Sunil Ghorawat
November 5, 2016
Sustainable Water Management

Climate change and the hydrological variability of water's distribution and occurrence are natural driving forces that, when combined with the pressures from economic growth and major population change, make the sustainable development of our water resources a challenge.

The combination of these factors commonly results in increased water use, competition and pollution in addition to highly inefficient water supply practices. These results can be traced back to the fact that most decisions in water resources management, at almost all levels, remain principally driven by short-term economic and political considerations that lack the long-term vision needed to implement sustainable development practices. Water management plans should consider the best existing practices and the most advanced scientific breakthroughs.

The scientific community has to convey more effectively its recommendations to decision-makers - to enable the latter to develop and maintain multidisciplinary integrated approaches and solutions. Societies should realize that today's water-related challenges are no longer readily solved just by using last century's hydraulic schemes. Increased funding and resources need to be provided for the collection of detailed water data and information.

Poor quality water and unsustainable supplies limit national economic development and can lead to adverse health and livelihood conditions. Landscape modifications further complicate our understanding and ability to predict the impacts on water resources since these changes disrupt natural hydrological and ecosystem functioning. This becomes more important when we seek to advance our understanding of the future impacts of climate change at local and regional scales. We know that detailed estimates of climate change impacts on water resources at regional or global scales are currently very problematic due to inadequate water data.

We have reached a reasonable level of knowledge towards recognizing impacts on water quality and quantity from pollution and excessive groundwater and surface water withdrawals. The focus must now be on reducing these impacts. In most developing countries, specific and well-targeted programmes should be funded to reduce impacts on water quality and quantity. Overall, there are reasons to be hopeful as new water programmes are emerging that finally emphasize the application of more sustainable practices to reduce impacts.

As Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director of Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) recently said: "Without reliable access to water, almost no Sustainable Development Goal will be achieved. To make that happen, we must ensure water's centrality to the entire Agenda 2030. This will show the power water has a connector." "Water connects not only sectors, but also nations, communities and different actors. Water can be the unifying power, the enabler for progress in both Agenda 2030 and the Paris climate agreement", said Holmgren.

As societies look for economic development, it is becoming increasingly clear that sustainable growth is only possible with inclusiveness. As a critical resource, water connects us all. Development in water management is essential for any sustained growth. Equitable allocation of water to different conflicting demands amongst agriculture, industry, society and environment has to be bedrock of development.

Equally, development cannot be made by compromising environment. Growth has to be on the twin pillars of development and sustainability. Those societies that recognize this truth will be able to provide better opportunities for their people. Without sustainable development in water management, there can be no real development.

Sunil Ghorawat Sunil Ghorawat is Editor-in-Chief, EverythingAboutWater magazine

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