An IWRM information gathering and exchange network allows for the vast array of institutional bodies to understand and share on successful (or unsuccessful) experiences in implementing IWRM practices. This information and exchange development, therefore, becomes a capacity building tool for the rest of the institutional set-up. It involves getting wide-ranging and appropriate information into the hands of water professionals, especially those in government decision-making agencies, and helping them to share information, ideas, and capabilities.
There are four broad types of information; all are involved in supporting IWRM and water governance systems:
- Data – quantifiable and qualitative facts about the characteristics of water resources (such as quality, volumes, frequency of occurrence, spatial variability);
- Information – how these data can be assembled into meaningful patterns for specific purposes;
- Knowledge – understanding of the implications of trends and values in data over time, personal and collective understanding of resource use practices and their impacts;
- Wisdom – agreement about commonly accepted methods of using water resources to ensure sustainability.
Information Gathering – Information can be produced in a multitude of ways, thus the challenge resides in finding methods to capture and organize these materials. Local stakeholders and communities tend to have advantages in data collection over the other institutions involved in water governance (B3.03). However, they do not necessarily have the capacity to assemble these into meaningful patterns. Water Users’ Associations or other parties such as non-governmental and governmental bodies, especially statistical offices, have a broader sense of systematic management. The methods discussed in Tools C3 on Modelling and Decision-Making, and Tools C5 on Communication can be used in bringing these four types of information together.
Information in the water sector is abundant and perhaps too much of it is left unused. In order to avoid that information is duplicated and ends up sitting on the shelf, the gathering of information should be demand-based and purpose-focused. This is also why information gathering and exchange network should concentrate on building techniques, which can ensure that specific stakeholders play a significant role in data management. Some of these newly developed techniques include Interactive Group methods, Delphi Techniques (including Adaptive Environmental Assessment and Management (AEAM)), and computer based techniques. In this way, both expert knowledge and local wisdom about resource management can be combined in the construction of useful and needed models.
Information Sharing – Information gathering serves very little purpose if it is not transferred from one entity to another. Several social institutions, including activists, think thanks and media, conventionally have an active role in knowledge dissemination. However, the power of word of mouth should not be underestimated, especially in areas where strong social ties still exist. Other mechanisms and channels for knowledge sharing include, for example, participation in joint training programmes, workshops, seminars, study tours, and conferences. Specific training courses and capacity-building efforts can be tailored to specific needs in specific countries. International agencies and networks can be instrumental in disseminating knowledge through such channels.
Data sets of resource conditions, socio-economic data, etc. need to be available and widely shared, and users need to have confidence about the use and applicability of data. That said, these national data sets are often owned and managed by governments and because they are paid from taxpayers’ money, should be available to the public domain. Acts such as the UNECE Aarhus Convention – on access to information, public participation in decision-making, and access to justice in environmental matters – are recognized to fuel this free-flow of information. Because this type of convention emphasizes the role of stakeholder involvement, it also marks special contributions in terms of sharing knowledge and wisdom. Disclosure of data sets by national statistical offices helps, for instance, in the tracking of country’s progress in relation to the SDGs.
- Sharing knowledge requires an open mind, stimulated by suitable incentives; mutual confidence may take time to build but is essential.
- Transferring knowledge from one country to another must take into account specific cultural and political contexts.
- Information production and sharing networks should be based on people management (empowerment and capacity building of organisations) as well as technologies, and able to integrate multidisciplinary information.
- The production and exchange of knowledge should be demand- and purpose-driven so that information is used and does not actually end up sitting on shelfs.
- Any information production and exchange should aim for transparency and rigorousness so that technical and non-technical persons (wide range of stakeholders) can follow the process of information generation and evaluation.
- Statistical offices should ensure that data sets are available and easy to access by the public.