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1. Background

Growing demands for water and the increasing costs of water supply are resulting in a need for countries to maximize the use of their existing water supplies and make use of hitherto unexploited freshwater resources. Numerous techniques, modem and traditional, for improving the use, and augmenting the availability, of water resources have been developed and implemented in different parts of the world. These include, among others, wastewater reuse and recycling, desalination, and rainwater harvesting. In many developing countries, the application of these technologies has been limited by lack of information on the approaches available and how well they work.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, even where rainfall is abundant, access to clean water has been restricted by the contamination of water resources, the lack of adequate storage facilities, and the absence of effective delivery systems. In the Caribbean, many small island states also face severe constraints in terms of both the quantity and the quality of freshwater due to their particular geographical, geological, topographic, and climatic conditions.

Chapter 18 of Agenda 21, the Action Programme of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992), deals with the utilization of appropriate technologies in water supply and sanitation. Improved access to information on environmentally sound technologies has been identified as a key factor in developing and transferring technologies to and among developing countries. Chapter 34 of Agenda 21 addresses this need by promoting the transfer of environmentally sound technologies, through improved cooperation and building capacity, among developing countries. The primary means of transferring environmentally sound technologies is through improved access to technical information that will enable developing countries to make informed choices that will lead to the adoption of technologies appropriate to their situations.

To provide the basis for such informed choices, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), in cooperation with the Unit of Sustainable Development and Environment (DSD) of the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS), undertook the Project on Alternative Technologies for Freshwater Augmentation in Latin America and the Caribbean. An agreement to execute the project was signed by the two organizations in May 1995. UNEP is represented in the project by the Water Branch, located in Nairobi, Kenya, and by the International Environmental Technology Centre (IETC), in Shiga, Japan.

To gather the information necessary to develop an inventory of available technologies, UNEP and the OAS sponsored two Workshops on Alternative Technologies for Freshwater Augmentation in Latin America and the Caribbean. The first, for Latin American countries, was held from September 19 to 22, 1995, in Lima, Peru, hosted by the Instituto Nacional de Recursos Naturales (INRENA). The second, for Caribbean countries, took place from October 24 to 27, 1995, in Christ Church, Barbados, hosted by the Caribbean Meteorological Institute (CMI). Both Workshops were supported by the Inter-American Program of the OAS Inter-American Center for Development, Environment, and Territorial Research (CIDIAT). The results form the contents of this Source Book of Technologies for Freshwater Augmentation in Latin America and the Caribbean. The technologies listed in the present volume will be compiled by UNEP, together with those from other regions, to form a Global Source Book on Technologies for Freshwater Augmentation in Developing Countries.

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