Meeting the Water Reform Challenge

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The need to reform water policies is as urgent as ever. Water is essential for economic growth, human health, and the environment. Yet governments around the world face significant challenges in managing their water resources effectively. The problems are multiple and complex: billions of people are still without access to safe water and adequate sanitation; competition for water is increasing among the different uses and users; and major investment is required to maintain and improve water infrastructure in OECD and non-OECD countries.   Despite progress on many fronts, governments around the world are still confronted with the need to reform their existing water policies in order to meet current objectives and future challenges. Building on the water challenges identified by the OECD Environment Outlook to 2050, this report examines three fundamental areas that need to be addressed whatever reform agendas are pursued by governments: financing of the water sector; the governance and institutional arrangements that are in place; and coherence between water policies and policies in place in other sectors of the economy. The report provides governments with practical advice and policy tools to pursue urgent reform in their water sectors.


Meeting the water coherence challenge

The water sector is not always master of its own fate. Policies in other areas such as agriculture and energy can have a significant impact on the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the water sector. The nexus between water, energy, food and the environment has been attracting increasing attention in recent years, and presents significant challenges for water policy reform efforts. The importance of water in energy production and use (such as for hydropower, thermal power stations, biofuels) is matched by the importance of energy in water (through pumping and transfer of water, desalination). Similarly, water and agriculture are inextricably linked, not least because agriculture accounts for around 70% of water sue globally. Increasing the coherence of policies across these areas is essential if governments wish to meet the range of policy goals while not undermining the sustainability of the water resource base. This chapter examines the coherence issues raised by the linkages between water, energy and agriculture and presents a number of steps that governments need to take to address the water coherence challenge.


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