Workshop on Integrated Water Resources Management in the Americas

January 9, 2006 | Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Integrated water resources management (IWRM) has become an all-embracing slogan at present. Donor agencies and international institutions are pushing the IWRM concept consistently and very hard, even though no one is exactly sure what is meant by IWRM, and how the concept of IWRM can be implemented in the real world to improve water management processes and practices. In many instances, funding is simply not available at present from international organizations for water-related activists unless a project is very specifically couched in IWRM terms.

The concept is not new: it has been around for some six decades in one form or another. Even then, no serious and objective analysis has ever been done in terms of to what extent IWRM practices have improved water management practices, where, and under what conditions. In addition, would water resources management at present be any different if the word “integrated” was not used? These and many other important questions are not being asked at present, let alone answered.

Because of this somewhat unsatisfactory situation, a workshop was organized in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to objectively, critically, comprehensively analyse the status of implementation of the IWRM in Latin America in particular and the developing world in general, and assessments of the results of such implementation and their impacts. Case studies of the current status of application of IWRM policies, programmes and projects, and their overall impacts, were commissioned from various Latin American countries in order to see to what extent IWRM has been actually implemented and with what results. Selected IWRM case studies from other parts of the developing world were also commissioned to determine to what extent these experiences can be used in the Latin American context.

Some 25 leading experts from Latin America and other parts of the world were very carefully selected for their knowledge and objectivity to reliably assess the status of implementation of the concept. They were then invited in their personal capacities in order that their experiences could be discussed frankly without any institutional constraints.

Following the discussions of the case studies, the participants collectively attempted to answer the following five questions:

  • What is meant by IWRM in operational terms in the Latin American context?
  • Identify successful cases of implementation of IWRM in Latin America, including reasons for the successes.
  • Identify bottlenecks and failures for implementing IWRM in Latin America, and the reasons for such bottlenecks/failures. Can these constraints be realistically overcome in the foreseeable future? If so, how? If not, why not?
  • Identify potential alternatives to IWRM within the Latin American context.
    Assess the overall situation in Latin America and define key issues for a road map for efficient water management in the region for the future.

Conference report