IWRM Planning

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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 Resources Management (IWRM) is a participatory planning and implementation process for the sustainable development, allocation and monitoring of water resource use in the context of social, economic and environmental objectives. It brings stakeholders together to determine how to meet society’s long-term needs for water and coastal resources while maintaining essential ecological services and economic benefits. This integrated approach to water policy and management reflects the interconnected nature of hydrological resources in contrast to the sector-by-sector, top-down management style that has dominated in the past.


What are the main characteristics of the IWRM Planning Process?

IWRM involves managing water resources at the basin or watershed scale, managing demand and optimizing supply including assessments of available surface and groundwater supplies and evaluating the environmental impacts of distribution and use options. IWRM principles are based on equitable access to water resources, broad stakeholder participation, inter-sectoral approach to decision making based on sound science and usually require establishment of adequate regulatory and institutional frameworks. The planning process should result in an IWRM plan endorsed and implemented by government, more or less detailed depending on the situation and needs of the country.

The institutional arrangements needed to bring IWRM into effect include:

  • Consortium of decision-makers representing all stakeholders and gender-balanced reflecting society’s responsibility for water management.
  • Water resources management based on hydrological boundaries;
  • Organisational structures at basin and sub-basin levels to enable decision making at the lowest appropriate level, rather than a centralized decision-making model.
  • Government co-ordinating the national management of water resources across water use sectors.

The IWRM planning cycle usually includes the following principal components:

Initiation – securing government commitment and stakeholder participation

Experience shows that strong government commitment is essential for sustainable management of water resources. A crucial component of moving towards implementation of IWRM are reforms of current water management systems affecting power relations at all levels to enable a more equitable distribution of benefits. This requires considerable political commitment and a buy-in from a broad base of stakeholders. IWRM planning requires a team to organise and mobilize relevant stakeholders to facilitate a regular stakeholder consultation with a particular emphasis on broad participation (see e.g. experience from the Kura/Aras-project). It is important that the process is not seen as an activity of one governing body (e.g. a Ministry of Water) but is driven by a cross-sectoral committee at a high level. Politicians are a special group of stakeholders as they are both responsible for approving a plan and are also held accountable for its success or failure.

In Kazakhstan, initially, the interest of the government at the national level was low and the activities were seen as duplication of existing government work. However, personal meetings with key people of the Government committee organized by the management team helped to secure buy-in. Similarly at the basin level there was a negative attitude towards creating a river basin council — an open platform for discussion and decision-making. Though establishment of river basin councils is stipulated in the new country Water Code, the first council faced obstacles. They were overcome through extensive mobilization work with the parties involved.

For the Pacific SIDS IWRM multiple stakeholders were involved from the beginning including global and national NGOs, research organizations, governments and donors.

Vision/policy - guiding principles and direction to the future actions

A national water vision captures the shared dreams, aspirations and hopes about the state, use and management of water resources in a country. The vision may or may not be translated into a water policy but would be expected to address sustainable use of water resources.

Situation analysis - problems, IWRM situation, goals identified

In order to define the action needed to reach the vision, it is very important to assess existing conditions and needs of the stakeholders at the initial stage. Consultation with stakeholders and various government entities is vital for understanding of competing needs and goals. During these discussions, possible solutions to the problems may also arise. This phase identifies the strengths and weaknesses in the water resource management and points out the ways to improve the situation and reach the vision. As a final output, goals may be drafted according to problems and issues identified.

In the Pacific SIDS IWRM the preparatory phase of IWRM planning identified and emphasized the critical issues, which all participating countries have in common (e.g. protection of water supplies, addressing land and marine-based sources of pollution, vulnerability to extreme climate-related events, tourism development etc.). Pacific SIDS experience has shown that in the preparatory phase it was important to develop criteria for prioritizing the issues and defining goals. It was recognized that the process should emphasize integrated freshwater basin - coastal area management as key elements to ensure a sustainable future for the project beneficiaries.

In the Kazakhstan project technical and sociological analysis was completed during the preparatory phase, which helped to obtain reliable data on access to drinking water. The surveys were carried out in over 281 urban and 7,000 rural settlements in Kazakhstan and helped define the actual access to water supply and sanitation taking into account an urban/rural divide, hydrology and regional specifics. As a follow up, the project team prepared a combined report on access to drinking water and water supply services throughout the country.

