In order to make water governance most effective, decision makers need to select the instruments that are best suited to the specific circumstances, i.e. the context and framing of the problem, social and political consensus, available resources, as well as geographical, social, and economic contexts. For this purpose, they need to have an overview of the management instruments available and the experiences and lessons that have been acquired in the course of applying these instruments in other contexts.
In general, it is likely that several Tools will be needed to understand the reasons behind and the possible consequences of a problem, and to then design a proper response that works on different scales and through a variety of incentives. It is also possible that changed circumstances or new information require decision makers to revisit a Tool they have already used in order to be able to adjust their measures accordingly or assess if other approaches are needed.
The three key elements of IWRM, represented in the categories of Tools A, B, and C, are interrelated and complementary. An enabling environment (Tools A) and institutional roles (Tools B) are required to support the long-term continuity of the management instruments used in a particular water management regime. The management instruments in turn are the means by which concrete planning and action is done so that the enabling environment and the institutional roles are used to facilitate IWRM implementation. Without the management instruments being enacted, the policies, laws, and institutions may be put in place but IWRM will not be considered implemented and water use and management may not have changed.
In this section, a variety of management instruments are identified and explained in further detail. These instruments have been grouped into nine categories, according to their objectives:
Understanding Water Endowments (C1) – Helps to understand water as a physical resource. To that end, it considers the analysis of Demand and Supply (C1.01), the collection of data on the hydrological cycle (C1.02), the valuation of the resource itself, as well as the monitoring of water quality and the evaluation of water policies (C1.03).
Assessment (C2) – Helps to understand the connections between water resources and their users as well as to calculate the impacts of uncertain events or policy measures on the resource and its users. The aspects considered are risk (C2.01) and vulnerability (C2.02), social structures and effects (C2.03), ecosystems (C2.04), environment (C2.05), and economics (C2.06).
Modelling and Decision-Making (C3) – Visualizes the information that has been gathered and helps to make decisions based on that information according to jointly established criteria with stakeholders. For that purpose, it includes further information on GIS (C3.01), Stakeholder Analysis (C3.02), Shared Vision Planning (C3.03), and Decision Support Systems (C3.04).
Planning for IWRM (C4) – On the basis of knowledge gained through assessments and modelling processes, plans can be made that integrate environmental, social and economic aspects of water management on different scales: on the national level (C4.01), river basin level (C4.02), with regards to ground water (C4.03), or coastal areas (C4.04). These plans can also address the specific requirements of particular settings or situations, such as urban water management (C4.05), disaster risk management (C4.06), or national adaptation plans (C4.07).
Communication (C5) –Water management does not take place in a vacuum. It involves a variety of stakeholders and relies heavily on sharing knowledge in order to design effective plans and foster participation. For that reason, an overview on Communication Tools (C5.01) is given and measures to prevent and deal with conflict are explained, such as Consensus Building (C5.02) and Conflict Management (C5.03).
Efficiency in Water Management (C6) – Refers to measures that improve the management of demand and supply by enhancing water Demand Efficiency (C6.01) and Supply Efficiency (C6.02). Another way to reach that goal is to Recycle and Reuse (C6.03).
Economic Instruments (C7) – There are different ways to ensure behaviour that is beneficial to the protection of water quality and quantity. Those that are economic in nature are considered here – Water Pricing (C7.01) and Water Markets (C7.02), for example, but also Tradable Pollution Permits (C7.03) and Pollution Charges (C7.04), Subsidies (C7.05), and Payments for Environmental Services (C7.06) that penalize certain kinds of behaviour and reward others.
Promoting Social Change (C8) – Social attitudes also play a big role in determining behaviour. In order to ensure behaviour that promotes water security, social change might be necessary. A change in attitudes can be fostered through the integration of water management into Youth Education (C8.01), and through Raising Public Awareness (C8.02). The concept of the Water Footprint (C8.03) can be helpful to explain the relationship between water and agricultural and industry, and Virtual water (C8.04) to learn about how much water is used in the industrial production of goods.