Experiences in Water Management in Latin America

May 4, 2005

The population of the Latin American and the Caribbean region is estimated to increase from 435 million in 1990, to 585 million by 2010, and to 715 million in 2030. This increase of 64 percent in only forty years will occur within an overall framework of changes characterized by urbanization, ruralisation, globalisation, information and communication revolution and technological developments. Next twenty years will probably witness more changes in water management compared to what has occurred over the past 2000 years. In this rapidly changing milleu, an important challenge for the region is how best to provide adequate quantity and quality of water in an efficient manner to meet the domestic, agricultural, industrial, energy and ecreational requirements of an expanding population, and concurrently satisfy the ecosystems needs of the region.

During the past 20 years, an important factor has been that water is increasingly becoming a critical resource for the social and economic development of developing countries, but water’s importance on the economy/developed of countries are gradually declining. Not surprisingly, many of the new and innovative approaches and solutions for water management are now coming from developing countries, including the Latin American region.

Inspite of this progress, however, these innovative approaches and solutions are mostly unknown not only outside the region but also often within the country themselves. It is a curious irony that water professionals in Mexico often may have more knowledge of the latest developments in the water sector in the United States or France, compared to what is happening in Argentina, Brazil, Chile or Colombia and vice versa. If fact, often times water professionals in a Latin American country has more knowledge of developments in the West, compared to another part of their own country.

This is inspite of the fact that technology, knowledge and experience transfer from developed to developing countries in most fields have not been easy because of differing economic, social, political, institutional and legal conditions. In addition, physical conditions, climate and expertise available between developed and developing countries often are different. Thus, what may be a very successful approach in a developed country may not be an appropriate solution for a developing country.

In contrast, South-South knowledge transfer has great potential since countries often share many similar boundary conditions within which a successful approach or solution can be applied. While this fact is many times acknowledged, it has not been easy to apply because the necessary knowledge on the new approaches that have been successfully used in different developing countries is basically unknown.

In addition to the above fact, the various Latin American countries like Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico have made major breakthroughs in certain areas of water management. Thus, the Third World Centre for Water Management initiated a programme to identify, assess, analyse and synthesize the latest advances in specific areas of water management, and then make a determined effort to disseminate this knowledge.

Under this programme, several areas have already been analysed, and the appropriate books are being published through Oxford University Press. Among the published books are: Water Policies and Institutions in Latin America, Integrated River Basin Management: The Latin American Experience, Women and Water Management: The Latin American Experience, Water Pricing and Public-Private Partnership in Latin America, and Water Quality Management in the Americas. For more information, visit our Publications Section.

Preparation is now under way to assess and synthesize knowledge on Water Developments, Poverty Alleviation and Environmental Conservation from the Latin American region.

The Centre has published three books in the Spanish language through Miguel Ángel Porrua of México City. For more information visit our Publications Section.