The water challenge: OECD's response


The OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050: The Consequences of Inaction documents some of the consequences of having too much, too little, or too polluted water. Subsequent work has focused on managing water scarcity, water quality, and water-related disasters. It has identified governance and finance as essential enabling conditions. Some of the work focuses on water for agriculture or cities.

The OECD is endeavouring to capture policy recommendations that derive from its past and recent work on water in a single, consistent and action-oriented policy paper. This endeavour is expected to come to fruition at the end of 2016.

Events   l   Policy Areas   l   Publications   l   Blogs, Articles & Speeches   l   Videos   l   Further reading


  • Improving Economic Instruments for Water Resources Management in the Republic of Buryatia (Lake Baikal Basin) - A major challenge facing the Republic of Buryatia is how to balance the task of protecting Lake Baikal – a unique water object and ecological system included in the UNESCO list of World Natural Heritage Areas – with the need for dynamic and sustainable socio-economic development of the republic. This requires streamlining and improving water policy jointly with economic, administrative, information and other policy instruments. The recommendations in this report aim to help achieve this objective | November 2016
  • Water risk hotspots for agriculture: The case of the southwest United States - this report analyses trends in agriculture for the US Southwest region, one of the most water stressed and productive agricultural regions in the world expected to face further water shortages in the future due to climate change and continued growth. It examines projected water risks by mid-century without additional policy action, and discusses the expected implications for the agriculture sector, based on a review of existing data and available publications | September 2016



On 13 December 2016, the OECD Council adopted a Recommendation on Water.

The OECD has been providing policy guidance on water to OECD members and non-OECD member countries since the early 1970s, covering a wide range of issues including water quantity and quality management, the management of water-related risks, governance, and pricing and financing water services and infrastructure. It covers water uses in agriculture, urban water management and related issues.

The Recommendation of the OECD Council on Water captures the main messages that derive from that work. It builds on a 2-year consultation process with OECD member countries, and stakeholders, in particular members of the OECD Water Governance Initiative. The Recommendation of the OECD Council on Water provides a unique source of policy guidance that help address the pressing issues that central and subnational authorities need to respond to.

 Download the PDF version


As economies and populations grow, and climate change intensifies, more assets, economic activities and populations will face water-related risks. Exposure to droughts, floods, and inadequate access to water supply and sanitation are costing us at least USD 500 billion per year. Investment in water security can help safeguard growth and well-being in the face of increasing water risks. See how Philadelphia, Israel and Brazil are investing in water security for better lives.


Policy Perspectives - Water, growth and finance OECD-WWC-Netherlands Roundtable on Water Finance - Investing in water security for sustainable growth - A call for action








PDF version   

Policy areas 

Blogs, articles & speeches


  • Water, like air and food, is our life support. It covers about 70% of the surface of our planet. But only 2.5% of it is fresh water, the rest being ocean, with a small fraction of that being available as drinking water. As a fragile resource, water must be nurtured with investment, management and care. From oceans and vaste rivers to the spring in the garden, we must safeguard our water as a source of well-being, prosperity and progress... We must turn water into a flow of new opportunities for green, inclusive, sustainable growth, OECD Secretary-General.

  • Water can be the source of a brighter future, OECD Observer editorial by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General | April 2015

  • OECD Observer articles - Environment & resources: water

  • OECD Observer crosswords

water viDEOS




Global Water Governance by OECD Secretary-General


OECD work on water - Brochure

further reading 


contact & social media


Related Documents