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STRATEGY 2015 – 2020
FOR A FAIR WATER FUTURE

650 million people live without safe water. One in
three people – 2.3 billion – don’t have access to
proper sanitation. Water-related diseases kill
a child every minute. WaterAid

Water
Witness
International’s
vision is of a world where
freshwater is managed fairly
and sustainably so that all people
have access to the water resources
they need to thrive and are
protected against pollution,
flooding, drought
and conflicts.

Global water crises are the biggest threat
facing our planet and the global economy.
World Economic Forum

STRATEGY 2015 – 2020
FOR A FAIR WATER FUTURE

The water crisis is not so much one of absolute
scarcity but one of governance. It is rooted in
power, poverty and inequality, particularly
for women. United Nations Development
Programme

contents

70% of industrial wastes in developing
countries are disposed of untreated into
waters where they contaminate existing water
supplies. UN-Water

Welcome

2

Helping vulnerable
communities

4

Driving water
stewardship

8

Improving governance
and aid

12

Advancing knowledge
and communication

16

Delivering the strategy and
developing our organisation

20

Massive mismanagement and growing human
needs for water are causing freshwater ecosystems
to collapse, making freshwater species the most
threatened on Earth. Diversitas

Water will be the teeth of climate change.
Fights over water and food are going to be the
most significant direct impacts of climate change
in the next five to 10 years. World Bank
62% of the UK’s water footprint
is sourced overseas. WWF
Water scarcity is a globally accelerating
condition for 1 – 2 billion people worldwide,
leading to problems with food production,
human health, and economic development.
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
There is enough water for all of us –
but only so long as we keep it clean,
use it more wisely and share it fairly.
Ban Ki-moon
Among the many things I learnt as a
President was the centrality of water in
the social, political, and economic affairs
of the country, the continent and the world.
Nelson Mandela
1

STRATEGY 2015 – 2020 | FOR A FAIR WATER FUTURE

WATER WITNESS INTERNATIONAL

Welcome

let’s collaborate for
a fair water future.

Helping
communities

Driving
water
stewardship

Improving
governance
and aid

Advancing
knowledge
and
communication

Goal:
Water
security
for all

Research to spotlight performance
Innovation of progressive responses

In 2008 a group of scientists and development practitioners founded
Water Witness International to carry out research, take action and
advocate for better water resource management. Having worked
on water issues all over the world for many years we saw a clear
opportunity to craft new solutions to tackle the world’s spiralling water
resource challenges. Business-as-usual approaches by governments,
donors, the private sector and NGOs weren’t working, and in some
cases they were part of the problem. We envisaged a new type of
NGO. One led by water resource managers with hands on experience
of water politics and practice, providing on the ground, people
centred action, cutting-edge research and targeted advocacy.
Our theory of change towards a fairer, more secure water future is based on our conviction that:
1. People power or, citizen agency can activate water law and improve water security for all. Helping communities to
understand their rights, demand action and hold water managers to account plays a vital but neglected role in better
water governance. Our innovative work on social accountability monitoring drives pro-poor activation of water policy
and law.
2. Engagement with the private sector is central to ensuring a fair water future. Working constructively with businesses,
harnessing the reach of markets and demand for ethical production can drive sustainable resource use alongside
economic and social progress. This is why Water Witness International has been instrumental in the theoretical and
practical evolution of corporate water stewardship.

Support to change-makers
Evaluation of evidence and learning
Advocacy to drive change

We also see a cross-cutting need for improved knowledge and
communication on water. We contribute by linking local voices
and ‘on the ground’ evidence to national and global debates,
by ensuring rigor, reflection and learning, and by getting the
right information to the right people in the right ways.

on the shrewd use and development of our own resources
and people, so the strategy sets out plans for organisational
growth, and re-emphasises our commitment to value-formoney, high impact and ethical delivery.
Our strategy goes to print as the Sustainable Development
Goals are being ratified by the United Nations. It is clear that
achieving many of the goals will be contingent on our
collective ability to allocate, protect and use freshwater
in ways which avoid depletion, degradation, conflict and
vulnerability to climate change. We therefore believe that we
can make an important and unique contribution to fulfilling
the promise of the SDGs. Of course, we can only do this – and
can only realise our vision – by working in partnership, and so
we invite you to feedback on our strategy and to collaborate
with us in working towards a fair water future for all.

