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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781843390701
Publisher: IWA Publishing
Publication date: 04/01/2006
Series: Water Law & Policy Series
Pages: 360
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.75(d)

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The need for closer links between water science and law: a new paradigm in the making

Jim Wallace and Patricia Wouters


Effective management of the world's water resources is in everyone's best interests, and yet serious challenges remain. The 'water is life' mantra, now reverberating across the globe, highlights the increased attention paid to this resource by the international community, and supports the recent UN Resolution launching the "Water for Life" Decade (UN GA Resolution A.RES 58/217, 2004). As the Secretary-General of the UN, Kofi Annan explained, "This is an urgent matter of human development, and human dignity" ... Together, we can provide safe, clean water to all the world's people. The world's water resources are our lifelines for survival, and for sustainable development in the twenty-first century."

The Water for Life Decade provides a platform for governments to galvanise their efforts in meeting their international obligations related to water, both at home and abroad. The Millennium Development Goals, endorsed by the global community, seeks, inter alia, "to reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water" (see UN Millennium Development Goals, at http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/#), and places a special emphasis on the involvement and participation of women in these efforts. The current policy discourse on water resources management appears embedded within the revived 'security and development' debate, which is being revisited by multilateral and bilateral donors, policy-makers, non-governmental agencies, academics and others, and especially within the context of the UN Summit 2005 being convened in New York (Sept 2005; see http://www.un.org/summit2005/; Human and Environmental Security. An Agenda for Change (2005)). All of this is very good – indeed, quite honorable – but the real challenges arise when effective national or sub-national water resources policy is required to be identified and implemented. How are real needs met on the ground – and what is the role for water law, policy and science? Responding to this difficult challenge is one of the primary objectives of this book.

Clearly, water (and its effective management) is the global issue of the 21st century, and scientific evidence and expertise underscore the relevance of the global policy debate. Demand for water (quantitative and qualitative) already exceeds availability in many areas, a situation that will be exacerbated by continuing population growth, increasing development and industrial demands and rising living standards. The global consequences of this increasing human water use have been illustrated by several authors (e.g. Fischer and Heilig, 1997; Falkenmark, 1997, Gleick, 2000, Vorosmarty et al., 2000) and are summarised by Wallace et al. (2003) using Figure 1.1, below. This shows that the most acute water shortages at present occur in Northern Africa, where the renewable freshwater resource is insufficient to meet the basic human needs for food and hygiene. However, by 2050 a staggering 67 percent of the world's population (6.5 billion) may experience some water scarcity (Figure 1.1b), and, as many as one in six people (1.5 billion) may have insufficient water to meet their requirements for growing food and domestic water. There is clearly much human 'life' at stake here.

At the same time as evidence for this immense human water crisis has emerged, there has been growing concern for the impacts of human appropriation of water on plant and animal 'life', i.e. the environment and aquatic ecosystems in particular. Figures 1.1c and 1.1d give a broad global picture of where the pressures on aquatic ecosystems may be greatest, now and in 2050. These figures identify the percentage of the total annual renewable freshwater resource that would be available in a scenario where all human needs were met. Figure 1.1c shows that, at present, approximately one-third of the land area of the world would have less than 50 percent of the available water resources to support aquatic ecosystems; most of this area would have less than 25 percent, a figure below which severe environmental impacts may occur. Even when the water available for aquatic ecosystems is greater than 50 percent of the total resource there may be important environmental impacts (e.g. see Jones, 2002). By 2050 the global picture under the above scenario will have changed markedly, with over 40 percent of the land area having less than 25 percent of the available water to support aquatic ecosystems (Figure 1.1d). By this time, large areas (over a third) of tropical forest and wetlands have less than three-quarters of the available water and nearly 20 percent are in areas where there is less than a quarter of the water left after meeting all human requirements.

Given this scientific evidence, the crux of the dilemma facing mankind becomes patently clear: how to avoid a major escalation in conflicts over water – conflicts of priorities of use and among users; conflicts between countries, between different sectors of society, and between humans and the environment. Equitable and sustainable solutions to these inevitable contests will require a more holistic approach to managing the world's water resources, within a system that allocates and uses wisely this diminishing natural resource, and recognizes the important social values of both human and environmental needs. Despite the impressive achievements in water resources engineering and related sciences over the last few decades, serious problems – regrettably – remain. Good science, alone, will not address the world's water problems.

