earth is salt water, leaving only 2.5 per cent as freshwater.  Nearly
70 per cent of that freshwater is frozen in the ice caps of Antarctica and
Greenland, and most of the remainder is present as soil moisture, or lies in
deep underground aquifers as groundwater not accessible to human use.  As a
result, less than 1 per cent of the world's freshwater, or about
0.007 per cent of all water on Earth, is readily accessible for direct human
uses.  This is the water found in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and those
underground sources that are shallow enough to be tapped at an affordable
cost.  Only this amount is regularly renewed by rain and snowfall, and
therefore available on a sustainable basis.

34.  Much of the approximately 110,000 cubic kilometres of precipitation that
fall on the continents each year evaporates back into the atmosphere, or is
absorbed by plants.  About 42,700 cubic kilometres of the water that falls on
Earth flows through the world's rivers.  (This is roughly the amount of water
now stored in some of the world's largest lake systems - Lake Baikal in the
Russian Federation and Lake Tanganyika and Lake Victoria in Africa -
combined.) When the world's total river flow is divided by the world
population (of 1995), the quotient amounts to an average of 7,300 cubic metres
of water per person per year.  Owing to the growing world population, this
represents a drop of 37 per cent per person since 1970.

35.  Freshwater resources are very unevenly distributed:  at one extreme are
the deserts, where almost no rain falls, and at the other are the most humid
regions, which can receive several metres of rainfall a year.  Most of the
flow is in a limited number of rivers:  the Amazon carries 16 per cent of
global run-off, while the Congo-Zaire river basin carries one third of the
river flow in all of Africa.  The arid and semi-arid zones of the world, which
constitute 40 per cent of the land mass, have only 2 per cent of global run-

36.  Even in parts of the world with large river flows, there can be a great
amount of variability in terms of when and where the water is available.  Most
of the annual water flow may come as floods following snow melt or heavy rains
and, unless captured by reservoirs, the water flows to the seas, sometimes
causing seasonal flooding.  Later in the year, the same areas may suffer
droughts.  Another major factor in the availability of water is the rate of
evapotranspiration, the loss of water from land to the atmosphere by
evaporation from the soil and water surfaces, and transpiration from plants.
For example, Sweden and Botswana receive about the same amount of
precipitation each year, yet the climate in Sweden is humid, while that of
Botswana is semi-arid because so much of its water is drawn up by the heat of
the sun.  One more important factor is that much of the world's accessible
run-off occurs in areas far from human settlements, and water is very
expensive to transport over long distances.

                    Naturally dry zones of the world

                         [ Figure 2 not shown ]

Figure 2.  In naturally dry zones of the world, there are limitations to
the pattern of development that may be available on the basis of water
resources availability, particularly for agriculture.

37.  Experts have estimated the amount of freshwater that is readily
accessible for human use at about 9,000 cubic kilometres per year.  They add
another 3,500 cubic kilometres of water that is captured and stored by dams
and reservoirs.  Harnessing the remaining water resource for human needs
becomes increasingly costly, because of topography, distance and environmental
impacts.  Currently, humans are using about half the 12,500 cubic kilometres
of water that is readily available.  Given an expected population increase of
about 50 per cent in the next 50 years, coupled with expected increases in
demand as a result of economic growth and lifestyle changes, this does not
leave much room for increased consumption.  Water needs to be left in rivers
to maintain healthy ecosystems, including fisheries.  Recreation, navigation,
and hydropower generation all require the preservation of adequate amounts of
water.  When the global water picture is examined at country level, some
countries still have large amounts of water per capita, but others are already
facing serious difficulties.  Future increases in demand due to population
growth and increased economic activities will inevitably impinge further on
the available water resources.

                                B.  Water uses

38.  A number of human actions - including the building of dams and canals,
the drainage of wetlands, and the removal of forests and other plant cover -
are changing the flow of water in parts of the world.  Trees and other plants
modify the flow of water that falls on the land, consume water, and release
some into the atmosphere, where it may result in more rain.

39.  Humans interact with the hydrologic cycle at many levels.  We use
surface water and groundwater.  Pollution not only contaminates water on and
beneath the ground, but also changes the chemical composition of water in the
atmosphere.  Waste discharges from a wide range of sources, including motor
vehicles, homes, offices and industries, as well as chemicals and animal
wastes from agricultural production, create contaminated run-off, some of
which seeps into groundwater.  Changes in the landscape affect the run-off and
quality of both surface water and groundwater.

                        [ Figure 3 not shown ]
Figure 3. Average annual run-off. The amount of freshwater varies
sharply among continents. The size of the population determines how
much water is potentially available per person. While Asia has the
world's greatest river flow, it has billions of people, so that the per
capita availability is the lowest of all the continents. The high per
capita run-off in Australia/Oceania shows that, despite the fact that much of
Australia is very dry, the population density is quite low, and there
is very heavy rainfall in parts of the country, and in the Pacific

                       [ Figure 4 not shown ]

Figure 4. Present water withdrawal and consumption by sector.

                       [ Figure 5 not shown ]

Figure 5. In the hydrologic cycle, the sun constantly evaporates
water into the atmosphere, part of which is returned on land as rain
and snow. Part of that precipitation is rapidly evaporated back into
the atmosphere. Some drains into lakes and rivers to commence a
journey back to the sea. Part infiltrates into the soil to become soil
moisture or groundwater. Under natural conditions, the groundwater
gradually works its way back into surface waters and makes up the main
source of dependable river flow. Plants incorporate some of the soil
moisture and groundwater into their tissues, and release some into the
atmosphere in the process of transpiration.

40.  Part of the water withdrawn from rivers, streams, lakes, reservoirs and
groundwater is consumed and not returned later as available water.  Such
consumption includes water that plants use to build plant tissue or release
into the air during evapotranspiration.  It also includes water that
evaporates from land or reservoirs, and water that is not returned to water
sources from industrial production or community use.  The major forms of water
withdrawal and consumption are for agriculture, industry and domestic use.
Most of the water withdrawn by industries and municipalities is used then
returned, often degraded in quality, to lakes and rivers or other
watercourses.  Water withdrawn for irrigation use is partly consumed in the
process of crop production, and partly required to flush salts out of the
soil.  However, most irrigation is inefficient and about 60 per cent of the
withdrawn water returns to the river basin and to groundwater.

41.  In addition to domestic and municipal water supply, irrigation of crops,
production of energy and industrial uses, navigation and recreation also
require that adequate flows be available in rivers, and that water levels be
maintained in lakes and reservoirs.  Reserving water for the healthy
functioning of ecosystems is sometimes seen as far less important than
providing all the water that humans demand.  In recent years, however, an
understanding has emerged on the need to maintain ecosystem health not just
for ethical reasons, but also because of the very practical benefits,
sometimes called ecosystem services, that are provided to humans.  These
include the production of food, reduction of flood risk and filtering of
harmful pollutants.  Great strides have been made in understanding the
freshwater needs of aquatic ecosystems.  Such needs are being accepted as
legitimate calls on water, leading an increasing number of decision makers to
give these "environmental" flows priority along with water use for economic

                              C.  Water scarcity

     Water scarcity occurs when the amount of water withdrawn from lakes,
rivers or groundwater is so great that water supplies are no longer adequate
to satisfy all human or ecosystem requirements, bringing about increased
competition among potential demands.  Scarcities are likely to occur sooner in
regions where the per capita availability of water is low to start with, and
with high population growth.  They become more serious if demand per capita is
growing owing to changes in consumption patterns.

42.  Global withdrawals of water to satisfy demands have grown dramatically
in this century.  Between 1900 and 1995, water withdrawals increased by a
factor of over six, more than double the rate of population growth.  This
rapid growth in water demand is due to the increasing reliance on irrigation
to achieve food security, the growth of industrial uses, and the increasing
use per capita for domestic purposes.

43.  The increased demands are causing water stress in many areas of the
world, even in some humid areas where rising demand or pollution have caused
overutilization of the local resource.  Already, about 460 million people,
more than 8 per cent of the world's population, live in countries using so
much of their water resources that they can be considered to be highly water-
stressed.  A further one quarter of the world's population lives in countries
where the use of water is so high that they are likely to move into situations
of serious water stress.

                          D.  Human-induced stresses

                                 1.  Quantity

44.  Irrigated agriculture takes about 70 per cent of water withdrawals, and
the figure rises to 90 per cent in the dry tropics.  Agriculture lays claim to
by far the biggest consumptive use of water, representing 87 per cent of the
total.  Traditionally, most food has been grown on rain-fed lands, relying on
soil moisture supplied by rainfall, but as food demand rises, this is
increasingly supplemented by irrigation, using water drawn from lakes, rivers
and underground aquifers.  Irrigated agriculture contributes nearly
40 per cent of world food production from just 17 per cent of cultivated land.
Much of the dramatic increase in food production of recent decades, including
the green revolution, requires high-yield plant varieties, combined with
fertilizers and pest control, and depends on irrigation to ensure adequate and
timely water for high growth.  Water withdrawals for irrigation have increased
by over 60 per cent since 1960.

