Water is essential to sustain life. The availability of water in quantities, and of a quality, sufficient to meet basic human needs is a prerequisite both for improved health and for sustainable development. Benefits to human health and well-being accrue from wholesome and clean water and a harmonious and properly functioning water environment.
Article 5(d) of the Draft Protocol on Water and Health to the 1992 Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (1999) states: Water resources shall be managed so that the needs of the present generation are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Surface waters and groundwater are renewable resources with a limited capacity to recover from adverse impacts from human activities on their quantity and quality, that any failure to respect those limits may result in adverse effects, in both the short and long terms, on the health and well-being of those who rely on those resources and their quality. Sustainable management of the hydrological cycle is essential for both meeting human needs and protecting the environment.
The consequences for public health of shortfalls of water in the quantities, and of the quality, sufficient to meet basic human needs has serious effects in particular, on the vulnerable, the disadvantaged and the socially excluded.
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 promotion of water conservation through improved water-use efficiency and wastage minimization schemes for all users, including the development of water-saving devices.
In 1986, a peasant in Dablo, Burkina Faso decided to line up stones around his field to retain rain water. He was considered a fool at first, but when his fields produced nearly twice as much the following year, others followed suit. The practice has grown to include 10 government services and two locally based NGO's.
Local communities must be the watchdogs of our waterways and must establish principles that oversee the use of this precious resource.