Valuing Water

One of the key outcomes from the High-Level Panel on Water (2016-2018) was to establish a set of 5 principles on Valuing Water. Following from those recommendations, the Valuing Water Initiative (VWI) was created to support actors in putting those principles into practice. Since the beginning, GWP has been committed to promoting the Valuing Water Principles (VWPs) and using value-based approaches as part of its efforts towards improving water resources management. In collaboration with VWI, GWP supports events and consultation engagement processes at regional and global scales, mainstreams the VWPs in the design and implementation of IWRM plans, promotes the VWPs within its youth engagement initiatives, and develops knowledge products and methodologies related to Valuing Water.

Background | 5 Valuing Water Principles | Valuing Water Initiative | GWP's Approach and Contribution to Valuing Water


To accelerate a change in the way governments, societies, and the business sector use and manage water, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim convened a High Level Panel on Water (HLPW) in January 2016. The HLPW aimed to provide leadership to champion a comprehensive, inclusive, and collaborative way of developing and managing water resources, and improving water and sanitation related services. The panel members were Heads of State from Australia, Bangladesh, Hungary, Jordan, Mauritius (co-chair), Mexico (co-chair), Netherlands, Peru, Senegal, South Africa, and Tajikistan. In 2017, the HLPW produced the Bellagio Principles on Valuing Water, which set out what is known as the 5 Valuing Water Principles (VWPs) (see below). GWP supported the socialisation of the first draft of the Principles, in five geographic areas, helping to bring together a wide group of stakeholders to start the process of operationalising the Principles into locally relevant frameworks.

5 Valuing Water Principles

Source: VWI, 2022

Valuing Water Initiative

In accordance with the recommendations outlined in the HLPW Outcomes document for implementing the VWPs, Mark Rutte, at that time Prime Minister of the Netherlands, officially launched the Valuing Water Initiative (VWI) in January 2019. The VWI aims to exemplify the practical implementation of the VWPs through diverse case studies spanning various water-related sectors and value chains. Leveraging the collective influence of its partners, effective communication channels, knowledge dissemination efforts, and the compilation of exemplary practices and insights, the VWI seeks to instigate systemic changes in how water is perceived within corporate practices, policy frameworks, and societal behaviours.

The VWI leverages its capacity to convene key stakeholders, including heads of state, governmental bodies, businesses, non-governmental organisations, academics, and renowned water experts, to drive the essential transformation in understanding, valuing, and managing water resources. The initiative's scope transcends specific sectors, geographic boundaries, or individual actors, focusing instead on water solutions that yield positive ripple effects across the environment, society, and business landscape.

GWP’s Approach and Contribution to Valuing Water

Through its Valuing Water portfolio, GWP supports efforts to implement the VWPs, and the transparent incorporation of these values into decision-making processes. Together with its partners, GWP contributes to mainstreaming Valuing Water by facilitating consultation processes and events at global and regional levels, integrating the Principles into the formulation and execution of IWRM policies and programmes, promoting the VWPs as part of its youth initiatives, and produces knowledge products and methodologies on valuing water.

Global and Regional Processes on Valuing Water  

In 2017, GWP organised a series of Valuing Water regional consultations in South Africa, Tajikistan, Mexico, Bangladesh, and Peru. The purpose was to obtain views from a wide array of regional and country level stakeholders on the proposals from the HLPW on the Valuing Water preamble and principles. The consultations helped raise awareness and allowed for an in-depth examination of the relevance of the VWPs at regional/country level, and provided inputs, options, and recommendations that would enhance the implementation of the HLPW resolutions.

GWP was one of the organising partners of the World Water Day 2021 campaign on Valuing Water. We organised a series of webinars and events in collaboration with the VWI, the World Bank, and UNDP, including a regional webinar in South Asia to initiate a dialogue on the sharing of experiences and lessons learnt on applications of the VWPs at country level. GWP also contributed to the World Water Development Report 2021: Valuing Water, by co-writing the “Enabling multi-value Approaches in Water Governance” Chapter together with UNDP. Furthermore, we developed a publication on Valuing Water Stories: Sharing Experiences from Water Changemakers across the Globe, which analyses on-the-ground initiatives on water and climate action through the lens of the VWPs.   

In preparation towards the UN Water Conference 2023, GWP in collaboration with Deltares and the VWI organised regional processes in Latin America and in Africa on valuing water. In 2022 and 2023, the three partners organised a series of webinars focused on introducing the VWPs and exchanging knowledge and experiences on how these can be applied in the regional context, and how these can strengthen the consolidation of commitments ahead of the UN 2023 Water conference. This culminated in an official UN Water Conference side event on “Mainstreaming multiple values of water for better informed decision making”, where government and stakeholders made commitment towards implementing valuing water principles, as well as contributing a number of commitments to the Water Action Agenda.  

Valuing Water and IWRM Planning

GWP has developed and deployed a Valuing Water Survey Instrument that aims to reveal how personal and collective values can influence the way we make trade-offs and decisions, including those we make in water resources management. This exercise demonstrates how important it is to consider the “value perspective” as part of the IWRM action planning processes. It has been integrated as part of the action planning process employed in the SDG 6 IWRMS Support Programme, as part of efforts to make the values underlying water-related decisions more explicit, leading to better decisions impacting water, and therefore direct progress towards the water-related SDGs. GWP has also used this tool as part of its support towards developing the Uzbekistan National Water Strategy 2023-2026. Furthermore, developed a Valuing Water Tool and collected relevant resources and case studies which can be found on the IWRM Action Hub.

(Re)valuing the Economic Value of Water

Since its establishment, GWP has been working on understanding and measuring the economic value and benefits of water security. Exploring the question of “what is the economic value of increased water security?”, the GWP Technical Committee produced a seminal background paper on The Economic Value of Moving Toward a More Water Secure World. In 2015, GWP and OECD produced a joint report, Securing Water, Sustaining Growth, which unpacks and demystifies the elusive value of global water security.

Since 2021, GWP has been supporting the Ministry of Water of Tanzania to reassess the contribution of water to its national economy. One of the outcomes of this collaboration is a study that examined the hidden economic value of water in three of the most important sectors of the Tanzanian economy, namely agriculture, manufacturing, and mining. The study employed market price and proportional production costs functions as the two key valuation methods. The results reveal that the contribution of water to the national economy can be (re)evaluated to a low bound figure of 4,816,560 million TZS (2,100 million USD), which is the equivalent to 3.31% of Tanzania’s national GDP (based on 2020 current prices). This research serves to illuminate the shadow value added that water brings to each of these sectors, aiming to spark a multi-stakeholder dialogue on the re-evaluation and revaluation of water in Tanzania. Together with partners of the Africa Investment Programme, GWP is continuing to refine this methodology and use it to support enhancing water investments across the African continent.      

Valuing Water and Youth Inclusion

GWP supports efforts to include young people in water decisions, offering pathways for youth to become agents of change for improved water resources management and sustainable development. One of the youth engagement programmes that GWP supports are the Summer School programmes in Central and Eastern Europe and in the Aral Sea. The Summer Schools brings together a cohort of aspiring young water and climate specialists to enhance their education and practical experience. The Summer School is based on a combination of theory and practice presented by a plethora of speakers from relevant backgrounds. Part of the Summer School programmes is dedicated to understanding the VWPs and the value-based approach in practice, including through playing the Water Values: a Serious Board Game.

Valuing Water Knowledge Products and Methodologies