Water articles are written by ADB staff and external contributors on various water issues, reforms, and good practices.

Improving Water Governance in the Asia-Pacific Region: Why It Matters
September 2010

By Wouter Lincklaen Arriens Lead Professional, Water Resources Management, ADB WHAT IT MEANS At ADB's Water Week celebration in 2002, former ADB President, the late Tadao Chino said, "The water crisis in the Asia region is essentially a crisis of water governance." Until today, this statement has found resonance among leaders and practitioners across the Asia-Pacific region. Recent years have seen an upsurge in attention to water governance issues, with many experts around the world arguing that improving governance be placed at the top of the water agenda.
"Water governance is like the operating system software of a sophisticated computer system. It is the very environment that either enables or constrains what financing and infrastructure are attempting to accomplish. Without good water governance there is a gap between intended and actual results." WooChong Um Deputy Director General, Regional and Sustainable Development Department, ADB

consumption), urbanization, trade, energy, climate change, and others. To respond to these changes involves a process of adaptive management which is commonly referred to as "reform." Water reforms are therefore the processes to improve water governance and results. Reform implies a process to change for the better, and water reform includes a variety of processes in the water 'sector' to bring about improvements in response to changing conditions. These can include improvements in policies, legislation, institutional frameworks, organizations, and in forms of communication among all actors concerned. Initiatives to improve water governance are synonymous with water reforms. Reforms can be undertaken on stand-alone basis, or in a concerted manner. If the latter is the case, it is possible to refer to a reform movement. Water governance is about better water management and the principles to make that happen. Water reforms are the processes of improving water governance, focusing on the "how" of creating better results. WATER RESOURCES AND SERVICES Development finance institutions commonly distinguish between water resources and water services, often within a framework of supporting broader public administration reforms in the countries concerned. ADB's water policy, for example, has three main thrusts. The first is to promote a national focus on water sector reform. This includes what GWP refers to as the enabling environment for integrated water resources management (IWRM), but also applies to water services. The second thrust is to foster the integrated management of water resources. Here is where IWRM is mentioned, in relation to water resources and river basins. And the third thrust is to improve and expand the delivery of water services. That 'arena' is made up of organizations that are commonly not well represented in meetings focusing on IWRM. ADB's water policy recognizes that the governance of delivering water as a service is fundamentally different from the governance of water as a resource. WHERE TO START Given the multitude of organizations that play key roles in water services and resources management, it is not surprising that many governments find it difficult to decide where to start with water reforms or improving water governance, and which agency should take a lead role. Water does not fit under one roof, and turf battles are a fact of life. In their efforts to introduce better water governance, some governments have therefore introduced additional institutional arrangements, of two kinds. The first is to form a high-level coordinating body of agencies and organizations concerned with water, to advise the cabinet of ministers on matters of national water policy, legislation, and reform. These are commonly referred to as national water sector apex bodies, and they take the form of national water (resources) councils, commissions, or boards.

GOVERNANCE AND WATER SECURITY An even more comprehensive approach to improving water governance and linking better water management with sustainable development is to highlight water security alongside energy and food security and explore the linkages. The AWDO Team has adopted a guiding vision for water security with five key dimensions and governance as a cross-cutting perspective (see box). Research is ongoing on specific governance interventions to support the five key dimensions and their linkage to national economies.
Guiding Vision for Water Security Societies can enjoy water security when they successfully manage their water resources and services to 1. satisfy household water and sanitation needs in all communities 2. support productive economies in agriculture and industry 3. develop vibrant, livable cities and towns 4. restore healthy rivers and ecosystems 5. build resilient communities that can adapt to change

Water governance, according to the Global Water Partnership (GWP), is "the range of political, social, economic, and administrative systems that are in place to regulate the development and management of water resources and the provision of water services at different levels of society." Stockholm Water Prize Laureate Asit Biswas underlined its importance when he stated in the Asian Water Development Outlook (AWDO) 2007 that "if some Asian countries face a water crisis in the future, it will not be because of physical scarcity of water, but because of inadequate or inappropriate water governance, including management practices, institutional arrangements, and socio-political conditions, which leave much to be desired." Through a host of international conferences and initiatives in the past decade, many principles of good water management have already been adopted, and the challenge is therefore about implementing these principles to deliver results that make a difference. WHAT IT DOES Good governance is widely understood to be about sound development management. Stakeholder participation, transparency, predictability, and accountability are important principles or pillars of good governance. It is concerned with the various processes of interaction among government, civil society, and individual citizens. ADB's Water for All policy, adopted in 2001, underlines the legal and regulatory systems needed to ensure that water service providers and resource managers are held accountable by law for their performance relative to prescribed standards. A key element of the policy is the promotion of participation involving public, private, community, and NGO stakeholders. According to the policy, the quality of predictability in the water sector will depend on the existence of laws, regulations, and policies to regulate activities and their fair and consistent application. Likewise, it is stated that "transparency will be most effective when governments ensure the timely availability of information about water policies and projects to the general public, and provide clarity about government rules, regulations, and decisions in the sector." GOVERNANCE AND REFORM Governance is not static but dynamic. The water sector has to continuously adapt to changing conditions that affect water management. Drivers of change include economic development (which increases water

To advance the water governance agenda and make water everyone's business by Improving water governance cuts drawing on all sectors of society, the across these 5 key dimensions. development of government-corporatesociety partnerships can offer muchAsian Water Development Outlook Team, 2009 needed opportunities to increase water security for all. Building on these foundational elements, three themes are especially important for improving water governance in the Asia-Pacific region.

First, there is a fundamental difference between the governance of delivering water as a service and managing water as a resource. These two basic functions in water management work through different models. Second, to improve water governance, simultaneous action is needed in the sector, organization, and project arenas, underpinned by personal effectiveness and integrity. Leadership by national water apex bodies can help to synergize concerted action. And third, regional collaboration can help to improve water governance in several key result areas, supported by knowledge networking, collaborative research, and capacity development programs. Important key result areas include performance and accountability of water organizations water-related policy and legislation sector reform processes and communications project design and management integrity and anti-corruption leadership and capacity development government-corporate-society partnerships private sector contracts and financing ADB and its partners will explore these three themes and eight key result areas in further detail as they guide the region into the next decade of water operations guided by a fresh framework and perspective. As Asit Biswas remarked in AWDO 2007, "In a rapidly changing Asia, tomorrow's water problems can no longer be identified, let alone solved, with today's knowledge and yesterday's experience. A whole new mindset will be needed to identify and solve the future water supply and related problems."

*This article was first published online at ADB's Water for All website in September 2010:

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