Published by WaterAid, Oxfam and the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), the ‘Managing Water Locally’ report, set to be unveiled this afternoon (November 8), claims that the potential of local water management has been “undervalued” – particularly in low income countries, where it says conventional approaches to water management may be less effective.

Aimed at water sector practitioners, policy makers and experts in the field, the report outlines examples of good water management practice from across the globe, as well as debating whether there is a water management ‘blueprint’ that could be followed.

It also calls for greater debate on community-based water resource management and recognition of its potential for improving water security.

According to ICE former president Paul Jowitt, more effective forms of water resource management are “crucial” to cope with rising populations and increasing water demand for food security and energy, as well as climate change.

He said: “Too often a ‘one size fits all’ approach to water access and use is applied in low income countries, failing to recognise that water needs differ greatly from one community to the next.

“Policies need to be tailored to address the unique requirements of neighbouring localities, ensuring the most effective use of this valuable and often scarce resource. The onus is on international organisations, engineers and governments to better respect and built upon community practices when planning and implementing water resource solutions.”

The report recommends that local communities need to be involved not just with the building and maintenance of water supply hardware and infrastructure, but also with monitoring how much water is available and how to allocate it – from measuring rainfall and groundwater fluctuations, to bargaining over water allocation.

According to Oxfam water policy advisor Leslie Morris-Iveson, by involving water-users in the decision-making process “water policy can be more accurately aligned to realities in the field”.

Meanwhile, she suggested that non-governmental organisations can play “an important role is by making the link between communities and local government.”

The report concludes that in order for national and regional water policies to accurately reflect local realities river basins should be divided into smaller sub-catchments, allowing for the identification of specific local challenges.

Carys Matthews

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