Strategy choice - goals prioritized and strategy selected

For each goal the most appropriate strategy needs to be selected and assessed for feasibility as well as its conformity to the overall goal of sustainable management. The scope for technical and managerial action is very large given the complexity of the water sector and already at this stage priority areas for action should be identified.

IWRM plan - stakeholder and political approval

On the basis of the preparation involving the vision, the situation analysis, and the water resources strategy an IWRM plan may be prepared. Several drafts may be required to achieve feasible and realistic activities as well as get the stakeholders to agree. Approval by government is essential for resource mobilization and implementation.

In Kazakhstan project initial stakeholder consultations took nine months and resulted in the completion of the Concept Note for the National IWRM and WE Plan. The Concept Note was widely distributed among many stakeholders. The comments of 42 stakeholders including key ministries, and agencies, local authorities, regional and international partners were incorporated in the three Drafts of the National IWRM and WE Plan. (Read more on the Kazakhstan process..)

Implementation - legal, institutional, management actions, capacity building

For Pacific SIDS IWRM one of the challenges for the IWRM has been the identification of sustainable mechanisms for fulfilling the goals in the longer term. Hence the full follow up project would focus on building sustainability through the transfer of benefits realized through better watershed and water resources management back into the management process. The experience showed that during the preparatory phase it was important to look at financial sustainability e.g. strategies for recovering the costs of storage and distribution of water resources, polluter-pays and beneficiary-pays approach to improved and sustainable water quality, and marketing urban wastewater treatment as a service.

In Kazakhstan project the implementation of the IWRM plan is expected to be largely funded by the Government, from national and local budgets, once the Plan is endorsed, however, some activities in the Plan would be implemented with donor’s help.

Evaluation' – assessment of progress, revisions

To achieve long term sustainability, the plan should be seen as revolving with features of evaluation and reformulation at periodic intervals to reflect adjustments to changing situation.

Completion of the plan is a major achievement, however very often plans are not implemented for the following main reasons:

  • Lack of political commitment to the process: due to external constraints or a lack of engagement of key decision makers in initiating the process.
  • Unrealistic planning with resource requirements beyond the reach of the Government.
  • Plans rejected by one or more influential groups due to inadequate consultation or unrealistic expectations of compromise: where economic benefits or power relations may be affected, adequate consultation is vital.

Another reason for the plan failure is lack of capacity. The lack of adequate knowledge greatly affects stakeholders’ ability to contribute or perform as well as the quality of the plan and its implementation. It is important to consider the capacity building needs during the planning process and revise and refine it as the work moves along. It is recommended to follow each component of the work plan and assess whether the people involved in this part of the plan have sufficient knowledge to be able to participate effectively including from the beginning the knowledge of the politicians and the skills of the management team. Capacity building needs will change as the plan moves to implementation and different skills are required.

Replicability was also an important consideration for the Pacific IWRM since it involved multiple partners and it was beneficial to develop the replication strategy early on at the preparation stage.

Case Studies, Examples and Comparative Experiences...

... in the RBEC region

National IWRM and Water Efficiency Plan for Kazakhstan

UNEP Support Programm for CA Countries on Johannesburg Plan and IWRM Plan by 2005
The Process of Preparing a National IWRM and Water Efficiency Plan for Kazakhstan
Experience Note on Kazakhstan - National Integrated Water Resources Management and Water Efficiency Plan
Experience Note on Stakeholder Participation in River Basin Councils - Kazakhstan
Kazakshtan First Draft National IWRM and WE Plan
2006 Virtual Knowledge fair Contribution
Kazakhstan InfoBase

National IWRM and Water Efficiency Planning in the Central Asian Region

National Integrated Water Resources Management Plan for Uzbekistan

... from other regions

Botswana - National IWRM Planning

Daniel Lopez (GWP, Stockholm, [Daniel.Lopez@gwpforum.org])
experience in working with 10 countries in Africa developing IWRM plans over the last three years.

