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Integrated Water Resources Management

Water Matters offers useful resources on water management topics.

Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) considers multiple viewpoints and dimensions of how water should be used. IWRM considers the dimensions of water (surface water and groundwater, and quantity and quality); the interactions with land and water; and the interrelationships with environment, social, and economic uses of water.

This resource area includes resources on the history, current discussion and books on the topic, and examples of IWRM at work. As we gather information and new information becomes available we will update this section. Check back frequently for new material. If you have suggestions for additional information that we could feature here, please contact us.

Please refer to this section often for ideas on how to make decisions on water management that considers environmental, economic, cultural and social needs.

The History of IWRM

Integrated water resources management: evolution, prospects, and future challenges [pages 15-21]
Source: Sustainability: Science, Practice & Policy. Volume 1, Issue 1.
By: Rahaman, Muhammad Mizanur and Olli Varis. 2005.
This article describes the historical evolution of the IWRM concept, noting particular international conferences important in this development, from Mar del Plata 1977 to Kyoto 2003. It describes 7 challenges to IWRM implementation.

General discussion of IWRM

Integrated Water Resources Management
Source: Water Encyclopedia: Science and Issues.
By: Grigg, Neil S.
This site provides a definition of IWRM and an explanation of elements of IWRM. It briefly discusses the historical development of the term. It discusses challenges to water management integration.

Watershed Planning, British Columbia Guide to Watershed Law and Planning
This watershed planning resource is concise and addresses key elements of watershed planning. Not only does it give the basics of water's importance and define "watershed", but it suggests the aim of watershed management, outlines the principles of sustainable watershed management, and discusses the steps of the watershed planning and the components that should be considered. It also links to a page of necessary information components to do successful watershed planning.

A Review of Watershed Planning and Management: Best Practices, Legal Tools and Next Steps
Source: Commissioned research for Leading Edge: Stewardship and Conservation in Canada conference, Victoria
By: Veale, Barbara J. 2003

This report provides a brief overview and compares Canadian jurisdictions' state of watershed planning. Veale compares legislation, policy, and programs of the provinces and federal government. Veale devotes the remainder of the report to analysing international watershed planning efforts to define major barriers to this planning and factors for success, followed by recommendations for Canada.

GWP ToolBox for Integrated Water Resources Management
By: Global Water Partnership.
The ToolBox is a compendium of good practices related to the principles of IWRM that allows water related professionals to discuss and analyse the various elements of the IWRM process. It comprises case studies and explains the relation between IWRM and capacity building, finance, floods, food and agriculture, freshwater and coasts, gender, governance, groundwater, health, lakes, national water resource plans, nature and environment, poverty, power and industry, trans-boundary waters, and water and sanitation.

Integrated water resources management (IWRM): A approach to face the challenges of the next century and to avert future crises
Source: Desalination 124 (1999), 145-153.
By: Al Radif, Adil. 1999.
This article discusses challenges to water management, approaches to water management-including supply-drive, IWRM, and strategic approaches (such as an ecosystem based approach). The article does not address how to implement IWRM.

Integrated Water Resources Management on a Basin Level: A Training Manual
Source: UNESCO.
By: Burton, Jean. 2003.

The manual's aim is to train managers who can then bring participants to produce a diagnosis of their basin and develop and an action plan. The manual address definitions of IWRM and water issues generally and then describes the steps of the management framework as a methodological guide.

Principles of Integrated Water Resources Management
Source: Global Water Partnership Southern Africa, Southern Africa Youth Forum, 24-25 September 2001, Harare, Zimbabwe.
By: Gumbo B. and P. van der Zaag. 2001.

This paper's focus is on Southern Africa. It lists concerns related to water, defines IWRM, and suggests its central principles and key concepts for IWRM. This is a good overview paper of IWRM.

Can Integrated Water Resources Management sustain the provision of ecosystem goods and services? [pages 103-113]
Source: 2001. 2nd WARFSA/WaterNet Symposium: Integrated Water Resources Management: Theory, Practice, Cases: Cape Town, 30-31.
By: Jewitt, Graham.

This article critiques IWRM because it does not consider the ecosystem as a "user" of water and traditional command and control approaches may continue to label themselves as IWRM. This article provides a good description of the ecosystem approach as a systems approach in general and as it pertains to water management.

