Social Dimension of Water Resource Management in Sri Lanka – Part 2

by Delgollage Senevirathne, Assistant General Manager (Sociologist) at the National Water Supply & Drainage Board (NWSDB), Sri Lanka.

Awareness raising of the need for water conservation and pollution prevention and efficient use of water

Water availability depends on rainwater and groundwater and constrained by two factors space and timely occurrence while it is being impacted due to excessive use and type of use. Excessive use is based on the limitations in availability of water in the specific locations while type of use will lead to pollution of water bodies and as it depends on the quality of return flows in both surface and ground water resources. Efficient use of water will play a major role when there are instances of demand exceeding supply and purpose of water use. Water use for Hydro-power generation will depend on the timely releases from reservoirs and will become a source for secondary usage such as irrigation and water supply schemes. There is an advantage in secondary use of water if the primary use is for Hydro power generation, as there will be no impurities that will be accumulated during in-stream use of water.

Awareness raising will be essential of these aspects as pollution of water bodies will lead to health hazards when that water is used several times for diverse uses. Water conservation will become part of demand management in the event of supply shortages in the light of increasing demands for water arising from population growth over the years and their socio- economic demands get higher priority for industrial growth particularly when the water availability is static and there is no method of increasing the availability of reusable water. Efficient use of water will also become a tool in demand management in extream case of water shortages for which modern technologies in reduction of use of water in irrigation and water supply schemes particularly at individual household level utilities will play a vital role in improving the efficient use of water.

Sri Lanka Water Partnership ( SLWP ) representing the Global Water Partnership plays a key role in promoting Integrated water resources management in Sri Lanka mainly through awareness creation programmes targeting school children, affected parties and other public and private sector stakeholders. The SLWP has been instrumental in conducting awareness programmes in water quality, sand mining, rainwater harvesting, forest conservation as part of watershed management, good health and sanitation practices, wetlands management and impacts of climate change and adaptation programmes. Majority of the SLWP initiatives are carried out through partnerships with the government agencies including National Water Supply and Drainage Board, Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka, Provincial and District/ Divisional administration, Local authorities and Area Water Partnerships (AWPs) involving community groups in selected river basins such as Maha-Oya, Deduru Oya, Mahaweli river, Menik ganga and Kelani river etc.

Series of training programmes on Integrated Water Resources Management have also been conducted while demonstration activities on rainwater harvesting and water pollution surveys and information dissemination materials have been produced and distributed among stakeholders. However impacts of the initiatives have yet to be evaluated to ensure their effectiveness, as most of the actions are based on fund availability and under project mode that will not become sustainable events, unless the programmes are internalized within the government Ministries /Agencies and NGO sector directly targeting community / stakeholder participation. However, functions and responsibilities of the Sri Lanka Water Partnership are well recognized as the only apex body for promotion of integrated water resources management in Sri Lanka through collaborative programmes associated with the government institutions at present.

Conflicting water demands

Conflicting water demands in the light of different uses competing for the same source of water will call for water allocation mechanisms ex. Irrigation vs. agriculture vs water supply for drinking/ sanitation and industry purposes vs. hydro-power vs. inland fisheries (aquaculture) vs. recreational use vs. minimum flow levels to be maintained along the river system for environmental purposes ( for survival of plants and wildlife – fauna and flora).

Groundwater sources will also be used in parallel to many of the above uses although in smaller quantities as availability is limited to aquifers that will be subjected to spatial factors as well as quality of groundwater.

Water resources have been made available at the original natural state through river systems that experience water as a moving resource which calls for complex technologies for river water management due to spatial and temporal variations. There have been several diversions that have been made during the last few decades for its use for multi-purpose activities as indicated above thus creating conflicts among the different uses.   The entire river system should be considered as one unit for planning, development and management as it flows catering to different uses in upstream, mid stream and downstream upto the river mouth where it meets the sea. Hence integrated water resources management approaches have to be practiced to ensure equity in the usage among different uses while maintaining efficient and sustainable use of the water resources available in the river basin.

Integration of water resource uses in terms of surface and ground water, upstream, mid stream and downstream areas in the river system with special emphasis on spatial and timely availability of water for meeting demands of diverse uses including water shed management ( protection and conservation of forest cover), water quantity and quality factors, etc. would have to be considered under a single hydrological unit called river basin.

NWSDB is an RWSN Member Organisation. To find out more visit the RWSN main website.

D.Senevirathne Assistant General Manager (Sociology)   Policy and Planning Division   National Water Supply and Drainage Board
Assistant General Manager (Sociology)
Policy and Planning Division
National Water Supply and Drainage Board

Author: RWSN Secretariat

RWSN is a global network of rural water supply professionals. Visit to find out more

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