45.  Until the late 1970s, the growth in the amount of land being irrigated
exceeded the rate of population growth.  Since then, the amount of irrigated
land has increased more slowly than population, owing to a limited amount of
additional land suitable for irrigation, increasing water scarcities and the
loss of some irrigated areas to soil degradation including soil salinization.
However, total agricultural output has continued to outstrip population
growth, owing to productivity increases.  Currently, the world can produce
enough food for everyone, but an estimated 840 million people lack access to
sufficient food for their nourishment, and are hampered in carrying on
productive working lives because they cannot afford to buy enough food.  As
the number of people to feed increases, it will be ever more of a challenge to
produce enough food at prices people can afford.  In many regions, in
particular arid and semi-arid regions, the amount of water available for
irrigation will become increasingly limited and costly.

                           [ Figure 6 not shown ]

         Figure 6. Global water withdrawals by sector, 1940-2000.

                           [ Figure 7 not shown ]

Figure 7. Amount of irrigated land in the world, and water consumption
for irrigation. Dark-coloured bars depict the amount of water
consumption while light-coloured bars show the amount of land that is

                        2.  Impacts of demand for water

46.  In some areas, the withdrawals are so high that the flow of rivers
decreases as they move downstream, and some lakes are shrinking.

47.  Groundwater supplies one third of the world's population, and is the
main or only source of water for rural dwellers in many parts of the world and
also increasingly the main source for irrigation.  Underground sources are
being heavily overused in a number of regions, with water being pumped out
faster than nature can replenish the supply.  The excessive use of groundwater
is likely to increase over the next 30 years.  Overpumping groundwater has
dropped water levels by tens of metres in places, making it increasingly
difficult and expensive for people to have continued access to the water.  In
a number of regions, depletion has forced people to turn to lower-quality
groundwater sources, some of which contain natural contaminants.  The overuse
of groundwater can have a serious effect on the base flow of rivers,
especially during dry periods, which is so vital for aquatic ecosystems.

                                 The Aral Sea

     In 1960, the Aral Sea was the fourth largest inland body of water in the
world.  Since then it has shrunk to less than half its original size because
of the nearly total cut-off of inflow from the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers
as a result of heavy withdrawals for irrigation.  The desiccation of the Aral
has resulted in the loss of its fishing industry, the destruction of its
ecosystem and deltas, the blowing of salts from the exposed seabed which are
toxic to humans and deleterious to crops, and the depressing of the economy.
Indiscriminate use of water for non-agricultural purposes, inefficient
irrigation practices, excessive use of chemicals for growing cotton and rice
crops, and the lack of adequate drainage caused extensive waterlogging and
salinity, and polluted the groundwater and drainage inflows to the rivers and
the sea.  Water pollution from urban and industrial wastes has further
aggravated the problems.  To stabilize the environment and rehabilitate the
economy of the Aral Sea Basin, the Governments of the five independent
riparian States have begun a large and complex programme intended to assist
them in cooperating and adopting sustainable regional development policies,
and to provide a framework for selected national macroeconomic and sectoral
policies for achieving sustainable land, water and other natural resources

48.  Many groundwater aquifers are recharged on a regular basis by rain and
melting snows.  However, some groundwater reservoirs that were filled under
different climatic conditions, often thousands of years ago, are known as
fossil aquifers and if used, they will not be recharged by nature for a very
long time, if ever.

49.  In some cases, groundwater depletion results in the sinking of the land
above aquifers.  Land subsidence caused by high water withdrawals has been
recorded in many countries, including Mexico, the United States of America,
Japan, China and Thailand, with the land sinking from 1 to 10 metres.

50.  Overutilization of aquifers near sea coasts leads to intrusion from the
ocean, which contaminates the freshwater with salt.  Small islands fall into a
special category because for many of them freshwater is a fragile resource.
If the freshwater is overdrawn, this leads to salt-water intrusion.  People on
some small islands have been forced to turn to expensive alternatives,
including desalination and importing of water by tanker.

                          3.  Water pollution issues

51.  For millennia, people have used water as a convenient sink into which to
dump wastes.  The pollution comes from many sources, including untreated
sewage, chemical discharges, petroleum leaks and spills, dumping in old mines
and pits, and agricultural chemicals that are washed off or seep downward from
farm fields.  In one area after another, the amounts and types of waste
discharged have outstripped nature's ability to break them down into less
harmful elements.  Pollution spoils large quantities of water which then
cannot be used or, at best, can be used for restricted purposes only.

52.  The impairment of water quality near major urban centres is recognized as
a major problem.  In parts of the world, water quality has been so degraded
that it is unfit even for industrial purposes.  Even when the levels of some
pollutants seem to be low, they can pose a threat by accumulating in the
aquatic food chain, affecting the health of these creatures, and threatening
the health of humans who eat contaminated wildlife.  Groundwaters, once
contaminated, are very difficult to clean up because the rate of flow is
usually slow.

53.  Major water pollution problems include those described directly below:

     (a) Contaminated water that people drink without adequate treatment is
one of the major causes of human illness.  Micro-organisms found in human and
animal wastes include a wide range of bacteria, viruses, protozoa and other
organisms that cause many diseases.  These are present in virtually all wastes
discharged, even those from most sewage treatment plants.  As a result, it is
necessary to treat drinking water to prevent outbreaks of disease;

     (b) There is an accelerated growth of algae fertilized by the phosphorus
and nitrogen present in many discharges, including human and animal wastes,
detergents and run-off from fertilizers.  These two elements, when discharged
into water, act as nutrients, greatly speeding up the process called
eutrophication.  Excessive algal growth leads to a decline in the oxygen
content of the water, which can result in suffocation of some forms of aquatic
life.  It can also impart a foul taste to drinking water.  Eutrophication,
first noticed in many Western European and North American lakes in the 1950s,
is now leading to a decline in water quality on all continents.  The draining
of nutrients into oceans can lead to an increase in the number of toxic algal
blooms, sometimes known as red tides, which can make seafood unsafe to eat;

     (c) Nitrates from fertilizers, human and cattle wastes are polluting
groundwater in many regions.  High nitrate levels in drinking water decrease
the oxygen-carrying capacity of haemoglobin in blood, which can threaten the
health of infants.  A United Nations study has stated that nitrate pollution
will likely be one of the most pressing water quality problems in Europe and
North America in the coming decade, and will become a serious problem in other
countries, such as India and Brazil, if present trends continue;

     (d) Some of the more than 100,000 commercial chemicals in the world,
as well as a number of chemical waste by-products, are known or suspected
to cause harmful effects in humans, plants and animals.  The members of
one class of compounds, known as persistent organic pollutants (which
include such well-known substances as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and
dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), have created many of these problems
because they are toxic, and highly persistent in the environment, and build up
in the food chain.  These and other chlorinated organic chemicals have been so
widely distributed by air and ocean currents that they are found in the
tissues of people and wildlife everywhere;

     (e) Heavy metals are found naturally in soil and water, but their
worldwide production and use by industry, agriculture and mining have released
large amounts into the environment.  The metals of greatest concern for human
health are lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium.  Many other metals, including
copper, silver, selenium, zinc and chromium, are also highly toxic to aquatic
life.  Water pollution related to metal production and use, including the
release of acids from mining wastes, is a problem in many of the world's
mining and metal processing regions.  Elevated levels of some metals, such as
lead and mercury, are also found around many cities, and downwind from metal
smelters and coal-burning power plants.

54.  In theory, virtually all pollutants can be removed from water but in
practice, decontaminating water, especially in the case of toxic substances,
is very expensive and requires sophisticated techniques.

55.  Water pollution problems vary in severity around the world, depending on
population densities, the types and amounts of industrial and agricultural
development, and the number and efficiency of waste treatment systems that are
used.  The global magnitude of pollution is difficult to quantify because of a
scarcity of information in many countries.  There are estimates that in
developing countries, which often lack the resources to build and maintain
sewage treatment systems, 90 per cent of waste water is discharged without
treatment.  A United Nations study found that in Latin America, virtually all
domestic sewage and industrial waste are discharged untreated into the nearest
streams.  In most areas, domestic sewage volumes are far higher than those of
industrial discharges.  There were similar findings for West Africa, where
there were also signs that shallow aquifers were being contaminated by the
seepage of human wastes.  In Western Asia, the major water quality problem
identified was the salinity caused by widespread irrigation, although other
water quality problems may not be evident owing to lack of monitoring
programmes.  In the Asia and Pacific region, in addition to domestic and
industrial wastes, there are also high sediment loads in rivers resulting from
high erosion upstream where much land is left exposed owing to the removal of

56.  The water pollution problems in many developing countries mirror those
already experienced by developed countries in Europe and North America.  A few
decades ago some rivers in rich nations were so polluted that fires broke out
on their oil-slicked surfaces.  This was documented both in Canada and in the
United States.  Owing largely to public pressure, controls have been imposed
on much of the gross pollution, and clean-ups are taking place, often at very
high cost to the present generation.

