Sunday, May 6, 2012

Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM)

Water is critical, but often overlooked element in sustainable development.  If effective, long lasting solutions to water problems are to be found a new water governance and management paradigm is required. Such a new paradigm is encapsulated in the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) concept, which has been defined by GWP as ‘a process which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources in order to maximise the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital eco-systems’.

IWRM explicitly challenges conventional, fractional water development and management systems and places emphasis on integrated approach with more coordinated decision making across sectors and scales. Recognising that exclusively top-down, supply led, technically based and sectoral approaches to water managment are imposing unsustainably high economic, social and ecological costs on human societies and on the natural environment.  

Business as usual is neither environmentally sustainable, nor is it sustainable in financial and social terms. As a process of change which seeks to shift water development and management systems from their currently unsustainable forms, IWRM has no fixed beginnings and will probably never end. The global economy and society are dynamic and the natural environment is also subject to change, IWRM systems will, therefore, need to be responsive to change and be capable of adapting to new economic, social and environmental conditions and to changing human values.

IWRM is not an end in itself but a means of achieving three key strategic objectives.
  • efficiency to make water resources go as far as possible;
  • equity, in the allocation of water across different social and economic groups;
  • environmental sustainability, to protect the water resources base and associated eco-systems.
It would be easy for a policy maker faced with the prospect of wholesale governance change to conclude that it is all too complex with too many difficult trade offs and choices to make. It may seem much easier and certainly politically safer to maintain current policies and practices and avoid confronting the vested interests who gain from the status quo. However, doing nothing is not an option; problems will simply get worse and more difficult to tackle.

IWRM should be viewed as a process rather a one-shot approach - one that is long-term and forward - moving but iterative rather than linear in nature. There is no such thing as a perfect IWRM system and the search for perfection can lead to action atrophy.

Concerted action is needed to reverse the present trends of overconsumption, pollution, and rising threats from drought and floods. The Conference Report sets out recommendations for action at local, national and international levels, based on four principles (Dublin principles). In addition to these guading principles, the GWP recognizes some overriding criteria that take account of social, economic and natural conditions (integrating "three E`s).

Download the presentation (1,78 MB) on "Introduction to IWRM" to support you in presenting GWP messages. 

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