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Published on: 22/10/2003

Improved access to water supply and sanitation (WSS) is amongst the most pressing needs of poor people in all developing countries. Domestic water supplies and environmental sanitation contribute to livelihoods in a wide range of ways. They are crucial to health and well-being, and can make an important contribution to food production and income-generating activities. The management of WSS systems also has important effects on the ecosystems that support livelihoods.

As demand for water rises due to increasing populations, expansion of irrigated areas, and industrial development, many parts of the developing world face increasing water scarcity. Continued reliance upon the traditional approaches to water resources development; such as construction of dams and exploitation of new aquifers to increase supply; is often no longer an option. Demand management and improved allocation of existing resources is increasingly recognised as a more sustainable strategy.

Integrated water resources management

The need for a new approach is reflected in the increasing adoption of integrated water resources management (IWRM) principles as a guiding framework. IWRM embraces the integrated management of land and all aspects of the water cycle for the sustainable benefit of humans and the environment. In Vision 21, an internationally agreed framework for action, the water and sanitation community signalled acceptance of the IWRM paradigm while asserting that access to an essential minimum (quantity and quality) is a fundamental right. As competing uses of water reduce the availability or quality of resources, and raise the cost of future provision of water services, it is increasingly important that the WSS sector play a more active role in IWRM.

Main activities of the project

The project will identify, assess and promote innovative institutional and operational strategies to increase WSS involvement in IWRM. Action research is being carried out by NGOs and partner organisations in India and South Africa. There are interesting complementarities and differences between these countries in relation to addressing IWRM. The project will promote the sharing of experiences and approaches to stimulate new thinking and to develop in-country research capacity. South-south collaboration in the research will be a key component, and will be facilitated through regular study visits, exchanges and workshops.

The development of partnerships with projects and institutions able to utilise the research findings, pilot innovative approaches and replicate successful impacts is a key feature. In India, the project will work mainly in Andhra Pradesh in collaboration with on-going participatory watershed development and WSS projects. In Northern Province, South Africa, it will work with integrated water resources management (IWRM) and rural development projects. As well as the action research in these locations, the project will give priority to identifying elements that are replicable elsewhere and will seek to form alliances and promote dissemination in other countries and regions.

WHiRL is supported by the UK Department for International Development (DfID) through the Infrastructure and Urban Development Division's Knowledge and Research programme.

Project R7804 'Integrating drinking water needs in watershed projects'.



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