Terms of reference


The Terms of Reference (ToR) is a document which can be used to list and describe the roles, expectations and purpose of individuals, committees, organisations or institutions who are involved in the development and/or implementation of a National Water Safety Plan.  

ToRs can be written for a number of different purposes. It may be useful to establish a ToR for stakeholders involved in the water safety plan development committee, clarifying their expected contributions and commitment over time. A ToR may also be useful to develop with organisations or groups who will be involved with water safety plan implementation, stating responsibilities and expected outcomes from their involvement.  

Initiating both the development and implementation phases of a water safety plan with a clear ToR is an effective way to ensure all stakeholders know what is expected from them and how their involvement will contribute to achieving plan goals. A good ToR should allow the reader to understand the ‘who, what, why, when, where and how’ of their involvement. Each project ToR will be different but should aim to follow the following basic structure: 

  • Background: describe the context in which the water safety plan will be implemented and why it is required 

  • Purpose/objectives: summarise the main aim/s of the plan  

  • Scope of work: outline major plan components and describe the target population 

  • Methodology: describe the framework of the plan, how the plan will be implemented and how it will be evaluated  

  • Governance and accountability: list required approvals and outline the planned management structure 

  • Qualifications: list the expertise required for the plan implementation  

  • Deliverables: list the outputs the plan is required to achieve in order to be considered successful.
    - Include details surrounding the implementation of any interventions, any data collection planned, the planned production of reports and other dissemination materials.
    - Include timelines and milestones.
    - Include plans for progress meetings and consultations.
  • Budget and payment: outline who will pay for what 

  • Level of effort: estimated time commitment required for plan development and implementation  

  • Additional references and resources  


  • An effective way to ensure all stakeholders are aware of their individual and joint responsibilities and expectations. 
  • Unites stakeholders under a common purpose and shared goals. 
  • Signing the ToR by all stakeholders can increase compliance and accountability.   
  • Clearly outlines background and purpose of a National Water Safety Plan.   


  • Stakeholders may disagree with the ToR and revisions will need to be made. 
  • Creating many specific sub-ToRs may be time consuming if the project or study is large and complex.    


ToRs should be finalised and circulated at early stages of development and implementation phases of a National Water Safety Plan. This allows for all individuals involved to review, discuss and revise the ToR before commencing work. It may be appropriate to create shorter and more specific sub-ToRs for individuals and specific project activities.