April 13, 2015 Society

Transforming Water Managment of the Future Through Innovative Regulation

A world where water is wisely managed and the right solutions to create a sustainable water future are implemented, could be within our reach. Today government ministers attending the Ministerial Conference of the 7th World Water Forum, Korea agreed to adopt the ‘Lisbon Charter’ for public policy and regulation of water and wastewater management. The adoption of the principles embedded in the “Lisbon Charter” forms an important stimulus for innovation in the water sector. Critically, it emphasises stakeholder engagement as one of its guiding principles.

Developed by ERSAR (the Portuguese national regulator), water regulators from around the world and the International Water Association, the Lisbon Charter is an international framework of good practice for public policy and regulation in drinking water supply, sanitation and wastewater management services. It contains clear reference to the rights and responsibilities of the various stakeholders and users.

The Lisbon Charter offers a vision and a practical platform for reforming water management for sustainable development. Through five key principles for public policy and regulation on water and wastewater services, the Charter provides a framework for transforming water regulation that can be universally applied:

  • Effective water supply, sanitation and waste water make a positive contribution to sustainable development;
  • The provision of services should enshrine accountability and transparency;
  • The economics of service provision should be framed by long-term infrastructure investments and cost recovery instruments;
  • Service provision should take into account the financial, social and environmental aspects of all water resources;
  • Effective service provision relies upon the collective actions of interdependent stakeholders.

The Lisbon Charter defines the roles and responsibilities of Governments and public administration, regulatory authorities, services providers and water users. These ensure water is distributed fairly and the water cycle is well managed for human wellbeing and environmental sustainability.

“There is a growing demand for innovative public water policies and regulations,” said Dr Ger Bergkamp, IWA Executive Director. “We are confronted with this when we discuss the financing of infrastructure, the involvement of the private sector or the demand for transparency in tariffs. We are also confronted with this when we review the use of new technological developments or emerging business models for water services provision.

“The drive to innovate public policies also comes from the expectation on governments to respond to the adoption of new frameworks at the international level, including the Human Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, the Sustainable Development Goals or new policies or agreements at the regional level.”

Public water policies and regulation remain obscure to many people, yet they determine how water services are delivered, the quality of those services and the price we all pay for them. Water policies and regulation can provide a critical breakthrough in reforming and transforming the water sector and attracting investments for much-needed infrastructure and human resource development.

Governments and public administrations have a critical role to play at all levels to ensure water services are reliable, of acceptable quality and have affordable prices. They must ensure the formulation and implementation of appropriate public policies including the creation, application and monitoring of norms, standards and best practice. Today a wide variety of models of public water policy and regulation exist around the world. The “Lisbon Charter” brings the experience of these together.

The Lisbon Charter goes beyond the role of governments alone. It covers the broader rights, responsibilities and good practices for each group of stakeholders by defining the roles of governments and public administrations, regulatory authorities, service providers, water professionals and end-users. For all stakeholders to accept their roles and live-up to the associated expectations continues to be a challenge for the water sector.

“The Charter provides a unique opportunity for all stakeholders to work from a firm ground and renew their contribution to the delivery of safe water, sanitation and wastewater services to all citizens around the world,” added Dr Ger Bergkamp.

To view or download the Lisbon Charter click here
Launch of the Lisbon Charter

When: Tuesday 14 April, 2015
Where: IWA Exhibition Stand, #C400, 1st Floor, EXCO Centre, Daegu, Korea


Water underpins every aspect of human and environmental existence. The severe water challenges facing the world today require an unprecedented global response. IWA members and staff are situated in more than 140 countries worldwide, forming the large... Read full biography