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Alternative technologies for freshwater augmentation

Nairobi, October 1998 - As we approach the 21st century, many countries face increasing shortages of freshwater. Even traditionally water-rich countries in Europe and North America are feeling the effects of past abuses of freshwater supplies, while in the water-poor countries of the inter-tropics, critical shortages are developing into incipient or actual crises.

As a result, water resource managers are increasingly looking to the past, not in a spirit of nostalgia, but to blend technologies born out of a traditional need to conserve water with futuristic materials and techniques.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has responded by drawing up a compendium of traditional and modern approaches to protecting, rehabilitating and harvesting freshwater sources. They include techniques for obtaining freshwater from saline water, waste-water and even fog, and draw on concepts and methods dating back to the earliest days of humankind.

The series of books, a joint effort from UNEP's International Environmental Technology Centre and Water Branch, is being published under the title, Alternative Technologies for Freshwater Augmentation. So far, UNEP has completed source books for five regions: Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Small Island Developing States (SIDS). A sixth volume for Western Asia is under way.

The source books emphasize methodologies that work - old and new, engineered and non-engineered, high-tech and appropriate-tech. All have been tried and tested in the field, even if some of the alternative technologies are best described as 'still experimental'. The authors supply contact names and addresses of agencies and individuals who are willing to discuss a range of technologies and traditions, many of which were abandoned more than 50 years ago in favour of highly engineered sources. Their practical experience demonstrates once again that old is not always worse.


About the UNEP International Environmental Technology Centre (IETC)

The International Environmental Technology Centre (IETC) was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in April 1994. It has offices at two locations in Japan - Osaka City and Kusatsu, Shiga Prefecture.

The Centre's main function is to promote the application and adaptation of Environmentally Sound Technologies (ESTs) in developing countries and countries with economies in transition. IETC pays specific attention to urban problems, such as sewage, air pollution, solid waste, noise, and to the management of freshwater basins.

IETC is supported in its operations by two Japanese foundations: The Global Environment Centre Foundation (GEC), which is based in Osaka and handles urban environmental problems; and the International Lake Environment Committee Foundation (ILEC), which is located in Shiga Prefecture and contributes accumulated knowledge on sustainable management of lakes.

IETC's mandate is based on Agenda 21, which came out of the UNCED process. Consequently IETC pursues a result-oriented work plan revolving around three issues, namely:

  1. Improving access to information on ESTs;
  2. Fostering technology cooperation, partnerships, adoption and use of ESTs; and
  3. Building endogenous capacity.

IETC has secured specific results that have established it as a Centre of Excellence in its areas of specialty. Its products include: an overview on existing information sources for ESTs; a database of information on ESTs; a regular newsletter, a technical publication series and other media materials creating public awareness and disseminating information on ESTs; Local Agenda 21 documents developed for selected cities in collaboration with the UNCHS (Habitat)/UNEP Sustainable Cities Programme (SCP); advisory services; Action Plans for sustainable management of selected lake/reservoir basins; training needs assessment surveys in the field of decision-making on technology transfer and management of ESTs; design and implementation of pilot training programmes for adoption, application and operation of ESTs; training materials for technology management of large cities and freshwater basins; and others.

The Centre coordinates its activities with substantive organizations within the UN system. IETC also seeks partnerships with international and bilateral finance institutions, technical assistance organizations, the private, academic and non-governmental sectors, foundations and corporations.

Other UNEP IETC Publications:
IETC Technical Publication Series:
No. 1: Training Needs in Utilizing Environmental Technology Assessment (ETA) for Decision-making.- A Preliminary Study to Strengthen Capabilities in Managing Environmentally Sound Technologies (ESTs);

No. 2: Earthquake Waste Symposium Osaka, 12-13 June 1995. - Proceedings;

No. 3: Environmental Risk Assessment for Sustainable Cities
- IETC position paper;

No. 4: Forum on the Caspian, Aral and Dead Seas/Symposium on the Aral Sea and Surrounding Region
- Proceedings;

No. 5: Work-book for Training in Environmental Technology Assessment (EnTA) for Decision-makers;

No. 6: International Source Book on Environmentally Sound Technologies for Municipal Solid Waste Management

No. 7: The Councillor as Guardian of the Environment - A Training Handbook for Elected Leadership on How to Utilize Environmentally Sound Technologies (ESTs)

IETC Report Series:
No. 1: Workbook for Training in Adopting, Applying and Operating Environmentally Sound Technologies (ESTs).
- A Pilot Programme;

No. 2: Principles of Municipal Solid Waste Management.
- Proceedings of a Seminar;

No. 3: Environmental Technology Assessment (EnTA) in Sub-Saharan Africa.
- a UNEP EnTA Leadership Training Programme;

UNEP's Survey of Information Systems Related to Environmentally Sound Technologies (ESTs); Revised Introductory Brochure

For more information:

Mr. John Whitelaw
Director, UNEP IETC
2-110 Ryokuchi Koen,Tsurumi-ku
Osaka 538-0036, Japan
Tel: +81-6-915-4581,
Fax: +81-6-915-0304

Ms. Patricia L. Jacobs
Information Officer, IPA
UNEP, P.O. Box 30552
Nairobi, Kenya
Tel: +254-2-623088,
Fax: +254-2-623692

UNEP Information Note 1998/19

Wednesday 07 Oct 1998
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