Researching water resources for sustainable development

Improving knowledge of hydrological cycle
Improving scientific understanding of water-related issues

Providing the scientific basis for the integrated and rational management of water resources under different climatic conditions and varying inland uses including urban areas.


Gaps between the supply of and the demand for trained personnel continue to be a major problem in water resources management. The lack of trained and experienced engineers, for instance, has tended to increase the cost of irrigation projects in many countries, and the benefits of large-scale irrigation have been reduced owing to the lack of trained water management personnel and to farmers inexperienced in irrigated agriculture. Closing the labour gap is essential, for no country can plan the best use of its water resources unless it has both qualified staff and the essential facilities. It seems that it will be necessary to establish or strengthen permanent training facilities at the national level. To be effective, training should be designed to meet practical local needs. To train high-level engineers and technicians, however, it might be more practical and economical to establish new regional and interregional centres. A regional or interregional exchange of technicians among developing countries holds out the promise of a low-cost training option.

In addition, there is also urgent need for water resources institutions to adapt the knowledge and technology they receive from abroad to their particular needs. The need for applied research institutions is most critical in African countries. More than half of the African countries do not have a research institute or facility dealing with water resources, and little is being done so far to improve the situation in the region. In the other developing regions, the situation is better, although several countries lack institutes dealing with certain essential aspects of water management. Putting emphasis in the International Development Strategy for the 1990s on human resource development therefore must include improving education, training and research on water management.

The Mar del Plata Action Plan recommends that countries should give high priority to conducting surveys to determine national needs for administrative, scientific and technical workers in the water resources field. Most countries have not undertaken any such survey yet. In the case of UNESCO, emphasis is placed on the improvement of knowledge and exchange of information on interface processes between atmosphere, land and water systems, on the relationship between climatic variability and hydrological systems, and on the processes of water quality changes through the hydrological cycle. The focus is also on the provision of the methodologies and guidance for solving hydrological problems of specific regions to meet planning and management needs.


This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities. Agenda 21 recommends maintaining and establishing partnerships with non-governmental organizations and other private groups working in watershed development.

Type Classification:
E: Emanations of other strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 2: Zero HungerGOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 4: Quality EducationGOAL 5: Gender EqualityGOAL 6: Clean Water and SanitationGOAL 7: Affordable and Clean EnergyGOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and InfrastructureGOAL 10: Reduced InequalityGOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and CommunitiesGOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and ProductionGOAL 13: Climate ActionGOAL 14: Life Below WaterGOAL 15: Life on LandGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong InstitutionsGOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal