Freshwater is the most important resource for mankind, cross-cutting all social, economic and environmental activities. It is a condition for all life on our planet, an enabling or limiting factor for any social and technological development, a possible source of welfare or misery, cooperation or conflict.
Water is a renewable but a finite resource. It can be recycled but not replaced, and faces severe pressure from increasing demands to satisfy the needs of a growing population, rapid urbanization, pollution and climate change.
To achieve water security, we must protect vulnerable water systems, mitigate the impacts of water-related hazards such as floods and droughts, safeguard access to water functions and services and manage water resources in an integrated and equitable manner.
This requires collaboration across sectors, communities, disciplines and political borders. Integrated water resources management (IWRM) aims to align water management across all relevant sectors, policies and institutions to achieve national water, food and energy security. It requires different uses of water to be considered alongside each other and provides a structure within which competing interest groups (water utilities, farmers, industry and mining, communities, environmentalists, etc.) can hammer out coherent strategies for meeting future challenges and uncertainties.
UNESCO works to build the scientific knowledge base to help countries manage their water resources in a sustainable way through the International Hydrological Programme, through leading the UN-wide World Water Development Report, through the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education in Delft in the Netherlands, through over 20 affiliated research centres on water around the world and through a series of water-related Chairs.