1st United Nations World Water Development Report 'Water for People, Water for Life'

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Publication Title

'Water for People, Water for Life'

Publication Type

UN World Water Development Report


Publication Date



Publication URL




At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the Earth, with its diverse and abundant life forms, including over six billion humans, is facing a serious water crisis. All the signs suggest that it is getting worse and will continue to do so, unless corrective action is taken. This crisis is one of water governance, essentially caused by the ways in which we mismanage water. But the real tragedy is the effect it has on the everyday lives of poor people, who are blighted by the burden of water related disease, living in degraded and often dangerous environments, struggling to get an education for their children and to earn a living, and to get enough to eat. The crisis is experienced also by the natural environment, which is groaning under the mountain of wastes dumped onto it daily, and from overuse and misuse, with seemingly little care for the future consequences and future generations. In truth it is attitude and behaviour problems that lie at the heart of the crisis. We know most (but not all) of what the problems are and a good deal about where they are. We have knowledge and expertise to begin to tackle them. We have developed excellent concepts, such as equity and sustainability. Yet inertia at leadership level, and a world population not fully aware of the scale of the problem (and in many cases not sufficiently empowered to do much about it) means we fail to take the needed timely corrective actions and put the concepts to work. For humanity, the poverty of a large percentage of the world’s population is both a symptom and a cause of the water crisis. Giving the poor better access to better managed water can make a big contribution to poverty eradication, as The World Water Development Report (WWDR) will show. Such better management will enable us to deal with the growing per capita scarcity of water in many parts of the developing world.

Solving the water crisis in its many aspects is but one of the several challenges facing humankind as we confront life in this third millennium and it has to be seen in that context. We have to fit the water crisis into an overall scenario of problem-solving and conflict resolution. As pointed out by the Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD) in 2002: Poverty eradication, changing unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development are overarching objectives of, and essential requirements for, sustainable development. Yet of all the social and natural resource crises we humans face, the water crisis is the one that lies at the heart of our survival and that of our planet Earth.

This first WWDR is a joint undertaking of twenty-three United Nations (UN) agencies, and is a major initiative of the new World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) established in 2000, with its Secretariat in the Paris headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This report is organized in six main sections: a background, an evaluation of the world’s water resources, an examination of the needs for, the uses of and the demands on water (‘Challenges to Life and Well-Being’), a scrutiny of water management (‘Management Challenges’), seven representative case studies highlighting different water scenarios, and conclusions and annexes. The two ‘challenges’ sections are based on the seven challenges identified at the 2nd World Water Forum in 2000 plus a further four challenges identified in the production of this report. The book is documented throughout with revealing figures, tables and global maps that include country-based information, as well as boxes illustrating lessons learned. This Executive Summary covers the key points of the report, and for the detailed synthesis, conclusions and recommendations, readers are referred to its relevant sections.


WWDR1 is targeted to all those involved in the formulation and implementation of water-related policies and investment strategies, as well as to professionals at all levels. Although it offers a broad global picture, it focuses particularly on the situation in developing countries, where the need for better infrastructure and governance is highest. With this report, WWAP is aiming to show where systems are failing, and to provide the information needed for efficient and effective capacity-building throughout the world.

This 1st edition of the WWDR laid the foundation for subsequent editions, concentrating essentially on evaluating what progress has been made, and not made, since the Rio Summit and on developing effective assessment methodologies.

The Report encompasses a broad range of components, focusing on human stewardship of freshwater, that complex aggregation of policies, legislation, social programmes, economic approaches and management strategies through which we seek to achieve water sustainability.

Generously illustrated with more than 25 full-colour global maps, numerous figures (diagrams, pie-charts), tables (including country tables) and photos, the Report opens with a chapter describing the water crisis. It then:

Reviews progress and trends.

Proposes methodologies and indicators for measuring sustainability.

Assesses progress in 11 challenge areas, including: health, food, environment, shared water resources, cities, industry, energy, risk management, knowledge, valuing water and governance.

Presents seven pilot case studies of river basins representing various social, economic and environmental settings.

Each chapter ends with a comprehensive list of related references, as well as useful web sites. The book is completely indexed, and includes in the annexes a list of the main global assessment publications.


See also

UN World Water Development Report


External Resources

UNESCO 1st WWDR Website

Full Chapters of the Report

UN-Water Flagship Publications



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