The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Key issues: The wealth of water on earth is a source of many unanswered questions: where does it come from' Can we keep it forever' Is there any hidden water'... Perturbing such a fragile equilibrium may lead our planet to a severe and irreversible desertification process. The challenges remain on how to answer these questions.

Key issues for solving the water resources problems of the world are knowledge about the behaviour of the resource and its use, the perception of the existing situation, the results to be obtained and how to reach these.

Actions: Classical space technology and techniques for exploration of planets can be extremely powerful in monitoring and controlling the ground/atmosphere water balance, to search for water in arid regions and to prevent desertification... The international hydrological programme has addressed the hydrological and water science needs for nearly four decades. Functioning as an inter-governmental programme, IHP, a co-operative effort of scientists, engineers and other specialists in an international set-up with a wide range of partnerships, develops methodologies and recommendations and assists member states to enhance their knowledge of the water cycle, including groundwater, thereby increasing their capacity to manage and develop water resources in an effective manner.

Recommendations: Low cost satellites making use of technological developments paid for by other programmes should be envisaged. Space techniques are also of fundamental importance to spread information in areas without high technological infrastructure. Many water specialists and interested persons with immediate and pressing problems and needs related to water do not look towards programmes like the IHP for help and it takes time to convince them of the long-term usefulness of such a programme that will not solve their immediate problems.

Supporting similar IHP programmes should be further promoted.

Key issues: The alternative of desalinating seawater and brackish water is becoming economically and ecologically more and more competitive. The challenge remains on the high costs of desalination which make it not competitive compared with the production of drinking water from traditional surface and ground water sources.

Actions: Building desalination plants should convince governments that desalination plants often have economical and ecological advantages above other techniques to supply drinking water. Building plants all over the world will increase public awareness on the value of water.

Recommendations: Because of the high costs of desalination, it is important to look into the effect of increase of scale on average cost price and focus on reforms to ensure the balance.

Key issues: The need for wider coverage of basic water and electricity services is clearly articulated in the world water vision. In many cases, dams will be proposed to meet these demands. This comes at a time when the controversy over dam projects has escalated considerably leading to additional costs and delays in meeting expressed development needs.

Actions: The multi-stakeholder character of the dams and development forum and of the national follow-on processes on “dams and development” demonstrates the value of constructive and inclusive engagement on these controversial issues. Development of recommendations for policy and procedural reform at national or sub-national levels provides a strategic response and framework.

Recommendations: It is recommended that the world commission on dams report be used as a reference document for dialogue and not considered as a rigid regulatory framework. Commitment from diverse groups of stakeholders is required for constructive engagement.

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