WaterGuide: a framework for managing water scarcity


WaterGuide, authored by Aither, was first published by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and AWP in 2017, as an Australian contribution to the High Level Panel on Water, a two-year (2016–2018) initiative by the United Nations and the World Bank to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in particular SDG6 – ‘ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all’. The purpose of the guide was to provide an organising framework for decision makers on the fundamental elements of improved water management under conditions of water scarcity. AWP and DFAT commissioned AWP Partner Aither to develop the guide.

Following insights gained from early applications and feedback from Australian and international experts, a revised edition of WaterGuide was released in 2018 and launched at the 2018 World Water Forum.

The WaterGuide framework is based on six elements, with each element representing a fundamental aspect of improved water management:

WaterGuide Figure 1 (Aither, 2018)

WaterGuide Figure 1 (Aither, 2018)


WaterGuide is intended to be used primarily by national or local governments in settings experiencing, or expecting to experience, water scarcity. Decision makers responsible for water policy and management may use the framework to:

  • engage stakeholders and set a vision for outcomes from water management;
  • diagnose strengths, weaknesses and gaps in current water planning, allocation and use arrangements;
  • design a road map for improved water policy and management;
  • identify the portfolio and sequence of policy interventions, management arrangements and infrastructure investments that are most likely to deliver desired outcomes; and
  • understand and communicate the benefits of water reforms.

Since 2017, AWP has funded several activities aimed at piloting WaterGuide and using the framework as a tool to inform policy dialogue and reform to identify priority issues in countries and jurisdictions experiencing, or facing the prospect of, water scarcity.


WaterGuide is AWP’s most downloaded publication. The framework has been presented to international audiences (the 2018 World Water Forum and Stockholm Water Week for instance), and at targeted workshops with the Asian Development Bank, International Water Management Institute, and World Bank.

Importantly, the WaterGuide framework has been used to share Australia’s experience in managing water under scarcity with other countries, proving to be a useful dialogue and diagnostic tool to structure and stimulate discussion and to identify specific areas for improvements in water management. To date, these countries are Uzbekistan, Jordan, Mexico, Senegal, and Iran.

To assist engagement with the Government of Uzbekistan and water practitioners, a Russian version of WaterGuide was released November 2019.


WaterGuide coverWaterGuide: A Guide to setting a path to improved water resource management and use under scarcity

WaterGuide by H. Pohlner and W. Fargher of Aither, is an organising framework for improved water management and use in response to scarcity. The first edition of WaterGuide was published by the Australian Water Partnership in March 2017 as part of Australia’s contribution to the High Level Panel on Water, and has since been used as the foundation for water policy dialogues with Jordan, Mexico, Senegal and Iran. A newly released second edtion of WaterGuide improves the six-step framework based on its application for these countries, and demonstrates how it can and has been applied to improve water management globally.
  WaterGuide (12.6mb) | Brochure
  WaterGuide (Russian Edition) (4.7mb) | Brochure (Russian)


Program Lead

Huw Pohlner, Principal


Central Asia, Africa & Middle East, Latin America & the Caribbean, International


Uzbekistan, Jordan, Mexico, Senegal, Iran, Hungary, Philippines, USA, Brazil, Australia


  • Australia – Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • Jordan – Jordan Ministry of Water and Irrigation
  • Mexico – National Association of Water and Sanitation Utilities of Mexico and State Water Commission of Baja California
  • Iran – Urmia Lake Restoration Program
  • Senegal – Ministry of Water and Sanitation
  • Uzbekistan – Asian Development Bank


Implementation (Sep 2016 – )





  • Policy
  • Strategic Approaches
  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • Water Scarcity
  • Water Security


  • A Guide on Achieving, Sustainable, Equitable and Efficient Water Management
  • WaterGuide Materials Development
  • WaterGuide Jordan Dialogue Phase 1
  • WaterGuide Senegal Phase 1
  • Iran-Australia WaterGuide Phase I dialogue
  • WaterGuide Mexico Phase I and Jordan Phase II
  • WaterGuide Refinement
  • WaterGuide promotion at 8th World Water Forum, Brasilia
  • WaterGuide Showcase at SIWI World Water Week 2018
  • WaterGuide Jordan Phase III
  • WaterGuide Workshops – ADB, IMWI, WB
  • WaterGuide Uzbekistan