57.  While much of the world's pollution is directly released from discharge
pipes and sewers, or is carried off from polluted industrial, municipal and
agricultural areas by rainfall and melting snows, a significant pollution load
is transferred over long distances by the atmosphere.  Several decades ago,
researchers discovered that the release of tens of millions of tons per year
of sulphur and nitrogen caused sulphuric and nitric acid fallout.  This acid
rain affects large areas of the world, including parts of Europe, North
America, Latin America, India and Asia.  It has killed parts of ecosystems,
and can threaten human health by dissolving metals into the water.  In
addition to acids, there is long-range airborne transport of a wide range of
chemicals and metals from such sources as industries, motor vehicles, power
plants, smelters and incinerators.  Pesticide use is another important source
because some of the chemicals evaporate into the air, and others adhere to
tiny dust particles, and in both cases these chemicals can then be carried
great distances by wind currents.  Sometimes, the pollutants build up in the
food chain, and are passed on to humans who rely on unprocessed foods.  Tests
of breast milk from women in some northern latitudes, where there is little
industry and no agriculture, found that levels of PCBs and certain pesticides
were 4-10 times higher than in women from regions hundreds of kilometres to
the south.

58.  Since most lakes and rivers eventually drain to the seas, the freshwater
waste discharges also have an impact on coastal and even on deep-sea
ecosystems.  About 80 per cent of marine pollution is caused by human
activities on land.  The water in the oceans will never be clean unless
pollution from sources on land is controlled.

                E.  Human health at risk due to water problems

                    1.  Water supply, sanitation and health

59.  The need to provide safe drinking water and sanitation and to reduce
water contamination entails basic questions of equity and protection of human
health.  They were emphasized in the Mar del Plata conference of 1977.  In
1980, the General Assembly in its resolution 35/18, proclaimed the period
1981-1990 as the International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade,
during which Member States would assume a commitment to bring about a
substantial improvement in the standards and levels of services in drinking
water supply and sanitation by the year 1990.  The issue continued to receive
attention at such intergovernmental conferences as the Global Consultation on
Safe Water and Sanitation in New Delhi in 1990 and the Noordwijk conference of

60.  In the past two decades, these essential services were provided to
millions of people worldwide, saving a great many lives and reducing illness.
However, the rate of supply has not kept pace with that of population growth,
and 20 per cent of the world's population lacks access to safe water supply,
while 50 per cent lacks access to adequate sanitation.  The vast majority of
these people live in developing countries.  This lack of access to safe
drinking water and sanitation is directly related to poverty and, in some
cases, to the inability of Governments to invest in these systems.  In a
number of regions, poor people lack access to piped water, and must buy from
vendors, so they pay more for their water than rich people.

61.  A great deal of treated drinking water is lost unnecessarily.  There are
estimates that about half the water in drinking water supply systems in the
developing world is lost owing to leakage, illegal hook-ups and vandalism.
This deprives the operators of water supply systems of the money they could
use to maintain and expand service.  The World Bank estimates that about $600
billion needs to be invested worldwide to repair and improve water delivery

62.  Human health is closely linked to safe drinking water and sanitation,
and to sound management of land and water resources, particularly in the
context of water resources development projects.  At any given time, an
estimated one half of the people in developing countries are suffering from
water- or food-associated diseases caused either directly by infection through
the consumption of contaminated water or food, or indirectly by
disease-carrying organisms (vectors), such as mosquitoes, that breed in water.

Of these diseases, the most widespread and with the greatest impact on human
health status are diarrhoea, malaria, schistosomiasis, dengue, infection by
intestinal worms, and river blindness (onchocerciasis).  According to WHO,
some 2 billion people are at risk of malaria alone, with 100 million people
affected at any one time and between 1 million and 2 million deaths per year.

63.  WHO estimates that a total of more than 5 million people die each year
just from diseases caused by unsafe drinking water, and a lack of sanitation
and water for hygiene.  Provision of safe drinking water and sanitation could
reduce the amount of illness and death by as much as three quarters, depending
on the disease.  Not only is the toll a human tragedy, but it means these
people are less able to carry on productive lives, and this undermines social
and economic development.  An outbreak of cholera, a water-borne disease,
began in Peru a few years ago and spread through many parts of Latin America,
killing hundreds of people, and costing hundreds of millions of dollars in
lost income.

64.  There are other economic impacts caused by poor water supply systems.
Women are the main water providers, especially in developing countries, and
the provision of basic drinking water supply systems could also reduce the
annual expenditure of over 10 million person-years of effort by women and
female children carrying water from distant sources.  Reallocation of the time
spent in this unproductive activity would assist in poverty alleviation.

          Water supply service coverage (% of population served)
                            at the end of 1994

                          [ Figure 8 not shown ]

Figure 8. Water supply service coverage (percentage of population
served) at the end of 1994.

           Sanitation service coverage (% of population served)
                             at the end of 1994

                           [ Figure 9 not shown ]

Figure 9. Sanitation service coverage (percentage of population served)
at the end of 1994.

                   2.  Health effects of other contaminants

65.  In humans, high levels of exposure to some chemicals and heavy metals
have been linked to a number of illnesses, including cancer, damage to the
nervous system and birth defects.  Pollutants can build up in the food chain
to the point where they harm people, as in Minamata disease which is caused by
the eating of seafood contaminated with mercury from industrial discharges.
The cumulative effects of long-term exposure to a variety of chemicals at what
seem like low concentrations cannot be well quantified at present.  Studies in
North America suggest a link between foetal exposure to high levels of some
organochlorines and reduced learning ability in children.  There is also
suggestive evidence from wildlife studies that humans may be at risk from a
number of subtle effects, such as disruptions in the endocrine system caused
when synthetic materials interfere with the body's normal chemical balance.

66.  Toxic chemical effects have been more clearly recorded in wildlife.  The
effects include cancer, death, eggshell thinning, population declines, reduced
hatching success, abnormal behaviour, changes in organ development,
infertility, birth defects and a range of other illnesses.  There are also
less visible effects on body chemistry, including abnormalities in the
thyroid, liver and endocrine system.  Some organochlorines appear to have the
ability to mimic or block the normal functioning of hormones, interfering with
natural body processes, including normal sexual development.

                         F.  Stress on land resources

67.  The stresses on water and land are closely linked.  For thousands of
years, humans have been drawing water from rivers and wells to irrigate dry
lands, thus growing more food; and, for millennia, inadequate drainage systems
have resulted in waterlogging and soil salinization.  The salinization occurs
when water in the ground evaporates, leaving behind natural salts that were
present in the water.  It is estimated that about 20 per cent of the world's
250 million hectares of irrigated land are salt-affected to such an extent as
to significantly reduce crop production.  A further 1 1/2 million hectares are
affected each year.  The countries most severely affected are located
predominantly in arid and semi-arid regions.

68.  The mismanagement of soil and water resources is also exacerbating
erosion brought about by water.  This depletes the land of soil and nutrients,
and increases water pollution in the form of soil particles that often carry
agricultural chemicals with them.  When suspended soil particles arrive at a
dam, they often sink to the bottom of the reservoir, gradually reducing the
amount of water it can hold.  This process has caused serious losses of
reservoir capacity in a number of river basins.

                         Soil degradation severity

                          [ Figure 10 not shown ]

                     Figure 10. Map of soil degradation.

     The Murray-Darling Basin covers one seventh of Australia, and accounts
for half the country's gross agricultural production.  As demands for water
increased, reservoirs were constructed to increase the available supply to
individual States.  In recent years, use approached the sustainable yield of
the basin as a whole, and pressure mounted for sharing the resource between
jurisdictions.  In 1985, a Basin Commission was formed and in 1989, agreement
was reached on sharing.  The next issue requiring resolution was soil salinity
which had the potential to expand to 95 per cent of the total irrigated area
within 50 years.  The three upstream States were the primary beneficiaries of
water diversion, while the damage caused by salinity was most severe in the
downstream State.  An agreement was reached on joint funding of remedial
measures, and collaboration was initiated, driven primarily from the community
level.  Action has been under way for four years, and the spirit of
collaboration continues as a demonstration of integrated water management

           G.  Extent and geographical distribution of water stresses
               due to scarcity

69.  In keeping with the concept of water scarcity previously defined, the
ratio of water withdrawal to water availability on an annual basis is used as
a measure of stress.

70.  It has been observed that water stress can begin once the use of
freshwater rises above 10 per cent of renewable freshwater resources, and it
becomes more pronounced as the use level crosses the 20 per cent level.  On
average, a country can only capture about one third of the annual flow of
water in its rivers using dams, reservoirs and intake pipes.  A further
limitation arises from the growing lack of acceptance for the social and
environmental impacts of large dams.  The closest and most economical sources
of water are used first, and it becomes increasingly expensive to tap sources
that are farther away from the site of needs.  Another limitation on water use
stems from the fact that once withdrawals pass certain thresholds, which vary
from site to site, lake and river levels fall to the point where other uses
are harmed.

