Water is an important resource as well as a constraint to the development of a region. Owing to the multiplicity of dimensions associated with water resource management, it crosses several disciplines and often calls for an integrated approach towards it. This paper argues for using water accounting as an appropriate tool for decision-making in regional water resource management through an illustrative case study of Yamuna sub-basin. It enunciates the importance of functional use values of river water, the need for action to safeguard them through priority-setting based on the economic values of uses, and bring in consistency into policy making. It suggests that a river basin agency can be set up for the study of basins, which can operate within an identified framework to achieve the goals of water management cost effectively. Finally, an institutional framework for policy and decision-making using water resource accounts is delineated.
Water is an important element of ancient as well as modern human life in several ways. It supports vegetation, crops and aquatic life; it supports industrial operations, trade, transport, and commerce; and finally, it supports mundane to occasional deeds like bathing and recreation; and importantly it also serves as a sink to several wastes. Fresh water deserves special mention, as it supports most of the human needs and is unevenly distributed on the surface of earth as well as in atmosphere. River water is an important and dominant form of fresh water that needs particular attention. Historically, it is this importance of water resource that led to concentration and development of societies along sources of water, and they flourished, where water is available in plenty. This pattern of development has been further catalyzed by the emergence of urban areas having all types of industry, agriculture and livestock, trade and commerce services. When urban growth gets accentuated by the expansion of industrial and service sector activities, the demand for water exceeds availability of local or nearby water resources; this, in turn, affects the allocation to various uses of water.
The diversion of water from one sector to another and one area to another becomes essential, when demand for water exceeds what is supplied; otherwise, it becomes imperative to import water from other basins through long distances at high economic, social and environmental costs. Over and above these costs, we find ourselves in a situation, wherein intense conflicts are taking place, across the sectors of water use as well as over geographical areas. All these compel adoption of new regional and local approaches for planning and management of the resource within a sustainable development framework (Paredes 1997). Sustainable development, as defined by Brundtland commission (WCED 1987), is 'the development that meets the needs of present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs'. Sustainable water resource systems are one such means for achieving sustainable development that are designed and managed to fully contribute to the objectives of society now as well as in future, while maintaining their ecological, environmental, and hydrological integrity. (ASCE 1998, cited in LoucksetaZ. 2000).
Although it has been argued that crisis situations themselves result in solutions, even in the case of conflicts (Tortjada and Biswas 1997), regional water resources management needs to blend the means of combining technical, economic and legal solutions in solving the conflicts that arise between various users. Federal Government, in particular, can play a major role in managing water quality and quantity-be that through its policies which influence user consumption, or by forging alliances with private sector in the management of water resources. However, while formulating regional water policy, information regarding parameters, evaluation criteria and behavioral models are important for the policy makers. …