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Can Water Productivity Improvements Save Us from Global Water Scarcity?

WASAG White Paper 1









Yu, W., Uhlenbrook, S.,  von Gnechten, R.,​ ​van der Bliek, J. 2021. Can water productivity improvements save us from global water scarcity?
WASAG White paper 1. FAO. Rome.​



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    The workshop “Can water productivity improvements save us from global water scarcity?” brought together over 30 experts from governments, international organizations, development finance institutions, academia and practice. The main objectives of the workshop were (1) to share knowledge about successful examples of improving water productivity in the field and its implications on water scarcity, and (2) to discuss what is necessary to create an enabling environment and policy
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    At the 2020 Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific (APRC35), FAO presented a technical paper titled Setting regional priorities to manage water for agriculture under conditions of water scarcity. The technical paper, and the proposal for a new Water Scarcity Programme contained within it, were widely endorsed by the 35th Regional Conference. This information document serves to provide an update on the follow up actions taken in response to APRC35 recommendations. It provides an overview of the five-year Water Scarcity Programme (WSP) for Asia and the Pacific region and progress made in its development. The WSP has now been developed in detail and is designed to support FAO Members in taking practical steps to address and manage water scarcity in a changing climate. The WSP is based on extensive scoping activities that FAO carried out between 2019 and 2021. It is a consultative document designed to allow the Regional Conference to provide inputs and comments for improvement.
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    In the Asia–Pacific region, water resources form the basis of agrarian prosperity and economic development. However, increasing water demand due to population growth, rapid industrialisation and urbanisation, and a changing climate undermine those water resources. Like many parts of the world, Asia–Pacific faces increasing water scarcity, with varying characteristics, causes and trends across a diverse range of countries at different stages of development. Understanding of the spatial and temporal differences in water scarcity across the region is, however, limited, and while policies and management strategies are under development in all countries, their effectiveness varies significantly. Responses to water scarcity are often reacting to acute issues such as drought or conflicts between competing water users; while regional and national level policies exist in most cases, they often lack subsidiary legislation, program development or the resources needed for successful implementation. The main objective of the present study was to develop an understanding of the dynamics of water scarcity across Asia–Pacific and how countries manage that scarcity—ultimately informing more effective management approaches that can be scaled across the region.

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