Water Resources, their Sustainable Use and Long-Term Approaches to their Management

The growing scarcity of water resources worldwide requires the adoption of sustainable water management practices and approaches, such as water stewardship.

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In her book, Pernille Ingildsen argues that achieving water-related sustainability requires a change of individual-level attitudes to this issue. For this reason, the monograph Water Stewardship offers a broad inquiry into the following, broadly conceived research question: ‘How do we become true water stewards?’ As this book suggests, the transformation of water use and management practices, to make them more sustainable, is likely demand establishing connections between affective attitudes, holistic analyses of water-related issues and pertinent actions guided by ecological integrity. Ingildsen likens the role of water stewards to that of shepherds that have historically been given the responsibility to guard over the sheep.

Based on that, local communities trusted that these animal stewards would take care of the herd, make sure its needs are met and protect it from adverse external or internal influences. Thus, to accomplish their roles, shepherds needed to adopt a long term perspective on their activities, while ensuring their environmental sustainability, e.g., by preventing overgrazing, a feasible access to water resources and the availability of shelter conditions against elements and predators. In other words, over time shepherds have evolved into stewards of the herds in their charge, which included taking the responsibility for the well-being of the latter. Similarly, this book argues that water stewardship entails taking the responsibility for human water consumption and its environmental implications.

According to Ingildsen, with regard to water stewardship, it is necessary to interconnect the big-picture understanding of environmental processes with a very long term perspective. Thus, agents in water steward roles ought to demonstrate in-depth reflection on how water should be treated and how relationships with water resources need to be shaped. Whereas water utility professionals have the knowledge of water consumption processes and have been entrusted with managing water resources, this book argues that their role also entails aspects of water stewardship for the implementation of which specialized concepts and individual-level reflexivity are needed.

Ingildsen, Pernille. Water Stewardship. IWA Publishing, 2020. Accessed November 27, 2020. https://openresearchlibrary.org.
Ingildsen, Pernille. Water Stewardship. IWA Publishing, 2020. Accessed November 27, 2020. https://openresearchlibrary.org.

Topical Spotlight

In the preface to this book, Pernille Ingildsen proposes that one needs “to spend time and attention in reflecting upon the future of water. As water has become a vital topic of the perilous global sustainability crises, this need becomes ever more acute. As technology gets better, we need to upgrade our moral, emotional, spiritual professional selves as well. My findings lead me to believe that this marks a transition from water professionals to water stewards” (Ingildsen, 2020, p. xxvi).

The urgency of water management issues derives from recent research reports, such as by the World Wide Fund for Nature, that highlight the need to build water resource resilience and to prepare for water scarcity in the long term. Around the world, a hundred cities, such as Jakarta, Mumbai, Johannesburg and Rio de Janeiro, are expected to be experiencing severe water scarcity by 2050, as their populations are projected to rise on average by 51% by that year. This also requires an adequate management of long-term water-related risks, the development of nature-based solutions and the establishment of public-private collaborations (Down To Earth, 2020).

Similarly, recent United Nations research reports indicate that at present approximately two billion people already experience high levels of water stress, whereas around four billion people worldwide are affected by intermittent water scarcity (Lozowski, 2019). These issues are compounded by the critical role that the availability of fresh water plays in multiple systems, such as electricity generation and energy production that can be adversely affected if water availability will decrease, due to extended drought periods, diminished seasonal precipitation and climate change effects (Copeland et al., 2019, p. 22).


These environmental imperatives have, therefore, let to the calls for implementing water stewardship practices, such as sustainable water management, in order to mitigate the looming water scarcity risks and their knock-on effects from which local communities are likely to suffer (Khalid et al., 2018, p. 8). This also apparently demands involving multiple stakeholders in water management practices, as part of increasing the efficiency of water use, protecting available water resources and ensuring their sustainable utilization over time (Krchnak, 2011, p. 16). Thus, the notion of water stewardship captures these long-term concerns about sustainable water use and its attendant risks.

Published by IWA Publishing in 2020, Water Stewardship, written by Pernille Ingildsen, has become available in Open Access at the Open Research Library in September 2020, as part of the KU Select 2019: STEM Frontlist Books collection.


Copeland, Christina, Sara Law, Maurice R. Greenberg, Amy Myers Jaffe, Joshua Busby, Jim Blackburn, Joan M. Ogden, and Paul A. Griffin. Impact of Climate Risk on the Energy System: Examining the Financial, Security, and Technology Dimensions. Report. Council on Foreign Relations, 2019. 22-31. Accessed November 27, 2020. doi:10.2307/resrep21839.5.

Down To Earth. “WWF identifies 100 cities, including 30 in India, facing ‘severe water risk’ by 2050.” Down To Earth, 3 Nov. 2020, p. NA. Gale OneFile: Environmental Studies and Policy, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A640392099/PPES?u=lirn17237&sid=PPES&xid=bd214908. Accessed 27 Nov. 2020.

Ingildsen, Pernille. Water Stewardship. IWA Publishing, 2020. Accessed November 27, 2020. https://openresearchlibrary.org.

Khalid, Imran Saqib, Samavia Batool, and Ahmad Awais Khaver. Water and the Private Sector: Accelerating Sustainable Corporate Water Stewardship & Collective Action in Pakistan. Report. Sustainable Development Policy Institute, 2018. 8-11. Accessed November 27, 2020. doi:10.2307/resrep24400.5.

Krchnak, Karin M. “Eco Logic: Involving Stakeholders in the Development of a Global Water Certification Standard.” Journal (American Water Works Association) 103, no. 8 (2011): 16-17. Accessed November 27, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41314784.

Lozowski, Dorothy. “Addressing water scarcity.” Chemical Engineering, 22 July 2019. Gale Academic OneFile Select, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A597895609/EAIM?u=lirn17237&sid=EAIM&xid=df153b3c. Accessed 27 Nov. 2020.

Featured Image Credits

Water Scarcity a Problem at IDP Camps in North Darfur, Shangil Tobaya, Sudan, January 15, 2014 | © Courtesy of Albert González Farran/United Nations Photo/Flickr.

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