Integrated Water Resources Management Plans: Training Manual and Operational Guide [98 pages]
By: Cap-Net, GWP, UNDP. March 2005.
This paper, intended to be a 3-4 day training course, includes a definition of IWRM, issues, and principles. Part 1 of Section 2 discusses the planning cycle, the process of developing IWRM plans (initiating, developing a work plan, establishing a strategic vision, situational analysis, strategy options and decisions, preparation and approval). See section 8.2.1 for what content a plan should include. It also includes a check list for assessing a plan, and two tables of governance principles and substantive principles with which to assess a plan. This is the best document (so far) about how to develop a plan based on IWRM.

Catalyzing Change: A handbook for developing integrated water resources management (IWRM) and water efficiency strategies [56 pages]
Source: GWP Catalyzing Change Series.
By: Global Water Partnership (GWP). 2007.

This document defines IWRM, discusses its advantages and principles, and emphasises water efficiency (two types: technological efficiency-use efficiency, recycling and reuse, and supply efficiency-and allocative efficiency-water markets, transfers, economic or regulative allocation mechanisms). Report describes areas of change to embrace IWRM and the IWRM process. It discusses various institutional arrangements - their value and challenges. One section is devoted to the strategy development process. The last section deals with implementing a strategy.

"...Integrated water resources management (IWRM) and water efficiency plans by 2005": Why, what and how?
Source: Global Water Partnership. TEC Background Paper No. 10.
By: Jonch-Clausen, Torkil. 2004.

Good general description of IWRM (why, what, and how). See Annex 4 for short case studies of how some countries approached IWRM planning (including Thailand, Burkina Faso, Poland, Australia, Uganda, and Central America).

Session Topic Synthesis: Introduction to IWRM
By: World Bank Institute.
Two-page description of IWRM and rationale, list of issues to consider and key elements of IWRM.

Books and Chapters in Books

Rethinking Water Management: Innovative Approaches to Contemporary Issues
Source: Earthscan Publications Ltd.: London and Sterling, VA.
By: C. M. Figueres, C. Tortajada, and J. Rockström (eds).
This book explores a number of water-related issues (e.g., water rights, groundwater, etc.) with chapters on different topics and authors of varying expertise and nationality.

Integrated Water Management
Source: Integrated Water Management: International Experiences and Perspectives, ed. Bruce Mitchell. London, U.K.: Bel-haven Press.
By: Mitchell, Bruce. 1993.

Canadian Water Management: Visions for Sustainability
Source: Canadian Water Resources Association: Cambridge, Canada.
By: Mitchell, B., and D. Shrubsole. 1994.
This book discusses water management policy in Canada from both a federal and provincial/territorial government perspective. The authors first review policy practices and innovations by jurisdiction. Main patterns and trends in water policy are discussed with issues such as the adoption of an ecosystem approach and First Nations being considered. Patterns and trends in water management policy are reviewed including sustainable development, impact assessment, and alternative dispute resolution, to name a few. The authors end with a discussion of the opportunities that are presented by the use of market mechanism, environmental risk management, etc.

Resource and Environmental Management, Second edition.
Source: Pearson Education Limited: Harlow, Essex.
By: Mitchell, B. 2002.

Practicing sustainable water management: Canadian and international experiences
Source: Cambridge, ON: Canadian Water Resources Association CWRA, 1997.
By: Shrubsole, Dan and Bruce Mitchell (eds.).
This book discusses sustainable water management in Canada with perspectives provided from outside of Canada from England and Wales, Australia, New Zealand, and urban perspectives from Boston, New York and Denver. The authors discuss both practices and policy with consideration given to economics, partnerships with First Nations, data collection networks, and watershed planning.

