United Nations
Commission on Sustainable Development

Background Paper


                  Harare, Zimbabwe 27 to 30 January, 1998


                           Denis A. Davis, Canada



Abstract:  Decision making related to complex issues such as meeting
increasing demand for water and food, allocating water between competing
users, and ensuring sustainability of freshwater ecosystems in the face
of human pressures requires an integrated information management system. 
For maximum benefit the system must integrate data and knowledge about
natural resources, and environmental and socio-economic components so
that all these factors can be appropriately weighed and considered in the
decision-making process.  There are barriers to overcome.  Often the data
or information is collected by a wide range of government and private
sector agencies to different standards and scales.  Data and information
gaps are numerous.  It can be a formidable task to assemble the
information, ensure the standards are compatible, ensure that key
stakeholders have access to the information and create a new corporate
culture of sharing information between agencies.  However the tools to
do so are available, and combined with willingness and creativity, the
information management system needed by decision-makers and the public
can be developed at relatively modest cost compared to the value of the
resources being managed.  The paper outlines the benefits of an
integrated information management system, the requirements for successful
implementation, the impediments, and actions for governments and
international organizations to consider. 

Acknowledgement: The following agencies or groups provided comments,
ideas and input to the report and their contributions are gratefully
recognized.  The World Meteorological Organization, World Health
Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,
Global Runoff Data Centre, GEMS/Water, UNESCO, the Advisory Working Group
of the WMOțs Commission for Hydrology and the International Association
of Hydrological Sciences.

1.0                    PURPOSES AND BENEFITS

1.1        Background                         

1.1.1      A number of international conferences and activities have
highlighted the difficulties that countries face, particularly developing
countries, in continuing to meet the rising demand for clean fresh water
as populations rise, per-capita consumption rates increase,
industrialization and food security require ever increasing amounts of
water, and pollution reduces the available supply.  The findings of the
"Comprehensive Assessment of the Freshwater Resources of the World",
submitted to the fifth session of the UN Commission on Sustainable
Development and the Special Session of the General Assembly in 1997,
highlights the problems. The Assessment confirms the view that in many
parts of the world the current patterns in the development and use of
freshwater resources are not sustainable from either an economic, social
or environmental perspective.

1.1.2  These concerns are not new.  As far back as the United Nations
Water Conference in Mar del Plata, Argentina in 1977 the key future
issues were identified. Numerous international conferences, notably the
International Conference on Water and the Environment held in Dublin,
Ireland and the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development
in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, both in 1992, and the Ministerial Conference
on Drinking Water and Environmental Sanitation in Noordwijk, Netherlands
in 1994 have assisted in refining the problems and have proposed actions.
Both the Mar del Plata and Dublin Conferences identified the inadequacy
of the knowledge base for decision-making.  Similarly the conclusions and
policy options of the Comprehensive Assessment indicated that access to
reliable data is presently inadequate.  The programme for the further
implementation of Agenda 21, adopted at the special session of the
General Assembly in June 1997, assigns "high priority, in accordance with
specific national needs and conditions, to the formulation and
implementation of policies and programmes for integrated watershed
management...".  It also calls for the strengthening of "-the capability
of Governments and international institutions to collect and manage
information, including scientific, social and environmental data, in
order to facilitate the integrated assessment and management of water
resources, and foster regional and international cooperation for
information dissemination and exchange through cooperative approaches
among United Nations institutions".
1.1.3   Why integrated information management systems - what are the
benefits? Simply put, the more vulnerable the resource the greater the
need for both precision and timeliness in decision-making.  Particularly
when water is a limiting resource to economic development it is
absolutely necessary to have information that is integrated across
sectors and includes the social-economic dimensions.  Day-to-day
operations and responses to natural disasters such as floods and droughts
benefit from having "real time" data available and an ability to draw
information from a variety of sources quickly, which an integrated
information management system can do.  The information system is in many
ways the tip of the knowledge pyramid and represents a small part of the
information collection cost, and a very small fraction of the cost of
water projects or value of the decisions made.

1.1.4   Figure 1 illustrates the "Information Cycle".  The utilization
of data for water management purposes helps to define future information
needs and the strategies needed to collect new or additional data.  This
additional data can then be used to improve assessments, or improve the
precision of information used for water management decisions.  Applied
properly, the cycle should never end: the use to which the information
is put continuing to refine the need for data to be collected, and the
better supply of data improving the decisions making process.  Integrated
information management systems deal primarily with the data utilization,
data analysis, and information utilization components of the cycle.

                   Figure 1 - The Information Cycle

                          [ not available ]

1.2     Making Integrated Information Part of the Decision-Making Process

1.2.1   The major challenge is to integrate decision-making across all
the related sectors.  Integrated information management can be a useful
tool in this regard by providing information in a form useful for
evaluating alternatives and making decisions.  However it is not enough
having the information available, it must become an ingrained part of
long term financial and economic planning and reach the decision-makers
before irreversible decisions are made.

