Programme  OS5b Governing water towards sustainability  abstract 209

Standards Applied to Water Use: An Attempt to Build up Normative Indicators

Author(s): Arnaud Büchs
Arnaud Büchs Ph.D. Student in Water Economics LEPII, Laboratoire d’Economie de la Production et de l’Intégration Internationale Université Pierre Mendès France, BP 47 – 38040 Grenoble, Cedex 9, France Email: Tel: +33

Keyword(s): Water, Standards, Indicators, Water Needs, Sustainable Development, Water Stress

Article: abs209_article.pdf
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Session: OS5b Governing water towards sustainability

Climate change, demographic concentration, new needs, sustainable development etc. are many

examples of uncontrolled mutations in space and time, which impact on the degree of satisfaction of water needs in

the world, and which call for a new analysis of the water issue. This renewal implies a furthering in the knowledge of

these questions in this context of increased uncertainties. It means, first, to have understood and assimilated the

crucial role played by water in the natural, social, economic, cultural and political environment, by having identified

the links which define Men-Water relations. Second, analysing the current water standards implies that we adopt the

representation of reality they provide as a reading grid. Furthermore, it is also a way to wonder whether this grid

corresponds to the future reality of human societies. Considering so would mean repeating the present development

schemes. Not considering so would bring about a new approach, looking for new dynamic decision-making tools

adapted to the realities of each field, in order to take into account present needs, as well as future ones. This process

is in keeping with the premises of development strategies in a perspective of sustainable



This paper aims to improve water needs’ indicators, by linking them with

development scenarios. Could current known and quantified uses become local, or maybe national, standards?

Could they be representative as thresholds discriminating relative abundance or shortage in accordance with the

present and the future water availability of a given population, country or region?


The main

indicators (Falkenmark’s Water Stress Index, Sullivan’s Water Poverty Index etc.) remain too general and static.

This means we should discuss:
- the limits and the gaps which prevent them from taking into account a country’s

or a population’s hydraulic reality;
- the question to know whether an identified water use can be

considered as a standard in a natural and social environment, specific to each case;
- the opportunity of a

multidisciplinary method.
The goal is to set the first steps to a new methodology based on water needs.


We expect that the confrontation between, on the one hand, water needs and, on the other

hand, water uses’ standards – as tools which allow to organize and shape the representations of water itself, and its

political, social, economic and technical modalities of appropriation and affectation to competitive or non-competitive

uses – will create a new kind of indicators.


By proposing a new methodology to link water

resources and water requirements and by highlighting the centrality of standards, this paper tries to open perspectives

in favour of needs-based water management.

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