By an authentic estimate for the year 2000 A.D., agriculture will have the largest use for water, in fact 54 per cent of all waters demanded by irrigation. There are also indications that in the years ahead industrial uses of water will also increase. It is also commonplace that the agricultural uses will be far different than the industrial uses.
Considering the future demands for water in the world, the United Nations has declared the decade 1981-90 as the 'Water Supply and Sanitation Decade'. Plans and strategies were implemented during the decade with a view to satisfying the basic needs of 1000 million people in the Developing Countries. Water supply and environmental sanitation remained the important focus of the decade. Through an integrated approach to water management and sanitation, there have been improvements in health. Health and welfare have indeed been the emphasis of the decade.
Through the efforts in the Water Supply and Sanitation Decade, some Governments of the Third World have drawn up solid plans having closely looked at the demands and opportunities. In some countries, clear ideas of water supply and environmental sanitation have led the Governments to concerted efforts. In some other countries, the efforts were by way of correcting health and welfare activities. Only Malawi has become a country which has achieved potable water supply for its population.
Some pertinent conclusions emerged as a consequence of researches towards the end of the 1980s. Of these, the four below are very important.
3. Environmental and protection of human well-being must depend upon integrated water resources, liquid and solid waste management.
4. Institutional rehabilitation must occur through an integration of changes in practices, ideas and behaviour and fuller participation of women.
5. Management of social services is required in respect of the use of national (internal) institutions and implementing water and sanitation programmes.
6. Use of appropriate technology and protection and management of national wealth are essential for development with social welfare.
In the first, there is an integrated approach while in the rest the solutions are found through socio-economic approaches.
In 1977, the water crisis became a full blown crisis and led to an United Nations- Conference. At the conclusion of the Conference, A Plan of Action encompassing all features of water crisis was released. Recently, the activities that were taken up under this plan were evaluated and a methodology appropriate for the 1990s has been evolved.
Even though progress has been achieved through these activities, it has come to light that there is yet a lot more needed to be taken up. There is not even an iota of doubt that water resources must be treated as an appropriate resource in human development. And the through the efforts of the Stockholm team of researchers, generally referred to as the Natural Resources Management Researches, it has been conclusively realised that water is an important resource in sustainable development. In an International Symposium held in January 1992 in Dublin, relationships between water resources and development were deeply looked into keeping in view the 21st century. Overexploitation of water, pollution and its impacts, floods, droughts and their impacts were all inquired into at the regional, national and international levels. The four important conclusions that emerged from them are:
1. Freshwater is a useful but limited resource. There are important relations between water resources, environment and development.
2. There is an urgent need to bring together the water users, water planners and water policy makers towards developing a participatory approach to water resources and its management.
4. Women have a responsible role in water supply, its management and protection.
5. Water is economic commodity. Hence, it must be construed as an economic commodity in all its uses. It is within this context that the supply of clean water to all humans within a reasonable limit of a price must be realised.
Thus, a holistic approach to water as an appropriate socio-economic approach has now emerged.