1.2.2   Public input is a key component of decision-making.  There
should also be an opportunity for public input, not only at the decision-
making stage but earlier in the process when alternatives are being
considered and linkages are being made.  The public perception of water
in terms of cultural values, rather than strictly as an economic
resource, needs to be considered and built into the evaluation and
decision-making process.  As an example the view in some cultures that
water is a gift of God may mitigate against classic user-pay and cost-
recovery approaches to conserve the water resource.

1.2.3   Information management systems can be particularly useful in
support of decisions related to the rapidly growing mega-cities.  Large
urban centres, and their associated rapidly expanding peri-urban areas,
are often a hot spot in terms of growing water demand, groundwater over
utilization, pollution and other environmental problems. In such cases
the integration of information can be expanded to include the areas
impacted upon downstream, and reach upstream to include the water and
other resources for which there is potential competition or conflict. 
The large city may be the ideal place to initiate integrated information
systems and expanded information networks because of the need for rapid
decision-making and the existing capabilities to make the system work.


2.1     Building an Integrated Information System

2.1.1   An integrated information system is essentially a means of
communication between providers of data and information, and the users
of that information.  Since not all needs can be predicted, all potential
users defined or even the continuation of the current organizational
structure ensured, it is important to develop a system that is flexible,
easily upgraded and matches the infrastructure and staff capabilities of
the country.  There tend to be two basic approaches to information
management.  The centralized approach is to establish a system whereby
one agency is given the mandate to collect data and information from many
sources and is the custodian of a centralized database.  This central
agency may also be involved in, or responsible for, integrating the
information and developing alternatives and options for decision-makers
to consider.  Generally the database and integrated information is made
accessible to the providers of the information and other user groups.

2.1.2     The second approach is the distributed nodes non-hierarchical
information network.  Each node provides a gateway to the other nodes and
provides data and information, or receives information products for use. 
It probably works most efficiently when there are assigned sectoral nodes
that in themselves have responsibility to assemble information from
multiple sources, provide quality control on data received and set
standards for data collection and archiving.  This approach has a high
degree of flexibility and may not require changes to existing
organizations, other than improving data management systems, the
communications between agencies and developing the capabilities of staff. 
The node approach is useful for highlighting what information other
organizations are collecting and creating co-operation between centres
in seeking out missing data.

2.1.3     An example of a distributed non-hierarchical information
network which might be used for water resources assessment is shown in
Figure 2.  For a particular application, such as evaluation of various
conservation and development options to meet growing demand, a central
agency within a country would be tasked with leadership of the
information integration and development of options for consideration by
decision-makers.  Information would then flow between nodes for that
purpose.  A local or basin level environmental assessment would require
different information sets, and perhaps would be led by a different
organization.  The distributed information network could be established
at the local level in the case of a large city, at the provincial or
state level, at the basin level or the national level.

                Figure 2 - Distributed Information Networks

                           [ not available ]

2.1.4     In the lower portion of Figure 2 the example of a water
quantity node is used to demonstrate converging fluxes of information. 
The node would be tasked with the responsibility of developing database
standards, the collection of water quantity data and related informati
on from all major sources, and providing quality control on data
maintained on the database.  It would also normally make interpreted
information available to others, in the form needed by an individual
user.  The water quantity node could also serve as a gateway to the
Global Runoff Data Centre at the international level (See Section 6.2),
a river basin authority at the transboundary level, and regional
organizations in which the national government has membership.  The
information could also be available on an open network basis to local
basin authorities, the public and other interest groups if desired.

2.1.5     Leading edge database management and integrative decision
support system software are now readily available.  The World Wide Web
can provide the communication connections at reasonable cost, both
internally and externally to an organization or information network.  The
hardest part of establishing any information system is identifying what
information is actually required and what the basic functionality and
structure of the database will be.  Once that has been established the
specific formats, data combinations and graphics that decision-makers or
operational managers use can be easily incorporated.

2.2     Responding to Natural Disasters

2.2.1   The implementation of integrated information management systems
and real-time data observation and reporting systems can make an
important contribution to pro-active and anticipatory response strategies
to natural disasters.  Not only can critical data and information be made
available quickly for decision-making but there is a greater potential
to forecast future problems and difficulties.  Particularly for natural
disasters such as droughts, or snowmelt floods, there is the opportunity
to forecast the onset of conditions in advance and begin to take
preparatory actions for response. 