71.  This report distinguishes four categories of water stress based on the
amount of available freshwater that is used (category number is in parentheses
following category title):

     (a) Low water stress (1).  Countries that use less than 10 per cent of
their available freshwater generally do not experience major stresses in
respect of the available resources;

     (b) Moderate water stress (2).  Use in the range of 10-20 per cent of
available water generally indicates that availability is becoming a limiting
factor, and significant effort and investments are needed to increase supply
and reduce demand;

     (c) Medium-high water stress (3).  When water withdrawals are in the
range of 20-40 per cent of the water available, management of both supply and
demand will be required to ensure that the uses remain sustainable.  There
will be a need to resolve competing human uses, and aquatic ecosystems will
require special attention to ensure that they have adequate water flows.
Developing countries in particular will need major investments to improve
water-use efficiency, and the portion of gross national product (GNP)
allocated to water resources management can become substantial;

     (d) High water stress (4).  Use of more than 40 per cent of available
water indicates serious scarcity, and usually an increasing dependence on
desalination and use of groundwater faster than it is replenished.  This means
that there is an urgent need for intensive management of supply and demand.
Present use patterns and withdrawals may not be sustainable, and water
scarcity can become the limiting factor to economic growth.

      Water withdrawal as a percentage of water availability - 1995

                             [ Figure 11 not shown ]

Figure 11. This map presents water withdrawal as a percentage of water
availability. Calculations are based on both internal water resources
and water available from upstream sources in international basins.
Many countries with high water withdrawal rates are also highly
dependent on external water. Because the data used to prepare this map
were gathered at a country level, there are some apparent
contradictions. For example, the Sahel region does not show as having
a high water stress, even though it is a dry region. This is because a
number of countries in dry regions have relatively abundant water
resources in part of the country, as in one large river, such as the
Nile or Niger. They might also have abundant rainfall for part of the
year. However, the poor countries in this category lack the financial
and technical resources to capture rainfall or to move water to many
of their people. Even water-rich countries can experience tremendous
disparities internally.

                H.  Coping capability based on income levels

72.  The ability of countries to cope with water scarcities, including the
effects of pollution, depends on a number of factors.  This report uses income
levels as a rough measure of the ability of different groups of countries to
deal with water issues.  In general, countries with higher per capita incomes
are in a better position than low-income countries to respond to water
scarcity, as the financial resources and skilled people for management and
development are more readily available.  Because of low income levels, many
developing countries face severe difficulties in creating the infrastructure
to fully utilize their water resources.

73.  The World Bank has grouped countries into four categories, based on
their average annual per capita GNP, in United States dollars:

     1.  Low income:  per capita income of less than $795

     2.  Lower-middle income:  per capita income of $796-$2,895

     3.  Upper-middle income:  per capita income of $2,896-$8,955

     4.  High income:  per capita income of over $8,956

         Water-stress category: withdrawal-to-availability ratio
                   (population in millions of people)

   :                           Withdrawal/Availability 1995
I  :         1 (<10%)   2 (10-20%)   3 (20-40%)      4 (>40%)       Total
N  :   1       806.18     1,265.89       957.70        238.07     3,267.84
C  :   2       542.40       285.95       165.33        137.91     1,131.59
O  :   3       258.95        13.10       137.30         63.44       472.79
M  :   4       108.44       514.41       181.25         19.74       823.84
E  : Total   1,721.97     2,079.35     1,441.58        459.16      5696.06

Note: This grid shows how the 5.7 billion people in the world in
1995 were distributed in terms of their use of available freshwater,
and by their income as measured in GNP. Over one half of the world falls
in the low-income category, and more than one third of these people
are in countries that already face medium high-to-high water stress.
An additional 39 per cent are in countries with moderate water stress.
Moreover, one fifth of the world is in the lower-middle income
category. Of these, 27 per cent are in countries with medium high-to-high
water stress, and 25 per cent are in countries with moderate water
stress. Unless water resources are managed with a view to achieving
efficiency and equity, water shortages could become a serious obstacle
to economic and social development in many poorer countries.

                         I.  Freshwater vulnerability

74.  When water stress and income levels are combined, the result is a series
of categories showing the vulnerability of various countries and regions to
problems caused by water scarcities.  Each of these could be subdivided into a
number of specialized categories, by water stress and financial coping
capability.  For illustrative purposes, this report shows the effects on four
broad categories.

                1.  High-income countries with low water stress

75.  The main problem of these countries is water pollution rather than
supply, although some large countries contain water-poor regions.  They have
the financial resources to deal with regional water supply problems, often
using water diversions.

               2.  High-income countries with high water stress

76.  This category includes a number of countries that have fairly large
amounts of water, but are facing stress conditions as a result of continuing
overuse and pollution of their water resources which will be causing problems,
such as groundwater depletion, in the near future.  Other countries, however,
have already used most of their accessible water resources.  They have little
if any scope for increasing the amount of water supplied to human uses through
conventional means without inflicting damage on aquatic ecosystems, or
seriously depleting groundwater aquifers.

                3.  Low-income countries with low water stress

77.  There are several different types of countries within this grouping -
low-income countries that have low water stress because of abundant water
resources (primarily tropically humid countries) and large countries that have
a tropical region.  Most of these countries or their humid regions suffer from
too much water in the form of floods that occur during a short rainy or
monsoon season, causing damage to buildings, structures and agriculture.
Since these countries are poor, they often suffer from inadequate drinking
water supply and sanitation.

78.  Another category, which includes much of sub-Saharan Africa and some
countries in arid and semi-arid areas, is characterized by little water and
little water stress because people are too poor to tap much of the resource.
Overall, this grouping of countries suffers from inadequate access to its
water resources owing to insufficient financial resources, technical expertise
and institutional support.  Because of these constraints, there is a lack of
adequate water supply, sanitation and waste-water treatment.  In cases where
there is high population growth or economic development, there is likely to be
an increase in water demand.  If that demand is not well managed, it could
drive the country into a high vulnerability situation.

                4.  Low-income countries with high water stress

79.  This category is made up of low-income countries that are using their
water resources heavily now, often for farm irrigation.  They also suffer from
a lack of pollution controls.  A number of countries in the arid or semi-arid
regions of Africa and Asia fall within this category.  These countries are the
most constrained with respect to future development because they have neither
the extra water nor the financial resources to shift development away from
intensive irrigation and into other sectors that would create employment and
generate the income with which to buy food from water-rich countries.

                         GNP per capita in 1994

                         [ Figure 12 not shown ]

   Figure 12. GNP per capita 1994 based on figures from the World Bank.

                   II.  WATER CHALLENGES:  A 30-YEAR OUTLOOK

80.  In the present section, this report draws a number of implications for
future water-use patterns, based on current trends.  From 1995, it looks
forward for 30 years, which is the span of a generation, examining major
forces that will affect and be affected by water use.  It is difficult to
provide a detailed picture of the world of 2025 because of many uncertainties
in political and economic developments.  However, it is possible to look
ahead, and provide some general analyses.

                         A.  Driving forces of change

81.  Water use in the year 2025 is going to be shaped by several major
driving forces characterizable as follows:

     (a) Population will influence how much water will be needed for a wide
range of needs, including food production, industrial development and domestic
use.  The mid-range projection from the United Nations is that world
population will grow from 5.7 billion in 1995 to about 8.3 billion in 2025,
amounting to an increase of 2.6 billion people.  Much of the population
increase will be in the rapidly growing urban areas of developing countries,
many of which are already experiencing serious water stress;

     (b) The magnitude of the impact of a given population will vary
depending on the amount and patterns of consumption of natural resources and
of pollution.  Depending on what technologies are used, the impact from a
given type of consumption can be increased or decreased from today's levels.
For example, if more food is produced by increasing the amount of irrigation,
using the same mix of technologies as today, the water use will increase.  The
same is true of continuing industrial development.  A United Nations
Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) study showed that current trends
will lead to more than a doubling of 1995 industrial water use by 2025, with
an over fourfold rise in industrial pollution loading, unless changes are
made.  If more water-efficient technologies are used, this will cut wastage,
and thus reduce the amount of water that needs to be taken from various
sources to produce a given amount of food or industrial output.  In the
agricultural and industrial sectors, there are already many examples of
technology changes that have reduced both the amount of water used and the
amount of pollution released without reducing the output of products.  At the
domestic level, there are many examples of water-efficient fixtures, and there
are attempts to educate more people in the safe use of hazardous materials so
as to reduce the amount dumped into waterways or drains leading to waterways;

     (c) Trade policies.  A large part of the increase in world food demand
will come from the arid and semi-arid developing world, where there are high
population growth rates.  Many of these countries will find it difficult to
keep increases in food production in line with demand increases, and water
will be a limiting factor.  Countries may have to choose between using their
scarce water resources to maintain food self-sufficiency, and using the water
to produce high-value products that can be exported to pay for food imports.

82.  Most of the new population will be found in the developing world, and
the countries therein will move from being 37 per cent urban in 1995 to
56 per cent urban in 2025.  At the same time, there will be more industrial
development.  These trends will take both people and water supplies from
agriculture, creating an urgent need for more urban sanitation.  Peri-urban
agriculture is also increasing.  By 1995, the world had 321 cities with a
population over 1 million, including 15 mega-cities with populations in the 10
million-20 million range.  The number of mega-cities is forecast to double
over the next 20 years.  In spite of that, there will still be more rural poor
in 2025.  If regions with high rates of urbanization are to maintain current
levels of water and sanitation supply, this could mean investments of over
1 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025.