The diagram above illustrates the tactics we use across
these four core work streams. By testing and developing
our approach over the last five years we have grown into a
dynamic organisation with global reach at the forefront of
delivering positive change in the way water is managed.
In this strategy we reflect on our achievements and map
a path that will build our contribution to equitable and
sustainable development. Our ability to deliver depends

3. Governments need to deliver on their responsibilities for water resource management. Government agencies need
adequate funds, well-trained staff and political authority in order to manage water for the benefit of society now and
in the future. We work to improve policy and action on water, and support smarter delivery through advice, training
and oversight. We also challenge and help donors and NGOs to plan and deliver more effective aid.

2

Dr. Nicholas Hepworth
Executive Director, Water Witness International
nickhepworth@waterwitness.org

3

WATER WITNESS INTERNATIONAL

Helping vulnerable
communities

Most countries have decent water policies
and laws that prioritise the basic needs
of people and the environment. Legal
rights and duties are set out to
protect users against degradation
by pollution, depletion through
unsustainable abstraction,
damage from floods and
droughts, and conflict.
The trouble is that implementation is often
weak because those responsible lack capacity,
finances, or political support. Powerful water
users understand the law and use it to
guard their needs and interests. Vulnerable
communities reliant on water and related
ecosystems for their health and wellbeing are
less well connected and so less well protected.
Lax water regulation disproportionately
impacts the poor.
We work with communities to help them
understand and activate the law. We connect
them to the responsible public authorities and
legal processes. We equip communities to formally
challenge duty bearers so that their rights on water
are realised. This approach has unlocked action to solve
difficult water problems such as conflict, over-abstraction,
insecure tenure, or exposure to pollution, floods and
droughts. In serious cases of water mismanagement we will
facilitate community access to legal redress.
4

Through citizen agency 1 and community activation we
strengthen water governance. Civil oversight of water law
implementation is a crucial component of improved resource
management and climate resilience. Tracking the responses
to citizen action also helps to diagnose systemic challenges.
It generates evidence that we then use to advocate for
positive change so that the needs of the most vulnerable are
included in water resource decision-making. This approach
is termed social accountability monitoring.

On reporting these findings to the review of the USD$ 600
million Water Sector Development Programme, the World
Bank labelled our work ‘a vital oversight mechanism’, the
Ministry of Water said it was a ‘welcome wakeup call’ and
formal commitments were made to address the problems
we identified.
Fair Water Futures, East and Southern Africa
Our Fair Water Futures programme scales up our social
accountability monitoring work and will improve water
security for over half a million vulnerable people in Tanzania
and Zambia. Supported by UK Aid and the Scottish
Government, we are on track to deliver at a cost of less
than £1 per beneficiary. As well as activating and auditing
implementation of water resource law, Fair Water Futures
also innovates the tracking of sector budgets and human
resource availability to drive improvements in performance,
aid effectiveness and to combat corruption. To embed the
impact of the work we have involved our regional partners
from the outset. Our transferable methodology is being
shared globally.

What we’ve achieved
Water Equity Reporting, Tanzania
In 2009 we pioneered the use of social accountability
monitoring of water management with partners in Tanzania.
Our research flagged how water use by the poor was
unrecognized in the eyes of the law, and was impacted by
pollution and conflict. We traced these problems to poor
performance of basin authorities, in turn related to late or
partial receipt of budgets and skewed, unrepresentative
composition of decision-making boards.
1  ‘Citizen agency’ is about enabling people to get information quickly, cheaply and reliably;
to monitor and discuss what’s going on; to speak out; and to influence society and governance
(Twaweza, 2013).

5



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