ASEAN Cooperation on Water Resources Management

Water is an important environmental resource; it sustains life and economic activities and is used extensively as a waste sink. ASEAN region is generally sufficient in natural resources to support the livelihood of its people. However, some AMS do experience seasonal scarcity, and freshwater resources are under increasing pressures due to rapidly rising demand for industrial activities, agricultural use, and a growing population. The variability of conditions in AMS also affects how water resource issues and their management are addressed. Nonetheless, there are some common issues cutting across AMS, such as supply, demand, water conservation, and water quality management.

Recognising the importance of preserving and managing and sustaining the use of water resources, the ASEAN Leaders resolved to further forge the exchange of knowledge and practices between new technology and local wisdom in confronting with and adapting to water resource problem. The commitment and support of the ASEAN Leaders are reflected in ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together which includes the ASCC Blueprint 2025. As guided by the ASCC Blueprint 2025, the key result areas and corresponding strategic measures in responding to water resource management are among others as follows:

C.1. Conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity and natural resources
Strategic measure

  • Enhance policy and capacity development and best practices to conserve, develop and sustainably manage marine, wetlands, peatlands, biodiversity, and land and water resources.

C.2. Environmentally sustainable cities
Strategic measure

  • Promote coordination among relevant sectors to provide access to clean land, green public space, clean air, clean and safe water, and sanitation.

The ASCC Blueprint 2025 shall serve as the guiding mandate for the work of the ASEAN Working Group on Water Resources Management (AWGWRM). AWGWRM is envisaged to be a consultative platform among the ASEAN Member States to promote sustainability of water resources to ensure equitable accessibility and sufficient water quantity of acceptable quality to meet the needs of the people of ASEAN.

Integrated Water Resources Management

ASEAN Integrated Water Resources Management Website provides an overview of the status of IWRM and annual reports on IWRM performance in AMS for six water management-related issues: (1) water supply; (2) irrigation; (3) stormwater management; (4) floods management; (5) water pollution management; and (6) sanitation management.

A Study on the Status of IWRM Implementation in Water Peak Bodies in the ASEAN Member States, led by National Resources Board of the Philippines and conducted in coordination with the Asian Institute of Technology, was also conducted to have a better understanding of the status of IWRM in ASEAN countries.

ASEAN Water Data Management and Reporting System

ASEAN Water Data Management and Reporting System provides a framework for ASEAN regional river monitoring system that would allow ASEAN to commence assessing the status and broad trends relating to the overall condition and water quality of river across the region.

Water Demand Management

ASEAN regularly organizes regional dialogues and visits to AMS addressing the issue of water and urban water demand management. Some examples of such dialogues include:

  • Water Resources Demand Management Learning Forums for Irrigation (led by Thailand, implemented in July 2011);
  • ASEAN Plus Three (APT) Training on Smart Water Technologies: The Singapore Experience held on 11-15 July 2016;
  • ASEAN Plus Three Water Ministers Forum held on 11 July 2016; and
  • International Conference on Water Demand Management among Competing Sectors (2017).

Singapore, the lead country in urban water demand management, also established Singapore Water Academy, which offers Singapore Water Management Series (SgWM), training programmes designed for water practitioners in urban water management, combining Singapores experience with international expertise. Singapore also regularly organizes Singapore International Water Week.

Water-related Disasters

Among subregions in Asia and the Pacific, the most disaster-prone subregion was Southeast Asia is among the most disaster-prone regions. The region witnessed the largest number of events (489 cases reported), of which 393 were water-related disasters. South-East Asia is more susceptible to water-related disaster in particular because many of them are located along major typhoon tracks.

Large-scale floods frequently transcend national borders and they often go beyond the capacities of individual countries to manage them. Large river systems and water bodies in Southeast Asia including the Mekong, Ayeyarwardy, Tonle Sap and Lake Toba have been supporting livelihoods, and riverine plains have been home to a large number of people, especially the poor, in the region. They are potentially exposed to recurrent water-related hazards that require coordination and cooperation at both subregional and regional level.

Recognising the need to address this issue not only at national level but also at regional level, ASEAN provides a platform for regular dialogues among ASEAN Member States, partners and relevant stakeholders to identify issues and gaps on flood and drought management, share information on best practices, and identify required tools and actions to improve the current situation of flood and drought management in AMS individually and holistically. Examples of such platforms include:

  • Workshop on Risks and Impacts from Flood Extreme Events in AMS (led by Indonesia, implemented in June 2010);
  • Workshop on Risks and Impacts from Drought Extreme Events in AMS (led by Thailand, implemented in September 2010).

ASEAN, in coordination with Chuncheon Global Water Forum (CGWF) and with support from ASEAN-ROK Cooperation Fund, also conducted a study on the current status of water-related disasters in AMS, Building Resilience for Sustainable ASEAN from Water-related Disasters, which provides a reference for AMS in future policy decision-making with regard to the management of water-related disasters.