Principles of Integrated Water Resources Management in Urban Areas
  • IWRM should be applied at catchment level. The catchment is the smallest complete hydrological unit of analysis and management.. Integrated catchment management (ICM), therefore, becomes the practical operating approach. Although this approach is obviously sound and finds wide acceptance, too narrow an interpretation should be avoided. This alternative viewpoint is dealt with in Section 4.3 (Integrated Urban Water Management).

  • It is critical to integrate water and environmental management. This principle is widely and strongly supported. IWRM can be strengthened through the integration of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA’s), water resources modeling and land use planning. It should also be understood that a catchment or watershed approach implies that water should be managed alongside the management of codependent natural resources, namely soil, forests, air and biota.

  • A systems approach. A true systems approach recognizes the individual components as well as the linkages between them, and that a disturbance at one point in the system will be translated to other parts of the system. Sometimes the effect on another part of the system may be indirect, and may be damped out due to natural resilience and disturbance. Sometimes the effect will be direct, significant and may increase in degree as it moves through the system. While systems analysis is appropriate, analyses and models that are too complex to be translated into useful knowledge should be avoided.

  • Full participation by all stakeholders, including workers and the community. This will involve new institutional arrangements. There must be a high level of autonomy, but this must at the same time be associated with transparency and accountability for all decisions. In this context Vision 21 states: AThe real breakthrough came when the agencies all recognized that the most effective action came from the energy of people themselves@. Care should be taken to ensure that those participating in any catchment management structure do indeed represent a designated group or sector of society. It is also important to ensure that representatives provide feedback to the constituencies they represent IWRM seeks to combine interests, priorities and disciplines as a multi-stakeholder planning and management process for natural resources within the catchment ecosystem, centered on water. Driven bottom-up by local needs and priorities, and top-down by regulatory responsibilities, it must be adaptive, evolving dynamically with changing conditions.

  • Attention to social dimensions. This requires attention to, amongst other things, the use of social impact assessments, workplace indicators and other tools to ensure that the social dimension of a sustainable water policy is implemented. This will include the promotion of equitable access, enhanced role of women, and the employment and income implications of change.

  • Capacity building. At many levels in the process Eeven at the governmental level - stakeholders lack the necessary knowledge and skills for full application of IWRM. Community stakeholders may not be familiar with the concept of water resource management, catchment management, corporate governance, and their role in these. Many, even in developed countries, do not even know what a catchment or watershed is. The water stakeholders must, therefore, collaborate in designing and implementing strategic elements of capacity building as part of the evolving IWRM process. Capacity building categories include education and awareness raising about water; information resources for policy making; regulations and compliance; basic infrastructure; and market stability. Early and ongoing stakeholder collaboration and communication in capacity building is also important from the point viewpoint of “leveling the playing fieldEin anticipation of disputes that may arise. Filling strategic skills/capacity gaps supports IWRM, facilitates dispute resolution, and builds practical understanding of the scope of sustainable natural resource development challenges and opportunities.

  • Availability of information and the capacity to use it to make policy and predict responses. This implies, firstly, sufficient information on hydrological, bio-physical, economic, social and environmental characteristics of a catchment to allow informed policy choices to be made; and secondly, some ability to predict the most important responses of the catchment system to factors such as effluent discharges, diffuse pollution, changes in agricultural or other land use practices and the building of water retaining structures. The latter hinges on the adequacy of scientific models: Models should be as complex as the problem requires and no more so. It is recognized that predicting ecosystem response to perturbation with reasonable confidence is severely taxing current scientific capabilities, stimulating ongoing research.

  • Full-cost pricing complemented by targeted subsidies. This principle was strongly urged by the World Water Council at The Hague, the rationale being that users do not value water provided free or almost free and have no incentives to conserve water. Wide support for this principle was engendered, but also significant opposition from those who felt that the interests of the poor might not be sufficiently protected, even under an associated subsidy system, however well designed. Opposing views held that full-cost pricing, when applied in its narrowest sense, offends the principle that water is a public good, a human right, and not simply an economic good. Reiterating: The economic sustainability of water and sanitation services depends largely and appropriately on the recovery of costs through user fees or tariffs that are equitably assigned based on ability-to-pay. Under-served or unserved, marginalized users in many places already pay high financial costs of not having safe piped water, for example, because they are forced to pay for water trucked-in by suppliers. This water may be of dubious quality yet is expensive.

  • Central government support through the creation and maintenance of an enabling environment. The role of central government in ICM should be one of leadership, aimed at facilitating and coordinating the development and transfer of skills, and assisting with the provision of technical advice and financial support, to local groups an individuals. Where specific areas of responsibility fall outside the mandate of a single government department, appropriate institutional arrangements are required to ensure effective inter-departmental collaboration. Effective IWRM is a top-down meets bottom-up process.

  • Adoption of the best existing technologies and practices. This includes management instruments. Professional associations like IWA are primary sources of knowledge on BMPs (best management practices), and BAATs (best appropriate affordable technologies). Multi-stakeholder, consensus-oriented forums for IWRM should avoid lowest-common-denominator solutions through adherence to BMPs and BAATs that are adaptive to local needs.

  • Reliable and sustained financing. In order to ensure successful implementation of IWRM approaches, there should be a clear and long-term commitment from government to provide financial and human resources support. This is complemented by income from a healthy water and sanitation market, especially when local providers of goods and services that support the water sector are active players, and when there is active reinvestment in the sector.

  • Equitable allocation of water resources. This implies improved decision-making, which is technically and scientifically informed, and can facilitate the resolution of conflicts over contentious issues. There are existing tools (e.g. multi-criteria analysis) to help decision-making in terms of balancing social, ecological and economic considerations. These should be tested and applied.

  • The recognition of water as an economic good. The recognition of water as an economic good is central to achieving equitable allocation and sustainable usage. Water allocations should be optimized by benefit and cost, and aim to maximize water benefits to society per unit cost. For example, low value uses could be reallocated to higher value uses such as basic drinking water supplies, if water quality permits. Similarly, lower quality water can be allocated to agricultural or industrial use.

  • Strengthening the role of women in water management. A review by the World Bank of 121 water projects showed that ensuring women’s participation in decision-making positively affects both project quality and sustainability.

Source: Industry Sector Report for WSSD prepared by IWA
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