OECD reports on water
The OECD series on water provides policy analysis and guidance on the economic, financial and governance aspects of water resources management. These aspects generally lie at the heart of the water problem and hold the key to unlocking the policy puzzle. A list of upcoming and past reports can be found below, including:
Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are contaminants of emerging environmental and health concern that have been detected in freshwater, wastewater and drinking water. They interfere with the endocrine system in humans and wildlife, and produce adverse effects such as developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune effects. Their presence in water raises concerns for the integrity of ecosystems and biodiversity. Addressing the challenges of EDCs in water is particularly complex due to their ability to trigger adverse effects at very low concentrations, their potency in mixtures with other chemicals, and the vast range of sources and entryways of this group of chemicals into the environment. This report presents new water quality monitoring methods, such as bioassays and non-targeted analysis, that are well equipped to capture the impacts of EDCs in water. These new methods supplement the traditional substance-by-substance chemical analysis of water quality. The report also outlines policy instruments to manage the chemicals’ lifecycle from source to end-of-pipe. It proposes tools and regulations that respond to the negative effects of endocrine disruption, even if the culprit chemical is still unknown. The analysis draws on case studies from OECD countries to provide practical examples and concrete policy actions.
This report presents the policy recommendations resulting from the National Dialogue on Water in Indonesia, which took place between June 2022 and March 2023. Getting water resources management right, underpinned with appropriate financing mechanisms, is a prerequisite for realising Indonesia’s ambitious national economic growth agenda to become one of the top five global economies by 2045. The Dialogue, therefore, centred around two priority areas: 1) financing water infrastructure and 2) non-structural measures for flood disaster risk reduction. The report explores several instruments to enhance the financing of water services in Indonesia, such as the advantages and disadvantages of uniform water tariffs, independent economic regulation, pollution charges and demand management instruments. The report recommends the utilisation of land value capture as an additional source of financing. It also explores how water information systems for disaster response, flood forecasting and early warning can reduce flood disaster risk. The National Dialogue on Water in Indonesia is part of a regional initiative with the Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Korea, the Asia Water Council and the OECD.
The EU Water Framework and Floods Directives have not only set the level of ambition for water resources management in Europe, but have also provided a model for other regions in the world. Effective implementation of the Directives requires that due consideration be given to their economic pillar, designed to support a cost-effective approach in member states and communities. Recent reviews indicate that there is considerable room to improve the integration of water economics within the framework of water resources management. This report captures the lessons learned from five thematic workshops co-convened by the OECD and the European Commission. It provides an overview of the challenges faced by EU member countries and opportunities to strengthen the economic approach of water resources management in Europe. Covering cost recovery, polluter pays principle, water scarcity, planning and financing, the lessons are relevant for regions and countries across the globe.
Despite remarkable improvement in water supply and sanitation services, Estonia faces finance and investment challenges to keep up with social expectations and environmental health regulations. With downward demographic trends expected to affect water utilities revenues and the projected phasing out of EU water funding, which was essential in the rapid improvement of service provision over the last two decades, substantial efficiency gains are required to transition towards sustainable water service provision. Towards Sustainable Water Services in Estonia presents a strategy and action plan to promote efficiency gains for water supply and sanitation services in Estonia, focusing on the consolidation of service provision. The report provides consolidation scenarios and accompanying measures, including depreciation methods for granted assets, and benchmarking methods going beyond cost comparisons to performance levels and the ambition of development plans. It also shares insights for countries facing similar challenges or seeking to improve the efficiency of water service provision. The project was undertaken in collaboration with – and with the financial support of the Directorate-General for Structural Reform Support of the European Commission.
Since 2006 Lithuania has taken steps to ensure higher operational efficiency and to reduce the disparity in prices for water supply and sanitation services. However, progress has been slow. Concerns have emerged regarding representation of small municipalities in consolidated utilities and increased costs for some consumers. Reform of Water Supply and Wastewater Treatment in Lithuania presents practical options to implement the national strategy towards the consolidation of water supply and sanitation services in Lithuania as a tool to foster operational efficiency and financial sustainability of the sector. Analyses and recommendations benefitted from discussions in two pilot regions in Lithuania, to test the practicality of consolidation scenarios and accompanying measures. Particular attention is paid to tariff setting and different modes of benchmarking – including development plans benchmarking - as tools to incentivise performance. The report provides insights for countries facing similar challenges or seeking to improve the efficiency of water service provision. The project was undertaken in collaboration with – and with the financial support of – the Directorate-General for Structural Reform Support of the European Commission.
