Integrated Water Resources Management

Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) is a process which seeks to secure access to clean water, to satisfy current and future needs, in an economically efficient, equitable, and environmentally sustainable way. IWRM includes: taking into account social, economic and ecological water needs; coordination of the different Local Government department; engagement of a wide range of stakeholders; integration of different water uses and activities, up and downstream (including wastewater management); the integration of future needs into current planning processes; and as a next generation of integration, consider the water - energy nexus or interaction.

IWRM is most effective at the level of river basin. However, very often the river basin boundaries do not match administrative boundaries (municipal, regional, national). Understanding the governance framework for water resources management in the country is one of the very first actions to be taken under this Solution. This governance framework defines the degree of freedom which the LG possesses for action, and will therefore be determinant to the scope of the IWRM process which can be implemented locally. This process should aim for comprehensive and long-term planning, and should strive, first and foremost, for %u201Cintegration%u201D at the level of river basin.

Without disregarding the extreme importance of the IWRM framework created by national governments, this Solution focuses on the actions which LGs can implement to contribute to IWRM, within their territory and beyond.  

Motivation / Relevance

Although Local Governments (LGs) generally do not have a specific mandate to manage water resources, the state (quantity and quality) of water directly influences their ability and the costs to provide mandated services, namely water supply. LGs also influence the state of water resources available to downstream users through the disposal of wastewater, land use planning, waste management, etc.. Therefore, LGs have a significant role to play in water resources management.

Water is a vital, limited and variable resource which is under increasing demand. Administrative boundaries (municipal, regional, national) rarely match hydrological ones (river basins) which poses a great challenge in terms of governance and the effectiveness and efficiency of LG mandates directly related with water resources management, namely water supply and wastewater and stormwater management. There are significant economic, social, environmental, and climate change mitigation benefits to be gained through IWRM.

Main impacts

  • Water resources conservation with respect to quality and quantity for all users.
  • Protection of the capacity of natural systems to deliver ecosystem services, such as fish stocks fish, improved water purification benefits from natural processes, flood control measures, improved biodiversity, etc..
  • Improved service delivery to the community (water supply, and wastewater and stormwater management) .
  • Improved water resources governance such as: compliance with national legislation and multinational treaties, increased representation of local stakeholders, prevention and resolution of conflicts through pro-active identification of competing interests, coordinated strategic planning for well-informed decision-making, improved accountability of actions, etc..
  • Reduction of public expenditure in: water related health issues, remediation of pollution in water bodies, flood risk control, legal proceeding for non-compliance with national legislation, etc..

Benefits and Co-Benefits

  • Reducing leakage and unaccounted water of water supply.
  • Reduction of energy and operational costs for service delivery.
  • Reduction of the greenhouse gases emissions associated with the energy consumption for service delivery.
  • Improved payment for reliable services.