2.2.2    Meteorological long-term forecasting, and climatological
forecasting associated with events such as El Nin~o, can be linked to
flow forecasting models to determine the hydrological response to such
events.  This coupling of hydrological and atmospheric information
through an information management system can improve the understanding
of both local and global hydrological processes and increase confidence
in predicting the effects of climate change.  The output from the
hydrological models can have large economic payoffs in terms of saving
lives and improving economic conditions by developing appropriate
response strategies.


3.1 General Observations

3.1.1   The systems used for the management of integrated information
must be suitable to the conditions in the country.  There may be
limitations in terms of available infrastructure and the level of skills
which are required to maintain and operate such systems.  For example the
use of the Internet for communications and distributed information
systems may not be possible if the phone system is rudimentary and
subject to breakdown.

3.1.2   Countries in which the economy is sensitive to hydrological
events need more elaborate information management systems that can
consider "real-time" data and integrate it in a way to be responsive to
ongoing circumstances and forecasts of future events.  Because of the
spatial nature of some information it may become necessary to consider
the use of geographic information systems (GIS) for storage, display and
overlaying of environmental and land use information.  Consideration
should also be given to the integration of satellite and radar data into
integrated information systems. Use of Doppler radar data is becoming
increasingly common in runoff forecasting models.  Satellite technology
is becoming a useful operational tool for parameters such as soil
moisture, surface temperature, area flooded and the detection of oil or
chemical spills.  The implementation of decision support systems to
better utilize the information is also recommended.

3.1.3   The primary focus when introducing improvements to integrated
information systems should be on maximizing the use of existing
databases, identifying users and their specific needs, and tailoring the
system so that it is flexible enough to integrate information from a
large number of sectors in different ways.  Once a system is operative,
then the focus can be on identifying and filling data gaps, implementing
institutional change to make the system more user oriented and adjusting
observational networks to be more responsive to operational and
management needs.

3.1.4   The priority of national and international efforts for
improvement of the management of integrated information should be focused
on developing countries with increasing water stress.  These countries
are identified in the "-Comprehensive Assessment of the Freshwater
Resources of the World" as those low-income countries with medium to high
water withdrawal rates compared to water availability.

3.2     Introducing New Approaches to Information Management

3.2.1   Integrated information management systems need to be holistic in
their approach. The full range of water/land/and air parameters need to
be linked to corresponding socio-economic and environmental data on
critical habitats, endangered species, the health of the aquatic
environment and fisheries.  Integrated information management is only a
tool, but an important one, to move toward sustainable development.

3.2.2   Information systems need to be dynamic rather than static.  In
particular the capability to move toward "real-time" data collection and
use of that information for operational purposes should be incorporated. 
It is also necessary to have a system that in many ways can be self-
learning so that new information can be used to quickly update previous
evaluations.  There should also be a constant feedback loop between the
use of the information and the database itself, so that new types of
analysis can be conducted and new forms of data collected and archived.

3.2.3   As described in Section 6.0 below, a number of nodes for
information already exist at the international level.  This information
base was helpful in preparing the "Comprehensive Assessment of the
Freshwater Resources of the World".  Global priorities and lending
institution strategies are developed using such information, and are
supported by governments responding to Ministerial Conferences or UN
activities.  There are still significant information gaps to be filled,
however, and countries could contribute to the broader global information
base through the wider implementation of information management systems
at the national level.  This would facilitate the timeliness of the
receipt of the information at the international level and would allow
quicker turnaround of information products.

3.3     Linking Observational Networks to Management Requirements

3.3.1   The introduction of integrated information management systems
provides a strong impetuous to reshape, restructure and improve
observational networks.  This is particularly true for that portion of
the network that directly serves management needs. The feedback from the
use of the information can result in efficiencies in data observation,
and may generate significant benefits to operations and management that
are difficult to define in advance.  There will still continue to be a
need for multi-purpose observational networks which are able to define
the state of the resource in qualitative terms without a specific user
identified for each site.  The importance of this component of the total
network becomes more evident when attempts are made to generate atlas
type representations or regional norms, which well may be the case when
information is integrated at the basin or planning unit level.

3.3.2   Unfortunately, it is hard to convince many decision-makers that
such an expense  is justified.  Elemental logic would argue that it is
sensible to spend several percent of the budget allocated to the
construction of water resource projects on information functions  that
will ensure that the best possible decisions are made.  Few countries do
so.  Therefore, there is real value in studies that establish costs and
benefits of observational networks and information management systems.
What studies are available often demonstrate benefit/cost ratios in the
3:1 to 5:1 range, and up to 16:1 for flood forecasting.  An Australian
example of better management achieved by automation of irrigation control
structures indicated that the value of the water saved in just one year
was greater than the cost of the automation.

