In the past, a sector-by-sector top-down water management has not reflected the fundamentally interconnected nature of hydrological resources. Indeed, the basis of IWRM is that the many different uses of finite water resources are interdependent.
Today, IWRM is often associated with the need to achieve water for multiple purposes in a sustainable and equitable manner. It also aims to manage and mitigate climate change, and extreme climate events.
As such, IWRM requires resolving trade-offs in order to maintain a proper balance between meeting various sectors’ needs and taking into account present and future overall social, economic and environmental goals. IWRM, as a politically-driven process, strives to resolve conflicts of interest over water resources and their allocation, use and protection.
An additional challenge with IWRM is institutionally adopting the IWRM principles and adapting water governance accordingly – in a specific regional and country context. Each country will have different ways of implementing the IWRM process and derive different benefits from it. Implementation modes will also depend on the geographic, social and economic context and, in particular, on the hydrology.
As stated by IWMI, IWRM ought to be implemented with care.
The three most critically important concepts for an IWRM process are:
- the economic efficiency, equity and environmental sustainability
- the enabling environment, institutional framework and the management instruments; and
- the cross-sector/horizontal integration across the natural systems and the human systems, combined with the vertical integration across local-basin-city-national and transboundary levels.
The first concept requires that management strikes a balance between the three goals, of which the first two deal with socio-economics and the last with nature and its continued protection.
The second requires a rational framework for management be developed. The enabling environment is the set of required policies and legislation needed to support the management. The institutional framework is the set of government and private organizations and agencies that implement the IWRM. The management instruments are the tools, skills and capabilities needed by the water agencies in order to fill their mandated roles.
The third concept requires the integration of the views and interests of various sectors in the development and implementation of the IWRM framework, as well as horizontal and vertical integration.
In 2012, a report on the status of IWRM was prepared by UNEP, taking stock of the situation 20 years after the introduction of IWRM as concept. It reports that the countries having embarked on water reforms along the IWRM lines, noticed socio-economic benefits as well as implementation challenges, requesting even more efforts. It also reports that the reporting countries recognize ‘Integrated Approaches’ to water resources management and development are critical for progress towards a green economy.
WGF strive to support countries in enforcing the IWRM concepts.
1. Provides policy and technical advice on governance reform and IWRM implementation at local, national and river basin levels.
2. Develops, shares and disseminates knowledge, tools and methodologies in areas that enforce the IWRM concepts and improve water governance, such as:
- Water Integrity, addressing un-ethical practices in the water sector, promoting transparency and accountability
- The Human Right-Based Approach, offering a normative and legal framework to define the rights and obligations of different categories of institutions and for the allocation of scarce freshwater resources in society
- Equitable rights for indigenous people,
- Gender equity
3. In the same areas, the WGF builds capacity, enabling stakeholders to articulate these areas in their country reforms and daily work.