Water is an essential natural resource that shapes regional landscapes and is vital for ecosystem functioning and human well-being. At the same time, water is a resource under considerable pressure. Alterations in the hydrologic regime due to global climatic, demographic and economic changes have serious consequences for people and the environment.
A water cycle under stress
Human overuse of water resources, primarily for agriculture, and diffuse contamination of freshwater from urban regions and from agriculture are stressing the water resources in the terrestrial water cycle. As a consequence, the ecological functions of water bodies, soils and groundwater (e.g. filtration, natural decomposition of pollutants, buffer capacity) in the water cycle are hampered.
What constitutes water management?
Functions of water resources management are very complex tasks and may involve many different activities conducted by many different players. The following components constitute water resources management (Adapted from CapNet Training Manual: IWRM for RBO, June 2008):
Allocating water to major water users and uses, maintaining minimum levels for social and environmental use while addressing equity and development needs of society.
River basin planning
Preparing and regularly updating the Basin Plan incorporating stakeholder views on development and management priorities for the basin.
Implementing stakeholder participation as a basis for decision making that takes into account the best interests of society and the environment in the development and use of water resources in the basin.
Managing pollution using polluter pays principles and appropriate incentives to reduce most important pollution problems and minimize environmental and social impact.
Implementing effective monitoring systems that provide essential management information and identifying and responding to infringements of laws, regulations and permits.
Economic and financial management
Applying economic and financial tools for investment, cost recovery and behavior change to support the goals of equitable access and sustainable benefits to society form water use.
Providing essential data necessary to make informed and transparent decisions and development and sustainable management of water resources in the basin.