3.3.3   There is also a need in many countries, including developing
countries and economies in transition, to consider cost recovery for
observational information used for management purposes.  This approach
helps to develop a client relationship between data collection and data
use agencies and make the data collection agency more responsive to
changing needs.  There are pitfalls to this approach as not all
information, necessary for long-term planning and management, may have
an immediate client.  As an example design of a dam spillway or power
plant output requires long term information on river discharge (50 years
or more is preferable).  Yet the benefits of reduced spillway costs or
the installation of the optimum number of generating units are not
realized until after the dam is built.  Brazil has developed a novel
approach to funding basic information needs by allocating a small
percentage of the charge to hydropower entities for use of the water
resource to these functions.

                 Case Study - Water Quality Network

An example of the redesign and modernization of a water quality network in
response to an evaluation of management needs is Mexico. The observational
programme included 564 surface water stations and 239 groundwater stations
that had no overall strategic design, had major data gaps, was
unrepresentative of key areas and was not being analysed for parameters such
as persistent organic pollutants needed to address current issues.  As a
result of the optimization a primary network of some 200 stations was
established to characterize important water bodies.  A flexible secondary
network was designed to focus on effluent discharge regulatory issues, special
surveys in support of river basin planning and issue-oriented specific
requirements. The new programme moves away for the traditional and
expensive chemical parameter list and moves toward more innovative use of
toxicity-based measures, screening techniques and new and more efficient
measures of diagnosing and describing water quality. A mobile emergency
capability in case of spills or natural disasters was also added.  The end
result is a much more responsive information base without major increases in

3.4        Integrating Land, Water and other Information
3.4.1      Integrated decision-making requires a broad
information base, with the specific parameters or information sets
varying dependent on the application.  As an example, typical
parameters used for a water resources assessment could include:

Hydrometeorological:      precipitation, evaporation
Hydrological:             water levels, river flow, reservoir storage,
                          sediment loading, water quality, biological data
Land:                     soil type, land classification and use,
                          hectares irrigated, crop types, livestock
                          numbers, elevation, basin drainage, basin slope 
Social:                   population, population density, age
                          distribution, growth rates, percentage of
                          population served by water supply and sewage,
                          political boundaries, housing stock 
Economic:                 per capita income, family income, employment
                          rates, sectoral  contributions to economy, GNP,
                          growth rates
Environmental:            sensitive habitats, degraded environments,
                          fisheries and natural resources, endangered
                          species, trends in water quality and other
Health:                   epidemiological data
Other:                    water availability, water supply
                          distribution, diversions, water use by sector,
                          water demand by sector

The list is meant to be only illustrative, but it does indicate the
breadth and types of information needed.  No single agency or source
can provide all of the information so there is a need for some form of
integrated management system.  There is also a need to integrate
information at different scales (local, regional, national, multi-
country to international) dependent on the nature of the decisions to
be made.

3.4.2   There is a need to differentiate between "data" and
"information".  Data come from variables measured and recorded in a
database.  Parameters are derived from the measured variables. 
Information is an evaluation of parameters provided in a form that has
meaning for decision-making or management purposes.  Generally the
inputs to integrated information management are not "data", but rather
a group of information sets.  The linkage between data and decision-
making is described in Figure 3.

                       Figure 3 - Information Hierarchy

                              [ not available ]

3.4.3   As can be seen from Figure 3 there are more inputs to decision
making than the integrated information itself.  Decision makers must also
consider factors such as the views of the public, prevailing cultural
perceptions and values, national priorities and local, regional and
national political realities.  To the degree possible, integrated
information must be sensitive to these factors and array information and
decision alternatives in a manner that can reflect them.

3.5     Closing Data and Information Gaps

3.5.1   Experience in the integration of resource related information for
water resources assessment has resulted in identification of information
or data deficiencies that are relatively common, especially in the
developing countries.  Reliable water use information is difficult to
obtain for all sectors.  Groundwater is often the forgotten resource and
insufficient information is available on its quantity, quality and use.
Water quality information on land based pollution is often scanty, and
does not include monitoring of persistent organic pollutants which may
impact on human health and the aquatic environment. Basic hydrological
information is often not available to the degree that rational decisions
on alternatives can be made in countries experiencing water scarcity,
particularly if the country is partially reliant on external sources
of water.

3.5.2   The use of integrated information management systems often
identifies errors or inconsistencies between databases.  For example, one
of the better quality checks on hydrological data is to model a flood
event using data from several sources, or several jurisdictions. 
Questionable or missing data are soon identified.  The greater the number
of uses to which databases are put, the better the understanding of the
information needs for the future.

3.5.3   A number of methods exist for evaluating the adequacy of the
database. The simplest approach is reference to standard guidelines or
comparisons to the network densities of countries or regions in similar
circumstances.  If there is a rudimentary network in place then more
elaborate tools exist for an evaluation.  Such evaluations must be user
oriented so as to determine, not only the parameters needed, but also the
format and timeliness of greatest value to decision-making.  For
hydrological parameters, guidance on the size and type of observational
networks, or network analysis procedures, is readily available from the
World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and a number of national
hydrological services.