The issue of potential conflicts over water, addressed in a significant body of literature over the past two decades, provides a context within which to identify the relevance and role of water law in addressing these difficult problems (Wouters, 2002; Wouters, 1999). In the first instance, however, it is important to appreciate that, like the broad range of scientific expertise, water law has its various areas of specialisation, each of which needs to be addressed as part of the water resources management regime. Thus, the extent to which an end-user's right to water might be identified and enforced may rely on three areas of law: international water law (i.e. State-State relations, as governed by public international law); national water law (that area of domestic law concerned with actions within a nation's border, such as legislation and bylaws); and transnational water law (the rules of law that govern the activities of multinational and extra-national bodies involved with the management of water resources – such as, for example, public sector donors, private sector corporations and international NGOs) (Wouters and Rieuclarke, 2004; Wouters and Allan, 2004). To illustrate this more clearly: an urban water user in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania might have their access to water controlled by rules of international, national and transnational water law.

The role of 'water' law is, really at its heart, the same as the role of any law: to provide 'rules of the game' – especially for those that need it most: the poor and voiceless. In the context of the international policy focus on 'security and development', this translates into legal frameworks concerned with clear rules on allocation and re-allocation – including guidelines on priorities of use where there is insufficient water to meet all demands – and mechanisms that promote implementation or adjustment to the agreed legal regime (see Wouters et al., 2005). At the national level, water law focuses on establishing a system that ensures 'water for all' – across sectors, for all stakeholders, in a predictable, enforceable and transparent way (see Allan, 2004). The issues related to the involvement of the public and private sector and other players in the provision of water services are covered under 'transnational water law', where innovative solutions must be found, and yet prove most challenging (Delmon, 2000). Thus, in the case of water resources management, water law – like the resource – must be dynamic, capable of meeting changing circumstances and respectful of physical and social realities. This is possible but it requires serious efforts at new modes of communication and working methods, coupled with much commitment to re-orienting the rather rigid mindsets that currently exist, across and within disciplinary boundaries.


This book is a contribution to meeting the challenge identified above, and to facilitating bridging the gaps that exist between water science, policy and law. The approach taken here has emerged from the UNESCO/WMO HELP initiative (Hydrology for the Environment, Life and Policy), which provides a framework for water scientists, managers, lawyers and policy experts to work together in addressing the world's water issues. The key to unlocking many of the problems related to effective water management can be found in the better use (by stakeholders, policy-makers, managers and lawyers) of hydrological information, both physical data and the scientific understanding of how water moves within and through natural and man-made environments (usually encapsulated in hydrological models). This book demonstrates, through success stories and failures, the exciting potential in bringing water scientists, managers and legal experts together with stakeholders so that each may move forward together: on the one hand to ensure that adequate and relevant scientific information is collected and made available to decision-makers and other relevant actors, and, on the other hand, to provide a modus operandi that facilitates the creation and evolution of legal instruments and frameworks that reflect the real needs of society in addressing water issues.

1.2.1The UNESCO HELP Programme Background and global network

The HELP initiative (UNESCO, 2001; Andersson et al., 2004; with further details on the web site: http://www.unesco.org/water/ihp/help) is a joint programme of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) led by the UNESCO International Hydrological Programme (IHP). Despite the many existing international water-related activities around the world, HELP was initiated to fill an important gap: the marked absence of a comprehensive international hydrological programme that addressed water issues and integrated these with policy, law and management needs in the field at the catchment scale. The HELP programme has evolved as one of the most successful programmes of the IHP, establishing an extensive global network of catchments that has improved the link between hydrology and the needs of society. Currently more than 100 basins widely distributed around the world have been evaluated by the HELP programme and 67 have been identified as HELP basins (see Figure 1.2). HELP was the first global hydrology programme to be driven by social, environmental and management needs as opposed to purely scientific objectives (Endreny et al., 2003; Andersson et al. 2004b; Bonell, 2004). The programme fills an important gap in our understanding and conceptual approach to the task of achieving the effective management of water resources.

Three main issues have influenced the development of the HELP initiative: (i) a progressive decline in catchment (experimental) hydrology. Knowledge from such research is needed to better understand hydrological processes and to support the testing and improvement of hydrological models; (ii) a significant, world-wide decline in the national support of basic, long-term, hydrological data collection, as reflected by the diminished global hydrometric network (notably in developing countries). Such long-term data are essential for assessing water resources and how these might be impacted by global change; and (iii) the gap in communication between water scientists and the broad spectrum of water stakeholders, such as water policy experts and lawyers, water resource managers and river basin communities. Each sector appeared to lead a separate existence, trapped by disciplinary boundaries and often-times working in non-complementary ways, leading to an ineffective engagement and deployment of resources – human, environmental and financial.

