number of often conflicting demands on the available water, and develop and operate water resource systems under numerous social, economic and legal, as well as physical constraints. The various interests at stake call for a decision process involving multiple objectives, multiple users and multiple constituencies and stakeholders. In this context, the traditional approach whereby water resources development and management was a “government’s business” needs to be replaced by a participatory approach involving both governments and stakeholders at all levels. Experience shows that stakeholder participation must be genuine and not symbolic, and that user associations must have a decisive role in the decision process as to what is done, how it is done and who pays for it. Experience also shows that partnerships between governments and stakeholders can be effective with governments playing a vital role in creating an enabling environment and in providing technical support and research thrust.
Economic constraints are equally important in water resource development. The cost of water system operation and improvement is normally tremendous, and governments, in this era of transition towards a market-oriented economy, will be unable to continue financing activities as they used to. The new philosophy is based on the principle that the services must be paid for by those who benefìt from them. Sustainable development, as previously defined, requires a sound financial management framework in which the revenues from service provision cover the costs.
In the strive for sustainable development in water resource use and management, the effectiveness of any instrument devised to realize that goal, depends ultimately on two factors: the approach adopted and the quality and number of the individuals responsible for pursuing that approach.