Welcome to Water Law and Standards! We are a joint project of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Since 1999, the WHO Water, Sanitation and Health Programme and the FAO Legal Office have been collaborating on a number of initiatives linked to water law, health and development. A text entitled Law for Water Management: A Guide to Concepts, Developments and Effective Approaches is under preparation. The databases on this website are the other major output of this inter-agency collaboration. The database of national water legislation is ready for use and is linked to FAO's existing FAOLEX database of legislation on natural resources, whereas the database of national water quality standards is under construction. These databases are a work in progress and any comments and suggestions are welcomed and should be addressed to our


Search in one country
Compare countries

The legislative section of the database contains an analysis of the legal frameworks governing water resources in selected countries of the world. We have plans to progressively increase the number of countries covered, and to regularly update the analyses stored in the database. The information is broken down into answers to a detailed list of questions about national legal frameworks. FAO developed the list of questions to capture the main features of a country's legal framework on water that a researcher might want to know.

The questions include, for example, whether there is a basic water law in the country; what kinds of water it covers; who owns water; who is authorized to use water and how; whether and how pollution is controlled; and the nature of the government's administrative structure for water resources management.

The legislative part of the database can be used to examine one country's national legal framework for water, or to compare one or more countries with regard to all or part of their national legislation on water. The database can also be searched by region. Where possible, the database provides access to the text of the legislation being discussed, through a link to FAO's own database of national legislation on natural resources, FAOLEX.


Editor/Administrator area

The water standards part of the database contains detailed information on the water quality standards of all countries in the world for which information has been provided to date. WHO developed a questionnaire regarding the existence and contents of drinking water standards at national level, which will be soon complemented by another questionnaire on recreational water. The questionnaires will be filled in by authorized national counterparts.

Like the legislative part of the database, the standards part of the database can be searched by individual country or by comparing one or more countries, and it can also be searched with regard to a particular substance being regulated.