ArticlePDF Available

Abstract

A BSTRACT Integrated water resources management is not anew concept: it has been around for some two generations. In the early 1990s it was 'rediscovered' by some water professionals, and then subsequently heavily promoted by several donors and international institutions. In spite of the fact that its promoters have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years, the facts remain that the definition of this concept remains amorphous, and the results of its application in ar eal world to improve water policy, programme and projects at macro-and meso-scales have left much to be desired. At ascale of 1to100 (1 being no integrated water resources management and 100 being full integration), any objective analyst will be hard-pressed to give ascore of 30 to any one activity anywhere in the world in terms of its application. The paper reviews the reasons for its recent popularity, why the concept has not been au niversal solution in the past, as claimed by its promoters, and also discusses why it is highly unlikely to work in the future.
Integrated Water Resources Management:
Is It Working?
ASIT K. BISWAS
Third World Centre for Water Management, Atizapa
´n, Mexico
ABSTRACT Integrated water resources management is not anew concept: it has been around for
some two generations. In the early 1990s it was ‘rediscovered’ by some water professionals, and
then subsequently heavily promoted by several donors and international institutions. In spite of the
fact that its promoters have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years, the facts remain
that the definition of this concept remains amorphous, and the results of its application in areal
world to improve water policy, programme and projects at macro- and meso-scales have left much to
be desired. At ascale of 1to100 (1 being no integrated water resources management and 100 being
full integration), any objective analyst will be hard-pressed to give ascore of 30 to any one activity
anywhere in the world in terms of its application. The paper reviews the reasons for its recent
popularity, why the concept has not been auniversal solution in the past, as claimed by its
promoters, and also discusses why it is highly unlikely to work in the future.
Introduction
According to the Greek philosopher Pindar, the best of all things is water. This view is not
surprising since the need for water, throughout humanhistory, has always been
appreciated. It is present everywhere, and without water,life, as it is known, will simply
cease to exist. Water is constantly in motion, passing from one state to another and from
one location to another. Whether the water is in motion, or stationary as it is in lakes, it
invariably contains extraneous materials, some duetonatural causesbut others because of
human activities.All these, plus natural variations in water availability, makes its rational
planning and management avery complex and difficult task under the best of circum-
stances.Water may be everywhere, but its use has always been dictated by its availability
in terms of quantity and quality.
Water problems of the world are neither homogenous,nor constant or consistent over
time. They often vary very significantly from one region to another, sometimes even
within asingle country, from one season to another, and also from oneyear to another.
Solutions to water problems depend not only on water availability, but also on many other
factors, among which are the processes through which water is managed; competence and
capacities of the institutions that manage them; prevailing socio-political conditions and
0790-0627 Print/1360-0648 Online/08/010005-18 q2008 Taylor &Francis
DOI: 10.1080/07900620701871718
CorrespondenceAddress: Asit K. Biswas, Third World Centre for Water Management, Avenida Manantial
Oriente No. 27, Los Clubes, Atizapa
´n52958, Estado de Me
´xico, Me
´xico. Email: akbiswas@thirdworldcentre.org
Water Resources Development,
Vol. 24, No. 1, 5–22, March 2008
expectations whichaffectwater planning,development andmanagementprocesses and
practices; appropriatenessand implementation statusesofthe legaland regulatory
frameworks;availabilityofinvestmentfunds as andwhenneeded; climatic,socialand
environmentalconditionsofthe countriesconcerned;levelsofavailable andusable
technology;national, regional andinternational attitudesand perceptions; modesof
governance includingissueslikepolitical interference,transparency, corruption,etc.;
educationaland developmentconditions; andquality,effectiveness andrelevance of research
that arebeing conductedtosolve thenational,sub-nationaland localwater problems.
