Short Communication

Accelerating sustainable, people-centered integrated water services for the poor


View of the Rockefeller Bellagio Center from Lake Como.
Working at the conference.
A discussion-driven conference session.


Accelerating water access for the poor through integrated water services requires substantial formative change to business as usual. Today, agricultural, industrial, potable water, and sanitation sectors all face significant challenges in procuring and preserving adequate supplies of safe water, especially in poor countries. Escalating climate change and population growth will further complicate equitable allocation of this limited resource. Each sector continues to develop independent solutions to water challenges, such as developing infrastructure for irrigation without considering drinking water, for example, but decades of experience show that compartmentalized approaches to water management are grossly ineffective.

Fortunately, integrated water services represent a strategic alternative approach to the silo paradigm. This systems approach derives from a people-centered, problem-driven process that involves integration of governance, planning, finance, and technology to empower more effective management of shared water resources across sectors. Reuse of gray water for irrigation, for example, would allow cities to address water access problems in rural areas. There is no one-size-fits-all multiuse water system, however. Variations in climate, wealth disparities, lack of technology transformation, issues with water safety, and the explosion of unplanned, periurban communities pose global challenges, and there are multiple barriers to shifting the paradigm in the water sector from a single use development context to a multiple use context.

To address these challenges and opportunities, the JHU Global Water Program organized a conference at the Rockefeller Conference center in Bellagio, Italy, attended by leading experts in water and related fields.   The goal of this conference was to increase dialogue among thought- and practice-leaders in the water sector, individuals that can work together to realize change. At this discussion-driven, intensive, and intimate conference, experts articulated the main challenges and opportunities for integrated water services and identified ways to facilitate formative change. A forthcoming Bellagio statement will be published in leading academic journals and on the web. This statement will summarize the key findings of this electrifying conference and serve as a call for action, pushing the way forward to solving the global water challenge. 

Download a PDF of the GWP Bellagio conference agenda here.



Bellagio Participants
Participants from left to right: Gary White, Mike Klag, Nick Jones, Dinesh Mehta, Luke MacDonald, Kellogg Schwab, Peter Lochery, Cristina Rumbaitis del Rio, Peter Macy, Winston Yu, Robert Marten, Barbara van Koppen, Robert Lawrence, Melissa Opryszko, Paul Reiter, Ashok Agarwal, Margaret Batty, Monica Ellis, Ned Breslin, Joe Jacangelo.



integrated water services, sanitation, energy, agriculture, water policy, multiple use water services, pro-poor

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of Johns Hopkins University or the Johns Hopkins University Global Water Program.