IWRM - Sustainable Water Governance on the National Level

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Key issues: IWRM Planning | National Water and Sanitation Planning | Decentralization of Water Decision Making

Experience and Case Studies:

Other articles:

Performance and Capacity of River Basin Organizations | River Basin Organizations | River basin councils | IWRM - Sustainable Water Governance on the National Level


Integrated water management from theory to practice

Water management has historically been problematic for most countries. Traditionally water resources have been managed sectorally and at separate governance levels. The trend in water resource management has been towards managing human engagement with the water cycle rather than simply the resource. This implies that water resource management should be integrated and holistic.

The Global Water Partnership (GWP) has defined Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) as "a process which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources in order to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems." The philosophy of IWRM is based on the Dublin principles and includes water management at the lowest possible appropriate level, active stakeholder involvement and the establishment of proper institutional and legislative frameworks. In order to promote the implementation of these principles, an IWRM target was added to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for ensuring environmental sustainability.

The recently launched Human Development Report Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis underscored the need for integrated approaches to national level water management to meet the MDG target on IWRM and water supply and sanitation. The report identified IWRM as a key tool to addressing vulnerability and risk associated with climate change and scarcity of water resources. Despite the near universal acceptance of IWRM principles, countries continue to face ever- increasing water challenges because of a lack of capacity to practically implement IWRM. The situation is exacerbated by an increase in competition between different sectors for the available water resources; in Armenia for example, the agricultural sector and hydroelectric plants utilized the majority of renewable water resources, leading to a decrease in water levels of a fragile ecosystem.

Integrating water management into sustainable development

The exhibits presented in the knowledge fair demonstrate that concrete steps are being taken to approach water resources management in an integrated manner. Better understanding of not only what IWRM is but how to implement it at various governance levels and scales is demonstrated in many countries. In Macedonia integrated ecosystem management was implemented to reduce the harmful environmental effects of intensive agriculture and ensure the long-term social and economic development of the Lake Prepsa region, shared between Macedonia, Albania and Greece, through active stakeholder consultation. The result was a comprehensive sustainable development strategy that integrated the various sectors of the regions such as forestry and agriculture with user plans, including water and land management plans. The establishment of appropriate monitoring and regulatory frameworks now means that this innovative approach will be sustained.

Both Kazakhstan and Armenia's national sustainable development strategies also included integrated water management plans. In Kazakhstan, the government realized the need for an IWRM plan for sustainable development and in Armenia the new water code institutionalized integrated approaches to management. Similarly, in Lithuania an integrated approach to environmental management was implemented to prevent further degradation of the Nemunus Delta. In doing so much needed waste management facilities were built and sensitive wetlands were protected for future economic development.

These case experiences demonstrate a willingness to break with the old traditions of water management approaches and adopt innovative ones that offer the opportunity to adapt to the changing economic, social and climatic situations. They point to a willingness and need to cooperate among different countries for effective management and national level benefits as demonstrated by the case experience from Macedonia. Cooperation and coordination is a key element to effective IWRM implementation.

Another key to success of the IWRM approach lies in the capacity of the stakeholders - from the individual water professional to institutions or governments. Projects such as Cap-Net fill a valuable niche in developing the capacities in water management through training, advocacy and awareness raising using the innovative mechanism of regional networks.


See also

IWRM and Water Governance - Striving for "Incentive Compatibility" in the Water Sector

Q&A: Water Governance

Water Governance

External Resources

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