Water flows according to natural characteristics and does not respect administrative boundaries - therefore, from pure water resources point of view there might be much logic in managing water according to river basin boundaries.
The river basin plan is an action plan, a tool that describes the framework for management of the water and related land resources in the basin. The river basin plan is a tool that outlines how the concept of integrated water resources management is going to be implemented at the concrete (river basin) level. It typically addresses such aspects as:
- Physical description of the basin
- Land use inventories
- Current water availability and demands
- Pollution source inventories
- Aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem needs
- Vulnerability to floods or extreme meteorological events
- Identification of stakeholders
- Implications of changing land use
- Identification of priority issues (impact issues or user requirement issues)
- Short- and long-term goals for the river basin
- Water related development scenarios, future water demands
- Water allocation and water quality objectives
- Strategy, measures and action plan for achievement of goals
- Financing of water use and management
- Responsibility and schedule for implementation
- Mechanisms for monitoring and updating
Because of long retention time and bio-accumulation, lake basin plans need greater focus on prevention of nutrient and toxic pollution, and careful assessment of the shoreline functions. Other issues addressed in lake basin plans include prevention and control of exotic species, inventory of biodiversity and fisheries management issues.
In accordance with the principle of demand-driven development, river basin management and planning should only be established in response to a perceived and expressed demand. Other factors, such as existing institutional and regulatory conditions, or strong dependency on groundwater resources, might discourage management of water according to river basin boundaries. (See C3 and C1.2).
- Involvement of all relevant stakeholders and the general public is essential for the implementation and success of the plan (see also B2.1)
- River basin planning is most successfully applied in circumstances where an appropriate institutional structure (eg river basin organisation, see B1.4 or at drainage basin level for lakes) has been established.
- The long recovery period after stress in lakes means that prevention and planning are much more effective than restoration
- Conflict is a common feature for rivers and lakes - upstream-downstream, and conflicts in the same place among different users or over time between uses (eg fishing vs. recreation, or biodiversity vs. commercial fishing).