Box The Dublin Principles

Fresh water is a finite and vulnerable resource, essential to sustain life, development and the environment. Since water sustains life, effective management of water resources demands a holistic approach, linking social and economic development with protection of natural ecosystems. Effective management links land and water uses across the whole of a catchment area or groundwater aquifer.

Water development and management should be based on a participatory approach, involving users, planners and policy-makers at all levels. The participatory approach involves raising awareness of the importance of water among policy-makers and the general public. It means that decisions are taken at the lowest appropriate level, with full public consultation and involvement of users in the planning and implementation of water projects.

Women play a central part in the provision, management and safeguarding of water. This pivotal role of women as providers and users of water and guardians of the living environment has seldom been reflected in institutional arrangements for the development and management of water resources. Acceptance and implementation of this principle requires positive policies to address women's specific needs and to equip and empower women to participate at all levels in water resources programmes, including decision-making and implementation, in ways defined by them.

Water has an economic value in all its competing uses and should be recognized as an economic good. Within this principle, it is vital to recognize first the basic right of all human beings to have access to clean water and sanitation at an affordable price. Past failure to recognize the economic value of water has led to wasteful and environmentally damaging uses of the resource. Managing water as an economic good is an important way of achieving efficient and equitable use, and of encouraging conservation and protection of water resources.

Source: See endnote 17.

brought the value of water itself to the foreground. When water was abundant relative to demand, the challenge of water management was to raise the capital and find the skilled engineers to deliver the service. Where there was a demand for water, engineers created supply by developing new sources and designing delivery systems. The resource was not perceived as a constraint. Economists were involved in water resources development only to the extent that they could assist in defining a least-cost approach to delivering new water supplies.

Highlighting water's economic value in other uses, including ecosystem uses, helped shift the paradigm of water management from a supply-side focus on an unlimited resource to one that also includes demand management of a limited resource. Today, calls for new water supplies are questioned and water conservation is increasingly seen as one of the options to "fulfill" future water demands. Can people do more, or better, with the water already in use? Is it really necessary to tap "untapped" resources, and for what purpose? What will these additional abstractions cost, and how will they affect ecosystems and current water users? Do benefits justify economic, environmental, and social costs? These questions, in turn, prompt innovations in the way water is managed.

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