Governance and Management

Inspired by the UN International Water Decade 1981-1990

The 1977 United Nations 'Water Conference' at Mar del Plata proclaimed the International Drinking Water and Sanitation Decade (IDWSSD), 1981-1990. Its aim was to provide clean drinking water and sanitation across the world. The decade focussed on safe water and sanitation for all by 1990. At the end of the IDWSSD water had been brought to over 1.2 billion people and sanitation to almost 770 million. In terms of percent receiving water services, the urban areas made good progress: from 77% in 1980 to 82% in 1990. In the rural areas water services went up from 30% in 1980 to 63% in 1990. Sanitation trailed behind, yet by the end of the decade urban sanitation coverage was about 70% and rural sanitation coverage was at 40%.

Among the challenges encountered during the course of the IDWSSD were that countries were not giving water and sanitary disposal a high enough priority; that organizations to plan, implement and operate water and sanitation services were often ineffective; that there was a huge need for manpower training and financing; that technologies used were not always appropriate; finally, that the management and use of water and wastewater needed to be tied in with water resources management, environmental protection and sustainable development.

Hence, this section of the timeline provides some insights in how, from the 1980’s onward, the governance and management of water and wastewater sector evolved and also how the scope widened from the management of water and sanitation facilities to include the broader physical environment.

For further reading on 1) the Corporatization of service providers, 2) the Emergence of Public Private Partnerships (PPP), 3) Regulation, 4) Capacity development, and 5) Quality and environmental management, please click the following link: