January 2008  -  Announcement of a publication

Water monitoring: Mapping existing global systems & initiatives

Background Document- August 2006

Prepared by FAO on behalf of the UN-Water Task Force on Monitoring

The long-term sustainability of water is in doubt in many regions of the world. Currently, humans use about half the water that is readily available. Water use has been growing at more than twice the population rate, and a number of regions are already chronically short of water. Both water quantity and water quality are becoming dominant issues in many countries. Problems relate to poor water allocation and pricing, inefficient use, and lack of adequate integrated management. The major withdrawals of water are for agriculture, industry, and domestic consumption. Most of the water used by industries and municipalities is often returned to watercourses degraded in quality. Irrigation agriculture, responsible for nearly 40% of world food production, uses about 70% of total water withdrawals (90% in the dry tropics). Groundwater, which supplies one third of the world’s population, is increasingly being used for irrigation. Water tables are being lowered in many areas making it more expensive to access.

Every day, diarrhoeal diseases from easily preventable causes claim the lives of approximately 5000 young children throughout the world. Sufficient and better quality drinking water and basic sanitation can cut this toll dramatically, and simple, low-cost household water treatment has the potential to save further lives. Major water quality problems stem from sewage pollution, the intensive agricultural use of fertilizers and pesticides, industrial wastes, saltwater intrusion, and soil erosion. In many developing countries, rivers downstream of large cities are little cleaner than open sewers.

Governments and donors are increasingly called to put in place a uniform and consistent system to monitor the impacts of water-related initiatives. Moreover, the decisionand policy-making bodies need to expand, and other time to focus, the sources from which to draw information on the results of the water strategies. Overall figures are also required for advocacy and awareness purpose and to fine tune upcoming strategies and policies.

Crucial in this process is mobilizing the required financial resources of donors and lenders, by showing them that the impact of water-related initiatives in poor countries can be reliably assessed and that their impact on human development and environment sustainability is notable. However, experience shows how difficult is monitoring and reporting on the advancements of individual programmes, and verifying that water sound principles are effectively put into practices. International coordination in monitoring the state of the world’s water resources, access to basic services and progress towards agreed goals and targets is needed, in order to guide future investments and efforts in achieving these goals.

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© FAO, 2007