                          The world's large cities

                           [ Figure 13 not shown ]

            Figure 13. This map shows locations of large cities.

83.  There is another potential factor that could affect water availability.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the release of
gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) is increasing the ability of the atmosphere
to trap heat.  The Panel warns that this may bring about temperature
increases, precipitation changes and sea-level rise, with varying impacts on
the availability of freshwater around the world.  Computer models of possible
future climate patterns are not yet precise enough to forecast changes at the
local or small basin level.  Current indications are that if climate change is
gradual, the impacts may be only minor by 2025, with some countries having
positive impacts, and most being negatively affected.  Climate change impacts
are predicted to become increasingly strong during the decades following 2025.

                   B.  Outlook and challenges that lie ahead

84.  Although there is a very large uncertainty about future water needs, it
is clear that all sectors will have growing requirements, and they already
face stresses in many regions of the world.  Given current trends, as much as
two thirds of the world population in 2025 may be subject to moderate-to-high
water stress, and almost half the world could have clear difficulties in
coping owing to inadequate financial resources.  Since many of the countries
currently facing moderate-to-high water stress, as well as those that risk
moving into higher stress categories by 2025 belong to the lower-income
groups, it is clear that water resources could become a limiting factor in the
development of a number of countries.  For reasons spelt out earlier in this
report, it will also be more difficult and expensive to easily augment
reliable water supplies by building more dams and creating reservoirs.  There
will be a need to modify consumption patterns, and to design and construct
water supply projects in such a way as to bring into the planning both the
people who may suffer and those who benefit, and to ensure that benefits are
distributed fairly.  Demand management will serve as an essential policy tool.

85.  Many economic forecasts do not currently account for the amount of water
that will be required to achieve their goals, and water may become a limiting
factor.  Certain current water-intensive patterns of development will become
less and less feasible.

86.  As the risk of water stress increases, there will be a need for
increased demand management in order to maximize the socio-economic benefits
derived from the competing users of water.  Water management must also be more
prudent than in the past so as to avert the further degrading of agricultural
areas through such impacts as salinization, water erosion and waterlogging.
Failure to protect the food growing capability of the world would have severe
implications.  To avert such problems, countries, particularly water-scarce
countries, need to look at projections in such sectors as population,
urbanization, and economic and agricultural development, and establish water
strategies and policies.

87.  One of the trends identified in this report is that where, as water
becomes more scarce in relation to demand, and competition among various users
increases, water ceases to be available as a free good and becomes in some
cases a tradable commodity.  There is a shift taking place in the role of
Governments - a shift from their role of providing water at very low cost, to
one of regulating water markets.  As competition for available water grows
among users, such as municipalities, industries, hydroelectric generators and
irrigators, the price of water rises.  While this allows the market place to
choose the highest-valued use for water in economic terms, it will almost
certainly entail water price increases, and this means that some users will be
able to outbid others for the available water.  This has the potential to
impose hardships on some users, and there will be a need to ensure that
everyone has a basic amount of water available at reasonable cost.

      Water withdrawal as a percentage of water availability - 2025

                        [ Figure 14 not shown ]

Figure 14. This map shows the impact of expected population growth on water
usage by 2025. It is based on the United Nations mid-range population
projection and assumes that the current rate of use per person will
not change. No account is taken of probable increases in water-use
patterns with economic growth or improvements in efficiency in water

                      1.  Water needs for food production

88.  World population forecasts suggest that within 30 years nearly
50 per cent more people than in 1995 will need to be fed.  A substantial
portion of future population growth is forecast for arid and semi-arid
regions.  Here, rain-fed crop production is insecure because of a short rainy
season, erratic rainfall, recurrent drought years, high evaporation of the
rain that does fall and crust-forming, desertification-prone soils.  In
sub-Saharan Africa, where over 95 per cent of the farmers depend on rain-fed
farming, the per capita production of cereals in the past two decades has not
risen, and remains below what is needed to feed the population.

89.  A number of estimates were made of how much water would be needed to
produce enough food to give everyone in the world a healthy diet.  The
estimates ranged between a 50 per cent and a 100 per cent increase in water
for food production over 30 years.  The bulk of the increase in food
production will need to come from irrigated land.  Some of the estimates found
that by 2025, it would require virtually all the economically accessible water
in the world to meet the needs of agriculture, industry and households, and
maintain adequate lake levels and flows in rivers.  If more water is needed,
more expensive projects such as high-cost dams and diversions to bring water
from sources far away from the area will be required.

90.  As water becomes more scarce, municipalities and industries will be able
to outbid most farmers, and this will push up the cost of water.  If cost of
water is passed on to the consumer, then food prices will go up.  If farmers
have to absorb the increased cost, poorer farmers growing relatively low-value
products could be forced out of business.  While in the long run the use of
pricing as a tool for allocating water resources is effective, the
implementation of pricing policies needs to take into account the possible
economic and social impacts on the peri-urban and rural poor.

91.  As food production is closely linked to the quality of land, the proper
management of irrigation is essential in order to prevent land degradation
through, for example, salinization and waterlogging.  The installation of
adequate drainage, while protecting this natural capital, is likely to raise
the cost of irrigation.

                  2.  Water supply and sanitation and health

92.  The regions most vulnerable to domestic water shortages include those
that currently have poor access to water, are characterized by rapid
population growth, uncontrolled urbanization and financial problems, and lack
a skilled workforce.  Even if the world maintained the pace of the 1990s in
water supply development, it would not be enough to ensure that everyone had
access to safe drinking water by 2025.  The challenge is particularly critical
in Africa.  Sanitation development is even more difficult to achieve.  If
everyone is to have sanitation facilities by 2025, this means providing
services for more than 5 billion people in 30 years.

93.  The continued neglect of the need for waste-water treatment and the
damage from water pollution will lead to increases in public health problems
and further damage to ecosystems, including the oceans, and forgone
opportunities to recover and treat waste water for other uses, such as

                             3.  What will happen?

94.  The analyses show that if many of the current approaches to water
management do not change, this will lead to increasing water stress.  As
scarcities increase, there will be the risk of greater conflict over the water
in the more than 300 transboundary rivers as well as in many underground
aquifers.  This shows the importance of cooperation over river systems shared
by countries.  It will be crucial to work out water-sharing arrangements that
seek to maximize benefits for all users.

95.  Since typically it takes at least a decade to bring even a modest water
resources project from planning to completion, and even more time for large
projects, it is crucial for decision makers to establish and implement
immediately water policies and programmes based on the best evidence

96.  The concluding section (below) provides suggestions for development of
global, regional and national water strategies.


           A.  Elements of a water strategy:  general considerations

97.  Although many current water-use patterns and pollution habits are
propelling the world towards a series of local and regional water crises,
mankind has not yet reached the point of no return.  There are many practical,
cost-effective measures that can reduce the strain on water resources.  They
represent a series of critical investment opportunities that one cannot afford
to ignore.

98.  It is crucial for water resources to be given a high priority in
planning.  There are some promising national efforts in water policy
development, but these efforts must be spread and reinforced.  Governments
must reduce the fragmentation of institutional responsibilities on water
issues.  They also need to include water resources in economic analysis.

99.  A critical element in planning is information on the state of the water
resources.  Over recent decades, the ability of many countries to assess water
resources has actually declined because measurement networks and staffing
levels have been reduced.

100. Since it will take time to change many unsustainable development
patterns, urgent and decisive action must begin now.  Experience has shown
that the consequences of inaction, in terms of human suffering, social
disruptions, forgone economic opportunities and the cost of undoing the harm
caused to the resource and the environment, will usually outweigh the human
and financial resources needed in order to embark on a sustainable development
path.  Many of the problems are of a local and regional nature, and action is
primarily a national (and regional) responsibility.  Nevertheless, it would be
illusory to believe that anything short of a global commitment would provide
the means to sustainability.  Because some of the water crises could be very
severe, the whole world has a stake in averting them.

            1.  Making water available to increase food production

101. Both the need and the demand for food are rising steadily because of
steady population increases.  A large amount of the world production of grains
is used for meat production in developed countries, and as the diet in
developing countries gets fuller and more balanced, an increased demand for
animal proteins is expected.  This growing demand for meat means that more
water will be needed since more water is required to produce meat than to
produce a vegetarian diet.

