The management of freshwater resources and related services is of critical importance to healthy social, economic and political well-being of a society. Stresses exerted on the world's water resources by the increasing demand from growing populations with changing consumption patterns and the destruction of water quality from pollution as a result of poor environmental management, are placing water increasingly higher on the international agenda, including that of climate change. Effective water resource management and developments impacting on water resources are recognised as key components of environmentally sustainable development. The negative consequences of poor water resource management on socio-economic development are more frequently arising. This is clearly apparent in the agricultural and other water-sensitive industries. However industries where water is less evident in the supply chain, and even other sectors such as energy, are becoming increasingly aware of the risks and consequences associated with a potentially unreliable water resource.
The European Union (EU), through the European Commission (EC) and the EU Member States, has made a significant contribution to the international debate on the impending world water crisis and the measures needed to address it. Their support has contributed to efforts at the international level with other state actors, through the UN system and in inter-ministerial councils, to promote new initiatives in water resource management.
The content of this Toolkit addresses the sustainable development of the Water Resources sector and contributes by translating the international consensus on sustainable water resources management into applicable development cooperation activities. The Water Project Toolkit is intended to be used by a wide range of stakeholders such as governments, members of the private sector including service providers, stakeholders in civil society, research, academia, other higher education institutions, and international organisations involved in development of water resources management.
The centrepiece of the Toolkit is a 'strategic approach for the equitable, efficient and sustainable management of water resources'. The approach is based on internationally agreed-upon core principles concerning the need to protect the environment and ecosystems, to provide access to the health-giving and productive properties of freshwater resources equitably, efficiently and sustainably among populations, with special attention to poorer and under-served beneficiaries. It provides a comprehensive framework for all activities relating to water resources development. Its application involves a holistic attitude towards water management, and the introduction of best practices consistent with the internationally agreed-upon core principles. The strategy covers the full cycle of the water resource management activity, from national policy-making through to implementation of programmes and projects and includes the subsequent operation and maintenance of services.
The application of the strategic approach facilitates an open and flexible programme process in which sensitivity to changing trends and local economic, social and environmental circumstances can be reflected. At each stage of the programming process, the Toolkit provides a set of practical checklists to enable the policy principles at the heart of the strategic approach to be put into effect in different programming contexts, to identify problem areas likely to be encountered and potential responses to these problems.
A number of common core activities emerge from the checklists, stressing the importance and attention which needs to be given to what are known as 'software' or sometimes non-technical issues. The priority attached to software activities within the overall approach can be seen as part of a strategy which integrates the software component and raises its importance to the same level as the 'hardware' issues (such as infrastructures).
Almost all these activities relate to a certain degree to management and institutional strengthening. They have been grouped under priority themes for action as follows: institutional development and capacity-building; participatory structures and gender equity; natural resource management; expansion of the knowledge base; demand management and sustainable cost-recovery; awareness-raising and communications. The application of such activities will contribute to making the design and management of water resources interventions more cost-effective, efficient and sustainable.
The Water Project Toolkit opens with a presentation of the rationale for the elaboration of the strategic approach. The strategic approach itself first identifies policy principles for policy development and practical action; it then clusters programme activity into six Focus Areas, within which the policy principles are to be applied; and finally it provides an overview of priority themes for action implied by use of these frameworks.
The Water Project Toolkit's core practical material (Part 2) consists of step-by-step suggestions for the planning and implementation of activities. The approach is progressive, entailing the raising and resolving of issues throughout the different phases of the programme process by systematic application of the principles. The overall intention is to equip those involved in water-related decisions with a framework of principles and operational philosophy to facilitate informed decision-making on water-related development.
In relation to water resources, as in other areas of development activity, policy and practice are constantly evolving. The practical suggestions contained in this Toolkit do not provide exhaustive instructions on how to proceed in every project planning and implementation situation, nor do they offer answers to every problem likely to be encountered. Rather, they articulate a holistic perspective and strategic approach whose accompanying practical 'what', 'why' and 'how to' suggestions illustrate policy and programme directions consistent with this approach. The suggestions are an aid to achieve effective problem-solving within the Project Cycle Management process, not to be used as a prescriptive manual (Project Cycle Management, or PCM, is a system for project development, funding and evaluation used by the EC in its development cooperation activities).
The third part, The policy approach, gives a non-exhaustive summary of the last development policies and tools relevant to the development of the water sector with several references. If needed, these allow the reader to deepen a series of concepts cited throughout the Water Project Toolkit.
The Water Project Toolkit will enable users to benefit from the current trends in development cooperation involving water resources. In addition, this Toolkit aims to facilitate the application of sustainable water management in national and sub-national policies, programmes and projects.
The Water Project Toolkit is designed to be used on its own, or in tandem with supplementary tools and data. In the interests of brevity and ease of application, the Toolkit provides a summary rather than a full review of the global situation relating to water resources and implications for agriculture, public health, energy and other water-related sectors.
Emerging trends have been treated and highlighted throughout the Toolkit. New experiences and references have been included in order to make this document an updated tool for water sector practitioners. In addition, the online version (http://www.aquaknow.net/watertoolkit) of the Toolkit allows a high level of contribution and interaction, resulting in a live and continuously updated reference.