UN World Water Development Report

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The United Nations World Water Development Report has been issued three times in the past (last time in March 2009, on behalf of World Water Day) and presented during the 5th World Water Forum.

It is the UN's flagship report on water, providing a comprehensive review and overall picture of the state of the world's freshwater resources. It aims to provide decision-makers with the tools to implement sustainable use of our water.

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Chapter 1
Getting out of the box – linking water to decisions for sustainable development (external link)
  • Opening the water box
  • Sustainable development as the framework for water management
  • Investing in water
  • Global crises and water
  • The need for action – now
  • Structure of the Report

Part 1 Understanding what drives the pressures on water

Chapter 2
Demographic, economic and social drivers (external link)
  • Demographic drivers
  • Economic drivers
  • Social drivers
Chapter 3
Technological innovation (external link)
  • Recent trends and advances in science and technology
  • The technology dissemination challenge
Chapter 4
Policies, laws and finance (external link)
  • Policies and laws
  • Financing – the missing link
Chapter 5
Climate change and possible futures (external link)
  • The influence of climate change on the other drivers of change
  • Identifying possible futures: the need for scenarios
  • Challenges for summarizing the pressures of external drivers on water resources

Part 2 Using water

Chapter 6
Water’s many benefits (external link)
  • Water for economic development
  • Water and poverty reduction
  • Water and health
  • Maintaining ecosystem services
Chapter 7
Evolution of water use (external link)
  • Water use in the world
  • Domestic water supply and sanitation
  • Water use in agriculture
  • Water for industry and energy
Chapter 8
Impacts of water use on water systems and the environment (external link)
  • How water use affects water resources
  • Seeking sustainable management of groundwater
  • Growing risks: pollution and degradation of water quality
  • Progress in mitigating pollution
  • Progress in achieving environmental sustainability
Chapter 9
Managing competition for water and the pressure on ecosystems (external link)
  • Type, extent and effect of competition for water
  • Managing competition through supply and demand management and reallocation

Part 3 State of the resource

Chapter 10
The Earth’s natural water cycles (external link)
  • Overview of the global hydrologic cycle
  • Relationship of water to global biogeochemical cycles
Chapter 11
Changes in the global water cycle (external link)
  • Changes in the water cycle
  • Links between the terrestrial carbon and water cycles
  • Is the hydrologic cycle accelerating?
  • Assessing future impacts of climate change
  • Summary
Chapter 12
Evolving hazards – and emerging opportunities (external link)
  • Hazards vary with climate regions
  • Changes in average streamflow
  • Changes in extreme events
  • Changes in groundwater
  • Changes in erosion, landslides, river morphology and sedimentation patterns
  • Challenges: hazards and opportunities
Chapter 13
Bridging the observational gap (external link)
  • The importance of hydrologic observations
  • Recent developments in observation methods, networks and monitoring
  • Changing status of operational data over the recent past
  • Opportunities and challenges
  • Some suggestions for bridging the observational gap

Part 4 Responses and choices

Chapter 14
Options inside the water box (external link)
  • Water governance reform: strengthening policy, planning and institutions
  • Consulting with stakeholders and avoiding corruption: accountability in planning, implementation and management
  • Capacity development for more effective action
  • Developing appropriate solutions through innovation and research
  • Data and information needs
  • Financing
Chapter 15
Options from beyond the water box (external link)
  • Promoting win-win scenarios by creating space for change
  • Clearing pathways towards win-win situations: avoiding negative impacts
  • Promoting win-win scenarios through cooperation and knowledge
  • Sustaining change: changing habits through awareness
  • Ensuring sustainable financing
Chapter 16
The way forward (external link)
  • Making water an integral part of all planning and management decisions
  • Working towards better development outcomes
  • Deciding – and acting!
  • Appendix 1: World Water Development Report indicators
  • Appendix 2: Water-related goals and objectives of major conferences and forums, 1972-present
  • Abbreviations, data notes and units of measure
  • List of maps, figures, tables and boxes
  • Index

What is it and who's behind it?

The development of the WWDR, coordinated by WWAP, is a joint effort of the 26 UN agencies and entities which make up UN-Water, working in partnership with governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders.

A UN-wide cooperation

Through a series of assessments, the Reports provide a mechanism for monitoring changes in the resource and its management and tracking progress towards achieving targets, particularly those of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the World Summit on Sustainable Development. The Reports also offer best practices as well as in-depth theoretical analyses to help stimulate ideas and actions for better stewardship in the water sector.

Targeted Audience

The WWDR 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 water governance is highest. With the 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.

The 3rd UN World Water Development Report: "Water in a Changing World" (WWDR-3)

The Third edition of the United Nations World Water Development Report (WWDR-3) was presented at the 5th World Water Forum in Istanbul, Turkey on March 16, 2009.

2nd World Water Development Report (2006): 'Water, a shared responsibility'

source:WWAP website

The Report builds on the conclusions of the 1st United Nations World Water Development Report 'Water for People, Water for Life' published in 2003. It presents a comprehensive picture of freshwater resources in all regions and most countries of the world as it tracks progress towards the water-related targets of the UN Millennium Development Goals and examines a range of key issues including population growth and increasing urbanization, changing ecosystems, food production, health, industry and energy, as well as risk management, valuing and paying for water and increasing knowledge and capacity. Sixteen case studies look at typical water resource challenges and provide valuable insights into different facets of the water crisis and management responses.

Finally, the report outlines a set of conclusions and recommendations to guide future action and encourage sustainable use, productivity and management of our increasingly scarce freshwater resources.


Many countries are still not on track to reach the water-related targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – threatening their security, development and environmental sustainability – and millions of people die each year from treatable water-borne diseases. While water pollution and the destruction of ecosystems increase, we are witnessing the consequences that climate change, natural disasters, poverty, warfare, globalization, population growth, urbanization and disease – all of which impinge on the water sector – have on so many of the people of the world. It is widely accepted that sustainable and equitable water management must be undertaken using an integrated approach, that assessment of the resource is the basis for rational decision-making, and that national capacities to undertake such assessments must be further supported and expanded at local through international levels. It is therefore paramount to provide the best possible understanding of the state of the world’s freshwater resources to the world at large.

The triennial World Water Development Report (WWDR) lays the foundation for a continuous, global monitoring system and shows the United Nations system at work, pooling the unique perspectives and expertise of the 24 UN agencies that comprise UN-Water, in partnership with governments and other entities concerned with freshwater issues.

Water, a Shared Responsibility (March 2006) is the main outcome of Phase 2 of the World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP), founded in 2000 as a collective response of the UN system to assist countries in reaching their commitments in key water-related challenge areas. WWDR 2 offers a comprehensive and holistic assessment of the world’s water, while bringing the issues of water governance, knowledge accessibility and the specific challenges of managing water into the mainstream of development thinking and practices, across all the major intersections of water, human well-being and development. Bearing in mind users needs, the 2006 Report aims to be practical in orientation, offers best practices as well as in-depth theoretical and analytic analyses to help stimulate ideas and actions for better stewardship in the water sector. The use of hundreds of maps, tables, figures, boxed examples, indicators and case studies illustrate that only our global cooperation will help to ensure an integrated, equitable and sustainable management of the world’s most precious resource – water.


See also


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

External Resources

Full Report of 2nd WWDR

3rd WWDR: Water in a Changing World

UN-Water Flagship Publications


 11 WWDR3 part 1 intro.pdf  16 WWDR3 part 2 intro.pdf  21 WWDR3 part 3 intro.pdf  26 WWDR3 part 4 intro.pdf  2ndWWDRExecutiveSummary.pdf  WWDR3 Facts and Figures.pdf

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