Cap-Net IWRM Planning Guide
available in several languages (incl. Russian); can be sent by Cap-Net on CD

While UNDP India has not directly supported work in the area of IWRM, this approach has been applied in the state of Maharashtra and incorporated in its water policy. Reference to the Maharashtra experience can be found in a publication of Sage India (2006): "Integrated Water Resources Management Global Theory, Emerging Practice and Local Needs" edited by: Peter P Mollinga Zef, Ajaya Dixit and Kusum Athukorala. (Prema Gera [prema.gera@undp.org]; 06 June 2007 on E&E-Net)

UNDP Trinidad and Tobago
has partnered with a number of national and regional agencies in addressing, to varying degrees the theme of IWRM. Reference to the following three agencies with whom we are currently working/collaborating for potential relevant feedback:
- the Caribbean Environmental Health Institute (CEHI) and
- a local NGO: the Buccoo Reef Trust (BRT) (implementing the GEF/UNEP/UNDP-funded regional project entitled "Integrating Watershed and Coastal Area Management in SIDS (IWCAM)". This project, which addresses technical, policy, research and social issues related to integrated water resources management in SIDS is being implemented in 14 island countries of the Caribbean. The project development process took place over a period of four years, and addressed several of the issues raised in your query.
Contacts for further insights:
  • Mr. Vincent Sweeney, IWCAM Regional Project Manager, CEHI, St. Lucia WI, [1]
  • Ms. Patricia Aquing, Executive Director a.i., CEHI, St. Lucia WI, [2], http://www.iwcam.org/
  • Dr. Owen Day, Director, Buccoo Reef Trust, Cowie's Building, Carnbee, Tobago, WI, [o.day@buccooreef.org], http://www.buccooreef.org (For reference on intl. consultants)
  • Ms. Michelle Mc Intyre, Caribbean Water and Waste Water Association (CWWA), Farm Road St. Joseph, Trinidad, WI, [cwwa@carib-link.net], http://www.cwwa.net (UNDP has also supported work of this regional association, which supports the strategic efforts in IWRM in the Caribbean Region)

(Willard Phillips, [willard.phillips@undp.org.tt] UNDP Trinidad and Tobago. 05 June 07 @ E&E-Net)

UNDP-GEF and the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) are developing an innovative programme on Sustainable Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) for the Pacific Island countries. The aim of this regional project is to assist Pacific Island Countries in implementing applicable and effective Integrated Water Resource Management and Water Use Efficiency (WUE) plans based on best practices and demonstrations. It is intended to support the implementation of the Pacific Regional Action Plan on Sustainable Water Management that aimed at improving the assessment and monitoring of water resources, reduce water pollution, improve access to technologies, strengthen institutional agreements, and leverage additional financial resources in support of IWRM. The IWRM Programme has initiated the much needed partnership between the representatives of government, NGOs, private sector, donors, Pacific regional organisations and UN agencies. Through innovative national demonstration activities, the project aims to develop more effective inter-sectoral coordination for water management and sharing of experiences and best practices between Pacific SIDS, not only at a regional but also at a global level. Project documents can be reviewed at GEF website

UNDP Yemen - National Water Resources Authority (NWRA)
UNDP supported national water resources management authorities. Yemen is facing a major water crisis with available water resources amounting to little more than 150 cubic meter per person each year. This compares with the Middle-East and North Africa average of 1,250 cubic meters, and the worldwide average of 7,500 cubic meters. According to worldwide norms, domestic uses alone require up to 100 cubic meters per person per year, and food self-sufficiency requires 1,000 cubic meters. In this context, the government established a National Water Resources Authority (NWRA) responsible for water resources planning and monitoring, legislation, regulation and public awareness. Responsibilities for water resources management were previously spread among several government agencies resulting in unsustainable management practices and many conflicting policies.
In 1997, UNDP Yemen initiated the five-year Sustainable Water Resources Management Programme supported by the World Bank, the Netherlands Government and UNDP to build the managerial and technical capacity of the NWRA and strengthen the interface between NWRA and line ministries. The Water Branch of UNDESA also provided technical assistance and has also worked on similar projects in various countries of Africa.
Contacts: Mr. M. Aslam Chaudhry, Technical adviser on water and environment, UN-DESA, New York; Elie Kodsi, Regional Manager for the Arab States, UNDP Drylands Development Centre.

... non-UNDP projects and experiences

Morocco – USAID - Implementing an Integrated Water Resources Management Programme
A new water management regime, based on an integrated and decentralized approach, is now essential in Morocco to prevent years of water shortages that will undermine Morocco’s ability to achieve its full development potential. In the Souss-Massa basin, where agriculture uses 90 percent of the available water supply, the need to seek improved water management regimes is imperative. USAID has been working with several local partners to establish a River Basin Agency for the Souss-Massa Basin to improve water resources management policies and institutions, implement good management practices, and increase nongovernmental participation in local water resources management.

Romania – USAID – Strengthening Water Users Associations
Water user associations are important to IWRM as an alternative to centralized approach to water resources management. USAID has provided funding, technical assistance and training to a project developing and strengthening the associations, which will be a critical component of restructuring the country’s irrigation systems and increasing irrigation efficiency through farmer participation and on-demand water delivery.

