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Water resources management


As water moves in time and space consistent with the hydrological cycle, the term ‘water management’ covers a variety of activities and disciplines. Broadly speaking, these can be divided into three categories: managing the resource, managing water services, and managing the trade-offs needed to balance supply and demand.

The management of water is not merely a technical issue; it requires a mix of measures including changes in policies, prices and other incentives, as well
as infrastructure and physical installations. Integrated water resources management (IWRM) focuses on the necessary integration of water management across sectors, policies and institutions.

Contemporary water managers have to deal with an increasingly complex picture. Their responsibilities entail managing variable and uncertain supplies to meet rapidly changing and uncertain demands; balancing ever-changing ecological, economic and social values; facing high risks and increasing unknowns; and sometimes needing to adapt to events and trends as they unfold. Moreover, effective water management demands transboundary coordination in a context where a total of 276 international river basins cover almost half the earth’s surface, and some
273 identified transboundary aquifers underpin various national economies.

IWRM is defined as a process that ‘promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources in order to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems. It implies that all the different uses of water resources are considered together. Though important developments have been made around the world, the preparation by governments of national IWRM plans and the actual implementation rates of these plans remain unsatisfactory and well behind targets.

Futhermore, the complexity of water management, combined with increased uncertainty, both through socio-economic developments and climate change, makes the traditional command-and-control approach less effective. An adaptive approach towards IWRM responds to this: a continuous process of adjustment that attempts to deal with the increasingly rapid changes in our societies, economies, climate and technologies.


Source: World Water Development Report 2012


Last update:07 Oct 2014