The National Dialogue on Water in Thailand was initiated in 2021 under the regional initiative with the Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Korea (MoE), the Asia Water Council (AWC) and the OECD. The Dialogue covers two main topics selected by the Government of Thailand (ONWR). The first one is water demand management, with a focus on the Eastern Economic Corridor. The second one is financing water supply and sanitation. Both combine to support a sustainable and resilient development pathway for Thailand's fast-growing economy. The analyses and policy recommendations cover issues such as the design of economic policy instruments, water allocation regimes, increasing demand for reclaimed water, or benchmarking the performance of water utilities, and blended finance for water supply and sanitation services. They are informed by the expertise of Thai stakeholders, the OECD and the Asia Water Council. They can be a source of inspiration in other contexts in South East Asia and globally.
This report presents a summary of the key challenges and opportunities related to financing that contributes to water security and sustainable growth distilling insights from the Roundtable on Financing Water and related analyses. It covers a broad range of water-related investments, including water and sanitation services, water resources management, agricultural water and managing water-related risks (“too much”, “too little” and “too polluted”). It summarises findings from analysis of investments needs and financing capacities, trends in development finance for water and explores how water risks generate financial impacts for corporates. The report highlights options to address the financing challenge by strengthening the enabling environment for investment, making the best use of existing sources of finance, strategic investment planning and mobilising additional finance via a range of financing approaches. Finally, the report sets out a vision for future OECD work on financing water and for the Roundtable on Financing Water.
Microplastics are ubiquitous in the natural environment. This report synthesises the current state of knowledge on the sources, fate and risks of microplastics pollution. It then focuses on two sources of microplastics pollution, textile products and vehicle tyres, due to their substantial contribution to global microplastics emissions and currently largely absent policy frameworks to mitigate them. Several best practices and technological solutions can be implemented along the lifecycle of textile products and vehicle tyres to mitigate releases to the environment. The report proposes policy insights on measures and strategies that could help minimise microplastics emitted unintentionally from products and their potential impacts on human health and ecosystems.
This OECD Toolkit compiles policies, governance arrangements and related tools that facilitate the design and implementation of water management practices in line with the OECD Council Recommendation on Water. It is designed to inspire and support countries which have either adhered to, are considering adhering to, or aim to converge towards the OECD standard. The Recommendation was unanimously adopted by the OECD Council in December 2016. The adoption marked the outcome of a two-year consultation process with delegates from ministries active in the fields of agriculture, development assistance, environment, public governance, regional development, and regulatory policy, as well as with relevant stakeholders (the business sector, trade unions, environmental organisations) and the OECD Water Governance Initiative. The Recommendation puts forward an international standard with high-level policy guidance on a range of topics relevant for the management of water resources and delivery of water services. The areas covered include managing water quantity, water risks and disasters, improving water quality, ensuring good water governance as well as sustainable finance, investment and pricing for water services. The practices reported in the toolkit have been compiled by the OECD Secretariat, in close consultation with delegates from adhering countries. Regular updates will be made available.
|Water Governance in African Cities
The COVID-19 pandemic has acted as a magnifying glass on pressing water and sanitation challenges in African cities, stressing and widening inequalities, especially for the 56% of the urban population living in informal settlements, lacking basic handwashing facilities, and relying on public water points and shared toilets. Before the pandemic, African countries and cities were already facing mounting water challenges with, in Sub-Saharan Africa only, 418 million people lacking basic access to water supply and 717 million to sanitation, in addition to concomitant floods, droughts and pollution issues. Megatrends related to climate change, urbanisation and population growth add more pressure on water resources and require urgent attention for African cities to cope with future water challenges. Building on a Survey on Water Governance across 36 cities of all size in Africa, this report provides a regional overview of the allocation of roles and responsibilities for water management, the existence and implementation of institutional, policy and regulatory frameworks, as well as the critical governance gaps that need to be bridged in order to boost city government capacity to drive water security in the continent.
While COVID 19 has hit Peru particularly hard, with about 1.4 million cases as of March 2021, the pandemic further emphasised the importance of water and sanitation for health, the environment and the economy. The country is not yet on track to meet the targets of SDG 6 “Clean water and sanitation” by 2030, with 3 million Peruvians (9.2% of the population) lacking access to water services and 8.2 million Peruvians (25.2%) lacking access to sewerage services, and a large urban rural divide. In addition, between 2000 and 2020, floods affected an estimated 4.43 million people, while inadequate management of solid waste and some economic activities are amongst the causes of water pollution, leading to severe public health issues, and social conflicts. In the face of climate change and demographic growth, strengthening water governance in Peru is key for long term water security improvements. The report provides an analysis of water governance in the country and policy recommendations to: strengthen the multi sectoral approach to water; improve the use of economic instruments to protect and sustainably use water resources, its sources and related ecosystem services; and strengthen regulatory conditions to improved access to safe drinking water and sanitation in urban and rural areas.