Water is aresource that is of direct interest to the society as awhole, as well as to most
development-related public institutionsatcentral,state and municipal levels, academia,
private sector and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).Suchwidespread interest in
water is not aunique situation, as many water professionals have often claimed: it is
equally applicable to other important sectors like food, energy, the environment,health,
communication or transportation. All theseissues command high levels of social and
politicalattention in all modern societies, although their relative importancemay vary from
one country to another, and also over time. In an increasingly interrelated and complex
world, many issues are of pervasive interest for assuring goodquality of life of the people.
Water is one of these important intersectoralissues, butitiscertainly notthe only issue, or
often the mostimportant socio-political issue, irrespective of the views of manyinthe
water profession. In recent years, it has become increasingly evident that the water
problems of acountry can no longerberesolvedexclusivelybythe water professionals,
and/or the water ministries, alone. The water problems are becoming increasingly more
and more interconnected and intertwined with otherdevelopment-related issues, and also
with social,economic, environmental, legal and political considerations, at local and
nationallevels, and sometimes even at regional and internationallevels.Many of the water
problems have already becomefar too complex, interconnected and large to be handled by
any one single institution, irrespective of the authority and resourcesgiven to it, technical
expertise and management capacity available, levelofpoliticaland public support, and all
the good intentions(Biswas, 2001).
Thecurrent and the foreseeabletrends indicate that water problems of the future will
continue to become increasingly complex, and will become moreand more interlinked
with other development sectors such as agriculture, energy, industry, transportation and
communication, and with social sectors such as education, the environment,health and
rural or regional development (AsianDevelopment Bank, 2007). The time is fast
approaching when water can no longer be viewed in isolation by primarily one single
institution, or any one group of professionals, without explicit and simultaneous
consideration of other related sectors and issues that affect water management, and vice
versa. In fact, it can be successfully argued that the time has already comewhen water
policies and major water-related issues shouldbeassessed, analysed,reviewed and
resolvedwithin an overall societal and development context, otherwise the main
objectives of water management, such as improved standardand quality of life of the
people, poverty alleviation, regional and equitable income distribution and environmental
conservation, cannot be achieved.One of the main questions facing the water profession is
how this challenge can be successfully answered in asocially acceptable and economically
efficient manner.
During the past 15 years or so, and heavily promoted by the donors,the mantra has often
been that integrated water resources management will solvethe water problems
6A. K. Biswas
everywhere in the world, in spite of the different physical, economic, social and
environmental conditions of avery heterogeneous world, and irrespective of the rapidly
increasing complexitiesofwater management practices and processes. Thepresent paper
analyzes how realistic this widelypromoted universalsolution is to the water management
problemsofthe world.
Integrated WaterResources Management:Background and Definition
During the early 1980s, afew members of the water profession started to realize that the
overall global water situation was not as good as it appeared. This feeling intensified
during the 1990s, when manymore in the profession began to appreciate that the water
problemshad becomemulti-dimensional, multi-sectoral and multi-regional, and were
enmeshedwith multi-interests, multi-agendas and multi-causes, which could be resolved
only through an appropriate multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional and multi-stakeholders
coordination. However, at present the main question is not whethersuch aprocess is
desirable, but rather can this be achieved in the real world in atimely, cost-effective and
socially acceptable manner?
Faced with such unprecedented management complexities, many in the water
profession started to look for anew paradigm for management,which would solvethe
existing and the foreseeable problemsindifferent parts of the world. However, the
solutionthat was selected and which becameincreasingly popular was not new.Itwas
the rediscovery of abasically more than 60-year old concept, which couldnot be
successfully implemented previously: integratedwater resourcesmanagement. Many who
‘discovered’ this concept were not even aware that the ‘new’ concept was in fact not at all
new, but hadbeen around for several decades, with adubious implementation record,
which had never been objectively, comprehensively and critically assessed.
Before the status of application of integrated water resources management can be
discussed, an important and fundamental issue that needs to be first considered is what
precisely is meant by this concept. Acomprehensive and objective assessment of the
recent writingsofthe individuals and the institutions that have vigorously championed
integrated water resources management indicates that notonly no one has aclear idea as to
what exactlythis concept means in operational terms, but also their views of it in terms of
what it actually means and involves, vary very widely. It can even be argued that this very
vagueness has contributed to the high popularity of the integrated water resources
management concept since peoplecould continue to do whatthey had done before, or are
doing at present, but put these activities under an increasingly popular bandwagon for
which considerable resourceshave been madeavailable by the donors and international
institutions.
