BY EDMUND SMITH-ASANTE
The Government of Ghana says that as a result of pursuing Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) strategies since 1992, it has been able to rehabilitate 40 percent of irrigation schemes for more effective water use and productivity.
For her part, Chad indicates it has been able to increase water supply from 15 percent in 1990 to 50 percent in 2011, while Tunisia says during the period it has been able to build 110 wastewater treatment plants.
Other countries that have chalked some successes after implementing IWRM, according to a survey conducted by the United Nations, are Estonia which maintains introducing water charges and pollution taxes contributed to improved water efficiency and a reduction of pollution load into the Baltic Sea, Costa Rica which says 50 percent of revenues gained from water charges are now re-invested in water resource management and Guatemala, which discloses that hydropower generation capacity almost doubled between 1982 and 2011.
The survey, which was co-ordinated by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on behalf of UN-Water, shows that the introduction of IWRM on a national level varies greatly across the globe – from early planning stages to concrete implementation of new laws and policies.
“Yet many countries – particularly those in developing regions – signalled a need for increased capacity-building, investment and infrastructure development in order to fully implement integrated water resources management,” says the UNEP.
On countries’ perceptions of key issues, it states that the water-related issues cited most often as ‘high’ or ‘highest priority’ by governments, are infrastructure development and financing (79 percent of all countries) and financing for water resources management (78 percent).
Climate change on the other hand is cited as a high priority for action in a majority of countries (70 percent overall), while 76 percent of countries considered that the threat to water resources from climate change has increased since 1992.
But the survey also highlights important differences between developed and developing countries in terms of water-related priorities, according to the UNEP.
Meanwhile, the survey used the Human Development Index to categorise countries in four groups: low HDI, medium HDI, high HDI and very high HDI, indicating that ensuring adequate water supply for agriculture is a high priority for many low HDI countries, while the preservation of freshwater ecosystems (‘water for environment’) is a priority mainly for very high HDI countries.
The survey, out of which a report has been produced - The UN-Water Status Report on the Application of Integrated Approaches to Water Resource Management and will be launched at the Rio+20 Conference on 19 June during the ‘Water Day’, includes a number of suggested targets and recommendations, which are designed to inform decision-makers at Rio+20.
Based on an assessment of the findings from the survey, these are that, by 2015, each country should develop specific targets and timeframes for preparing and implementing a programme of action and financing strategy for IWRM.
Also, that by 2015, a global reporting mechanism on national water resources management should be established to ensure a more rigorous reporting system on progress with IWRM, and improve the availability of information and more effort is needed to increase levels of financing and to improve the institutional framework for water resources management – especially focusing on low HDI countries.
The UN-Water assessment was based on two surveys: a questionnaire-based survey among all UN Member States (Level 1 survey) and an interview-based survey in 30 representative countries (Level 2 survey), while 134 countries responded to the Level 1 survey, representing 70 percent of UN Member States and fairly even distribution among geographical regions and HDI groups.