Vanuatu National Water Strategy
Every Ni-Vanuatu citizen should have access to safe water sufficient to meet basic needs,
including drinking, cooking and sanitation. The relatively abundant supply of fresh water in
Vanuatu should further increase livelihoods’ opportunities and be fully harnessed to improve the
overall economic standing of the country, both now and in the future.
As Vanuatu’s population grows so demands on existing water sources will increase. These
demands when combined with the increasing risk of pollution and climate related changes could
be expected to limit the future availability of potable water, constrain its productive use and impact
negatively on Vanuatu’s most precious resource, its pristine natural environment.
This National Water Strategy aims to address these issues by overcoming constraints that limit
sustainable development of the water sector including factors related to finances, human
resources, institutions and operations. In doing so, it gives effect to the NWRA, PPA and MTDF
directive of the Government of Vanuatu requiring detailed strategies and plans for all the
At the institutional level, the strategy proposes a major change in the role of the Department of
Geology, Mines and Water Resources from that of service provider to main proponent and
facilitator of a new integrated water resource management approach. This will require taking a
holistic, integrated, coordinated and decentralised approach, involving collaboration with
communities, private sector and local government stakeholders.
Key operational elements of this Strategy are the progressive devolution of responsibility,
authority and resources for water resources management down to provincial government level
and community involvement in the planning, management and monitoring of water catchment
Sustainable and equitable access to safe water and sanitation for the people of Vanuatu to
support improved public health and promote social and economic development.
Objective 1: A clear regulatory framework and roles between Departments established to provide
for transparent and accountable regulation and management of water resources.
Objective 2: DGMWR adequately structured and has sufficient capacity to deliver on the
Objective 3: Infrastructure operated and maintained by the communities with technical and
management support from the Provincial Office, private sector partners and the
Objective 4: Available water resources and catchments known, managed and protected.
Objective 5: All water quality monitored and maintained to meet agreed standards.
Objective 6: Appropriate and sustainable water and wastewater infrastructure installed to meet
domestic, customary use targets and needs for sustainable economic development.
Objective 7: Information and response mechanism in place that allows for mutual information
sharing and accountability between government and stakeholders.
1.1. Why Integrated Water Resource
It is necessary for Vanuatu to apply an IWRM
approach for managing its water to ensure the
sustainable development of resources, while
meeting aims for water supply coverage, equity
and affordability. Water supply in Vanuatu is
publicly financed, managed with no cost recovery
and therefore beyond the financial capacity of the
government. The highly sectoral approach
imposes unsustainably high economic, social and
ecological costs on the social and natural
environments in Vanuatu. An IWRM approach is
a more holistic and participatory approach to
resource management. There is a need to
recognise the interdependencies within natural
eco-systems and the economical and social
systems that affect demand for water.
Stakeholder involvement in decisions assists in
understanding these dynamics and ensures
appropriate systems are in place.
With Vanuatu’s growing population base, ruralurban
migration and shift from a predominantly
subsistence economy to a cash-economy the
quality and quantity of available water resources
is increasingly threatened by competing uses for
water. An IWRM approach uses participatory
planning to ensure continued access to safe
1.2. Who is this strategy for?
The National Water Resource Strategy and the
IWRM approach will indirectly benefit all citizens
of Vanuatu. It is considered the rural
communities will benefit the most from greater
access to safe drinking water supplies for
domestic and customary use. The private sector
will benefit from greater access to water purposes
of economic development and environmental
The strategy will provide the Government of
Vanuatu with a rational basis for sector-wide
planning which involves direct engagement with
local government and communities, civil society
groups, private sector organisations and donors
for effective national water resource
management. It will further provide MLNR and
DGMWR with a clear regulatory framework under
which to implement the strategy.
What is IWRM?
Integrated water resources planning and management
aims to take appropriate account of important
physical, social, economic and cultural linkages within
a water resources system, such as:
• physical linkages between land use, surface and
groundwater quantity and quality,
• economic linkages between various, and
sometimes competing, water uses,
• social linkages between water development
schemes and potential beneficiaries or those
adversely affected, ensuring benefits of projects
accrue equitably and
• institutional linkages, both horizontally and
vertically, among various formal and non-formal
Planning for IWRM involves making provision for water
demand for six main purposes - 1) domestic supplies;
2) irrigation; 3) hydro-electric power; 4) industrial
production,5) cultural importance and 6) the
protection of ecosystems.
Further, this approach must also accommodate six key
technical functions. These are:
1. The measurement of current water resource
2. Land-use planning
3. Projection of future water resource availability;
4. Watershed based water use planning, including
5. Implementation of water projects;
6. Regulation including environmental protection;
7.Monitoring and evaluation.
From the institutional standpoint, the adoption of an
IWRM approach normally requires fundamental shifts
in the roles, structures and outlooks of respective
Government Departments including moving from a
service delivery focus or project approach to sector
facilitation and regulation under a sector wide
The operationalisation of IWRM is commonly based on
several key principles as follows:
1. Considering all water in the hydrological cycle
using the watershed as the management and
2. De-centralised planning and management.
3. Taking an holistic (frequently traditional)
approach to planning and implementation.
4. Using local scale mapping, planning,
implementation, monitoring and governance
5. Agreeing priorities for water allocations with
domestic needs always satisfied first.
6. Mandatory provision for sanitation, waste
water and EIA in all projects.
7. A pluralistic approach to implementation -
public, private and community functions.
8. Accommodating equity issues, understanding
gender roles in water management.
9. Coordination between stakeholders and
water managers to provide input and commit
to sustainable watershed management.
Implementation of the strategy will benefit the people of Vanuatu through:
• Improved national coverage of safe water and sanitation in line with national and
internationally agreed targets;
• Community empowerment to protect and sustainably manage local water resources,
particularly for women;
• Information and accountability mechanisms which provide “voice” to communities and civil
society during the planning, implementation, management and monitoring of water
• A regulatory and planning framework to ensure equitable, affordable and sustainable
access to water supplies for all;
• Greater NGO and private sector involvement (out-sourcing of contracts) in the design and
implementation of water projects;
• Improved clarity within the Government on water regulation in urban areas;
• More reliable and affordable water supplies for business and economic development; and
• The protection of eco-systems through sustainable water resource management.
1.3. How was the Strategy Developed?
This strategy, and its objectives to improve policy and working practices, is evidence of the
Governments recognition of water as a critical resource for sustainable economic and social
development. Strategy formulation has accordingly taken into account current national, regional
and international policy commitments and the capabilities of both the DGMWR and other sector
stakeholders including other Government Departments, elected and customary local
government, NGOs, CBOs, the private sector, communities, women’s only groups and external
development partners. Operating procedures of the DGMWR including those related to
feasibility, design, implementation and cost recovery have also been reviewed.
In developing this strategy the DGMWR has applied a participatory approach. A series of
central, provincial and community level consultations with key stakeholders was held. As a
result a strong consensus on both a vision for the sector and key Departmental objectives for
the coming ten year period has been reached. However, in order for these objectives to be met,
continuing high levels of commitment for the strategy from both sector stakeholders and political
parties will be required.