The definition that is mostoften quotedatpresent is the one that was formulated by the
Global Water Partnership (GWP, 2000), which started to champion integrated water
resourcesmanagement as amajor component of its technical programme shortly after its
inception. GWPdefined it as:
aprocess which promotes the coordinated development and management of water,
land and related resources, in order to maximize the resultant economicand social
welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital
ecosystems.
Integrated Water Resources Management: Is It Working? 7
This definition, on afirst reading, appears broad, all-encompassing and, perhaps even
impressive, at least linguistically. However, such lofty phrases, whenscrutinized carefully
and objectively, have little practical resonance on the present,oronfuture water
management practices. Aserious and criticallook at thisamorphous definition may
remind one of the immortal writings of William Shakespeare:
Polonius: What do you read, my lord?
Hamlet: Words, words, words.
Unfortunately, for avariety of reasons, afundamental questionthat has never been asked,
let aloneanswered, either by the GWP or the promoters of this paradigm who have
uncritically acceptedthe GWP definition as the gospel, is that whetherthis well-
intentioned and good-sounding definition hasany practical value in terms of its application
and implementation to improve existing water management, or is it just an aggregation of
trendy words which collectively provides an amorphousdefinition which does not help
water planners and managersvery much in terms of the application of the concept to solve
the real water-related problemsthat are being faced in different parts of the world.
Letusconsider only some of the fundamental questions that the above definition raises
in terms of its possible application in the real world, which have not been addressed to in
any significant way thus far,either by GWPorbythe proponentsofIWRM.Among these
questions are the following:
.‘Promotes’: Who promotes this concept? Why shoulditbepromoted, and through
whatprocesses? Canthe promotion of an amorphous concept be enough to
improve water management? What about its implementation?
.‘Land and related resources’: What is meant by ‘related resources’? Doesit
include agriculture, energy, minerals, fish, otheraquatic resources, forests, the
environment,etc.? Even if only land and agricultural resources are considered, the
institutionsresponsible for water management have seldom any say, or authority,
over them. Considering the intense inter-ministerial and intra-ministerial rivalries
that have always been present in all countries, how can the use, development and
management of land and agricultural resources be integrated with water,even if
this wastechnically,administratively,knowledge-wise andmanagerially
possible? Is this realistically feasible? If the boundaries of integration are further
expanded, and issues such as the environment and ecosystems are considered,
howcan the water professionals and the relevantministrieshandle such
integration, which is often beyond their knowledge, expertise and/or legaland
institutional control?
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the people who formulated this definition
for the Global Water Partnership were all from the water profession: experts from
‘land and related resources’ were singularly conspicuous by their absence, as
werefrom otherresource-related professions. This raises one fundamental
question, that is, what makes the water profession believe that they can
superimpose their views on the otherprofessions, who were not even consulted
and on which they have only limited knowledge and expertise? Equally, why
shouldthe professionals from otherprofessions accept the view of somepeople
8A. K. Biswas
from the water profession? Acynicmight even be excused for claiming that the
water profession prefers to remain in water-tight compartments, but preach
integration with othersectors without any consultations or discussions with the
professionals of appropriate disciplines, sectors and institutions.
.‘Maximize’: What specific parameters shouldbemaximized? What process
should be used to select these parametersadequately and reliably? Who will
select these parameters: only water experts, as was the case for the formulation of
the GWPdefinition, or should professionals from other sectors be involved? What
criteria shouldbeused to select the necessary parameters? What reliable
methodology is available at present to maximize the selected parameters? Do
such methodologies even exist at present?Ifnot, can they be developed within a
reasonabletimeframe so that these can be used?