In 2018, the city of Cape Town, South Africa, was close to the “Day Zero”, requiring all taps to be shut off and citizens to fetch a daily 25 litre per person. Though the day-zero was avoided, it is estimated that, at the current rate, South Africa will experience a 17% water deficit by 2030 if no action is taken to respond to existing trends. Lessons learned during that drought crisis have been valuable for the city to manage the short-term COVID-19 implications and design long-term solutions towards greater water resilience. As a result of a multi-stakeholder policy dialogue involving 100+ stakeholders from the city of Cape Town and South Africa, this report assesses key water risks and governance challenges in Cape Town, and provides policy recommendations towards more effective, efficient and inclusive water management building on the OECD Principles on Water Governance. In particular, the report calls for strengthening integrated basin governance, transparency, integrity, stakeholder engagement, capacities at all levels of government, financial sustainability and for advancing the water allocation reform to better manage trade-offs across multiple users.
The OECD and the Directorate-General for Environment, the European Commission department responsible for EU policy on the environment, joined forces to examine current and future water-related financing challenges faced by EU member states. These include investments needed to comply with EU regulation for water supply, wastewater collection and treatment, and flood protection. As part of the research, new data was produced on current levels of expenditure for water supply, sanitation and flood protection, as well as on projected needs. It supported a comparison across member states and substantiated tailored policy discussions in selected countries and at European level. This report captures the rationale for the research, the main quantitative outcomes and the policy issues and recommendations that derived from this two-year co-operation. Lessons from Europe outlined in this report can inspire similar research and policy discussions in other parts of the world.
Pharmaceuticals are essential for human and animal health but they are increasingly recognised as a contaminant to environmental and human health when their residues enter freshwater systems: psychiatric drugs alter fish behaviour; endocrine disrupting pharmaceuticals cause reproduction toxicity in fish and increased risk of breast or prostate cancer in humans; and the overuse of antibiotics is linked to antimicrobial resistance – a global health crisis. The situation is set to worsen with growing use of pharmaceuticals projected with economic growth, ageing populations, advances in healthcare, and increased livestock and fish production. This report helps to close the science-policy loop. It provides policy guidance to cost-effectively reduce human and veterinary pharmaceuticals in freshwater, and their associated risks to human and environmental health.
Blended finance can unlock additional commercial finance for water and sanitation and contribute to delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular on SDG 6 ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. This publication takes a commercial investment perspective and provides insights into three subsectors: (1) water and sanitation utilities, (2) small-scale off-grid sanitation and (3) multi-purpose water infrastructure and landscape-based approaches. The publication draws out recommendations for policy makers and practitioners to apply and scale innovative blended finance approaches where most appropriate.
This report aims to support the development of a sound economic regulatory system for the water supply and sanitation (WSS) sector in the Republic of Moldova. The prevailing policy framework calls for drastic developments in WSS to modernise and optimise WSS systems and improve operational efficiency (non-revenue water, staff-output ratios etc.) – in line with domestic and international commitments (including the Association Agreement with the European Union, the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement and the national WSS strategy). This report outlines ways and means for strengthening the capacity of the Moldovan government to provide sound regulation and that of WSS operators to deliver higher standards of service while ensuring the affordability of WSS services.
This report reviews how OECD countries can use their national adaptation planning processes to respond to this challenge. Specifically, the report examines how countries approach shared costs and responsibilities for coastal risk management and how this encourages or hinders risk-reduction behaviour by households, businesses and different levels of government. The report outlines policy tools that national governments can use to encourage an efficient, effective and equitable response to ongoing coastal change. It is informed by new analysis on the future costs of sea-level rise, and the main findings from four case studies (Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom).
|Managing the Water-Energy-Land-Food Nexus in Korea
This report assesses the key bottlenecks within the water-energy-land-food nexus in Korea, and proposes policy recommendations and governance arrangements to future-proof environmental integrity and enhance sustainable growth. The increasing pressure caused by urbanisation, industrialisation, population growth and climate change in Korea has led to more land consumption and augmented water supply, at the expense of the environment and at a high cost for public finance. Korea has engaged with the OECD via a national policy dialogue to explore best practices from the wider international community to better manage the nexus at the river basin scale.
