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From water supply management to water demand management

It is well-known that whether the focus is placed on water supply management or on water demand management depends on degree and scale of irrigation development in given country and, mostly, on type of the countrys socio-economic system.

Water supply management is more characterized by structural (engineering) approach, where accent is placed on water infrastructure: dams, reservoirs, canals, etc.

Water demand management is characterized by non-structural measures more oriented towards human component rather than to engineering structures. Here, human component in water supply systems is presented by individual water users and by those, who work in water supply organizations.

Many countries have understood that non-structural measures better meet the community interests rather than many dams and reservoirs. Therefore, it is time for CAR to turn from water supply management to water demand management and from structural approach to non-structural one.

Certainly, water demand can be decreased voluntarily or on the basis of instruction; thus, leading to lowering of water requirements. Essentially, this means that the consumer changes patterns of its consumers preferences. Regulatory measures, such as permissions, restrictions and distribution systems may also lead to reduction of water demand.

However, currently, the main factors encouraging water saving in CAR are water shortage and administrative forcing (discontinuance of water delivery or cutting of water limits). Thus, moral and, more important, financial incentives are needed to achieve water saving voluntarily rather than proceeding from the extreme need. Demand management may decrease investments in physical infrastructure, thus providing real useful output.

Water demand management produces better results under IWRM.

Demand management is achieved through institutional and cognitive measures.

Institutional measures are the term meaning interrelated combination of two types of measures (coordination):

  • System (structure) of incentives and rules, and
  • Organizations.

Institutional measures coordinate activities of people on the way of achieving objectives set before the society, particularly, to ensure more desirable water use. Broad institutional measures aimed at water saving (ownership rights, pricing policy, ) are expedient only in places, where water is rare and highly valued.

Cognitive measures are those measures by which it is attempted to change peoples behavior through training, propaganda and dissemination of information on scientific and technological achievements (professional development courses, training centers, ). Cognitive approaches to change peoples behavior usually imply communication of information to water users.

Author: Mirzaev N.N., SIC ICWC