IWRM helps to protect the world’s environment, foster economic growth and sustainable agricultural development, promote democratic participation in governance, and improve human health. Worldwide, water policy and management are beginning to reflect the fundamentally interconnected nature of hydrological resources, and IWRM is emerging as an accepted alternative to the sector-by-sector, top-down management style that has dominated in the past.
The basis of IWRM is that the many different uses of finite water resources are interdependent. High irrigation demands and polluted drainage flows from agriculture mean less freshwater for drinking or industrial use, while contaminated municipal and industrial wastewater pollutes rivers and threatens ecosystems. If water has to be left in a river to protect fisheries and ecosystems, less can be diverted to grow crops. There are many more examples of the basic theme that unregulated use of scarce water resources is wasteful and inherently unsustainable.
The Dublin Principles that were formulated at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, provide guidelines for the implentation of IWRM.
The Dublin Principles
- Fresh water is a finite and vulnerable resource, essential to sustain life, development and the environment.
- Water development and management should be based on a participatory approach, involving users, planners and policy makers at all levels.
- Women play a central part in the provision, management and safeguarding of water.
- Water has an economic value in all its competing uses and should be recognised as an economic good.
Principal Components of IWRM
The key components of the IWRM process can be further described as follows:
- Managing water resources at the lowest possible level
- Optimising supply
- Managing demand
- Providing equitable access to water resources through participatory and transparent governance and management
- Establishing improved and integrated policy, regulatory and institutional frameworks
- Utilisng an inter-sectoral approach to decision making
- Integrating management means that we receive multiple benefits from a single intervention.