National Water and Sanitation Planning


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Key issues: IWRM Planning | National Water and Sanitation Planning | Decentralization of Water Decision Making

Experience and Case Studies:

Other articles:

Performance and Capacity of River Basin Organizations | River Basin Organizations | River basin councils | IWRM - Sustainable Water Governance on the National Level

Following the Human Development Report (2006) on Water, a new discussion has emerged based on its recommendations as to how to improve Access to Water and Sanitation Services at the national level. This article looks at UNDP's role in supporting national and local governments in establishing of National Water and Sanitation Plans, and how this relates to other related areas, in particular to IWRM.

Involved authors
Susanne Schmidt
Andrew Hudson


What is 'National Water and Sanitation Planning' as compared to IWRM Planning?

In Theory

While National IWRM Plans should be more 'integrated', multi-sectoral planning processes which look at balancing and managing competing uses, minimizing pollution, and protecting both livelihoods and environmental amenities, WatSan plans could be more focused and pragmatic, on ensuring achieving levels of water and sanitation access that allow a country to achieve or exceed the MDGs. There are clearly possible "conflicts" between straight WatSan and more integrated IWRM planning (e.g. achieving ‘basic’ sanitation coverage thru traditional modalities might in fact concentrate sewage waste leading to pollution hot spots, etc.) and the overlap raises certain ethical questions – do we supply watsan services first as a ‘human right’, without necessarily being able to address certain negative environmental implications?

In a perfect world, WatSan WOULD be integrated and included in a truly comprehensive IWRM process but I have my doubts as to whether many countries are ready to proceed this way so my guess is that in the near-term, we will need to support both processes in parallel and coordinate to degree possible to minimize ‘cross planning’ externalities.

(By Andrew Hudson)


Ideally WSS plan would be a sub-subset of an overall IWRM plan and they're obviously related. One has to have a handle on sources and availability and quality of water for WS (meaning WS for domestic purposes) and competing demands on the water resource to figure out how to meet WS demand. Also, in practice water infrastructure often serves multiple purposes (different sectors); and one use can impact another. For example, drawing down water tables by pumping ground water for irrigation by some can dry up wells for domestic purposes of others (that's the scenario in the area of one of our CWI projects in Sri Lanka for example). So you can't really very well do a WSS strategy without knowing how other sectoral uses/demands/developments impact availability/quality of WS.

So ideally one would have a series of 'nested' plans - IWMR plan that looks at the hydrological endowment and all sectoral demands, incl. WSS, as well as the institutional, regulatory and financial etc. aspects of WRM, allocation, use, etc. and a WSS that looks at the specifics of service provision (just like you would have other sectoral operational plans for waste water/sanitation, agriculture, mining, etc.). And ideally the IWRM and sectoral plans (targets) would be reflected in the NDS/PRSP as well.

This is sort of how Tanzania has approached it
The National Water Sector Development Strategy provides the umbrella for the WR development strategy and urban and rural water supply strategies. See NWSDS attached here below. In a way this is their IWRM strategy to be complemented by basin level and sectoral strategies and operational plans.


(by Susanne Schmidt)

What does this mean in practical terms?

In practical terms, to what extent you can cover both IWRM and WSS specifically likely will depend on the resources you have available and how much in depth the IWRM plan (stragegy?) will be able to go. E.g. the Botswana review of their water sector master plan cost > $3 million (it looked at availability of WR, projected secoral demands, incl. environmental flows, over the next 30 yrs, institutional set-ups, etc.) and that wasn't even enough to fully cover conservation measures/plans (i.e. demand management).

Cap-Net has indicated that it will increase its focus on WatSan going forward so there may be opportunities to learn from them (Info Andrew Hudson)

Further Readings - References - Links

This Tanzania National Water Sector Development Strategy provides the umbrella for the Water Resources development strategy and urban and rural water supply strategies
Getting Africa on Track
WSP publication - while it's about the WSS targets, it also succinctly describes how WSS institutional and planning frameworks are linked (or not) with WRM.
GWP Catalyzing Change: a handbook for developing IWRM and water efficiency strategies
could provide some food for thought though it's fairly general, but it does offer an overview and addresses issues like demand management, etc.



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