Water information systems

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Focus Areas

Geographic Scope




Background and Significance

The Experience: Challenges and Solutions

Results and Impact

Lessons for Replication

1. For information to enable effective project implementation an Information Management Unit or focal point should be established. The Unit should be developed to provide information management support, build procedures, guidelines, standards for data and information storage, processing and access as well as information technology solutions and products.

2. Develop an Information Management Plan - Such a plan would help an organization gain in-depth understanding of the information needs of the water managers and stakeholders. This will provide better guidance to ICT specialists on what it needs to support its operations. The Plan will also assist ICT specialists in advising the organization on the possible areas where ICT tools may be applied to increase the effectiveness of the system.

3. Engage a Multi-disciplinary Project Manager - In order to ensure that the project manager understands the information management needs of the water managers and takeholders, and the constraints they encounter, the manager must have a multi-disciplinary background, with knowledge and experience in both water resources management and ICT.

4. Develop knowledge of the social system of a particular setting before designing a water information management system. Information is needed on the social structures, gender issues, stage of economic development, human and technological resources and managerial capacities of water resources managers.

At a technical level....

1. Develop information management systems that are based on people management (empowerment and capacity building of organizations) as well as technologies that would enable the integration of multidisciplinary information.

2. Implement information management tools and ICT systems that match existing organizational capacity : It is important to ensure that information management tools and ICT systems are simple so that they can be operated within the existing capacity. Staff should be trained to operate the systems.

3. Develop information management systems that are demand-driven so that system design and construction and outputs are directed toward the end users. In this regard, an in-depth understanding of the types of information management outputs that are desired by users of the system is required. For example, Water Managers may need maps showing the quantity and quality of surface water and the water extraction points and amount extracted.

4. Adopt a staged approach in the development of information management tools and ICT systems: The computerization of information management operations should be implemented independently, for individual working ICT systems first. The integration of these individual systems should be attempted only after the staff responsible for these systems has the ability to operate them.

5. Design an information management system that is flexible so that the system can be used in a variety of locations or situations.

6. Design an information management system that is transparent and rigorous so that technical and non-technical persons (wide range of stakeholders) can follow the process of information generation and evaluation.

7. Develop an information management system that is interactive , to ensure a participatory decision-making process. Use a robust database such as ORACLE as part of an information management system.

Testimonies and Stakeholder Perceptions

The need for improved water information systems

The increasing focus on better water resources management in countries worldwide, necessarily requires the creation of improved water information systems . To establish these, greater transparency and access to better data that can be translated into information and interpreted is needed. With rapidly advancing information communication technologies (ICT), new information management tools have been developed that potentially will enable better management of water resources. For example, GIS, Google Earth, and web-based Content Management Systems (CMS).

Country experiences


The Water Environment Partnership in Asia (WEPA) is an initiative that the Ministry of the Environment of Japan proposed on the occasion of the 3rd World Water Forum held in Kyoto in 2003. WEPA aims to strengthen governance and capacity building in water environmental management by providing an information platform on water environment conservation. As a common information platform on water environment conservation, the WEPA database has been developed under the partnership of 11 WEPA partner countries, including the Republic of Korea. Considering that governments should take the lead role in promoting water environment management, the database is designed for government officials and aid-agency staff. The WEPA database consists of four parts namely the Policy-related Information Database, Technologies for Water Environment Conservation Database, Activities by NGOs and CBOs Database, and Information Sources Database . The Policy-related Information Database provides information relating to the state of water environmental issues and the content of water environmental policies and regulation in WEPA member countries. The Technologies for Water Environment Conservation Database provides information on wastewater treatment technologies and systems currently in good operation, which may be useful for decision-makers to consider water environment conservation measures. The Activities by NGOs and CBOs Database provides information on cases of civil activity related to water environmental problems and cases of governmental activities on education and awareness raising. The Information Sources Database provides links to websites that contain information related to water environment, including UN agencies, governments, NGOs and other relevant institutions.


With assistance from the Government of Italy, Egypt implemented a project entitled “Decision Support System for Water Resources Planning Based on Environmental Balance” . The project objective was to propose a methodology for integrating environmental and socio-economic aspects in water resources planning, and to develop a computer-based tool that would enhance the Decision-Makers (DMs) capacity of analysis and evaluation, stimulate the adoption of a wider and more integrated perspective in the planning process, as well as foster dialogue between the various actors. The first phase of the project concluded in 2002 and involved the definition of the evaluation methodology, the DSS conceptual structure and the simulation models required; development of a prototype version and identification of the data requirements. The second phase of the Project implemented from 2004-2008, included a thorough data collection and processing exercise while modifying and upgrading in parallel the designed models in order to ensure their actual applicability. The DSS includes a numerical/geographical Database/GIS, a model base, an Information base that stores the rules needed to utilize models and produce the required outputs, a Graphical User Interface with high geographical capabilities (Google Earth satellite images and GIS mapping facilities) and an inferential engine with live web-connection, which allows the linkage between the different components. The DSS uses an Open Source development environment, which is composed of a Linux operating system, a PostGIS spatially enabled database server, a MapServer environment, a Chameleon GIS interface system, and many other components. For further information on the project output and DSS structure see the . For details of the expected outputs of Phase II of the project as well as the activities leading to the outputs, see the


