Water Champions initiate or implement water reforms in their chosen field, and are directlyinvolved in improving the water situation in their respective countries.
Water ChampionWouter T. Lincklaen Arriens: ADB Water Policy as Guide for Investments
Knowledge Management Officer
ABOUT THE CHAMPION
Water symbolizes life. Yet the stark realities in the Asia-Pacific region offer little cause for celebration. Only two in threeAsians enjoy safe drinking water within 200 meters of their home, and half the population of the region lacks adequatesanitation.Having a clean and reliable 24-hour water supply into the home remains a pipe dream for many. Droughts, floods, andwater pollution continue to cause untold hardships for Asia's poor. Achieving water security is therefore regarded as anecessary condition to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).ADB'swater policy, approved in 2001, envisages Water for All. To ensure the continuing effectiveness of the policy, ADB undertakes reviewprocesses designed to assess the extent to which the policy provisions have been integrated into ADB's water operations and havecontributed to the vision of attaining water for all.Areviewof the policy's implementation is about to get underway. Wouter Lincklaen Arriëns, ADB's Lead Water Resources Specialist, talksabout the significance of the water policy and his expectations of the review.
Why does ADB need a water policy?
A water policy helps create a shared vision for waterreforms and investment, and serves as a guide for waterprojects.Water cuts across much of ADB's operations, yet it does notreceive enough attention. Water seems to be everywhereand nowhere at the same time. People cannot live withoutwater, and most economic sectors cannot deliversustainable results without water needs being met first.Achieving the MDGs is impossible without improving thewater security of the poor.Within ADB, more than 10 operations divisions deal withwater projects. Yet at the corporate level, we are stilllearning how to target water as a priority area in ADBoperations with a comprehensive approach. Many of ourdeveloping member countries (DMCs) face a similarchallenge, with so many agencies investing in waterprojects yet often without a common vision and concertedagenda for action.Without a water policy, fragmented water investments willcontinue to cause problems.
What lies at the heart of the policy?
Water management is more about people than it is aboutwater. It starts with adopting sound principles of watergovernance, and it revolves around inspired leadership andeffective decision-making.Water is both a resource and a service. As a resource, itneeds careful and integrated management in a river basincontext, and this is where governments should providestrong leadership and sustained investments. On the otherhand, it is clear that water services are best deliveredthrough autonomous and accountable providers, in anenabling environment of regulation, recovery of costs fromcustomers, and public awareness of the need to manageand conserve water. The distinction between the management of water resourcesand the delivery of water services is the core of ADB's waterpolicy. While each country needs to adopt its own policy andreform process to address water management challenges,these basic principles of water governance can be applieduniversally.
Is the policy specific enough to be useful?
Our clients have given us clear advice during theformulation of the water policy. They recognized that thegovernance of managing water resources is very differentfrom the governance of delivering water services, and thatthis distinction is critical to designing sound water projects.Our clients also cautionedagainst applying specificpolicy prescriptionsacross countries. Sincethe region ischaracterized by a richvariety of physical,cultural, historical,economic, and socialconditions, it is a riskybusiness to generalize ortransplant specific water management solutions betweencountries.ADB's water policy was crafted based on this advice fromour clients. It provides a sound road map for waterinvestments, sector reforms, and capacity development thatare rooted in comprehensive sector assessments and policydialogue with our DMC clients and development partners.Thus, the policy has both focus and flexibility.