Risks to universal drinking water security are accelerating due to rapid demographic, climate and economic change. Policy responses are slow, uneven and largely inadequate to address the nature and scale of the global challenges. The challenges relate both to maintaining water security in increasingly fragile supply systems and to accelerating reliable access to the hundreds of millions who remain water-insecure. A conceptual framework illustrates the relationship between institutional, operational and financial risks and drinking water security outcomes. We apply the framework to nine case studies from rural and urban contexts in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Case studies are purposively selected based on established and emerging examples of political, technological or institutional reforms that address water security risks. We find broad evidence that improved information flows reduce institutional costs and promote stronger and more transparent operational performance to increase financial sustainability. However, political barriers need to be overcome in all cases through internal or external interventions that require often decadal time frames and catalytic investments. No single model exists, though there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that risks to drinking water security can be reduced even in the most difficult and challenging contexts.
Hope, R.; Rouse, M. Risks and responses to universal drinking water security. Philosophical Transactions A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences (2013) 371 (2002) 20120417. [DOI: 10.1098/rsta.2012.0417]