|Managing Weather-Related Disasters in Southeast Asian Agriculture
Southeast Asia’s exposure to increasingly frequent and intense weather-related disasters is a growing concern for agricultural producers of the region. This study reviews policy approaches to droughts, floods and typhoons in Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam in an effort to identify good practices and strengthen the resilience of the agricultural sector.
|Strengthening Shardara Multi-Purpose Water Infrastructure in Kazakhstan
More than 8 000 large multi-purpose water infrastructures (MPWIs) around the world contribute to economic development, as well as water, food and energy security, encompassing all human-made water systems including dams, dykes, reservoirs and associated irrigation canals and water supply networks. This report looks at the choice and design of MPWI investment strategies that ensure a high economic return on investments and potential bankability, based on application of a computer model and lessons learned from 15 international MPWI case studies.
|Implementing the OECD Principles on Water Governance: Indicator Framework and Evolving Practices
Water and its improved governance are critical for economic growth, social inclusiveness and environmental sustainability. Three years after the adoption of the OECD Water Governance Principles, this report takes stock of their use and dissemination. It provides a water governance indicator framework and a set of evolving practices for bench-learning, building on lessons learned from different countries and contexts.
|Facilitating the Reform of Economic Instruments for Water Management in Georgia
This study assesses the use of economic instruments for water resources management in Georgia and considers options for reform following the 2014 signature of an Association Agreement with the EU committing to alignment with the EU’s Water Framework Directive. This includes the systematic use of economic instruments, including water pricing, to recover the cost of water services provided to households, industry and farmers, among other measures.
|Water Charges in Brazil: The Ways Forward
This report examines the current system of water abstraction and pollution charges in operation in Brazil. It assesses the current system’s implementation challenges and provides possible solutions. The report explores how water charges can be both an effective means for dealing with water security issues, and a tool for enhancing economic growth and social welfare.
As coastal area on the Baltic Sea in north-central Poland, Pomorskie faces unique challenges and opportunities associated with the transition to a green economy, a diversified economy, growing population and significant natural resources. This report focuses on the sustainable development of the oceans and coastlines surrounding the region, known as the blue economy.
|Improving Domestic Financial Support Mechanisms in Moldova's Water and Sanitation Sector
The water supply and sanitation (WSS) sector in Moldova is not financially sustainable. This report analyses several options for streamlining and strengthening domestic financial support mechanisms (DFSMs) in terms of both supply and demand, discusses different scenarios and recommends a number of actions to ensure effective DFSM implementation.
|Groundwater Allocation: Managing Growing Pressures on Quantity and Quality
Groundwater allocation determines who is able to use groundwater resources, how, when and where. It directly affects the value (economic, ecological, socio-cultural) that individuals and society obtain from groundwater, today and in the future. This report focusses on how allocation regimes for groundwater or conjunctively managed surface and groundwater systems can be designed to bring about the desired policy outcomes, in terms of economic efficiency, environmental effectiveness and social equity.
This report assesses the state of Armenia’s sanitation services, which are in poor shape, and proposes ways forward for reforming the sector. The state of Armenia’s sanitation services are inadequate, with 51% of the population in rural areas using unimproved facilities, causing direct damage to the environment and exposing inhabitants to health risks, and better access but degraded sewerage-system infrastructure in urban areas, posing health hazards due to potential cross-contamination between sewage and drinking water.
Agriculture is expected to face increasing water risks that will impact production, markets, trade and food security - risks that can be mitigated with targeted policy actions on water hotspots. This report develops the hotspot approach, provides an application at the global scale, and presents a mitigation policy action plan. The People’s Republic of China, India and the United States are identified as countries facing the greatest water risks for agriculture production globally.
The report, building on a policy dialogue with a range of stakeholders in Korea, analyses how economic policy instruments under the responsibility of the Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport can be adjusted to contribute to water policy objectives. It also investigates how Smart Water Management Korea, an initiative by K-water that combines information and communication technology with water technology, can be harnessed to better contribute to water management in the country.
After decades of regulation and investment to reduce point source water pollution, OECD countries still face water quality challenges (e.g. eutrophication) from diffuse agricultural and urban sources of pollution, that is disperse pollution from surface runoff, soil filtration and atmospheric deposition. This report outlines the water quality challenges facing OECD countries today, presents a range of policy instruments and innovative case studies of diffuse pollution control, and concludes with an integrated policy framework to tackle diffuse water pollution.
- OECD reports on water (2006-2016)
- OECD Environment Working Papers and Environment Policy Papers
- The OECD water challenge