More than 130 countries took part in the survey, which focuses on progress in the implementation of an Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) approach.

The results show that more than 80% of countries that took part have seen some level of water legislation reform in response to increasing pressure on water resources. Domestic water supply is unsurprisingly ranked as the highest priority for most countries and a majority of countries perceive water-related risks and competition for water resources to have increased in the past 20 years. However, global progress on efficiency initiatives such as rainwater harvesting and irrigation has been slower.

UN under-secretary-general and UNEP executive director Achim Steiner explained: “The sustainable management and use of water – due to its vital role in food security, energy or supporting valuable ecosystem services – underpins the transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient green economy.

“As well as highlighting challenges, this new survey also shows important successes regarding integrated water resources management, where a more sustainable approach to water has resulted in tangible benefits for communities and the environment.”

While water infrastructure development and financing was the issue cited most often as high or highest priority for the governments surveyed (79%) climate change was seen as high priority for 70% of responding countries and 76% thought the threat to water resources posed by climate change had increased in the past 20 years.

The final report, which was co-ordinated by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on behalf of UN-Water, is intended to inform the debate and decision-making at the Rio+20 Conference in June this year.

The report, therefore, makes a number of recommendations to be considered at the conference including establishing a global reporting mechanism for national water resources management by 2015, more effort to increase available funding for water resources management and the development of country-specific IWRM targets by 2015.

The full report ‘UN-Water status report on the application of integrated approaches to water resource management’ will be launched on June 19 at the Rio+20 Conference.

More information about Integrated Water Resources Management is available here.

Will Parsons

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