102. In many regions, water scarcity is resulting in severe constraints on
the expansion of agricultural production, thus raising pressure for water
policy interventions and for more efficient water-use practices.  Because
globally little new land of adequate quality remains to be put into
production, and since the environmental cost of converting land use is high,
the largest part of future food requirements will have to be satisfied through
higher productivity on existing agricultural land.  Application of water
through various forms of irrigation, and the use of genetically improved crops
and the considered application of pest management and plant nutrition systems,
are main factors for the agricultural productivity increases required to feed
the world.  Countries can improve the efficiency of water use for irrigation
with such techniques as lining of canals and the use of more efficient ways of
applying water to plants.  However, attention must be drawn to the fact that
water use in the entire river basin can be highly efficient even though the
individual irrigation schemes within the basin are inefficient, in which case
seeking a higher irrigation efficiency in one scheme is bound to result in
further water scarcity in the downstream schemes.  Under such situations,
water savings have to be sought in the use of a less water demanding mix of
crops and in shifts of the cropping period into a less evaporation-intensive

103. Besides new cropping patterns and conventional first-generation
irrigation, many other "drought-proofing" techniques exist.  They include
high-efficiency irrigation, water harvesting, inland valley swamp development,
low-lift pump schemes, peri-urban irrigation with treated urban waste water
and conjunctive use of surface water and groundwater.  Irrespective of what
method is chosen, it would imply a consumption of water now passing through
the landscape, meaning that water would not be available downstream for other

104. If treated waste water was used for irrigation, this would mean that the
amount of freshwater that could be used for other purposes would increase.  In
those water-scarce countries that, because of the domestic water shortage,
will become heavy importers of basic foodstuffs, waste water may well
represent in the future the predominant long-term water supply for irrigated
agriculture.  Water harvesting, which means small-scale projects to capture
run-off, can also improve soil moisture and food production.

105. Desalination of sea water is an option for such relatively low-volume,
high-value users as industries and homeowners with at least a moderate income.
However, even with technological advances, wheat production with desalinated
water is economically prohibitive.

106. As water prices rise, small-scale farmers will increasingly face
difficulties in regard to competing for the scarce water resources.  There may
thus be a need to help small irrigation farmers, particularly with
partnerships that will give them access to capital, technology, know-how and

107. However, there are limitations on how much these techniques will improve
the situation, especially in arid countries.  Countries may have to turn
towards increasing food imports, as is already the case for a number of arid
countries, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa.  Countries may
have non-economic reasons for pursuing a course of substantial food
self-sufficiency.  From an economic point of view, they may find it
advantageous to shift their production pattern towards less water-intensive
and higher-income-yielding products, either in agriculture or in the
industrial sector.  This transition is already taking place in a few
countries.  In Israel, the water use within various sectors is very efficient.
Water availability, however, is so limited that allocation choices among
sectors competing for the water resources are increasingly necessary.  In this
situation, the previous high priority given to irrigation is reduced and urban
use is pronounced.  In most countries, this shift will require training of the
rural population to acquire skills needed in other sectors of the economy, and
an infusion of capital so as to create new economic opportunities.

108. The world needs to move towards achieving the objective of global food
security.  In some countries, this could be done through a transition from
food self-sufficiency (a capacity to produce all food within the country) to
food self-reliance (a capacity to provide food from national sources and
through purchase from the international market).  However, such an integration
of the world economy is unlikely to be painless without proper consideration
of world market conditions, and the potential impact on the poorer strata of
the population of developing countries.  Countries can only make such a
transition if they can rely on the world agricultural markets to provide a
dependable and efficient source of supplies at stable international prices.

            2.  Access to drinking water supply and sanitation needs
                to be dramatically increased

109. Without adequate quality and sufficient quantities of water for human
consumption and for personal and domestic hygiene, billions of people will
continue to suffer from diarrhoea and enteric diseases, helminthic infections
and other illnesses arising from unsanitary environments, improper disposal of
excreta and polluted water.  Even though most of the suffering takes place in
developing countries, the whole world will suffer.  Diseases can be
communicated easily over long distances.  Economic stagnation resulting from
ill health affects the global economy.

110. There are a number of relatively simple and inexpensive techniques for
supplying drinking water and sanitation.  If they are to succeed, they must be
chosen in consultation with the users, and they must use technologies that can
be installed and maintained at the community level.  They must thus be user-
friendly, affordable and appropriate.

111. Top priority needs to be given to the African region, Latin America and
South-East Asia.  Recent estimates are that $54 billion would be needed
between 1990 and 2000 to provide universal coverage in only the urban areas of
the regions most in need.  The resources required are more than three times
the rate of present expenditure.  There is no sign that this amount of funding
will be made available in the near future in the form of reallocation of
internal government spending in nations, or of development assistance from
abroad.  Experience shows that in many cases additional funding for water
supply and sanitation systems could be raised by charging users even modest
amounts of money for the water they draw.  Countries need to apply a higher
degree of demand management.

112. When it comes to making decisions on water supply and sanitation
systems, it is vital to involve all users.  For example, women already play a
crucial role in providing water and in decisions on hygiene in families.  They
should be closely involved in decision-making as well as in implementation of
the water and sanitation supply programmes.

           3.  Water pollution must be reduced to protect human health
               and the rest of the environment

113. If not controlled, untreated sewage from cities, industrial discharges
and non-point pollution from agricultural activities and urban run-off will
continue to damage rivers, aquifers and coastal zones, with devastating
effects on our freshwater resources and oceans.  Even though pollution
prevention sometimes has a higher initial cost than discharging untreated
wastes, experience shows that in the long run it is cheaper than clean-ups.
Waste water, especially that which is not heavily polluted, can often be used
for other purposes, such as industrial cooling and sometimes for irrigation.
To encourage pollution prevention, it is important to apply the Polluter Pays

114. It is important to build on the water-quality management experiences of
different regions.  For example, Nigeria has interim national water quality
guidelines and standards that are used to set water-quality standards.  The
United States and Canada have adopted controls on discharges that take into
account the effect on downstream ecosystems, such as the Great Lakes.  Canada
looks at impacts on the marine environment when setting water-quality
objectives for rivers flowing directly to the seas.

              4.  Need for cooperation is clearly demonstrated for
                  transboundary waters

115. Some of the world's more than 300 major river basins and a number of
major aquifers that cross national boundaries are in regions where serious
water-quality or -quantity problems are or will soon be evident.  A wide range
of transboundary water agreements exist, dealing with rivers, lakes and other
water bodies.  While a number of these agreements refer to river basins, most
of them deal with specific waterworks, water uses and measures to control and
regulate water flows.  A few deal with pollution.  In 1995, a Protocol was
signed by the eight heads of member Governments of the Southern African
Development Community on regionally shared watercourses.  The member States
recognized that a failure to develop water resources in a sustainable manner
could hamper economic productivity and social development in the region.  The
agreement promotes the equitable use of shared water resources, including the
development of integrated water resource development plans.  The Rhine Action
Plan has led to pollution control objectives that are to improve water quality
to the point where sensitive species can once again live in the Rhine River.
It is also aimed at reducing pollution to the North Sea.  The 1909 Boundary
Waters Treaty between Canada and the United States has led to a series of
agreements over the sharing of waters and controls on pollution, particularly
in the Great Lakes.

116. The need for a comprehensive legal instrument for international water
bodies has been voiced by several countries.  The draft articles of the law of
the non-navigational uses of international watercourses 2/ were adopted by the
International Law Commission in 1994.  The Commission recommends the
elaboration of a convention by the General Assembly on the basis of the draft

117. This report, like many others before it, has identified the river basin
as the logical unit for water management, as any activity in one part of the
basin will influence that in other parts, especially downstream.  Thus, there
is a clear need for cooperation in the management of international and
transboundary watercourses to maximize mutual benefits for all riparian

     5.  Water needs to be considered a resource having an economic value

118. Water has economic value, and should be considered an economic as well as
a social good.  Like any valuable commodity, water use has a cost in terms
either of its development or of its forgone opportunities.  The cost of using
or misusing water does not disappear, but is paid either by the user or by the
community at large or through a depletion of the existing natural capital.  As
water demands increase, it becomes more important to see that water is put to
high-valued economic uses.  It is important to see that there is full cost
accounting, and full cost recovery for the provision of water, and that users
pay for the water used for economic purposes.

119. At the same time, it is essential that water planning secure basic human
and environmental needs for water.  Otherwise, there will be a risk of
shortages, which impose costs on society in terms of both health impacts and
losses in economic performance.  An example is Brazil which is undergoing
social reform programmes, including in the water sector.  The country still
needs to settle some controversial issues, but the direction is towards
recognizing water as an economic good while also stressing that provision for
human consumption must be given top priority.

120. There is a need in many countries to begin or to continue a shift from
the Government's being the provider of water services to its being the creator
and regulator of an environment that allows involvement of communities, the
private sector and non-governmental organizations in the provision of water
supply and sanitation services as well as in the development and utilization
of water in other sectors of the economy.  Uganda is undergoing water reforms
and is moving away from a centralized system to a system where communities
will actively take part in the decision-making and where choices of solution
to water services will relate to local affordability and needs.  Thus, the new
Water Action Plan and Water Statute aim to facilitate flexible and coherent
water resources management at all levels in the society.

121. The introduction of water markets and pricing mechanisms can encourage
the private sector to play an increasingly important role in providing the
necessary financial resources and management skill needed for the successful
development and utilization of the resources.  Governments need to establish
laws and regulations for the fair and efficient operation of water markets.
Wherever subsidies or income transfers are deemed necessary for social or
other national considerations, the objectives of such subsidies or transfers
should be well defined and the incidence of the subsidy should not fall on the
public or private utilities providing the service.

