The retired leaders, among them ex-Mexican president Vicente Fox and former Japanese prime minister Yasuo Fukuda, said the panel would work to raise the issue's political prominence in order to avert looming problems with worldwide water supply.
The group urged a new international water ethic and offered 21 recommendations for world water management. At the top of the list: "placing water at the forefront of the global political agenda."
Others items included linking climate change research and water problems, creating a legal right to water, and raising the price of water to reflect its economic value.
In areas where water is rationed, the priority should be for food crops and not bio-fuels, said the group, whose co-chairs were former Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien and one-time Austrian chancellor Franz Vranitzky.