3.6     Developing Mutually Beneficial Partnerships

3.6.1   The presence of integrated management systems within a country
opens up the opportunity for external partnerships with basin
commissions, regional entities and the broader international community. 
Particularly if a country is dependent on external sources of water as
part of a transboundary basin, there are significant benefits to having
communication links to parallel information sources in the other
countries under the auspices of a basin commission.  In this case the
basin commission often acts as the information hub and central data bank,
but is equally accessible to all parties. The basin commission is often
tasked with providing an evaluation on an integrated information basis
which may include environmental assessments and development alternatives
for major projects.  It can also serve as a source of technical expertise
and exchange.  Similar statements can be made about regional entities,
which often represent countries with common problems and interests.

                  Case Study - Rhine River Basin

With a catchment of 180,000 square km and a length of 1,320 km the Rhine River
is one of Europe's most important rivers.  As a shipping route it is the
busiest in the world. The basin embraces parts of a number of countries, most
notably Switzerland, Germany, France and the Netherlands, and human influence
on water quality and quantity is considerable.  There is also the potential
for major flood damage and pollution spills.  Over the years the countries
have established six international commissions or associations to deal with
hydrology, protection of the Rhine and its major tributaries and Lake
Constance, water treatment, and navigation.  Information is shared freely and
integrated into studies of benefit to all parties to the agreements.  Of
particular significance is the Rhine Alarm System which includes a system for 
forecasting the transport of dissolved or suspended material in the Rhine and
is used in times of accidental spills on a real-time shared information basis.

4.0        IMPEDIMENTS

4.1.1   Even the best information management systems produce data and
information containing errors and bias.  Because of climate change, land use
change and other factors, we can no longer depend wholly on past trends to
predict the future. This must be recogonized and when in doubt
the precautionary principle used in decision-making.

4.1.2   There may also be major limitations as to what hardware, software and
communications can be used due to infrastructure limitations.  If the basic
phone system is not up to international standards, then, for example, the
Internet cannot be used as the communications tool between nodes.  Central
databases become more attractive under such circumstances.

4.1.3   There are often scale and other factors that make integration of
natural resource information with socio-economic information difficult at the
local level.  Hydrological information is often collected on a river basin
basis, and land use information is available in a wide variety of map
scales. Socio-economic data is usually collected using political boundaries. 
These difficulties should be regarded as challenges to overcome, rather than a
reason not to integrate the information for decision-making purposes.

4.1.4   Certain adjustments to organizational and administrative frameworks
may become necessary to implement integrated information management.  This may
result in the need for legislative and policy changes.  A move to a
centralized database and integration of information from many
sources would most likely require major organizational changes and even the
creation of new agencies or institutions.  On the other hand, a
non-hierarchical distributed information network will require the
identification of node points within agencies and a requirement that data
observation agencies supply data to those nodes.  Additional protocols may be
required which define data standards, quality control and archiving

4.1.5   Communication policies may need to be reviewed and revised. A nodal
distributed information system works best when information can move freely in
a lateral direction as well as up and down.  Communication policies within
agencies may take a hierarchical approach whereby information between agencies
generally moves across only at the highest levels.  This is an inefficient
approach for sharing of information at the "working" level.  As a result,
policies and even long standing practices may need to change or be modified. 
A movement to more open information policies, particularly as they relate to
public and external agencies, may be required.  WMO is working, in
consultation with UNESCO and the non-governmental community, to develop a
draft policy on the exchange of hydrological information which may be useful
to consider in this context.


5.1     Adequacy of the Database

5.1.1   Integrated information is only as good as the database feeding it.  In
the case of hydrological and meteorological information the size of the
observation networks for  precipitation, discharge, water quality,
evaporation, groundwater and water level are inventoried at the national level
in the INFOHYDRO database of WMO. 

5.1.2   In 1991 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO) and WMO carried out an evaluation of water resources
assessment capabilities within the various UN Regions. That evaluation
concluded that countries had responded well in the late seventies to the
call by the Mar del Plata Conference to develop and strengthen their water
resource assessment programmes. Additions were made to hydrological data
networks, instrumentation was upgraded, investments were made in data
processing systems, and staff capabilities were improved.  However
this trend has reversed in recent years due to economic difficulties and
reduced budget allocations.  For example the number of operating rain gauges,
recording rain gauges and hydrometric gauges in Albania have decreased to
approximately 50% of the number operating in 1990.

