The pricing of water is not synonymous with the value of water. It reflects only a part. Depending on local social, ecological and cultural circumstances, water takes different forms that also must be valued when making collective decisions and trade-offs.

These are the starting points of the preamble of the first draft version, introducing five principles to recognise the full value of water. The preamble and five principles have recently been released by the High Level Panel on Water (HLPW).

The panel is about to close a global consultation tour on the principles and has now opened up the draft version to public consultation. The principles will also be discussed at the Stockholm World Water Week late August and the Amsterdam International Water Week early November.

The final version will be presented at the World Water Forum in March 2018 in Brasil.

dws-hlpw-valuing-water-litelu-350pxLucky Litelu of ICRD Foundation warns that valuing water must not become a bias of economists.

Demystify the concept
“We need to demystify the concept of valuing water”, said Lucky Litelu, CEO of ICRD Foundation on the occasion of the consultation in Johannesburg, South Africa on 30 may.

Litelu’s foundation is a think-tank to improve the development of Sub-Sahara Africa through collaboration and innovation.

Litelu mentioned the huge global water challenges ahead: “We already have droughts and water scarcity and we know that the global population will grow to 9 billion people by 2050. Therefore we need to put more emphasis on caring for this resource and put a value on it.”

He recognised that the valuing of water as a resource is a controversial issue as economists tend to look at the pricing of a commodity and the cost recovery only.

“If we discuss how to preserve this precious resource, we have to look at social and ecological issues as well. It is important that we disseminate the message not to overlook the social issues.”

dws-hlpw-valuing-water-bangladesh2-350pxParticipants of the consultation in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 31 July prioritise their key messages.

Five principles
The proposed common principles to recognise all values of water when making tradeoffs between different uses of water are:
recognise water’s multiple values
consider the multiple values to different stakeholders in all decisions affecting water.
build trust
conduct all processes to reconcile values in ways that are equitable, transparent, and inclusive of multiple values.
protect the sources
value and protect all sources of water, including watersheds, rivers, aquifers and associated ecosystems for current and future generations.
educate to empower
promote education and public awareness about the essential role of water and its intrinsic value.
invest and innovate
increase investment in institutions, infrastructure, information and innovation to realize the full potential and values of water.


Dutch water envoy Henk Ovink is special advisor to the HLPW, representing Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte who is one of the 11 Heads of State who participate in the panel.

About High Level Panel on Water
The High Level Panel on Water is an initiative of the United Nations and the World Bank. The panel aims to mobilize effective action to accelerate the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6), which focuses on ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, at a time of unprecedented challenges.

The panel was launched in September 2016 and has a two-year mandate to take a leadership in tackling the global water challenges.

The panel published an action plan that identified the need for more clarity on allocating, valuing, pricing and trading water.

On the issue of valuing water a special coalition, chaired by the Dutch government and supported by the Global Water Partnership, started to define the priniciples earlier this year.

The full text of the concept paper Valuing water: preamble and principles can be downloaded (as a pdf-file) here.

The concept paper can be commented on the HLWP website.

Read also on this website
High level panel on water: Catalyzing actions to get water issues at top of political agenda, 22 September 2016
Stockholm water week 2016: High level panel on water takes complexity of global water issues on board, 3 September 2016
Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte appointed to joint UN and World Bank high-level panel on water, 22 April 2016

More information
High Level Panel on Water

Comment by Lucky Litelu, CEO of ICRD Foundation, who attended the consultation in Johannesburg on 30 May.