Francisco NUNES CORREIA Instituto Superior Técnico Av. Rovisco Pais 1049-001 Lisbon, Portugal
Water is an essential requisite for development and an essential element of all ecosystems. It is also the subject of a complex and diversified industry. As a result of its nature and importance in virtually all areas of economic activity, water is the object of sensitive policies with impacts across many areas of social life, especially in water-stressed areas. The path to sustainable development cannot, and will not, exclude new water policies. Therefore, an analysis of sustainable water resources management needs to pay attention to the formulation of water policies and to the institutions involved in policy formulation and Water resources management in the 21st century, in Europe and elsewhere, requires not only solutions to engineering problems typical of a traditional approach, but also a better understanding of the contextual processes involved in policy formulation and an appraisal of those processes. In simple terms, it matters not only how questions are answered, in a simple technical approach, but which questions are asked, which requires a better understanding of society and its formal and informal decision processes. Institutions are obviously a key element in the decision process. The formulation of water policies is a complex and dynamic process, to a large extent driven by forces that are deep-rooted and often poorly understood. A complete analysis of these highly dynamic policy formulation processes and related institutions is very complex and changes significantly from one society To a large extent, and taking a broad view, it can be stated that water resources management institutions reflect society, its actors with their respective goals, its fractures and its balances of power. Thus it is no surprise that water institutions are so diverse in Europe although they emerge from deep-rooted trends in history, culture and politics. The result is that the existing diversity can be interpreted in terms of the social movements and historical evolution of each society, with each case being unique but part of a The new European Union Directive Establishing a Framework for Community Action in the Field of Water Policy is a very interesting and stimulating legal document because it sets out to implement a common policy and harmonised action to achieve ambitious goals in the context of immense diversity. The purpose of this paper is to briefly present the main features of the Water Framework Directive, together with the three main and inter-related sources of diversity in European water resources management: the differences between Member States with respect to water availability and needs, the differences in the contextual factors of decision-making processes, and the differences in the basic legal Europe will be a lively and interesting laboratory for experimenting with water policies in the next two or three decades.