Water is an essential resource for all life on the planet. Of the water resources on Earth only three percent of it is fresh and two-thirds of the freshwater is locked up in ice caps and glaciers. Of the remaining one percent, a fifth is in remote, inaccessible areas and much seasonal rainfall in monsoonal deluges and floods cannot easily be used. As time advances, water is becoming scarcer and having access to clean, safe, drinking water is limited among countries. At present only about 0.08 percent of all the world’s fresh water is exploited by mankind in ever increasing demand for sanitation, drinking, manufacturing, leisure and agriculture. Due to the small percentage of water remaining, optimizing the fresh water we have left from natural resources has been a continuous difficulty in several locations worldwide.
Much effort in water resource management is directed at optimizing the use of water and in minimizing the environmental impact of water use on the natural environment. The observation of water as an integral part of the ecosystem is based on integrated water resource management, where the quantity and quality of the ecosystem help to determine the nature of the natural resources.
As a limited resource, water supply sometimes supposes a challenge. This fact is assumed by the project DESAFIO (the acronym for Democratisation of Water and Sanitation Governance by Means of Socio-Technical Innovations), which has been developed along 30 months and funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration. This project faced a difficult task for developing areas: eliminating structural social inequity in the access to indispensable water and public health services. The DESAFIO engineers worked on a water treatment system run with solar power and filters which provides safe water to a very poor community in the state of Minas Gerais.
Successful management of any resources requires accurate knowledge of the resource available, the uses to which it may be put, the competing demands for the resource, measures to and processes to evaluate the significance and worth of competing demands and mechanisms to translate policy decisions into actions on the ground.
For water as a resource, this is particularly difficult since sources of water can cross many national boundaries and the uses of water include many that are difficult to assign financial value to and may also be difficult to manage in conventional terms. Examples include rare species or ecosystems or the very long term value of ancient groundwater reserves.