HELP addresses these issues through its core mission of integrating hydrologists, social and economic scientists, water resource managers, water law and policy experts and river basin stakeholder communities in setting a research agenda for the basin based on locally defined water issues. This approach should result in an expedited flow of relevant research across disciplines, for use in management and policy/law-making, thereby providing concrete opportunities to improve the impact of these in the field. This joined-up method of working will increase the on ground application of state-of-the-art knowledge of hydrological processes and assist in reducing hydrological uncertainty. As a consequence, a stronger case for new investments (both scientific, financial and human resources) in catchment experimental hydrology can be, and needs to be, made.

One of the novel activities of the HELP programme was a series of meetings deliberately targeted at bringing together water lawyers and hydrologists. Two international symposia were convened at the University of Dundee (2004, "Good Water Governance for People and Nature: What Roles for Law, Institutions and Finance"; 2001, "Globalisation and Water Management: The Changing Value of Water"; both co-convened with the American Water Resources Association AWRA; see http://www.dundee.ac.uk/iwlri/html/2004_conferences), and each featured a significant HELP component. Many discussions at these meetings illustrated two key things: (i) that expertise in water science (broadly defined), policy and law is needed to seek equitable and sustainable solutions to the world's water problems; (ii) more effort is needed to improve the communication among this group.

One approach to addressing the latter issue was the production of this new book at the interface between hydrology and water law. It is intended to act as a guide to how each discipline can benefit from interaction with the other. Future water laws and policies can be made more effective through the use of accurate and up to date hydrological information; equally, more effective science can be undertaken when key policy, management and legal issues are understood and addressed. The present book contains a series of case studies from around the world that demonstrate in actual practice how hydrological data have been used in the formulation of national and international water law and policy. Cases cited include examples of where this has happened and been successful or unsuccessful and where this has not happened and led to problems. Case studies overview

The series of case studies selected for this work represents a panorama of experiences from around the world – including all major regions of the globe, with national and international examples. The aim was to identify a variety of HELP and other suitable basins and analyse current water resources management issues through the perspectives of both the water scientist and the water lawyer. How has water law and water science combined to address actual water resource issues? What lessons can be learned from these case studies? Is it possible to re-orient the predominant sectoral-based approaches to water resources management – can we devise a new operational methodology for engaging water scientists and lawyers so as to meet the needs of the catchment stakeholders?


Excerpted from "Hydrology and Water Law — Bridging the Gap"
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Copyright © 2006 IWA Publishing.
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Table of Contents

Foreword, vii,
1 The need for closer links between water science and law: a new paradigm in the making Jim Wallace and Patricia Wouters, 1,
2 Integrating science and policy for water management: a case study of the Upper San Pedro River Basin Anne Browning-Aiken, Robert G. Varady, David Goodrich, Holly Richter, Terry Sprouse and W. James Shuttleworth, 24,
3 Water reforms in the Murray Darling Basin: law and policy challenges Shahbaz Khan, 60,
4 Role of international policy and science in addressing Great Lakes management and Lake Erie eutrophication M. McCone, T. Endreny, J. Atkinson, J. DePinto, and J. Manno, 78,
5 Water management issues and legal framework development of the Tarim River Basin Jiebin Zhang, 108,
6 Panama Canal water resources management Carlos A. Vargas, 143,
7 Ghanaian water reforms: institutional and hydrological perspectives Wolfram Laube and Nick van de Giesen, 159,
8 Integrated water resources management in the Aral Sea Basin: science, policy and practice Victor Dukhovny, Vadim Sokolov and Bakhtiyor Mukhamadiev, 198,
9 Information use and water resources laws and policies in Ecuador P. Herrera, D. Matamoros, R. Espinel, M.P. Cornejo, G. Vanhuylenbroeck, P.A. Vanrolleghem, L. Van Biesen, Z. Cisneros and J. Duque, 218,
10 Transboundary groundwater resources in Palestine Fadia Daibes-Murad, 247,
11 River basin planning in Scotland and the European Community Sarah Hendry, Alan Jenkins and Robert Ferrier, 280,
12 Hydrological information in water law and policy: New Zealand's devolved approach to water management Andrew Fenemor, Tim Davie and Steve Markham, 297,
Index, 337,

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