Volume 30, Issue 1

March 2014
Special Issue on Water Infrastructure

Foreword »
Kishore Mahbubani

Editorial »
Infrastructure and development
Cecilia Tortajada and Asit K. Biswas

Research Article

Water infrastructure as an essential element for human development

Cecilia Tortajada
Third World Centre for Water Management, Atizapán, Mexico

Contact: Cecilia Tortajada | Email: cecilia.tortajada@gmail.com


Infrastructure is essential for development, but by itself it will not contribute to improving the quality of life of millions of people unless it is part of an overall framework for development, economic growth, social equity and environmental protection. As mentioned by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, the absence of infrastructure has a pervasive influence on poverty, but at the same time is not a free-standing factor in lifting people from it. The focus should thus not be on physical infrastructure per se but on infrastructure as a driver for growth and sustainable development. This requires more comprehensive institutional, legal, regulatory, policy and management frameworks than the ones existing at present.

Pages: 8-19


Research Article

The worldwide urban water and wastewater infrastructure challenge

Michael Rouse
Department of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

Contact: Michael Rouse | Email: michaeljrouse@yahoo.co.uk


There are two parts to the challenge of providing the infrastructure necessary for universal access to water and sanitation. One challenge is the extension of existing infrastructure and new infrastructure to serve all in today’s urban areas and to keep up with the expected rapid growth of cities; the other is the refurbishment of existing infrastructure to maintain access to water and sanitation. Meeting the second challenge is the more costly; it is also essential to meeting the first challenge. Infrastructure is the means, not the end, with a requirement for clear policies on objectives, priorities and service standards. Delivery will require effective planning, regulation, innovation, capacity building and training. Although the infrastructure costs will be high, the benefits will be greater.

Pages: 20-27


Research Article

Is water scarcity a constraint to feeding Asia’s growing population?

Colin Chartres
International Water Management Institute, Colombo, Sri Lanka; Water, Bruce, Australia

Contact: Colin Chartres | Email: colin.chartres@gmail.com


Growing population and wealth, as measured by per capita GDP, are predicted to put water resources and food production in Asia under increasing pressure over the next few decades. Critical factors include the increasing demand for animal proteins in diets and the growing need for energy. Climate change impacts may further reduce available water resources because of greater evaporation losses in some areas and storms and floods in others. If we are to overcome these significant constraints on food production, we must turn to strategies that are focused around sustainable intensification of agriculture. These include modernization of old irrigation schemes to increase water productivity, innovative concepts that capture and store flood runoff for use in agriculture, much more recycling and reuse of urban wastewater, and other efficiency improvement techniques. However, these will not happen in a policy vacuum, and it is argued that reforms are needed in water policy, water training and water management institutions across Asia.

Pages: 28-36


Research Article

Water services industry reforms in Malaysia

Yen Hua Teo
National Water Services Commission Malaysia, Cyberjaya, Malaysia

Contact: Yen Hua Teo | Email: teoyh@span.gov.my


Concerted efforts to reform and transform the water industry in Malaysia began in 2006. It was a visionary effort by the federal government to ensure an adequate supply of clean water to the public and industry. A policy and institutional framework was created to re-invent and transform the water services industry into an efficient and sustainable sector that will play a pivotal role as one of the major components of economic growth. Though minor adjustments may be needed during its implementation, the overall policy direction is pragmatic and viable and has started to produce tangible outcomes.

Pages: 37-46


Research Article

Water infrastructure in China: the importance of full project life-cycle cost analysis in addressing water challenges

Shuping Lu
Xylem, 30/F Tower A Hongqiao City Center of Shanghai, Shanghai, P.R. China

Contact: Shuping Lu | Email: shuping.lu@xyleminc.com


To address serious wastewater challenges, the government of China is investing in the rapid building of new treatment plants across the country. However, current practice often favours both cost- and energy-inefficient designs and implementation, especially in smaller cities and towns. Combining a full life cycle costing (LCC) approach with financing innovations and the identification and implementation of new technologies can reduce such inefficiencies by 50% or more. One general and two wastewater-specific case studies of new approaches to efficient infrastructure design are discussed.

Pages: 47-59


Research Article

Water infrastructure for the Hindu Kush Himalayas

David James Molden, Ramesh Anand Vaidya, Arun Bhakta Shrestha, Golam Rasul and Mandira Singh Shrestha
International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Kathmandu, Nepal

Contact: David James Molden | Email: dmolden@icimod.org


The Hindu Kush–Himalayan region is the source of 10 major rivers serving over 1.3 billion people. In spite of this abundance, mountain people have limited access to water for food, households and energy. Climate change is increasing the uncertainty about water availability and the frequency of extreme weather events. To buffer seasonal variations and address growing water demand, properly planned, developed and managed infrastructure and related institutional capacities are required. They should also recognize mountain-specific issues. Priority areas include transboundary water governance, cross-border information systems, an improved knowledge base for mountain regions, and benefit sharing between mountain and downstream communities.

Pages: 60-77


Research Article

The Gujarat State-Wide Water Supply Grid: a step towards water security

Andrea Biswas-Tortajada
Water and Sanitation Management Organisation, Gandhinagar, India

Contact: Andrea Biswas-Tortajada | Email: a.biswastortajada@gmail.com


Gujarat is one of India’s economic powerhouses, but its geographical conditions mean that most of the state’s districts face water deficits. In 2002, emergency arrangements to meet water shortages were replaced with a longer-term strategy: the construction and management of the State-Wide Water Supply Grid. This scheme moves towards connecting 47 million people to safe, potable water supplies. It has also positioned Gujarat as a pioneer in India in terms of moving towards water security and conservation, a policy choice that has boosted economic growth and made important strides towards human development.

