National IWRM planning


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Policies and decisions regarding water resources management are determined at the national level but concern several geographical and political aspects which need to be considered in the planning process. Depending on basin boundaries and scales, nations are often part of international basins, and management then requires collaboration across national river basin boundaries. A National IWRM plan will be set within the geographical and political context, and will take into account all activities and developments requiring water or influencing the water resource. Among these are; ecological requirements, water supply and sanitation, irrigation, land use and forestry, fisheries, hydropower and industrial use.

A good IWRM Plan includes a prioritised series of programmes for implementing the framework. The sequel to an IWRM plan is a development plan. Implementation of the management plan is a prerequisite for implementation of the development plan and ensures that the development takes place in a balanced fashion with due consideration of the national policies and strategies – operational aspects are explicitly addressed.

The formulation of a National IWRM Plan follows a distinct four phase approach:

1) Identify the range of water resources issues that occur across the country and assess their severity, mutual dependence and frequency of occurrence. A ”user requirement issue” results from an inadequate matching of user requirements (demand) and water resources availability and quality (supply) while an ”impact issue” derives from human activities that negatively affect the quantity or quality of the water resource or from natural causes in the case of floods and droughts. International issues should also be taken into account, for instance upstream-downstream issues.

2) Identify the management interventions at all levels – national, basin, local - necessary to address the issues identified. From the interventions required identify the management functions at each level. Management functions include such items as policy development, planning and coordination, water allocation, discharge regulation, monitoring, enforcement and information dissemination. Transboundary problems may require concerted international interventions.

3) Analyse the present institutional capacities at all levels – national, basin, local - potentials and constraints in the perspective of the issues to be dealt with and functions to be undertaken. The capacities relate to factors such as efficiency of institutional structures and adequacy of human and financial resources and of policies and legislation. International structures and agreements may be required to supplement the national institutions.

4) Prepare strategies for development of deficient parts of the framework of national policies, legislation and regulations for IWRM, for development of institutional roles that allow a coordinated implementation of IWRM and for development of the required management instruments and associated skills. International strategies have to be developed in collaboration with other riparian nations.


GWP ToolBox on National integrated water resources management plans:

Case Studies:

"Zambia: Integrated Water Resources Management and Water Efficiency (IWRM/WE) planning process". Available at:

"Senegal: IWRM Planning Process in Senegal", Available at:

"Kazakhstan: Institutional reform in water sector to implement IWRM plan", Available at:

See also: Jonch-Clausen, T (2004) "IWRM and Water Efficiency Plans by 2005: Why, What and How?", Global Water Partnership Technical Committe, Background Paper no.10

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