122. It is essential that economic planning incorporate the idea of water as
natural capital whose services can be depleted, as in the using up of
groundwater or polluting of water sources.  Those services can only be
restored at high cost.  In the long run, a failure to include the state of
water resources in economic analysis, particularly in macroeconomic analysis,
leads to unnecessary, wasteful and costly investments in water supply
developments, to misallocation of water resources among competing uses and, in
some cases, to the actual collapse of schemes.

            6.  Building human and institutional capacity to solve our
                water problems

123. Capacity-building is an essential step in preparing sustainable water
strategies.  It includes education, awareness-raising and the creation of a
legal framework, institutions and an environment that enables people to take
well-informed decisions for the long-term benefit of their society.  Women,
youth, non-governmental organizations and indigenous people need to be brought
into capacity-building strategies, as they are essential in building a
sustainable water future.

124. If people, particularly in poor and water-scarce countries, are going to
come up with solutions to problems such as how to attain food security, they
must be educated and given access to the information that will help them make
decisions.  The world needs more well-trained people, especially women, to
assess and develop fresh water supplies, and to manage water projects for
sustainable use.  Capacity-building should be aimed at giving professionals
from different backgrounds and working in different sectors the skills to
participate effectively in the intersectoral dialogue during the planning,
design and construction of water resources projects.  There is a further need
to create new or strengthen existing institutions capable of integrated water
management and to build networks linking institutions with expertise in land,
water quality and water quantity.

125. Many Governments will need to assign a high priority to their
capacity-building efforts towards institution-building, legislation and human
resources development.  National efforts in this regard need to be supported
by international, regional and national external support agencies, and by the
non-governmental community, including the private sector.

              7.  Access to reliable data is presently inadequate

126. Effective water resources assessment and management are not possible
without adequate information, including hydrologic information, water-use and
-quality data, demographic data (separated by gender where relevant), forestry
and land management, and capacity to assess the data.  There is a need for
national and internationally agreed upon and harmonized information systems
that provide data needed for decision making, as well as common ways of
analysing the information.

127. Ideally, the river basin or watershed should constitute the geographical
unit for data collection and analysis.  Even though some countries have
hydrologic data available, usually on the river basin level, almost no country
has socio-economic data sorted at a comparable level.

128. The experience with the current assessment demonstrates that the
capability to provide accurate water-quantity and -quality data is sorely
lacking in the majority of countries.  For years, the capacity of hydrologic
offices in many developing countries, particularly in Africa, has been
declining in terms of the operation, maintenance and extension of hydrologic
networks.  Few, if any, developing countries have a significant capability for
water-quality monitoring, which would give important information from a health
perspective.  It is very difficult to obtain reliable, systematic information
on water resources management and irrigation in most developing countries.
There is also poor data on land degradation related to water use.  Even
developed countries have been reducing their environmental monitoring systems
as part of general budget cuts in recent years.  Despite problems in finding
resources for data-gathering, there have been some encouraging signs.  As part
of the Southern African Development Community protocol on water resources,
there was agreement to create a water sector dealing with integrated water
planning and development of shared river basins.  India's national water
policy calls for the development of a standardized national information system
with multidisciplinary units for water management.

129. Support from international, regional and national external support
agencies is urgently needed.  The World Hydrological Cycle Observing System
(WHYCOS) programme, developed by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
with support from the World Bank and other donors, is an important first step
with regard to the strengthening of hydrologic networks.  The United Nations
Environment Programme (UNEP)/World Health Organization (WHO)/Global
Environment Monitoring System (GEMS) water programme provides international
support for the monitoring of water quality.  The WHO/United Nations
Children's Fund (UNICEF) Global Drinking Water Supply Monitoring Programme
collects and analyses information involving water supply and sanitation
coverage in developing countries.  The Rural Water Statistical System
(AQUASTAT) programme of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United
Nations (FAO) assembles information on rural water use in participating
countries, and makes it available in a standard format.  The International
Hydrological Programme of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organization (UNESCO) includes the FRIENDS (Flow Regime from
International Experimental and Network Data Sets) programme that places a
strong emphasis on water resources management.  Despite these important
programmes, international support efforts concerning information management
remain fragmented and incomplete.

                           B.  Strategy development

130. Important action recommendations on global water issues have been
formulated at various meetings, ranging from the United Nations Water
Conference in Mar del Plata, 1977, and the Global Consultation on Safe Water
and Sanitation for the 1990s in New Delhi, India, 1990, to the International
Conference on Water and the Environment in Dublin, and the United Nations
Conference on Environment and Development, both in 1992.  Further
recommendations were provided by the Ministerial Conference on Drinking Water
and Environmental Sanitation in Noordwijk, and by the Commission on
Sustainable Development at its second session, both in 1994.  Considerable
progress has been achieved in some places in terms of implementing these
recommendations, with significant achievements oriented towards a more
equitable and efficient utilization of water resources.  On the whole,
however, we are still far from achieving the sustainable development

131. The findings of this report dramatize the importance of putting into
practice the concept of a 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.

132. Through a series of meetings, particularly the Dublin water conference, a
set of principles, later reflected in chapter 18 of Agenda 21, for water
planning and management have emerged and are gaining wide acceptance.

                          The Dublin Water Principles

     Principle No. 1.  Freshwater is a finite and vulnerable resource,
essential to sustain life, development and the environment.

     Principle No. 2.  Water development and management should be based on a
participatory approach, involving users, planners and policy makers at all

     Principle No. 3.  Women play a central part in the provision, management
and safeguarding of water.

     Principle No. 4.  Water has an economic value in all its competing uses
and should be recognized as an economic good.

133. The concept of water as an economic good needs to be implemented taking
into account the provision of water for the satisfaction of basic needs.

134. Some important progress has been achieved in a number of countries in
this regard.  However, a much greater commitment to the implementation of
these recommendations is needed worldwide to achieve sustainability.

135. Governments should incorporate these important principles in their
social, economic and environmental planning.

                   C.  Policy options for country categories

136. Given many current trends, there is a risk that an increasing number of
low-income countries will find themselves facing water stress.  Some countries
may also experience economic growth that will shift them to higher-income
categories, giving them the financial means to develop suitable water
strategies.  It should be noted that some economic growth projections used by
planners do not take into account water as a possible limiting factor in
future economic development.

137. As the pressure on water increases, so will the number of problems that
countries must solve.  In order for a country not to move to a position of
higher water stress possibly with serious economic implications, certain
actions must be taken, and most of them are urgent if the country is not to
suffer a decline in its human, economic and environmental health.

138. The factor of relatively small amounts of water per capita does not
prevent development, but it does shape it.  There are examples of countries
that are coming to terms with the question by using technology and economic
strategies to live within their means.

139. All countries need to implement the recommendations contained in the Rio
Declaration on Environment and Development 3/ and in chapter 18 of Agenda 21
the framework of their water management policies.  They should also encourage
demand management and pricing principles, as discussed above.

140. At a time when development assistance funds are limited, it will be
important to focus on assisting people who suffer from lack of funds in making
use of their water resources.  This must be done in a way that helps economic
and social development without overexploiting water and other natural
resources.  After the provision for basic human needs, development projects in
most countries need to focus on efficient use of water for relatively high-
value products.

                1.  High-income countries with low water stress

141. Pollution reduction and control are the major water-related challenge
facing most countries in this category.  Many of them also need to look at the
issue of water-pricing, because the fact that water might be plentiful does
not mean that it should be free.  Development and distribution costs need to
be covered by either public or private utilities.  Some countries in this
group, with favourable land and climate conditions, may have a significant
potential for increased food production from irrigation and rain-fed
agriculture, and could play a significant role in providing food to world

142. Because of the averaged nature of water availability and use, some large
countries classified in this category nevertheless contain arid and semi-arid
areas which would have to be regarded as being highly stressed and vulnerable.

In such regions, demand management measures and water rights markets are
becoming critically important.

               2.  High-income countries with high water stress

143. For those countries with low per capita water availability, the
allocation of water to the highest-value uses is a necessity.  Demand
management and water allocation policies designed to maximize the
socio-economic value of water are of paramount importance, as is pollution
control.  Water markets with tradable water rights and permits are already
beginning to play an important role in the allocation of water, and will need
to continue to play an increasingly important role.  With increased allocation
efficiency, it is likely that irrigated agriculture will decrease in
importance, and it appears that more countries in this category will become
increasingly dependent on the world market for agricultural products.

144. The depletion of groundwater aquifers and sea-water intrusion need to be
avoided.  The protection of surface- and groundwater from pollution is vital.
It is recommended that all countries in this category give urgent attention to
pollution monitoring and control through economic and regulatory measures of
both surface- and groundwater.

145. Waste-water treatment and reuse will constitute essential mechanisms for
pollution control and the augmentation of water supplies.  For example, Israel
already recycles and reuses two thirds of the water discharged after urban and
industrial use.

