Integrated water resources management is not a new concept: it has been around for some two generations. In the early 1990s it was ‘rediscovered’ by some water professionals, and then subsequently heavily promoted by several donors and international institutions. In spite of the fact that its promoters have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years, the facts remain that the definition of this concept remains amorphous, and the results of its application in a real world to improve water policy, programme and projects at macro- and meso-scales have left much to be desired. At a scale of 1 to 100 (1 being no integrated water resources management and 100 being full integration), any objective analyst will be hard-pressed to give a score of 30 to any one activity anywhere in the world in terms of its application. The paper reviews the reasons for its recent popularity, why the concept has not been a universal solution in the past, as claimed by its promoters, and also discusses why it is highly unlikely to work in the future.
By Asit K. Biswas, 2008. Article published in International Journal of Water Resources Development, Volume 24, Issue 1, pages 5-22. DOI: 10.1080/07900620701871718