Egypt – World Bank - Integrated Water Resources Management Plan
The water sector in Egypt is facing serious challenges and as a way to deal with water issues, the National Water Resources Plan for Egypt (NWRP) was launched. The NWRP describes how Egypt will allocate and manage its water resources and how it will use these resources in the best way from a socio-economic and environmental point of view.

The Philippines - ICLEI and Asian Development Bank - Sustainable Water Integrated Management and Governance for Baguio City
Expanding Baguio City needs to cope with increasing demand for steady supply and access to potable water. The project seeks to enable Baguio city to shift from fragmented to integrated local water agenda and to develop an integrated management scheme at the local government level. The project includes local governments as member units involved in IWRM for coordinating and managing efforts.


Angelica Shamerina and Bethany Donithorn (Consolidated Reply @ ee-net@groups.undp.org, 23 Jul 07)

Key lessons learned include the following factors crucial for the success of the Strategic IWRM Plan

  • Political support and good will
  • Broad consensus and full ownership of the plan by stakeholders
  • Involving of all stakeholders in an inclusive participatory planning process including political leaders, government officials, specialists, civil society, communities and private sector.
  • Competent facilitator (Process Management Team) managing the participatory planning process, coordinating debates, communicating experiences and securing consensus on key issues

Paul Taylor (Cap-Net, South Africa. 01 June 2007 @ E&E-Net)
I advise caution in selection of the international consultant and it is important to establish clearly in the terms of reference a participatory process for the development and validation of any IWRM plan. An essential component of moving towards implementation of IWRM are reforms to current water management systems affecting power relations at all levels and to enable a more equitable distribution of benefits. This requires considerable political commitment and a buy-in from the broad base of stakeholders. It is important therefore that the process is not seen as an activity of one Ministry (e.g. the Ministry of Water) but is driven by a cross-sectoral committee at a high level.

Establishing River Basin Organizations

Important Organizations, Sources, Tools

  • GWP ToolBox on IWRM – The ToolBox is a compendium of peer-reviewed case studies representing good practices related to the principles of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) presented under a structured reference framework. The ToolBox allows water professionals to discuss and analyze the various elements of the IWRM process and facilitates the prioritization of actions aimed at improving the water governance and management.
  • Cap-Net – the international network for capacity building in IWRM, supported by UNDP.
  • International Water Management Institute - a nonprofit scientific research organization focusing on the sustainable use of water and land resources in agriculture and on the water needs of developing countries. IWMI works with partners in the South to develop tools and methods to help these countries eradicate poverty through more effective management of their water and land resources.


See also

External Resources

see also links and materials here

Publications and Papers

National Water Councils: Comparative Experiences (UNDP AS SURF, Feb 2007, prepared by Mohamed Bayoumi, Environment Programme Manager, UNDP Egypt and Iyad Abumoghli, Adviser, SURF-AS, Beirut)
This report based on case studies from Egypt, Morocco, Brazil, South Africa and Australia and submitted to UNDP Iraq, emphasizes the need for IWRM and National Water Councils in response to growing demand for water. The paper analyzes different models of water councils at various levels and discusses the lessons learned from the preparation and implementation of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) plans.

Methodological Guidelines - Establishment of River Basin Councils (RBCs) in Kazakhstan, UNDP 2005
The guideline describes a set of common organizational and legal issues for the establishment and further operation of RBCs in a simple way for users. It focuses on the legal basis for the establishment and operation of RBCs, their objectives and tasks, probable membership and organizational structure, approaches of public participation, the rights and obligations of RBC members, procedures, information and financing issues. This document also provides step-by-step recommendations on how to establish RBCs. The guideline is useful for those who plan to establish RBC and includes a useful set of annexes: key legal documents, regulating operation of RBCs in Kazakhstan, information material describing global experiences (Russian Federation and the European Union), samples of Basin Agreements and their possible appendixes.

Integrated Water Resources Management Plans: Training Manual and Operation Guide (Cap-Net 2005)
The manual is designed to assist practitioners in those countries developing a water resources management strategy or a water resources management plan. The materials are linked particularly to the initiatives being taken by the Global Water Partnership (GWP).

