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A1 POLICIES Setting goals for water use, protection and conservation

As pressure on water resources increases, governments need to consider water as a resource in its own right and manage it accordingly. Policies are the framework within which water resources are managed, and thus a framework within which to develop an IWRM approach. To be integrated, water resources policy must mesh with overall national economic policy and related national sectoral policies. IWRM also means that water issues within every economic and social sector must be taken into account.

Since the multiple users of water are competing, and the pressure on resources is increasing because of growing pollution, it is crucial to have the participation of as many different stakeholders and authorities as possible in the management of water resources. Environmental concerns the ways in which water policies may have an impact on other environmental media and vice versa must be recognised. At the same time, economic and social policies need to take account of possible water resource implications. Developments outside the water sector for example national energy and food policies should be evaluated for possible impacts on the water resource. Water is a core developmental issue; its development and management therefore affects almost every activity within the wider economy and society, including migration, land use and settlement growth and changes in industrial activity.

Policy formulation is a core government role. Through its policies, government can delimit the direct and indirect activities of all stakeholder groups, including itself. Government can be a direct provider, or regulate and support other providers. Appropriate policies can encourage participatory, demand-driven and sustainable development. Policies that encourage integrated water resources management include reference to the nations wider social and economic objectives that make up the development goals of the society. Policies lead to the development of laws and rules and regulation designed to achieve the overall policy goals (A2).

Appropriate policies can deal with the many inter-related and complex issues involved in IWRM, including:

  • Assessing the relative environmental, economic and social values of water;
  • Recognising the role of men and women as users and managers of water resources;
  • Taking into account sustainability and environmental issues in the planning, design, construction, operation and management of major water projects;
  • Assessment of the social impact of water resource developments;
  • Restoring and protecting the quality of surface and groundwater;
  • Introducing procedures to designate, evaluate and conserve surface waters;
  • Introducing flexible drought and flood management strategies;
  • Mandating the provision of easily accessible, accurate and up-to-date data on water resources and needs;
  • Linking water policies with other ecosystem, economic and social policies;
  • Estimation of the costs of policies and identifying the means for financing them.

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