Third World Centre for Water Management


Integrated Water Resources Management

The concept of integrated water resources management (IWRM), contrary to some of the current claims (i.e., see GWP, IWRM Toolbox, 2003) that it stemmed from the Dublin Conference in 1992, is not new. In fact, the concept has been around from the 1930s, and the United Nations started to promote this concept from the late 1950s. One of the main resolutions of the United Nations Water Conference, held at Mar del Plata, Argentina, in March 1977, was very specifically on IWRM. During the 1990s, this concept was suddenly re-discovered by many international institutions.

While IWRM has been a conceptually attractive idea that has been promoted for at least two generations, its application in the real world has been very difficult at meso- and macro-scales. In fact, in spite of its current popularity, the Centre has been unable to find a single case of IWRM from anywhere in the world, where in a scale of 1 to 100, it could objectively merit even a score of 60 at meso and macro level activities.

Accordingly, the Centre has initiated several projects attempting to answer some fundamental questions, among which are:

What exactly is meant by IWRM, since there are at present numerous definitions, some of which differ radically from one another? Can an operational definition of IWRM be framed, which would be universally acceptable, and can be implemented?

  • What is meant by “integrated”? What specific issues should be integrated? Also by whom, over what time scales, and through which processes?
  • Considering a world where specialisation, fragmentation and reductionism is the norm, is it realistic to expect “integration” of all water-related activities, whatever they may be?
  • How can the various aspects of water management, some of which are not in the domain of the current water institutions, be properly integrated?
  • If IWRM is an implementable concept, how can its operationalisation be accelerated significantly in all parts of the world?
  • If the implementation of the concept is not easy or possible, what modifications of this concept are necessary? Also, is it necessary to consider a new replacement paradigm which is more effective in terms of its implementation?
  • Can a single paradigm like IWRM be applicable over a very heterogenous world, with different physical, climate economic, social, institutional and legal conditions?

The Centre has critically, objectively, comprehensively and undogmatically examined the concept of IWRM and its current implementation status in some regions of the world such as South and Southeast Asia as well as Latin America.

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