Water Resources and Coastal Areas

Inland, coastal and marine water resources and their management will be a decisive factor in the economic future of our hemisphere. The economic, social and environmental concerns and prospects surrounding water resource management offer the countries of the Americas a rare opportunity for constructive collaboration between insular and coastal States. Taking this into account, and recognizing mandates that resulted from the Summit in Santa Cruz, the region has been successful in implementing various programs and projects that address issues pertaining to potable water, integrated water resources management and coastal and marine resources.

Potable Water

Regarding the issue of potable water, the most notable change since the Santa Cruz Summit has been that trends in water treatment have shifted. Traditional forms of water treatment and management have been replaced with integrated, multi-institutional environmental protection efforts. Some examples of this are the following:

  • Mexico's Clean Water Program and Brazil's Safe Water Project were implemented to improve the quality of their drinking water while working to protect water resources and enhance installation and rehabilitation techniques;
  • In the Caribbean, Barbados, Belize, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago have notably improved efforts in pollution control and coastal area practices;
  • Colombia is creating a Clean Water Information System, which will serve as a planning mechanism to help prioritize investments and facilitate coordination among the entities responsible for water basin conservation; and
  • Several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have established and or strengthened their water laws to incorporate concepts of environmental conservation.

Integrated Water Resources Management

Since the Santa Cruz Summit, a new approach to water management has been undertaken which supports management decentralization, an increase in public participation, and the view that water is an economic asset for sustainable growth. Two countries have made marked efforts to implement this new managerial approach:

  • Jamaica, 1 January 1997: established a permit and licensing system that minimizes development-induced environmental damage by using environmental auditing and impact assessment.
  • Peru: adopted new water legislation that encourages the decentralization and privatization of water management.

Public participation, access, and education have improved in several countries:

  • Brazil: created the Citizens for Water Movement to foster community involvement in water resources development;
  • Argentina: initiated school and community educational activities to raise awareness; and
  • Peru: developed training programs for water users and created a series of workshops, entitled "Environment: Institutional Participation and Citizenship."

Transboundary water issues have led to the creation of several projects which establish bilateral agreements between the following countries:

  • Canada and the United States, October, 1997: the Great Lakes Information Network conference offers information about the protection of their lakes;
  • Brazil and Uruguay: integrated the management of the Cuareím River Basin;
  • The Caribbean Project for Planning for Adaptation to Climate Change assists eleven Caribbean countries with adaptation to global climate change; and
  • Countries, including Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, have adopted a "user/polluter pays" initiative to improve water allocation and pollution control.

Coastal and Marine Resources

In an attempt to combat pollution and degradation that has been caused by oil activities and the disposal of urban wastewater and industrial waste in the coastal areas, the following have been established or carried out:

  • Seminar on Integrated Water Resources Management: Institutional and Policy Reform - Port of Spain, Trinidad, 24-27 June 1997: addressed the need to manage water resources in an integrated manner;
  • Jamaica helped negotiate the Protocol on Land-Based Sources and Activities that Pollute the Marine Environment; and
  • Regarding the Caribbean, support has been garnered from the GEF, the IDB, the Caribbean Development Bank, FAO, CIDA, and the governments of France, the Republic of China, Japan and the United States to place emphasis on coastal-zone management.


  • Chronic problems pertaining to water pollution, degradation and human health will persist unless water-resources management becomes more integrated.
  • The implementation and continued maintenance of an integrated water management system is extremely costly.
  • There is a general lack of information concerning transboundary water resources issues.
  [Bolivian Summit/tracker.htm]