One of the key roles of the Somalia Water and Land Information Management (SWALIM) unit is to provide an information management resource to agencies engaged in assisting Somali communities whose lives depend directly on water resources. The project focuses on areas of water sources (rural and urban), irrigation, river gauging network, rainfall observation network and flood early warning. In 2006, SWALIM released an information management tool - the Somalia Water sources Information Management System (SWIMS) – which is a relational database application designed to store and manage data for the five principal types of water sources in Somalia: boreholes, dams, berkads, dugwells and springs. SWIMS includes three core modules: the Source Location module, the Source Records module and the Source Interventions module. The Source Location module holds the primary table to which all other data are linked. Each source location is uniquely identified by name, source type and GPS coordinates. These unique identifiers facilitate mapping of the water sources throughout Somalia to track the changes in a source’s attributes (status, uses and users, water characteristics, etc.). The Source Records module is designed to provide a record that can be used to build a comprehensive history of the source. Users are required to collect data regularly on the source and once this data is entered, the user can easily query them and build a variety of histories of the water source. The Source Interventions module provides project managers and planners with the means to answer questions about the past, on-going and planned activities on a source, and by whom. In this module, users are able to record a summary of their project activities and update the records once the activities are completed. SWIMS also offers a feature for querying data in a variety of ways and generating reports in MS Excel. This allows users to customize the reports to suit their organization’s requirements. The data is generated in a format that can be easily imported and mapped by GIS applications.


With support from UNDP and through its Ministry of Planning, Kuwait established the Kuwait Integrated Environmental Information Network (KIEIN). A main component of KIEIN is the Kuwait Environmental Information System (KEIS) . It aims at establishing a Geographic Information System (GIS) database for terrestrial, coastal, marine and atmospheric compartments, to facilitate the optimum utilization of available relevant data, and to enhance decision support activities in the field of sustainable development. The content of KEIS geo-environmental database includes both geographical (spatial) and attribute data sets. The database includes twelve main entities including Topography, Ecology, Energy, Environment, Hydrology, Oceanography, Meteorology, Planimetry and Utility. Each entity consists of a number of thematic layers. The database includes more than 480 environmental parameters. The widely used ARC/VIEW software package was applied with the Spatial Data Engine (SDE) and Oracle was used to achieve the overall objectives of this application. Phase one of the project covered the marine and coastal environment, whereas phase two focused on the terrestrial and atmospheric environment. Under the current phase, all the GIS datasets of the previous two phases were complemented and incorporated in the comprehensive “Geo-Environmental” database. In addition, two new major components were introduced in the current phase of KIEIN; namely the socio-economic domain (and application), and KIEIN web-based application. Based on the implementation of the first two phases of KIEIN, it was concluded that GIS technology is a useful tool to manage the different components of the environment. The role of environmentalist consultants and IT experts was considered to be very crucial during the implementation of the system. The use of a robust database such as ORACLE, during the building of an environmental information system at the national level, was strongly recommended. Kuwait Integrated Environmental Information Network provides a background of the project, methodology and recommendations.

Other experiences

AQUASTAT - FAO's Global Information System on Food and Agriculture was developed by FAO’s Land and Water Division. The System collects, analyzes and disseminates data and information by country and by region. Its aim is to provide users interested in global, regional and national analyses with comprehensive information related to water resources and agricultural water management across the world, with emphasis on countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. The information system consists of databases (African dams, institutions, river sediment yields, investment costs in irrigation), countries and regions (state of water resources and agricultural water use), climate information tool that provides climate estimates for the land surface of the globe, water resources (statistics of renewable water resources by country, global irrigation map that is a spatial dataset on areas equipped for irrigation, maps on water and agriculture, and FAO publications and links to other websites related to water and agriculture.

With funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the CAWATER-info - Information Portal for Water and Environmental Issues in Central Asia was created within the framework of the Central Asia Regional Water Information Base (CAREWIB) Project in order to improve information provision for water and environmental sectors in the Aral Sea basin. The Portal was implemented by Scientific-Information Center of the Interstate Coordination Water Commission of Central Asia (ICWC), United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and UNEP/GRID-Arendal. The main task of the multi-level, inter-state, inter-sectoral Portal is to serve as a common system for accounting water and land resources in the Aral Sea basin with a capability to assess different aspects of the efficiency of water and land use, and for forecasting. The Information Portal is comprised of software and hardware linked to a database that enables information search, receipt, storage, protection, processing and transmission using specially developed methods. Connection to a search service, provided by Google, enhances the usefulness of the Portal through providing users with more rapid access to information. Further work is currently being undertaken to improve the Portal. CAREWIB Inception Report CAREWIB Progress Report (2007)

Further useful resources and websites


Cap-Net Training Manual - Integrated Water Resources Management for River Basin Opportunities The purpose of the training material is to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the application of integrated water resources management (IWRM) for sustainable management and development of water resources. The manual includes a section on information management.

Korea Water Resources Cooperation provides water related solutions that include raw water management with nationwide operation of water supply, sewerage systems and dams, river management, desalination, industrial water hydropower generation, and water resources survey. The website contains information on building a water resource information management system that includes a water resource information system and a ground water information system.

The WCA infoNET information system is an Internet-based integrated information platform which merges high quality information resources and expertise allowing direct access to publications, documents, data, computer programs and discussion groups which provide a knowledge base, support and the necessary global platform for decisions on water conservation and use in agriculture. WCA infoNET is managed by IPTRID, which is an internationally-funded programme aimed at promoting technology and research in irrigation and drainage in and by developing countries. The Programme is hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).


This article is based on the Consolidated Reply to the query (by UNDP Libya) on water information systems which was sent over the UNDP listserve in September 2008.[[Category:]]

See also

External Resources


 DSSbrochure.doc  Egyptprojectdocument.pdf

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