Integrated Water Resources Management Global Theory, Emerging Practice and Local Needs (edited by
Peter P Mollinga Zef, Ajaya Dixit and Kusum Athukorala)
Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) has become the international label for the 'new approach' to water resources management. This volume investigates how this global concept resonates with regional, national and local concerns in South Asia. The book is not available for download and can be purchased online or in bookstores.

Speedup of the Integrated Water Resources Management Objectives-2005 Implementation in Central Asia
This publication is the summary sub-regional report on activities carried out over the period from November 2005 to November 2006 within the framework of the Central Asian component of UNEP support for achieving the Johannesburg Plan of implementation target of "Integrated Water Resources Management and Efficiency Plans by 2005, with support to developing countries".

Water Resources in Latin American and the Caribbean: Issues and Options (Orlando San Martin, Feb 2002)
This paper, developed by the Inter-American Development Bank with the support of the [[World Bank], shows how important the contribution of water resources is to sustainable development in Latin America and the Caribbean. It further groups the problems and challenges facing water resources in this region, discusses the root causes, analyzes current responses, and provides specific case studies, considering water not only an environmental asset, but also a key economic resource.

Towards sustainable water resources management - a strategic approach (EC Guidelines)
These EC Guidelines are currently (fall 2007) updated and are planned to be re-published in an on-line format - possibly here on WaterWiki!...

External web-resources

  • Arab Water Council (AWC) - The first ever Arab Water Council, the AWC is a not-for-profit, regional organisation dedicated to water issues in the Arab States. Based in Cairo, the Council was formed in 2004 with the mission to promote better understanding and management of the water resources in the Arab States in a multi-disciplinary, non-political, professional and scientific manner. It also aims to disseminate knowledge, enhance sharing of experience and information for the rational and comprehensive water resources development of the region for the benefits of its inhabitants.
  • Buccoo Reef Trust (BRT) - an NGO working to conserve and restore the valuable coastal resources of Tobago through research, education and community service.

Shared project documentation

- UNDP Fiji - TOR for International/National Consultants on IWRM

Recommended Contacts

Tim Hannan

Daniel Lopez, GWP, Stockholm- Daniel.Lopez@gwpforum.org

Vincent Sweeney, IWCAM Regional Project Manager- Vincent.Sweeney@unep.org

Patricia Aquing, Executive Director-paquing@cehi.org.lc, website: www.iwcam.org/

Owen Day, Buccoo Reef Trust Director- o.day@buccooreef.org, BRT Website: www.buccooreef.org/

Michelle Mc Intyre, Caribbean Water and Waste Water Association (CWWA)- cwwa@carib-link.net, CWWA Website: www.cwwa.net/

Elie Kodsi, Regional manager of DDC leading the Regional Water Governance programme in the Arab Region- Elie.Kodsi@undp.org

Aslam Chaudhry, Technical adviser on water and environment, UN-DESA, New York, E-mail: chaudhry@un.org

Previous Consolidated Replies

Trinidad / Comparative Experiences / Establishment of a National Water Resources Management Authority, 19 Mar 2002 – Contains comparative examples of UNDP assistance to developing National Water Resources Authorities in Yemen and Mozambique.

India / Comparative experiences / Water management conflicts between communities and external actors, 20 Jan 2006 –Provides specific experiences with water management, ways to prevent or minimize conflicts that could be incorporated into the designing of a project, and methodologies for resolving conflicts when communities are faced with difficult situations.

Iraq / National Water Councils / Comparative Experiences, 16 May 2007 - Provides comparative experiences on developing National Water Councils assisted by UNDP or others through information on the experiences similar in context and cultural background, in establishing such councils or any other similar entities.

Costa Rica / Comparative experiences / Design of Water Governance Programme – written examples of Water Governance Programmes lead by UNDP or in which UNDP has taken an active participation, Lessons from experience on designing a Water Governance Programme, Sources of funding for interventions under the Programme, and sources of information on technology, institutional models, case studies etc. on Water Governance

UNDP Consolidated Reply
QUERY: Uzbekistan / Establishing National IWRM and Water Efficiency Plans Comparative Experiences
23 July 2007, prepared by Angelica Shamerina, Bethany Donithorn, and Sandy Min (EENet Intern)


 Botswana IWRM MSP PRODOC 21Mar2007.doc  ToR National & International Consultants IWRM MSP development Botswana.doc  ToR International Consultant IWRM MSP development Botswana.doc  Sample TOR IWRM - Fiji.doc  River Basin Councils - A Mechanism for Instituting IWRM in Kazakhstan writeup TimHannan.pdf

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