Pages: 78-90


Research Article

Positive externalities of irrigation from the Sardar Sarovar Project for farm production and domestic water supply

M. Dinesh Kumara, S. Jagadeesanb and M.V.K. Sivamohana
aInstitute for Resource Analysis and Policy, Hyderabad, India; bSardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, Gujarat, India

Contact: M. Dinesh Kumar | Email: dinesh@irapindia.org


A detailed study was conducted in six districts of Gujarat, India, in gravity- and liftirrigated commands of the Sardar Sarovar Project to assess the direct and indirect benefits of canal irrigation. Benefits such as savings in the cost of energy used to pump groundwater for irrigation, reduction in well failures, and increased income of well irrigators from farming (crops and dairy) were remarkable. Groundwater augmented by recharge from gravity irrigation resulted in large economic returns to the well irrigators in the command areas and reduced the cost of domestic water supply in villages and towns (through improved yield of agro-wells and drinking-water wells, respectively). Canal irrigation also raised wages for workers, through enhanced agricultural labour demand along with appreciation of land markets.

Pages: 91-109



Environmental over enthusiasm

Chetan Pandit
Consultant, and Visiting Faculty, MBA Programme in Infrastructure Management at Symbiosis Centre for Management and Human Resource Development, Pune, India

Contact: Chetan Pandit | Email: cmpandit@yahoo.com


India needs large dams for water storage, hydropower and flood control. It also needs long-distance inter-basin water transfers. However, India has a complex and strict environmental regulatory system which ignores a developing economy’s needs and peoples’ aspirations and is often impractical. This is used by activists to thwart infrastructure building, and, when faced with development slowdown, the government tries to thwart the laws they themselves have made. India’s food, water and energy security, economic, and poverty-alleviation plans are in jeopardy unless environmental regulators realize that the regulations are being misused and that environmental overenthusiasm is benefiting neither development nor the environment.

Pages: 110-120



The changing role of hydropower: from cheap local energy supply to strategic regional resource

Jacob Snell, Daniel Prowse and Ken Adams
Manitoba Hydro, Winnipeg, Canada

Contact: Ken Adams | Email: kradams@hydro.mb.ca


The role of hydropower has evolved from being a local, low-cost energy source to being a flexible resource offering a variety of ancillary services including regional frequency control and energy storage for large interconnected power systems. This paper explores this development as it relates to a North American midcontinent electrical power region. It reviews traditional benefits from hydropower in a thermal-power-dominated region and traditional efforts to quantity those benefits. With the challenges of integrating increasing quantities of variable generation such as wind and solar power, new benefits from hydropower have been identified and new methods to quantify those benefits have been developed. Recent results of a major study of the sub-hourly behaviour of a hydropower system in a Midwestern United States electrical market are reviewed.

Pages: 121-134



Interbasin water transfers at the US –Mexico border city of Nogales, Sonora: implications for aquifers and water security

Andrea Harrop Pricharda and Christopher A. Scotta,b
aSchool of Geography and Development, University of Arizona, Tucson, USA; bUdall Center for Studies in Public Policy, University of Arizona, Tucson, USA

Contact: Andrea Harrop Prichard | Email: aprichar@email.arizona.edu


Nogales, Sonora, on the US–Mexico border, employs interbasin water and wastewater transfers to address water scarcity in the context of a rising population, a warming climate, and cross-border institutional asymmetries. A unique feature of its geography and border context is Nogales’s export of wastewater both north to the US and, starting with the August 2012 commissioning of a strategically positioned wastewater treatment plant, south to the Alisos basin, which is its principal drinking-water source. Thus, when the new plant is fully operational, it will result in indirect potable reuse of effluent via recharge of the source-water aquifer. This paper finds that such strategies contribute to increased water scarcity in Nogales, and to detrimental health, livelihood and environmental impacts in the source basin, thus raising questions about interbasin transfers as a principal water management strategy.

Pages: 135-151


Policy Brief

The 2012 Murray-Darling Basin Plan – issues to watch

James Horne
James Horne and Associates, Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Contact: James Horne | Email: jameshorne@iinet.net.au


The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is now in place, marking a further significant step in water policy development and water reform in Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin (MDB). While it is an important planning and regulatory framework in its own right, and one that should further enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of water markets in the MDB, implementation and enforcement of the plan and continued action by governments, communities and stakeholders on key reform commitments are required to ensure much-needed improvement in economic, social and environmental sustainability. This article outlines seven watch points that will affect whether the desired outcomes are achieved.

Pages: 152-163


Policy Brief

Environmental water management in Australia: experience from the Murray-Darling Basin

Benjamin Dockera and Ian Robinsonb
aCommonwealth Environmental Water Office, Canberra, ACT, Australia; bCommonwealth Environmental Water Holder 2008–2012, Canberra, ACT, Australia

Contact: Benjamin Docker | Email: benjamin.docker@environment.gov.au


Recent water reform in Australia has focused on seeking to balance the needs of the environment and consumptive users through improved flow regimes. This is in response to declining ecological conditions, exacerbated by drought and the threat of climate change particularly in the Murray-Darling Basin. A programme of environmental flows integrated through multiple governance layers and managed by an independent federal-government entity operating in the water market on behalf of the environment has been established to help rectify the decline. While a challenge for this new entity involves determining when to release, trade or carry over water in storage so as to maximize environmental outcomes, early results point to real environmental gains within a highly regulated and diverse river system.

Pages: 164-177


Book Review

Towards Disaster Risk Reduction: A Policy-Focused Approach to Natural Hazards and Disasters »