.‘Economic and social welfare’: What exactly meant by economicand social
welfare? Even the economists and the sociologists cannot agree as to what
actually constitutes economicand social welfare, exceptinsomewhat general and
broad terms. How can the issues related to social and economicwelfare be
quantified? Can these be even quantified? Are water professionals capable of
maximizing economicand social welfare in operational terms,afact that has
mostly eluded even the social scientists thus far? Is it possible that even the cause-
and-effect relationships betweenwater development and management and
economicand social welfare can be established, let alonebemaximized? Such
functional relationships are mostly unknown at present.Evenifthey were known,
which they are not, they are likely to be asite- or region-specific, and thus
generalization simplywill not be possible on aglobalscale, as is implied by the
definition.
.‘Equitable’: What is precisely meant by equitable? How will this be determined
operationally? Who will decide what is equitable, for whom, and from what
perspectives and under what conditions?
.‘Sustainability’: What is meant by sustainability, which itself is as avague word,
and perhaps also as fashionable and trendy, as integrated? How can sustainability
be defined and measured in operational terms?
.‘Vital ecosystems’: What exactlyconstitutes vital ecosystems? How can ‘vital’
and ‘non-vital’ecosystems be differentiated? Cansuch adifferentiation even be
made in conceptual terms,let alone in operational and implementationterms?
What are the minimum boundary conditions that will ensure the ‘sustainability’ of
the ‘vital ecosystems’, at least in terms of its linkage to water,irrespective of how
sustainability itself is defined, or the issue of what constitutes vital ecosystems is
resolved?
When all these uncertaintiesand unknowns are aggregated, the only objective and realistic
conclusion that can be drawnisthat even though on afirst reading the definition
formulated by the Global Water Partnership appears impressive, it has to be admitted by
any objective person that it is simplyunusable, or unimplementable, in operational terms.
Not surprisingly, even thoughthe rhetoric of integrated water resources management has
been very strong at many international and nationalfora during the past decade, its actual
use (irrespective of what it means) has been minimal, even indiscernible in the field (for an
analysisofits actual use in south and southeastAsia, see Biswas et al.,2004, and for Latin
Integrated Water Resources Management: Is It Working? 9
America see Biswas et al.,2008). In fact, it can even be successfully arguedthat it would
not have made any perceptible difference in enhancing the efficiencies of macro- and
meso-scale water policies, programmes and projects of the recent years, even if the
concept of integrated water resourcesmanagement had not been resurrected, reinvented
and promoted vigorouslybythe various donors and international institutions in recent
years.
No objective person will questionthat for all practical purposes, the definition that has
been formulated by the Global Water Partnership is unusable and unimplementable.In
addition, it is internally inconsistent. Furthermore, while the definition has effectively
collated manyofthe recent trendy, fashionable and politically correct words, it does not
provide any real guidance to the water professionals and policy makers as to how the
concept can be operationalized to make the existing water planning, management and
decision-making processes increasingly more and more rational and efficient so that the
actual objectives of water management can be achieved.
What IssuesShould Be Integrated?
Analyses of existing literature indicatethat the authors concerned have considered
different issues that need to be integrated under this concept. This is not surprising, since
as notedearlier, there is simply no agreement in the profession as to whatintegrated water
resourcesmanagement means, and what it reallyentails.
