Marseille Statement on Urban Water Management


The UNESCO Symposium on Frontiers in Urban Water Management: Deadlock or Hope?

held in Marseille, France, from June 18 to 20, 2001, having considered the importance and urgency of addressing the management of urban water systems in a proactive and vigorous manner, and building upon the resolutions of previous international conferences and meetings, including the Dublin Statement (1992), the Agenda 21 of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (Rio 1992), the Beijing Declaration (1996), the Habitat-II Agenda (1996), the Declaration of Marrakech (1997), the Declaration of Paris (1998),the Paris Statement (Symposium on Water, City and Urban Planning, 1997), and the Ministerial Declaration of the Hague on Water Security in the 21st Century(2000), urges all stakeholders in urban water management to consider the guidelines, measures and recommendations listed below.


  • The current state of urban water resources, the result of long-term non-systematic development and piecemeal solutions to problems, is generally considered unsustainable, in all countries - whether developed, in transition or less developed.
  • Rapid growth of the urban population and the concomitant mounting needs for water services create formidable pressures on water supplies, on downstream lands, groundwater and stresses on receiving waters and their aquatic ecosystems, with an evident linkage to associated social and health issues.
  • Growing competition among various societal priorities - provision of food, health, education, economic development, ecosystem needs, and safe water and adequate sanitation necessitates new institutional structures to better handle aggregate demand. Current misuse of water resources leads to a diminishing supply of useable water and increases inequitable access.
  • Poverty, demographic pressure and the impact of globalisation and of other socio-economic factors means that the nature and the dynamics of urban water problems in the developing countries are substantially different from those of urban areas in the developed world. For instance, the growth of informal and refugee settlements poses grave supply, disposal and sanitation problems. On the other hand, cities in developed countries face ageing systems requiring urgent renovation. In both cases, adopting Abusiness as usual@ approaches can lead to critical situations.
Recognising the current state of urban waters, action is required to:
  • Continue and intensify the efforts to provide water and sanitation services to the one billion people without supply today and the even larger population lacking sanitation by ensuring adequate resources.
  • Facilitate and develop innovative ways for the delivery and financing of water services, including mixes of private and public ownership.
  • Search for a better integration of land use and water management within the overall environmental management, standardise water quality regulations and increase incentives and sanctions for their enforcement.
  • Protect human health against problems caused by the urban use of new classes of chemicals.
  • Include in urban water resource management decisions, protection of aquatic ecosystems and natural habitats against cumulative impacts of urban development and climate change through integrated management.
  • Reduce the growing losses of human life and material property in urban areas due to natural disasters, particularly floods and prepare for the impact of >climate change=.
  • Emphasise the development of novel approaches using emerging technologies that will reduce the use of treated water for sanitation, reduce leaks and waste, take advantage of rainwater as a resource, and that will lead to a fuller recycling and reuse of urban water.
The Symposium recommends
  • The adoption of total integrated water cycle management in urban areas. The first step is to identify barriers to integrated management and to search for means of improving co-ordination. Integrated water cycle management should include conservative water and wastewater management through the integration of stormwater, groundwater and surface water use, re-use of treated wastewater, and recycling.
  • To strive towards efficient, effective and sustainable urban water systems based on appropriate full cost recovery, including the application of well-conceived, socially sensitive, subsidies ensuring affordability of service.
and proposes
  • To develop and implement educational programmes on integrated urban water and environmental management, with assistance from UNESCO and its partners, at all levels, ranging from governments to general public. In developing countries, this program should facilitate access to modern technologies, best practice procedures and their adaptation to local conditions. Ensure government support for this program. The symposium invites the UNESCO/IHE Institute for Water Education to provide intellectual guidance in developing and monitoring the programme.
  • Define strategies and tactics for the appropriate implementation of integrated urban water management in all countries, including best management practices and procedures for the rehabilitation of systems
  • Find new ways of financing and managing water services in countries in transition and developing countries, with design and control closer to the people. One possibility would be to increase co-operation among water supply utilities. A global water-sharing program - citizens in water rich countries could reduce water consumption through conservation and donate some percentage of the savings towards an international fund supporting water supply projects in countries in transition and developing countries.
  • Develop and strengthen institutions for integrated urban water management, by enhancing public information and awareness, transparency of procedures, education, and public involvement in decision-making._
  • Establish and strengthen regional centres of excellence on urban water management, such as the new UNESCO Regional Centre on Urban Water Management in Tehran, particularly in countries in transition and developing countries. As part of this measure, reinforce the UNESCO endorsed network of urban water centres, such as IRTCUD and work with on going initiatives of the UN system, such as the cities programmes of Habitat and action plan on municipal wastewater of UNEP/GPA.
  • Emphasise concerted action by the international community and highlight the pressing urgency of collectively facing urban water problems in the national preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg (October 2002). Ensure that at the 3rd World Water Forum (Kyoto, March 2003) urban water management is a major theme, utilising the Virtual Water Forum, and promote a pre-forum donor conference. Undertake appropriate case studies in the UN World Water Assessment Programme in co-operation with the International Hydrological Programme.


  • the Symposium concludes that, considering the above, there are manifestly valid reasons to hold that threats of deadlock can be broken and that thus there is hope, and further stresses that institutions and technology, while being key components to success, must remain subservient to the goals of sustainability and social equity.

Return to the IUWRM main page Return to the IUWRM main page