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A Free Good Practice Handbook: Water Demand Management

During the implementation of the WATER POrT component of the WATER SUM project, the beneficiary countries explicitly requested capacity building on water demand management. One of the project tasks was therefore dedicated to this topic and included training events, demonstration case studies, workshops, and the development of good practice case studies in order to share existing experience and promote the exchange of information within the region. The 30 case studies presented in this handbook were written by a team of six experts from diverse backgrounds, each following the same assessment framework to ensure that the cases were based on the same methodology. Most of the collected good practices are from within the MENA region, although some experience gathered from other continents was also included.

The WATER SUM project is implemented by the REC with funding from the Government of Sweden.

Water scarcity can be addressed through both supply- and demand-side solutions. The traditional management of water scarcity has focused on the supply side, and includes the building of reservoirs, the digging of wells, desalination, and the transportation of abstracted and stored water over large distances. However, not only are such solutions expensive, but their availability is limited — and the limits are clearly in sight.

In the absence of any additional affordable supply, the countries of the MENA region will have to shift their focus to demand-side solutions. Water demand management (WDM) already plays an important role in ensuring that limited supplies are not wasted, and the emphasis on WDM is expected to grow in the future. Demand-side adaptation is gaining ground in waterscarce societies, since it can offer flexibility, reduce costs, and contribute to the more efficient allocation of scarce water resources. Countries that are successful in addressing water scarcity typically apply a mixture of demand-side and supply-side solutions.

The WDM approach is more closely linked to economics than to other disciplines (such as engineering, natural sciences or law), thus basic economic principles were the focus of the capacity-building activities of the project. This was a deliberate decision, since economics is the decision support method for addressing the problem of scarce resources. Likewise, where feasible, the good practice cases were also assessed from the perspective of economics and financing. If the data did not lend themselves to quantitative economic conclusions, then at least an attempt was made to formulate some qualitative observations about how economic concepts manifest themselves in a given good practice case.

The case studies have been kept concise, generally between three and six pages long, although references are provided for those interested in further reading.

Chapter 1 covers different ways to satisfy the need for water in the agricultural sector, the biggest consumer of water in the MENA region. Given the scarcity of freshwater resources, the countries of the MENA region are pioneers in the use of treated wastewater for irrigation, while water harvesting occasionally supplements water needs for agriculture.

In Chapter 2, WDM opportunities in the drinking water sector are explored. A reduction in network losses is one of the most economical but underutilised WDM measures in the region. The selected good practices prove that it is possible to execute successful projects to reduce non-revenue water. Water saving by final consumers is another promising measure.

Chapter 3 includes case studies that describe how economic policy instruments were utilised to cut water use. In three out of the five cases, a progressive water tariff was applied to provide households and other water users with a strong incentive to reduce their water consumption. One case deals with financial support to improve the efficiency of water use for irrigation, while the case describing the introduction of prepaid drinking water services illustrates that it is possible to create a win-win situation through economic instruments.

The good-practice cases in Chapter 4 are based on institutional and legal measures, including the participation of private enterprises in improving services, the adoption of regulations, the establishment of new types of cooperation, and the development of institutions for effective monitoring.

Finally, Chapter 5 includes case studies on the implementation of non-traditional, innovative approaches, some of which are technological (e.g. fog harvesting, smart meters and satellite based monitoring), while others operate on the institutional/organisational level (e.g. linking electricity consumption and water abstraction). Although these cases are not easily transferable to other locations, they have been included in order to illustrate the wide spectrum of potential WDM measures, the challenges posed by their introduction, and some of the preconditions for their successful operation.

It should be emphasised that, while the cases have been classified according to various themes, the best WDM measures require the careful combination of different approaches and solutions. Superior design, economic considerations, communication and reconciliation with affected stakeholders, an appropriate institutional and legal background, the application of suitable technologies, and monitoring and enforcement are all essential elements of a well functioning, effective WDM measure. This is not an easy task, but they hope that the collection of good WDM practices provided in this handbook will contribute to developing suitable WDM policies throughout the MENA region.

You can download this handbook for free here.

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