Water resources occupy a special place among other natural resources. Water is the most widely distributed substance on our planet: albeit in different amounts, it is available everywhere and plays a vital role in both the environment and human life. Of most importance is fresh water, Human life itself is impossible without it because it can be substituted by nothing else. Human beings have always consumed fresh water and used the various natural surface water bodies for a whole range of purposes. For many hundreds of years man’s impact on water resources was insignificant and entirely of a local character. The magnificent properties of natural waters - their renovation during the water cycle and their ability for self-purification - allowed a state of relative purity, quantity and quality of fresh waters to be retained for a long time. This gave birth to an illusion of immutability and inexhaustibility of water resources, considered as a free gift of the natural environment. Under these preconceptions a tradition has arisen of a careless attitude in the use of water resources, along with a concept that only minimum expense is required for either the purification of waste water or for the protection of natural water bodies.
The situation has changed drastically during recent decades. In many parts of the world the unfavourable results of man’s long-term - often unreasonable - activities, have now been discovered. This concerns both the direct use of water resources and also the surface transformations that have taken place in many river catchments. To a large extent this has been due to a drastic increase in global water withdrawal since the 1950s. In turn, this increase was caused by the scientific and technological revolution w...
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...ow will influence, positively or negatively, how sustainable the future course of human development will be. Hence, the time horizon is of great importance
The recent United Nations/WorldWaterAssessment Programme (UN/WWAP, 2003), Water for People, Water for Life, gives the current best estimates of water and its uses and concludes that we are... “ … facing a serious water crisis. All of the signs suggest that it is getting worse and will continue to do so, unless corrective action is taken. This crisis is one of water governance, essentially caused by the ways in which we mismanage water” (UN/WWAP, 2003: 4). It is important to note that the UN/WWAP study concludes that the crisis faced is a governance crisis not a resource crisis. They are concerned about a water crisis, but one that can be remedied by management and governance; not the classic Malthusian end point!
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