Programme OS5b Governing water
Standards Applied to Water Use: An Attempt to Build up Normative
Author(s): Arnaud Büchs
Ph.D. Student in Water Economics
Laboratoire d’Economie de la Production et de l’Intégration Internationale
Université Pierre Mendès France, BP
47 – 38040 Grenoble, Cedex 9, France
Keyword(s): Water, Standards, Indicators, Water Needs, Sustainable
Development, Water Stress
Session: OS5b Governing water
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?
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
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.