New Perspectives Paper on Sharing Water: ‘If someone wants to take more, someone else has to take less’

How should the entitlements and obligations associated with water be shared? On Thursday, 29 August 2019, at World Water Week in Stockholm, GWP releases a new Perspectives Paper on Sharing Water: The role of robust water-sharing arrangements in integrated water resources management.

Water is scarce and getting scarcer. According to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 Synthesis Report on Water and Sanitation (UN, 2018), 52% of the world’s population will be put at risk by 2050 if pressures on water resources continue. Therefore, the search for a solution must include the development of robust ways to manage access to and the use of water.

“Most of the world’s allocation systems were developed when water was abundant and, hence, have not been designed to manage scarcity. Too often, the result is depletion, over-use and the erosion of the rights of disadvantaged people”, says the author of the paper, GWP Technical Committee member Professor Mike Young from the University of Adelaide’s Centre for Global Food and Resources in Australia.

In the new GWP Perspectives Paper, Professor Young offers a framework and a set of questions designed to assist local communities and local water managers consider the case for seeking to improve existing water-sharing arrangements.

“The intention with the paper is to provoke dialogue and spark interest in improving water-sharing arrangements”, Professor Young says. “In essence, this is about working out what every user’s entitlement is and how much they can take”.

Released at World Water Week in Stockholm during a seminar entitled “Water governance with and for all: Is it working?”, Young stresses the importance of understanding that in a water-scarce world, every time someone is granted access to more water, the amount taken by others has to be reduced. Rather than recommending a new system, the paper asks questions in a manner that will enable people to work out what system is best for them.

The Paper is released as a ‘live’ document, with GWP looking for input and feedback in terms of stories and experiences in building and improving water-sharing systems around the globe.

The launch will be followed by a period of consultation and engagement through February 2020. The paper will then be formally launched as a flagship contribution towards a sharpened global focus on the improvement of water-sharing arrangements.

A dedicated web page will be set up for input, but in the meantime, feedback can be sent to: