Water4Dev Team

Water4Dev is a team within the Water Resources Unit which is one of several scientific units that make up the Institute for Environment and Sustainability (IES) at the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Ispra, Varese, Italy.

Water4Dev activities address issues related to water resources in developing countries. 



The current fields of interest on which we are working are:

Linking science and policy in developing countries:

I. EUrocLima


III. ACE Water

Knowledge Management

IV. AquaKnow


Guidance and technical assistance

VI. Water Project Toolkit

Research axes

VII. Water for growth and poverty reduction in the Mekrou transboundary river basin (Burkina Faso, Benin and Niger) project

VIII. Environmental basis for the sustainability of local food production (Bases Ambientales para la Sostenibilidad Alimentaria Local -BASAL)

IX. Actively involving the participation of society in water adaptation to global change (BEWATER)





Keywords: Water Resource Management in developing countries, Knowledge Management Systems, Analytic and Decision support tools, hydroinformatics, Information and Monitoring Systems, Centres of Excellence, Water actor networking, Water sector Capacity building and technology transfer, Water Governance, GIS, Remote Sensing, assessment of impact of Climate Change on water resources and food security, impact of Climate variability on water resources, water-energy-agriculture nexus

Description of Activities: Development of water resource management support tools for policy/decision makers, web-based knowledge management information systems, analytical tools, decision support tools and hydroinformatics for the water sector in developing countries, support to water stakeholders through scientific and technical capacity building, cooperation and networking, linking water science with policy, promoting dialogue and collaboration between science and society, transboundary water resource management, fostering economic green growth. 

Work Program: Development of knowledge management systems in the Water sector supporting policy makers (European Union Water Initiative - EUWI) and stakeholders in the field (Aquaknow and Capacity4Dev). Data collection and geo-spatial analysis of water resources in developing countries. Analysis, evaluation and monitoring of water indicators and projects. Provision of coordination and support services to Water Centres of Excellence. Building tools for the resilience of water management practices and food production to climate change effects. 

Science and Research: Development of advanced knowledge management tools, linking geo-spatial analysis and socio-economic data in the water sector, development of hydroinformatics for transboundary water resource management, Development of water resource management support tools for policy/decision makers, modelling of water resource management options.



Project descriptions


Context: At the last EU-Latin American (LA) summit in May 2008, leaders signed the Lima Declaration, a key theme of which is climate change. The Lima Declaration identifies EUROCLIMA as an EU-LA environmental programme with a special focus on climate change and the following main objectives: to share knowledge, to foster structured and regular dialogue at all levels, and to ensure synergies and coordination of current and future actions. More precisely, EUROCLIMA aims to provide Latin American decision makers and the scientific community with better knowledge of climate change and its consequences, particularly with a view to integrating these issues into sustainable development strategies. The project duration is three years, starting from 2010.

The objectives of the EUROCLIMA Programme are to help:

• Reduce people's vulnerability to the effects of climate change in conjunction with the fight against poverty, and promote sustainable development by increasing understanding of how action at national level affects the rest of the region.  

• Reduce social inequalities, especially those linked to climate change, and facilitate sustainable social development.

• Reduce the socio-economic impact of climate change through cost-efficient adaptation measure that can generate sub-regional and regional synergies.

• Reinforce the dialogue on regional integration with the aim of setting up a permanent consultation mechanism for a joint review of shared goals.

The expected results of the EUROCLIMA Programme, in line with the Lima Declaration, are:

• Enhanced policy dialogue on climate change issues, which will increase awareness and raise political visibility at national, sub-regional and regional level.

• Better sharing of scientific and socio-economic information and data on matters related to climate change.

• Strengthened technical capacities to help ensure the greater ownership of beneficiaries and the reinforcement of national and regional expertise and skills.


II. Latin American network of knowledge centres in the water sector (RALCEA)

Context: In Latin America there are a number of knowledge institutions with a high level of technical expertise and with many years’ experience in the water sector. However, these institutions have traditionally worked independently, isolated from each other, and disconnected from the policy level. The EU has acknowledged the significance of assisting Latin American countries in the water sector through partnerships to further strengthen multi-stakeholder policy dialogue and to help strengthen institutions, in line with its main policy dialogue instrument in the water sector, the EU Water Initiative (EUWI). This project will improve the water management governance, starting with technical level cooperation, in order to impact decision making at the political level.


The specific objective of the RALCEA Project is to foster information-based policy and to promote south-south cooperation on capacity development in the water sector by supporting the development of a network of knowledge centres. The project duration is four years, starting from the second half of 2010.

The expected results of the RALCEA Project are to support the establishment of a network of knowledge centres in the Latin American water sector. To this end, a plan of activities to improve and reinforce coordination of the research carried out by knowledge centres will be implemented, with the aim of supporting policy decision making. A common strategic plan for capacity development will also be established. Emphasis will be put on technical training for scientific and technical staff as well as policy-makers, in order to reinforce mutual understanding. Therefore, the development of capacities in the water sector in Latin America is expected to contribute to the sustainable management of water resources and to facilitate information-based policies, in line with the objectives of the EU Water Initiative in the region.


III. NEPAD African Western and Southern Networks of Centres of Excellence in Water Sciences (ACE Water)

Context: The Water Centres of Excellence (WCoE) networks are an initiative of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) which aims to create a network of institutions involved in research, education and innovation within the water sector in Africa. Such a network would provide the basis for members to communicate and collaborate in order to build capacity and stimulate innovative research within the water sector in the African continent.  

The JRC, on behalf of the European Commission, supports the NEPAD initiative with a series of  specific activities:

  • Supporting the regional networks of Centres of Excellence in the water sector with specific capacity-building activities
  • Implementing the Water Sector Wide Programmes through the regional networks of Centres of Excellence in pilot countries
  • Developing guidelines and policy dissemination at continental, regional and national level
  • Supporting knowledge management and development at regional level in the water sector


Two networks are currently active, one in Southern Africa and one in Western Africa.


NEPAD Southern African network of Water Centres of Excellence:

1.  Stellenbosch University (South Africa) – coordinator

2. International Centre for Water Economics and Governance in Africa (Mozambique)

3.  University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa)

4.  University of Western Cape (South Africa)

5.  University of Malawi (Malawi)

6.  University of Zambia (Zambia)

7.  University of Botswana (Botswana)

8.  The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, CSIR (South Africa)


NEPAD Western African network of Water Centres of Excellence:

  1. University of Cheikh Anta Diop (Senegal) - coordinator
  2. International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering (Burkina Faso)
  3. University of Benin (Nigeria)
  4. National Water Resources Institute (Nigeria)
  5. Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (Ghana)


The role that the Centres of Excellence will play at continental level is of particular relevance as they will provide scientific reference for some of the most important continental and regional actors in the water sector: the African Ministers' Council on Water (AMCOW), the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).


IV. AquaKnow

Context: At the 2009 World Water Week (16-22 August) event in Stockholm, organised as part of the EU Water Initiative (EUWI, http://euwi.net/), the Joint Research Center (JRC) of the European Commission introduced the Aquaknow platform (www.Aquaknow.net) as a new information tool for effective knowledge management in the international water policy community. The Aquaknow platform has been designed to promote dialogue between stakeholders on water issues all over the word, and keep the public up-to-date with current activities in the water sector. The platform represents an important part of the EUWI’s efforts to improve access to water and sanitation in developing countries and is expected to facilitate the harmonisation of EUWI-related policies.


Aquaknow is a collaborative workspace and content management system dedicated to technical and scientific knowledge for the sustainable development of the water sector.

Knowledge management and capacity building are key elements in the design and implementation of sustainable water management policies.

The objective of Aquaknow is to be a dynamic platform for sharing knowledge on issues related to the water sector, which gathers and provides dynamic tools to manage scientific and technical information. These tools are a powerful means by which to share documents, data, information, ideas and experiences, and to find help and work with other stakeholders involved in the water sector.

The Aquaknow platform is designed for experts and practitioners of the institutions involved in the water sector such as governmental and non-governmental organisations, universities and research centres, international organisations, the private sector, water utilities, basin agencies, etc.

As in other interactive web platforms, users are central, as they are the providers of information and share it online through a user-friendly interface.

Aquaknow is organised in two axes:

- Knowledge Management: information is organised into thematic indexes and under the following sections: the news, events and library section, in which information is stored in various formats as documents or links; the capacity-building section provides users with an inventory of training sessions, workshops, seminars and methodological tools; the tools and data section, which includes databases and support tools for the water sector. These thematic indexes are user-fed and thus directly updated by members.

- Building a community with interactive and user-friendly tools allowing for distance working and improving exchanges between networking users. The Working Groups section is a specific space available for the development of collaborative work.


V. The Water and Energy facilities Information System (WEIRS)

Context: The WEIRS project was launched by DG DEVCO and the JRC in order to provide technical support to DG DEVCO in managing calls for proposals of the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP)-EU Water and Energy Facilities. The project aims to:

- centralise project and applicant information for better data and process management;

- assess the quality and impact of the projects funded by the Facilities;

- design the future calls for proposals Facilities on the basis of lessons learnt;

- ensure that Water and Energy Facilities (W&EF) are more transparent and visible.


WEIRS is a set of two online databases of information on proposals submitted to the successive calls for proposals of the ACP-EU Water and Energy Facilities since 2004 (http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/where/acp/regional-cooperation/water/index_en.htm). General, geographic, technical, financial and administrative data on 2500 proposals has been introduced into the databases to date. The WEIRS databases are accessible online through the Aquaknow.net and EU Energy Initiative (EUEI.net) web portals. The system allows users to:

1.      search the proposal database;

2.      view and edit proposal data sheets;

3.      display the search results on a customised map;

4.      export project, actor and technology lists to Excel for offline data analyses.

The second result of WEIRS is the development of an offline analysis of the project data. The purpose is to give a “multi-point of view” overview of the calls for proposals at all process steps, illustrating the many advantages of the analytical features offered by the WEIRS database systems. An analysis of the proposals received during the selection procedure is useful as it provides a reference for evaluation. After the procedure is closed the analysis helps provide feedback on any appeals of the call for proposals and supports the design the future calls for proposals on the basis of the lessons learnt. Analysis of the awarded projects of a single or several calls for proposals provides a picture of the results and gives insights into possible impacts of the Facilities.


VI. Water Project Toolkit

Context: The European Union, through the European Commission (EC) and the Member States, has made a significant contribution to the international debate on the impending world water crisis and the measures needed to address it. The Water Project Toolkit for Water Resource Development Cooperation aims to help translate international consensus into actual cooperation activities. The Water Toolkit is also intended for use by decision-makers in government, the private sector, civil society and international organisations of all kinds involved in water resources management.

The Toolkit is designed to foster a 'strategic approach for the equitable, efficient and sustainable management of water resources'. The approach is based on internationally agreed core principles concerning the need to protect the eco-system, and to extend the health-giving and productive properties of freshwater resources equitably, efficiently and sustainably among humankind, with special emphasis on less advantaged populations. The application of the strategic approach facilitates an open and flexible process in which sensitivity to changing trends and local economic, social and environmental circumstances can be reflected. At each stage of the process, the Toolkit provides a set of practical checklists to implement the Guiding Principles at the heart of the strategic approach in different contexts, and to identify potential problem areas and responses.


The Water Project Toolkit objectives are to enable all users to improve the quality of their water-related work. More precisely, the Toolkit helps to elaborate a project's framework in conformity with contemporary international thinking relating to water resource management and service delivery, and aims to facilitate the application of that thinking within national and regional policies, programmes and projects.

The Toolkit is designed to be used on its own or in tandem with supplementary tools and data. In the interests of brevity, it summarises trends rather than give a full account of the global situation relating to freshwater in its various uses, and the implications for agriculture, public health, energy, etc.


VII. Water for growth and poverty reduction in the M├ękrou transboundary river basin (Burkina Faso, Benin and Niger)

Context: Africa faces a complex challenge in water resource management because of two legacies, its natural legacy of high hydro-climatic variability and its political and geographic legacy in which several countries share the same river basin. Shared water resources present management challenges and require investments in transboundary water management plans, in the development of sustainable policy and in institutional capacity building.

The Mekrou River basin (a sub-basin of the Niger basin) is shared between three countries (Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger) and is characterised by its poorly developed water infrastructure. This presents significant social, economic, environmental and political risks. Furthermore, the region's low capacity to buffer the effects of hydrological variability generates uncertainty and risks for economic activities. As water becomes scarce in the face of rising demand, there is a risk of potential transboundary water conflicts, which will likely constrain the region’s growth.

The overall objective of the EC through this project is to support Economic Green Growth and Poverty Reduction in African countries (Burkina Faso, Benin and Niger) in order to foster peace and security, and to ensure continued water supply to developing areas.

The specific objectives are:

1. Establishment of the long-term planning of the Cooperation Framework on Water for Growth in the Mekrou transboundary basin 

2. Development of an Integrated Water Resource Strategy for green growth in the Mekrou River basin (food security, appropriate urban and rural development and environmental conservation measures to meet the challenges of climate change) and promotion of investment in the water sector.


The main activities and expected results of the project are:

(1) Partnership, planning capacity and knowledge management functions developed to support transboundary water resource management; 

(2) Having a transboundary strategy endorsed by the project partners and counterparts. The strategy will aim to ensure at basin and national level the affordable supply of water, appropriate levels of service and the protection of current and possible future water resources.


VIII. Environmental basis for the sustainability of local food production (Bases Ambientales para la Sostenibilidad Alimentaria Local -BASAL)

Context: Agricultural land management has been revised in Cuba in the past decades, with the aim of making arable land more efficient and boosting national food production. However, the changes in land management have also led to negative impacts including a decrease in water resources, reduction of crop yields and quality, saltwater intrusion and land degradation. Therefore, the long-term sustainability of agriculture need to be improved, given the limitations of water and soil resources. To this end, decision makers should balance agricultural production and natural resource constraints, by considering the overall socio-economic and environmental impacts of agriculture as well as vulnerability to climate change and climate variability effects. The development of suitable technologies and tools that incorporate scientific and stakeholder knowledge will be essential for the sustainable management of agricultural land and water.


The objectives: The scientific component of the BASAL project, led by the JRC, aims to:

  • Improve knowledge about the impacts of climate variability, climate change and land use change processes, especially on water resources and food production
  • Provide stakeholders and decision makers with tools to support informed decision-making regarding water resources, in particular to guarantee sustainable long-term food production and suitable socio-economic development, and more in general to help agricultural crop management practices adapt to projected climate scenarios. The tools will be jointly developed by JRC working teams of experts and Cuban stakeholders.


The expected results: To accomplish the abovementioned objectives, the project will undertake a set of activities to collect, analyse and display historical and scientific data concerning the environmental change in three municipalities chosen as BASAL study areas. These activities are designed to help address problems related to water and agricultural land in the regions, particularly with regard to the effects of climate variability and climate change. The activities will be developed by two teams of the JRC: the Water4Dev team of the Water Resources (WR) Unit and the AGRI4CAST team of the Monitoring Agricultural Resources (MARS) Unit. The main results/output expected from the contribution of the WR unit, to be developed in close collaboration with the Cuban institutional partners, are:

  • A diagnosis of the water management problems in the study area
  • A system to assist decision-making, made up of a model mirroring the dynamics of water and agricultural production over time, two model applications and a database containing all data required
  • User manuals, training sessions and assistance in the use and maintenance of the system
  • Management recommendations derived from discussions between experts and stakeholders using the information system. 

I. Making society an active participant in water adaptation to global change (BEWATER)

Context: Sustainable water management under climate change is an pressing challenge for the Euro-Mediterranean region. Future climate change projections forecast an increase in water scarcity and drought in the region, which could cause substantial socioeconomic losses and environmental impacts. In this context, efforts are needed to strengthen public participation and embed a sense of responsibility within society with regard to water management and adaptation to these threats. Improved awareness, mutual learning processes and shared responsibility of civil society and stakeholders are key to ensuring the implementation and success of adaptation strategies designed to increase the resilience of the socio-ecological system of river basins.


The objectives: BEWATER addresses the above mentioned challenges by promoting dialogue and collaboration between science and society to help make the transition from a technology-based river basin management approach to a stakeholder-driven planning and management process that allows for making pro-active responses to emerging climatic changes and related pressures. Based on a bottom-up approach, the multidirectional and multi-sectoral knowledge transfer throughout the project will help to raise awareness, feed ownership and ultimately lead to effective adaptation policies.

Based on river basin case studies undertaken across the Mediterranean, BEWATER proposes a process of building resilience based on the engagement of a wide group of stakeholders, with the goal of developing sustainable and adaptive river basin management techniques. This is an iterative process of mutual learning between society and science, which identifies water management options and works out adaptation plans. It leads to innovation as a result of effective integration of local experience and research.

The results will be translated into generic adaptation guidelines that can be adopted in other river basins, which will be disseminated in a targeted and strategic way.