Some Examples of IWRM




  • Harrop-Proctor Community Forest
    Since the late 1970s, Harrop-Proctor residents have struggled to protect their drinking water due to clearcut logging practices in the area and their effect on West Arm of Kootenay Lake, BC. Through struggle within the community and between the community and government followed by a community forest plan accepted by the BC government, the communities of Harrop and Proctor established a community forest managed sustainably and as a cooperative.
  • Highwood Water Management Plan
    The Highwood Management Plan, whose status remains in limbo, represents the work of a multi-stakeholder group, Public Advisory Committee (PAC), grappling with a particular issue in southern Alberta (a diversion plan from the Highwood River). A Natural Resource Conservation Board and Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency Joint Review Panel objected to a proposed Highwood Diversion plan. This judicial ruling led to formation of PAC and led to development of a plan that acknowledged the ruling and met the objectives of the Joint Review Panel as well as those of the multiple stakeholders. Through an educational process, multiple studies, and public consultation, as well as support from Alberta Environment and Alberta Transportation, PAC was able to develop a plan through consensus that supports a balanced approach to the issue at hand. [background reports]
  • Water. Our Life. Our Future: Quebec Water Policy
    By: Government of Quebec. 2002.
  • Moose Jaw River Watershed Source Protection Plan
    By: Saskatchewan Water Authority (SWA) and Moose Jaw River Watershed Advisory Committees. April 2006.
    This plan is the result of a shared governance process—between Saskatchewan Water Authority (a government body), local municipalities, and interest groups. These participants identified threats and opportunities around source water in the watershed. The planning methodology describes this process to a small degree. The plan outlines planning objectives, recommendations, and key actions around groundwater, surface water quality, surface water quantity, and ecosystem health.
  • Ontario's Clean Water Act and source water protection
    Tragic results of water contamination in Walkerton, Ontario, in May 2000 brought around significant legislative changes in the province. Ontario’s new approach to protecting drinking water is source protection. The Clean Water Act is the legislative driver to make change on a watershed scale through deliberative multi-stakeholder processes.



Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Strategy for Integrated Water Resources Management
    Source: No. ENV 125. Washington, DC.
    By: Inter-American Development Bank (IADB). 1998.

    This report is an example of applying a IWRM approach. It focuses on the Latin America Caribbean region. While it is from the perspective of a Bank, it offers an example of how IWRM can be applied. It suggests key principles the Bank will apply in its water-related activities and strategic instruments that may be used on a case-by-case basis. It also outlines operational guidelines on how to integrate the principles of the strategy with the operational plans of the Bank. Annex I has a useful table showing the differences between different approaches - from project-oriented water resources development to integrated water resources management. Annex II has a summary of international declarations regarding IWRM. Annex III list different forms and responsibilities of private sector participation in public services provision. Annex IV gives a simplified overview of the strategy.

United States

  • San Francisco Bay Area Integrated Resources Water Management Plan. Executive Summary. November 2006.
    This Plan outlines the region's water resources management needs and objectives. It presents strategies and an implementation plan. The Plan is intended to address all aspects of water resources management and coordinate and facilitate cooperation among various agencies. This plan might be a good model for developing watershed management plans - but need to read through it carefully and assess it based on vision statement and principles of IWRM, or those decided upon by committee.
  • Santa Ana River Watershed Alliance
    This alliance is a network of groups and citizens in the Santa Ana watershed, Southern California. It formed in response to a rain storm event that precipitated a crisis of poor water quality due to stockpiling of manure by the many dairy farmers in the watershed. This multi-stakeholder effort include public and private cooperative effort from across the county and includes members from local, regional, state, and federal agencies.
  • Washington State Watershed Planning Act
    Source: 2006 Report to Legislature: Progress on Watershed Planning and Setting Instream Flows
    Source: Ryan, Clare M. and Jacqueline S. Klug. 2005. Collaborative Watershed Planning in Washington State: Implementing the Water Act. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management. Vol. 48, No. 4, 491-506, July 2005. 16 pp.
    Washington State, similar to Ontario, represents an intergovernmental approach to collaboration, where local governments are required to participate in watershed planning and other stakeholders are optional participants in these processes. The Watershed Planning Act sets the legislative framework for watershed planning. Water quantity issues are a mandatory issue for these watershed planning units to address. They are meant to protect existing water rights, instream flow needs, and the citizenry’s economic well being. Instream flow needs are an optional element of resulting plans, where these planning units can determine new or amend existing instream flow objectives; but the Department of Ecology can set new instream flow objectives if the planning unit decides not to in its watershed plan.