5.2     Water Resources Assessment Capability

5.2.1   The lack of capability in 1991 was particularly evident in parts of
Africa, Latin America and Asia.  In general these are the same areas where
water scarcity is the greatest and the capability to carry out water resource
assessments is most critical to economic prosperity.  The report also
indicated that, where the capability to carry out water resource assessments
was poor, the ability to integrate and manage information was also poor.

5.2.2   In view of the importance of water resource assessments for economic
development, many bilateral donors and aid agencies have provided invaluable
support to developing countries in an effort to maintain or rebuild their
capabilities in this regard.  Such aid has provided funds for
equipment and training, but the weakest point has often been the inability or
lack of appreciation of the need for continuous long-term funding for these
activities so as to ensure their maintenance once external support has

5.2.3   One pre-request for planning and funding such activities is a clear
and comprehensive definition of what facilities, staff and other resources are
required.  For this purpose, WMO and UNESCO have produced guidance for use by
countries under the title "Water Resources Assessment - Handbook for Review of
National Capabilities".

5.3     Capacity to integrate information

5.3.1   Many developed countries possess the capacity to integrate the
necessary information.  A few notable examples are the use of the OECD
"Pressure-State-Response" model of environmental reporting which provides an
explicit framework for decision making; the integrated information
management system developed at the national level in Finland; and the state of
environment reporting by the Netherlands.  However the experience of senior
government officials would indicate that these evaluations have not
necessarily been built into the decision-making process to their
maximum potential.  There is still a tendency, even in developed countries,
not to link integrated resource, environmental and socio-economic information
into long term economic and financial planning.


6.1     National and Global Information Linkages

6.1.1   A number of nodes for water-related information already exist at the
international level.  Some are described below.  Ideally a national, regional
or basin node for similar sectoral information could serve as a gateway for
the flow of information to international nodes.  This would facilitate
the timeliness of the receipt of information at the international level and
would allow for quicker turnaround of information products back to the
national node levels.  There would be benefits both ways in terms of exchange
of analytical tools, development of new integrated products and the
capacity building of integrated information technology and decision support

6.1.2   Discussions are currently underway between the agencies overseeing
these international information nodes with a view to increasing their
coordination, establishing more direct links between them, integrating to the
extent possible and in general making them more accessible and
responsive to potential users.

6.2     Global Runoff Data Centre

6.2.1   The Global Data Runoff Centre (GRDC), established in 1988, operates
under the auspices of WMO and is supported by, and located in, the Federal
Institute of Hydrology in Koblenz, Germany.  The principal objective of the
Centre is to facilitate and optimize the information exchange of
streamflow data world wide.  The GRDC database contains contributions from
over 140 countries, and includes the data for 3200 hydrometric gauging
stations located in 2900 river basins. The quality and reliability of the
contributed data is verified before entry into the database.  The GRDC
has the capability to provide interpreted hydrological information and does so
for many organizations, such as those of the UN system, and for research
projects (www.wmo.ch/web/homs/grdchome.html).

6.3     GEMS/Water

6.3.1   The GEMS family of programmes, part of the United Nations Earthwatch
Programme, is organized by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).
Begun in 1977 GEMS/Water is implemented by the World Health Organization (WHO)
in co-operation with WMO and UNESCO.  It is an international co-operative
programme now involving 56 countries that voluntarily submit data
from their national surface and groundwater quality monitoring activities to
the Global Data Centre.  GEMS/Water also provides technical assistance,
carries out training in water quality monitoring and assessment, performs
inter-laboratory comparison exercises and provides training and standardized
computer software.  Since 1990 the Programme has moved into enhanced data
assessment and capacity building, and has worked with many national and
international institutions and donor agencies to foster progress in water
quality monitoring and assessment <http://cs715.cciw.ca/gems/>.

6.4     Flow Regimes from International Experimental and Network Data

6.4.1   The Flow Regimes from International Experimental and Network Data
(FRIEND) is a research project structured on a regional basis under the
International Hydrological Programme of UNESCO.  The focus of the activity is
an international collaborative study of regional hydrology.  As such it
contains information from smaller basins and experimental watersheds which may
not be found in other databases.  Since its inception in northern Europe in
1985 it has expanded to include six major international groups world-wide with
approximately 75 participating countries.  The database is not directly
available to external  users, other than the contributing countries, but
publications based on the FRIEND information are available:
6.5     Aquastat

6.5.1   The Aquastat programme was launched by FAO in 1993 with a view to
better assessing the situation of water use in agriculture. It focuses on
irrigation and drainage, and on water balances. One of the main objectives of
the programme is to better assess the state of water use for agriculture, as
well as the potential for future food production. Meant to collect information
at country and lower level, the programme was quickly faced with the scarcity
of reliable information on water use (mostly in agriculture) and the lack of
integration of water information. Emphasis is now put on integration of water
resources and withdrawal through geographic information systems. From a simple
data collection initiative, the programme has evolved towards more capacity
building activities through training seminars and national or regional rural
water information management projects:

6.6     Global Precipitation Climatology Centre

6.6.1   The Global Precipitation Climatology Centre (GPCC) is a component of
the Global Climatology Project of WMO and integrated into the Global Energy
and Water Cycle Experiment (GEWEX).  The GPCC was established in 1988 under
the auspices of the National Meteorological Service of Germany and became
fully operational in 1995.  The Centre collects precipitation gauge
data from around the world, applies quality control to the data, makes
corrections, and produces monthly precipitation means on a grid of 2.5 
degrees by 2.5 degrees latitude and longitude.  The information is based on
data from approximately 6,000 stations located in more than 130 countries. 
The database has recently been expanded to 40,000 stations to achieve a real
means at a grid density of 0.5 degrees.  The GPCC is not authorized to
disseminate data received from individual countries.  However, the derived
gridded data products are freely available (www.dwd.de/research/gpcc).  

6.7     World Hydrological Cycle Observing System

6.7.1   The World Hydrological Cycle Observing System (WHYCOS), launched in
1993 by WMO with support of the World Bank, is designed to provide reliable,
consistent and easily accessible hydrological information on key river systems
around the world.  WHYCOS is being developed in the form of regional
components (HYCOS's) within a framework of common guidelines and
standards, but designed to meet regional priorities defined by the countries
within the region.  The data from each site is transmitted in real-time
through the Global Telecommunications System of WMO to both national and
regional databases.  The programme is also designed to strengthen the
technical and institutional capacities of national hydrological services to
meet the needs of end users, including integrated information related to
status of water resources, trends and risks.  WHYCOS is in the early
implementation stages but should provide a source of high quality data on
the hydrologic cycle for use at the national, regional and international level
in the future


1.   Water scarce developing countries must act now to develop integrated
water resource management decision-making capabilities so that the negative
socio-economic and financial impacts of sector by sector decision making can
be reduced.  In support of integrated decision-making and a move to
sustainable development there need to be integrated information management
systems and adequate observational networks in place.

2.   All countries are urged to evaluate periodically their data collection
and information management systems to ensure they meet management and
decision-making requirements, are cost effective and user oriented.  In some
cases this may require changes to institutional, legislative and policy

3.   Developed countries, international organizations, and aid agencies may be
asked to assist in the transfer of information management technology, decision
support systems and network evaluation tools, and in general assist in
associated capacity building in developing countries and economies in

4.   UN Agencies, through the vehicle of the ACC Steering Committee on Water
Resources, may be charged with developing the framework for an international
level integrated information system that can build on existing initiatives
such as GRDC, GEMS/Water and Aquastat.  In particular, the initiative should
include the addition of water use, socio-economic, environmental and health
data. Governments are urged to support such initiatives directly
and host nodal components for which their agencies have particular expertize. 
As an example, consideration could be given to a common node for water
availability and water use.
5.   Governments are also urged to facilitate the international exchange of
water-related data as a basis for improved management of shared water
resources and to permit international studies of resource availability and
scientific research into climate variability and change.
6.   Strong support from national governments and funding institutions is
needed for international initiatives such as WHYCOS which are designed to
improve the availability of basin information that is needed for integrated

7.   UN Agencies, assisted by various partners, should periodically conduct
comprehensive assessments of freshwater, agricultural lands and other natural
resources.  These assessments would give visibility to critical problems and
assist in setting priorities for the global community.


1.         UN ECOSOC, Economic Commission for Europe, Committee on
Environmental Policy, Working Party on Water Problems.  Draft
Guidelines on Water-Quality Monitoring and Assessment of
Transboundary Rivers.  CEP/WP.1/R.13, 19 December 1995.

