Status Report on IWRM for CSD16


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Publication Title

Status Report on Integrated Water Resources Management and Water Efficiency Plans

Prepared for the 16th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development

Publication Type

Task Force report for CSD16



(Drafted by Gordon Young, supported by Binay Shah and Fred Kimaite on behalf of the UN-Water Task Force on IWRM Monitoring and Reporting, with direction, comments and advice from the members and partners of UN-Water.)

Publication Date

May 2008


Publication URL




Managers, whether in the government or private sectors, have to make difficult decisions on water allocation. More and more they have to apportion diminishing supplies between ever-increasing demands. Drivers such as demographic and climatic changes further increase the stress on water resources. The traditional fragmented approach is no longer viable and a more holistic approach to water management is essential.

This is the rationale for the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) approach that has now been accepted internationally as the way forward for efficient, equitable and sustainable development and management of the world’s limited water resources and for coping with conflicting demands.

Countries and regions have very different physical characteristics and are at very different stages in economic and social development: hence there is a need for approaches to be tailored to the individual circumstance of country and local region.

This Report, compiled by UN-Water, aims to illustrate progress made on meeting the target to “Develop integrated water resources management and water efficiency plans by 2005, with support to developing countries, through actions at all levels” agreed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg in 2002, through the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPoI).

The Report is based on a survey covering 104 countries of which 77 are developing or countries in transition and 27 are developed (OECD and EU member states) The survey brings together the results of questionnaires by UN-DESA, and UNEP in 2007. Several other members of UN-Water and partner agencies have supported and contributed to the Report including UNDP, UN Statistics, WHO, WWAP and GWP. The survey recognises that countries use different terminology for their water resources management plans. It provides the most objective and comprehensive overview of the current status of water resources management. The Report also includes information gathered by the more informal surveys conducted earlier by the Global Water Partnership and the African Development Bank.

Key conclusions

Developed countries
They have advanced on almost all major issues, however, there is still much room for further improvement.
  • Of the 27 countries responding to the UN-Water Survey only 6 claim to have fully implemented national IWRM plans; a further 10 of those countries claim to have plans in place and partially implemented.
  • The Report indicates that developed countries need to improve on public awareness campaigns and on gender mainstreaming.
Developing countries
There has been some recent improvement in the IWRM planning process at national level but much more needs to be done to implement the plans.
  • Of the 53 countries for which comparison was made between the GWP and the UN-Water surveys (conducted approximately 18 months apart), the percentage of countries having plans completed or under implementation has risen from 21% to 38%. On this measure the Americas have improved most – from 7% to 43%; the comparable changes for Africa were from 25% to 38% and for Asia from 27% to 33%. However, some of the change may be due to differences in the questionnaires.
  • Africa usually lags behind Asia and the Americas on most issues, however it is more advanced on stakeholder participation and on subsidies and micro-credit programs;
  • Asia is more advanced on institutional reform and yet lags behind in institutional coordination.
Case studies
There are many illustrations of the tangible benefits of implementing plans that have adopted the IWRM approach. There are examples at the national and international levels; of particular significance are the examples at the community and provincial levels for it is at these levels that so many societal gains can be made.
Water efficiency
It is clear that many countries consider that plans that follow an IWRM approach automatically also include water efficiency measures. There was considerable ambiguity in the responses concerning water efficiency in large measure reflecting diverse situations. It is recognised that taking actions that make water use more efficient is beneficial for economic and social development and, although many countries indicated through the questionnaires that water efficiency measures were not relevant to their particular circumstances, it should not be implied that such measures should not be considered necessary. It can be concluded from this survey that much more effort needs to be made to incorporate explicitly water efficiency measures within the framework of IWRM.
Development of indicators
A great deal of effort has gone into the development of a set of indictors that meet the requirements of being specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, realistic and timely but more work is required. The Roadmapping initiative, being developed concurrently with this Report and complementary to it, is intended to help countries focus on the steps to be taken towards better water management, drawing inspiration from the IWRM principles and the plans and strategies that they have prepared to help catalyze change. At regional and global levels, the roadmaps could serve as benchmark for monitoring progress in improving water resources management. Indicators and monitoring could provide countries with a better assessment of the needs to advance in their implementation of IWRM.


The survey indicates that more emphasis is needed in the following areas:

  • Countries, particularly those that are lagging behind, need to prioritise the development of IWRM and water efficiency measures, with the help of supporting agencies;
  • Countries need to prioritise the implementation of policies and plans once they have been developed;
  • Countries should establish roadmaps and financing strategies for the implementation of their plans with External Support Agencies (including the UN, donors and NGOs) providing support to countries, based on demand;
  • Experiences in implementing IWRM should be evaluated, monitored and shared through global coordination mechanisms. This will require more work on indicators and follow-up processes that do not add an undue reporting burden on countries.
  • The UN World Water Assessment Programme and its associated World Water Development Reports should continue to provide an up-to-date global overview of progress on implementing the IWRM approach.



See also

Setting the Stage for Change - IWRM Status in 2005

Status and plans of EECCA countries in fulfilling the WSSD target on IWRM-plans by 2005

Speedup of the Integrated Water Resources Management Objectives-2005 Implementation in Central Asia

Roadmapping for Advancing Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) Processes (joint UN-Water and the Global Water Partnership report)

edit  ·  Toolkit IWRM
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

External Resources


 Status Report on IWRM for CSD16 final.pdf

 UN-Water IWRM Report for CSD16 Annexes 1-7.pdf

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