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IWRA World Water Congress 2003 Madrid Spain
IWRA WWC2003 - default topic
Author(s): Dr Roderic A GILL

Dr Roderic A GILL 

Director, Centre for Ecological Economics and Water Policy Research – CEEWPR - (formerly the Centre for Water Policy Research) University of New England, Armidale, NSW Australia Tel: +61 2 67733998; Fax: +61 2 67733237 Email: Web:



Growing pressure on scarce water resources presents a daunting challenge to the world in the 21st century. More specifically, the challenge is how to manage consumptive and non-consumptive water uses and interests harmoniously to satisfy the dual imperatives of food security and protection of environmental and social values. The intense debate generated by the report of the World Commission on Dams (2000) is a reflection of the concerns raised when proposals are put forward for storage construction and extensions to infrastructure to gain greater control over water resources for productive use, and which may be seen to be at the expense of environmental quality. These concerns emphasise the need for a credible set of guidelines and processes through which to underpin the design, assessment, governance and management of water development projects, taking full account of environmental, social, economic, financial and technical criteria. This is of particular relevance to international funding bodies charged with the task of ensuring that the limited assistance available is put to best use in achieving technical priorities consistent with environmental prerogatives and human wellbeing.

This paper summarises a six year journey undertaken by the author and his group to consider, in the first instance, the common elements from the international rhetoric on priorities for resource management in general, and water resources in particular and then, in the second instance, how that rhetoric might be applied in practice. Putting it another way, the central concern is to work out the details of how the new and emerging perspective of ecological economics might be practically applied to the ‘coal face’ of integrated water resources policy development, water resources management and water resources governance. Late last century, the CEEWPR developed a set of guidelines for the assessment of large water resource development projects that embed many of these concerns (Gill, 2001). By a combination of stealth and explicit intent, the guidelines attempted to articulate how water project managers and policy professionals could actually do integrated water resource development planning and assessment in keeping with the latest rhetoric on ‘sustainable development’, ‘triple bottom line’ development and ‘integrated water resources management’ (as only three different versions of essentially the same rhetorical core). While I will provide some more specific details about these guidelines in the next section of this paper, my main concern is to present a much more fundamental set of ideas that I believe are of greater general relevance to this World Water Congress audience.

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