2.         Hoekstra, Arjen Y., Indicators of Sustainable Development - A
Case Study for Water, SCOPE Scientific Workshop on Indicators of
Sustainable Development, Wuppertal, November 15-17, 1995.
3.         UNESCO, International Hydrological Programme, Water resources in
the OSS countries - evaluation, use and management, May 1995.
4.         Ongley, Edwin D., Water Quality Monitoring and Management -
Modernization Issues for Developing Countries, UNEP & WHO
Collaborating Centres for GEMS/Water, National Water Research
Institute, Canada Centre for Inland Waters, Burlington, Ontario, 1997.
5.         Government of Zimbabwe, Notes on the organization of The Harare
Expert Group Meeting on Strategic Approaches to Freshwater Management,
28-31 January, 1998, Zimbabwe Department for Economic and Social
6.         Arriens, Wouter L., Bird, Jeremy.,Berkoff, Jeremy., Mosley, Paul,
Toward Effective Water Policy in the Asian and Pacific Region, Theme
Paper and Comments, Asian Development Bank, Manila, Philippines, 10-14
May 1996.
7.         Arriens, Wouter L., Bird,Jeremy.,Berkoff, Jeremy., Mosley, Paul,
Toward Effective Water Policy in the Asian and Pacific Region, Country
Papers, Asian Development Bank, Manila, Philippines, 10-14 May 1996.
8.         Arriens, Wouter L., Bird,Jeremy.,Berkoff, Jeremy., Mosley, Paul,
Toward Effective Water Policy in the Asian and Pacific Region,
Overview of Issues and Recommendations, Asian Development Bank,
Manila, Philippines, 10-14 May 1996.
9.         UN FAO,  Water Resources Management in Africa - Compilation and
Analysis of Activities of the United Nations Organizations.  ACC
Subcommittee on Water Resources, Prepared by Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy, July 1996.
10.        Najlis, Pierre., Kuylenstierna, Johan L., Twenty Years After Mar
del Plata - Where Do We Stand and Where Do We Go?  Mar Del Plata
Anniversary Seminar, Stockholm, 16 August 1997.
11.        Klohn, Wulf., Appelgren, Bo,  Water and Food Security.  Mar del
Plata 20 year Anniversary Seminar, Stockholm, 16 August 1997.
12.        Perks, A., Winkler, T., Stewart, B.,  The Adequacy of
Hydrological Networks: A Global Assessment.  World Meteorological
Organization, Technical Reports in Hydrology and Water Resources,
WMO/TD - No. 740, 1996.

13.        UN, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Activities of the
Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia in the Area of Water
Resources, Prepared for the Third Session of the Committee on Natural
Resources, 6-17 May, 1996.
14.        UN ECOSOC,  Activities of the Economic Commission for Europe in
the Area of Water Resources, Prepared for the Third Session of the
Committee on Natural Resources, 6-17 May 1996.
15.        UN ECOSOC,  Freshwater Resources in Asia and the Pacific,
Prepared for the Third Session of the Committee of Natural Resources,
6-17 May 1996.
16.        UN ECOSOC,  Freshwater Resources,  Prepared for the Second
Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, 16-27 May 1994.
17.        WMO/UNESCO,  Report on Water Resources Assessment, Progress in
the Implementation of the Mar del Plata Action Plan and a Strategy for
the 1990s, 1991.
18.        UN/Stockholm Environment Institute, Comprehensive Assessment of
the Freshwater Resources of the World, Published by the World
Meteorological Organization, 1997.
19.        WMO/UNESCO, Water Resources Assessment - Handbook for Review of
National Capabilities, June 1997.
20.        Kundzewicz, Z. W., Kraemer, D., Striving Towards Assessment of
Mountain Water Resources, World Meteorological Organization -
Hydrology and Water Resources Programme Internal Document,1997.
21.        UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Indicators of
Sustainable Development - Framework and Methodologies, 1996.
22.        UICN, Population Reference Bureau,  Lțeau - et la dynamique
demographique, Rapport sur lținitiative collaborative et lțatelier
organise a lțoccasion du Congres mondial de lțUICN a Montreal (Canada)
en octobre 1996.
23.        European Commission, The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and
Sustainable Development.  Brussels, 1997.
24.        Postel, Sandra,  Dividing the Waters: Food Security, Ecosystem
Health, and the New Politics of Scarcity, World Watch Paper, September
25.        WMO, Guide to Hydrological Practices - Data Acquisition and
Processing, Analysis, Forecasting and other Applications, 5th Edition,
WMO-No. 168, 1994.
26.        Natural Resources Forum, A United Nations Journal, Volume 21,
Number 3, ISSN 0165-0203, August 1997.
27.        ICOLD.  Position Paper on Dams and Environment, ICOLD, May 1997.
28.        Serageldin, Dr. Ismail, Will there be enough water for all
mankind in the twenty-first century?  Speech delivered at Water
Futures conference sponsored by Green Cross International and The
State of Geneva, 1997. 
29.        WHO, WSSCC, UNICEF,  Water Supply and Sanitation Sector
Monitoring Report - Sector status as of 31 December 1994,  Prepared by
World Health Organization, Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative
Council and United Nations Childrențs Fund, WHO/EOS/96.15, 1996.
30.        Hall, Alan J.,  Large-Scale Hydrological Studies,  Contained in
World Meteorological Organization, Commission for Hydrology, Working
Group on Applications, First Session, Geneva, 17-21 November 1997, 
Document HCAP-1/WP, 7, 11 November 1997.
31.        WMO,  Seventh Planning Meeting on World Climate Programme -
Water.  Final Report, WCASP - 45, WMO/TD-No. 854, Geneva, October

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Date last posted: 8 December 1999 15:15:30
Comments and suggestions: DESA/DSD