Water Policy and Regulation

Available and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all relies upon the collective action of interdependent stakeholders, playing their role effectively and efficiently]. Transitioning to such a water wise world starts with people –people that informs and implements the right enabling environment.

We often hear that the world faces a water crisis; what we hear less is that this is often a crisis of Public Policy and Regulation.

Policies and regulations affect our lives in many ways; they come into play when we open the tap or pay the water bill (quality criteria, service provision, pricing), when we take a walk near at the park to enjoy that beautiful pond (emissions, sharing of water resources) or when we sketch our next project to extend sanitation services in the next town (performance, technical specifications, etc.).

But they are also one of the top risks for water and water infrastructure projects. Additional or unforeseen requirements or misinformation about licenses can delay projects, affect the rate of return that an investment decision was originally based on, delayed approvals and changes in policy can make projects unviable, etc.

The Water Policy and Regulation agenda cuts across all areas of work at IWA, connecting regulatory authorities and practitioners to inform and implement an enabling environment that makes the water wise vision possible.

We do this guided by the Lisbon Charter by facilitating peer-to-peer dialogue and learning across regulatory functions –economic, health, environment and quality of service–; and collaborative governance, across sectors and especially with the research, science and technology communities.

The International Water Regulators Forum

Regulatory authorities can have a positive and catalytic impact on delivering water services. IWA is home to the International Water Regulators Forum (IWRF) that connects regulatory authorities and officials with regulatory and supervisory functions in the water, sanitation and wastewater management services that support their increasingly important role in achieving global sustainable development.

The IWRF facilitates dialogue and knowledge exchange across regulatory functions – eg economic, health, environmental regulation – and sectors to enable synergies, peer to peer learning and building new partnerships.

To date, the Forum gathers in regional and international meetings and has successfully held venues in Lisbon 2014 (Lisbon Charter), London 2015 and Brisbane 2016 –reaching to over 100 regulatory institutions from more than 80 jurisdictions in all continents, becoming a one of a kind global network of regulators that IWA is proud to host.





The outputs of the 1st IWRF informed the drafting of the Lisbon Charter, an international framework of guiding principles for sound public policy and regulation that defined the roles and responsibilities of the key stakeholders in the sector (from users to the governments). The Charter was proposed by IWA and submitted to consultation amongst the participants of the 1st IWRF celebrated in 2014 at the World Water Congress in Lisbon, Portugal that gathered 200+ regulators and other key water leaders from 56 countries around the globe.


International meetings

The International Water Regulators Forum (IWRF) series has welcomed high level regulatory authorities with economic, quality of service, public health and environmental responsibilities related to water, sanitation and wastewater services from over 70 countries (1st IWRF, Lisbon 2014; 2nd IWRF, London 2015). Please find more about the previous fora and their outputs in the IWRF Group at IWA Connect.

Outcomes of the IWRF have been consolidated in a series of working papers prepared by the regulators and their academic leads, please find the latest below:


The 3rd IWRF was held in October 10th, 2016 during the World Water Congress & Exhibition, at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre in Queensland, Australia.

Other IWA conferences which have a more specialised focus (by subject or geographical scope) also contribute to the broader dialogue on water policy and regulation in the water services sector. The latest was at the Global Water Safety Conference in the Philippines. 

Connecting to the international research community

The analytical perspective of the research community can give insights to practitioners in realising the root cause of the regulatory challenges, identify major institutional barriers, and set the milestone for actions. To bring in this perspective into the global dialogue through IWA’s platform and the IWRF, we closely work with our members and Specialist Groups across disciplines. An IWA Working Group of renowned scholars has also been created to work on public policy and regulation for resilience – see members here.


Join the International Water Regulators Forum Group 

Join the Regulators group in IWA Connect – the thriving online network of water professionals worldwide -, where water regulators can find updates about relevant events, and more importantly, can share, explore, learn, reflect, and connect with their counterparts from all over the world.

Latest Updates

November 9, 2017
A few years ago I saw the CEO of an Australian water utility talk about managing water supply in a period of unprecedented water scarcity. She said a key elemen...
July 19, 2017
  Matsue city, Japan, 1 August 2015: “Earthquake alarm!” On 1 August 2015, Japan’s national water day, 32 households in a neighbourhood of Matsue cit...
May 10, 2017
Public participation, as customer engagement, user involvement, accountability or transparency, is a concept increasingly discussed among water professionals. I...
March 17, 2017
Since the recognition, in 2010, of access to safe drinking water and sanitation as Human Rights by the Member States of the United Nations, important progress h...
January 26, 2017
The IWA World Water Congress & Exhibition is a big and complex event that involves dozens of partners and two years of preparation. Every two years a new ci...
A lot has been said, agreed and done in 2016 towards achieving the new sustainable development agenda, and 2017 offers further opportunity for progress. The nex...
August 25, 2016
The Manual highlights the human rights principles and criteria in relation to drinking water and sanitation. It explains the international legal obligations in ...
June 26, 2016
Water Regulation in Kenya from IWA on Vimeo.
June 21, 2016
Ensuring water and sanitation services for all depends on securing appropriate financing, an issue that has long been a major challenge for the water sector. Th...
Carolina Latorre
Programmes Officer