                3.  Low-income countries with low water stress

146. Countries in this group that are well endowed with land and water
resources may have the opportunity to increase agricultural production and
exports into the world market from either irrigated or rain-fed agriculture.
For those countries with relative water scarcity, and high levels of
evaporation, agricultural production is probably best directed into
high-value, low-water-intensive products.  Some poor countries lack adequate
access to what little water they have, and development assistance could help
them in using that water wisely.

147. Both water-rich and water-poor countries with low incomes generally
suffer from a lack of sanitation and waste-water treatment.  Water pollution
from human or animal wastes is often already a problem, and steps are now
needed to improve pollution control and treatment so as to protect human and
ecosystem health.

148. The acceptance of highly polluting industries with little or no control
on their discharges may be tempting on the basis of short-term economic growth
considerations.  However, the overall long-term costs to redress environmental
damages resulting from such decisions have often been shown to be more
expensive than the creating of low-polluting industries in the first place.

149. Countries are urged to give high priority to investments for waste-water
treatment and reuse, and to formulate and implement pollution monitoring and
control policies.

                4.  Low-income countries with high water stress

150. If appropriate action is not taken between now and the year 2025, the
number of people in this category could grow substantially.  Water resources
will become a major limiting factor for socio-economic development unless
early measures are taken towards restructuring production and consumption
patterns away from wasteful and low-value, water-intensive uses.  There is
evidence that some countries are already reaching this kind of developmental
bottleneck.  Achieving sustainable use of water resources for most countries
in this category will require that per capita water use decrease as population

151. Given the high ratio of water use to availability, population growth and
future economic development will require shifts in the utilization of water
towards the production of high-value products.  Under current trends, many of
these countries will become less self-sufficient in food production, and will
have to rely on the world market for food imports.  The economic
transformation of these countries will need to be accompanied by social
support programmes involving education and training of the labour force to
enable it to cope with the demands of an increasingly industrialized society.

152. Countries in this category are urged to give the highest priority to the
formulation of economic and regulatory measures designed to increase
irrigation efficiency and optimize water allocation among various uses.  In
particular, they need to pay attention to the generation of foreign exchange
that might be needed for food imports.

153. Countries should increase waste-water treatment and reuse, and should
control pollution from agricultural chemicals through land management and
integrated pest management measures.

154. These countries may need to adopt the following strategies:

     (a) To develop the educational and information infrastructure necessary
to improve the skills of the labour force required for the industrial
transformation that needs to take place;

     (b) To shift to more high-value, less water-intensive crops, and develop
the associated agricultural industries to process more of the products, thus
raising the value-added component in their countries.

155. To be able to move out of this category in the next 30 years, assistance
of the international community will be needed in order to generate the
financial resources for the economic transformation required.

                         D.  Action:  recommendations

156. Bearing in mind existing principles and the recommendations in chapter 18
of Agenda 21, the following action is recommended partly based on the
discussion in previous sections of this report.

157. Manage water quantity and quality together in an integrated and
comprehensive manner, taking into account the upstream and downstream
consequences of management actions, regional and sectoral relations and social

158. Base strategies for the sustainable development of water resources on a
participatory process that integrates all aspects of freshwater management.

159. Provide equitable access to clean water for all people and include human
health and the state of the environment as water resource management
160. Develop sustainable water strategies that address basic human needs, as
well as the preservation of ecosystems, in ways that are consistent with
socio-economic objectives of different societies.

161. Develop adequate national and regional water policies and plans, and
promote cost-efficient water technologies.  Water management must be
integrated into physical, social and economic planning, including land-use
planning, forest resource utilization and protection of coastal zones from
land-based activities.  Land and water use are closely intertwined.

162. Integrate water in economic planning analysis.  Recognize water and the
environment as vital capital.  This means accounting for the value of water in
each nation's system of national accounts.  The accounts need to reflect the
economic losses caused by a degradation of water resources.

163. Integrate the private sector into the water development process.  While
people must be provided with access to water for basic needs at affordable
cost, the private sector can play a helpful role in seeing that water for a
number of industrial and agricultural uses is priced in a manner that reflects
its value to society.

164. Build up needed expertise on water issues among water users and decision
makers at all levels, thus increasing their capacity to deal with complex
water management questions.  There is a need for people with expertise in
hydrology, water quality, water law, and water conflict resolution, and people
who can identify and help implement the best water technologies.  It is
essential also to build expertise in dealing with the socio-economic aspects
of water management, such as water-pricing, and the role of the private sector
in water supply and sanitation.

165. Enhance national water resource assessment capabilities and measurement
networks and establish water resource information systems that enable people
to understand the options available for sustainable urban, industrial,
domestic and agricultural development in combination with environmental

166. Pay attention to the role of gender in water resources management.  In
much of the world, women play a key role in acquiring water and deciding how
it is used.  They need to be part of the decision-making process for water
projects and for industrial and land-use projects that affect water quality
and quantity.

167. Accelerate or initiate actions that will result in global, international
or regional agreements or programmes to address:

     (a) Provision of safe drinking water and environmental sanitation;

     (b) Elimination of unsustainable uses of toxic materials, especially
persistent organic pollutants.

168. Accelerate actions within the framework of existing programmes,
conventions and agreements towards:

     (a) The combating of desertification and drought, by better integrating
land and water management;

     (b) The protection and sustainable use of biodiversity related to

     (c) The protection of coastal areas and oceans from land-based

169. Develop models of cooperation aiming at maximizing the benefits from the
development of transboundary river basins or aquifers.

170. Accelerate the implementation of the water-related activities contained
in the action plans adopted at the:

     (a) Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island
Developing States, Barbados, 1994; 4/

     (b) International Conference on Population and Development, Cairo, 1994;

     (c) Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, 1995; 6/

     (d) United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II),
Istanbul, 1996. 7/

171. Within the framework of the World Food Summit Plan of Action, approved by
the World Food Summit in Rome in 1996, examine and report on water-related
activities aiming at securing access to food.

172. Develop an institutional and regulatory framework to ensure functional
water markets and protection of water rights.

173. Establish, within existing institutions, especially the United Nations
system, a global water information network to compile information with
particular emphasis on water quality, water quantity and water use.  The
institutions should also conduct regular global and regional water
assessments.  Water information programmes should be implemented at the
national level, and international institutions should propose models to ensure
compatibility between data of individual countries.  There is a need for a
periodic review and it is recommended that the Commission on Sustainable
Development carry out periodic global freshwater assessments, using the
existing network of experts.

174. Build on international collaborative arrangements such as the Global
Water Partnership, the Global Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative
Council, and the World Water Council, and strengthen collaboration with non-
governmental organizations.

175. Develop North-South academic partnerships to develop the research
capacity on a broad range of water-related issues, including those of quantity
and quality and those related to helping people understand the value of water
as natural capital.

176. Develop partnerships with the private sector and industries to take
advantage of their expertise to achieve mutual benefits in the water sector.

177. Given the seriousness of the situation and future risk of crises, there
is an urgent need to act now.  The international community has to strive for a
situation in which there is no undermining of the natural resource base.  Land
and water need to be protected from the long-term degradation that threatens
food production, aquatic ecosystems, human health and biodiversity.  There is
a need to reduce water use per unit of production, using water-efficient
technologies.  Pollution has to be sharply reduced, and persistent toxic
substances that accumulate in the food chain must no longer be released into
the environment.  Agricultural water use has to become highly efficient, so as
to ensure an adequate food supply for everyone.  Generally accepted political
goals need to be developed based on the fair sharing of benefits from water

     In order to achieve this future, it is necessary for Governments to take
the steps needed to reach a global consensus over and above what is contained
in the existing principles and agreements on freshwater resources of the
world.  Such a consensus should take into account factors brought forth in
this report.


     1/ Report of the United Nations Conference on Environment and
Development, Rio de Janeiro, 3-14 June 1992, vol. I, Resolutions Adopted by
the Conference (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.93.I.8 and
corrigendum), resolution 1, annex II.

     2/ See Official Records of the General Assembly, Forty-ninth Session,
Supplement No. 10 (A/49/10), chap. III, sect. D.

     3/ Report of the United Nations Conference on Environment and
Development, Rio de Janeiro, 3-14 June 1992, vol. I, Resolutions Adopted by
the Conference (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.93.I.8 and
corrigendum), resolution 1, annex I.

     4/ See Report of the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of
Small Island Developing States, Bridgetown, Barbados, 25 April-6 May 1994
(United Nations publication, Sales No. E.94.I.18 and corrigenda), chap. I,
resolution 1, annex II (Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of
Small Island Developing States).

     5/ See Report of the International Conference on Population and
Development, Cairo, 5-13 September 1994 (United Nations publication, Sales No.
E.95.XIII.18), chap. I, resolution 1, annex (Programme of Action of the
International Conference on Population and Development).

     6/ See Report of the Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing,
4-15 September 1995 (A/CONF.177/20 and Add.1), chap. I, resolution 1, annex II
(Platform for Action).

     7/ Report of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements
(Habitat II), Istanbul, 3-14 June 1996 (A/CONF.165/14), chap. I, resolution 1,
annex II (The Habitat Agenda).