The United Nations World Water Development Report 3: water in a changing world

The United Nations World Water Development Report 3: water in a changing world

How do economic, social and demographic changes affect water?

This report provides a comprehensive analysis of the state of the world’s freshwater resources. The authors note that water is linked to the crises of climate change, energy and food supplies and prices, and troubled financial markets. Unless their links with water are addressed and water crises around the world are resolved, these other crises may intensify and local water issues may worsen, converging into a global water crisis and leading to political insecurity and conflict at various levels.

After agriculture, the two major users of water for development are industry and energy, which are transforming the patterns of water use in emerging market economies. Water and energy share the same drivers: demographic, economic, social and technological processes.

The authors conclude that water and water systems must be managed to achieve social and economic development objectives and to sustain development. If properly managed, water systems are critical to the survival and well-being of individuals. They can ensure equity and security in water and sanitation for families, businesses and communities and can ensure adequate water for food, energy and the environment as well as protection from floods and droughts.

The authors recommend that:

  • actions to improve water systems must include increased investment in water infrastructure and capacity development
  • impediments to the dissemination of technology must be overcome for developing countries to benefit from innovations developed in richer countries
  • policy-makers need to make political decisions on socially and environmentally acceptable trade-offs among different objectives and on who bears the costs of such compromise
  • strengthening organisation structures and improving the operating efficiency of water supply utilities will help to improve service quality and increase the coverage and density of connections
  • developed and developing countries need to give greater attention and more resources to monitoring, observations and continual assessments of the status of water resources
  • decision-making needs to be made through consultation with stakeholders
  • there is a need to ensure accountability in planning, implementation and management as well as building trust within the water and related sectors and fighting corruption and mismanagement.