Editorial: A sea change in water management

Agriculture is the world’s biggest water consumer, accounting for 70% of all freshwater use. With their growing populations, one in five developing countries will face water shortages by 2030, so that farmers will have to use their resources more efficiently. Fortunately, the political will and investments to improve water management are growing. The European Commission, for example, has recently proposed a €1 billion EU Water Fund to support ACP countries, and in September the Sixth Water Information Summit will address the information needs of developing countries.

Advanced ICT solutions for improved water management have already proven to be viable, and attention is now focused on turning them into low-tech applications geared to the actual needs of rural communities. This sea change is particularly evident in the field of geographical information systems (GIS). Whereas GIS technology used to be the domain of just a few specialists, it is now being applied in a wide range of grassroots development projects worldwide.

This issue of ICT Update illustrates some of these recent advances. Christopher Neale reports from the Dominican Republic on how local water user associations are using a GIS-supported database to improve the management of irrigation water supply systems. Franck Martin describes how GIS technology is proving invaluable in water risk management efforts in the Pacific region.

Grassroots water management projects using ICTs other than GIS are also on the increase. Laban Ogallo is involved in setting up a pan-African network of amateur radio operators who can transmit timely drought and flood reports to rural communities. In the Philippines, John Herrman is leading a pioneering project to introduce locally owned and managed water pumps that use smar....

These case studies show that low-tech ICT applications for improved water resources management are feasible and effective. Let us hope that the EU Water Fund will enable ACP countries to capitalize on the development potential of these new technological advances.

13 June 2003

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