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GLOBAL: World Bank water strategy calls for integrated approach to water management (07/09/10)

In the face of population growth, economic development and increasing hydrological variability due to climate change,a review of the World Bank Group’s water strategy calls for better information and a more integrated approach to water management.

World Bank water sector manager Julia Bucknall said: ‘We can’t properly tackle global priorities of food security, renewable energy, adaptation to climate change, public health, and urbanisation unless we manage water better. And to manage water better, we really can’t sidestep solid hydrological analysis.’

The mid-cycle implementation progress report for the water resources strategy – entitled ‘Sustaining water for all in a changing climate’ –confirms the group’s 2003 water strategy and project implementation track record.  It notes highly satisfactory outcome ratings for World Bank water projects, and an appropriate emphasis on high-priority countries – those whose people face obstacles to their access to water.

The report, launched last week, echoes the findings of the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) March 2010 study of the Bank’s water portfolio, which found improved project performance.

But the report, drafted by Nancy Vandycke, also highlights slow progress on the sanitation Millennium Development Goal, as well as the continuing shortage of reliable data on water availability and use.

In particular, the report asks the Bank Group to: develop an integrated approach to water resource management to meet growing demand for water in a climate-resilient way; scale up support for hydropower, as the largest source of renewable and low-carbon energy, including high-risk, high-reward infrastructure projects; focus more on water for climate change adaptation and mitigation; increase assistance to agricultural water management; and provide, with partners, improved sanitation to the 2.6 billion people who still live without it, in both rural areas and fast-growing urban slums.
Lis Stedman