Theword ‘integration’ often has had very different connotations and interpretations
depending on the author(s) and institutions concerned, and their interests. Depending upon
the author(s) and/or institutions, integrated water resourcesmanagement requires
integration of:
.objectives which are not mutually exclusive (economic efficiency, regional
income redistribution, environmental quality and social welfare);
.water supply and water demand;
.surface water and groundwater;
.water quantity and water quality;
.water and land-related issues;
.different types of water uses: domestic, industrial, agricultural, navigational,
recreational, environmental and hydropowergeneration;
.rivers, aquifers, estuaries and coastal waters;
.water,the environment and ecosystems;
.water supply and wastewater collection, treatment and disposal;
.urban and rural water issues;
.irrigation and drainage;
.water and health;
.macro, mesoand micro water projects and programmes;
.water-related institutions at national, regional, municipal and locallevels;
.public and privatesectors;
.government and NGOs;
.timing of water release from the reservoirs to meet domestic, industrial,
agricultural, navigational, environmental and hydropower generation needs;
.all legal and regulatory frameworks relating to water,not only from the water
10 A. K. Biswas
sector, but alsofrom other sectors that have direct implications on the water sector;
.all economic instruments that can be used for water management;
.upstreamand downstream issues and interests;
.interestsofall different stakeholders;
.national, regional and international issues;
.water projects, programmesand policies;
.policies of all different sectors that have water-related implications, both in terms
of quantity and quality, and alsodirect and indirect (sectors include agriculture,
industry, energy, transportation,health, the environment, education, gender,etc.);
.intra-state, interstate and internationalrivers;
.bottom-up and top-downapproaches;
.centralization and decentralization;
.national, state and municipal water activities;
.nationaland international water policies;
.timings of water releasefor municipal, hydropower, agricultural, navigational,
recreational and environmental water uses;
.climatic, physical,biological,human and environmental impacts;
.all social groups,rich and poor;
.beneficiaries of the projects and thosewho pay the costs;
.service providers and beneficiaries;
.present and future generations;
.nationalneeds and interests of donors;
.activities and interestsofdonors
.water pollution, air pollution and solid wastesdisposal, especially in terms of their
water linkages;
.various gender-related issues;
.present and future technologies;
.water development and regional development; and
.any number of formulations and combinations of the above.
The above list, which is by no means exhaustive, identifies at least 41 sets of issues which
different authors and/or institutionsconsider to be the issues that shouldbeintegrated
under the aegis of integrated water resourcesmanagement. Even at aconceptuallevel, all,
or even manyofthese 41 sets of issues that the proponents would like to be integrated,
simply cannot be achieved.Atour present state of knowledge, this simply cannot be done.
Nor is it likely to be achieved in the foreseeable future.
These types of fundamental issues and constraints need to be discussed and resolved
successfully before the concept of integrated water resourcesmanagement can be
considered to be an universalapproach to improve water management,ashas been
promoted in recent years. It is highly unlikely that theseissues and constraints can be
resolved, or one solution can be found which can be implemented all over the world. These
are totally unrealistic expectations.
Unfortunately, while muchlip-service has been giventothis concept in recentyears,
most of the publishedworks on the subject are somewhat general, or acontinuation of
earlier ‘businessasusual’ approaches, but with atrendier label of integrated water
resourcesmanagement. If integratedwater resources management is ever to become
successful approach to water management, nationaland internationalorganizationswill
Integrated Water Resources Management: Is It Working? 11
have to address many real and complexquestions, which they have not done so far in any
meaningful fashion, nor is there any indication whatsoever that they are likely to do so in
the foreseeable future. Under thesecircumstances, and unless the current rhetoric can be
translated effectively into operational reality, integrated water resources management will
remain afashionable and trendy concept for another few years, and then gradually fade
away like many othersimilarly popular concepts of the earlier times. There are already
some signsthat this is already happening, since afew of its ardent past promoters have
stopped promoting this concept.
ImplementationalConstraints
The definitionofintegrated water resources management is an important consideration.
When the definitional problem can be successfullyresolved in an operational manner, it
may be possible to translateitinto measurable criteria, which can then be used to appraise
the degreetowhich the conceptofintegration has been implemented in aspecific case, and
also the overall relevance, usefulness and effectiveness of the concept in terms of
improving practices and processes used for water management.
In addition, afundamental question that has never been asked,let alone answered, or for
which there is no clear-cut answer at the present state of knowledge, is what are the
parameters that need to be monitored to indicate that awater resourcessystem is
functioninginanintegrated manner, or atransition is about to occur from an integrated to
an ‘unintegrated’ stage, or vice versa, or indeed even such atransition is occurring? In the
absence of both an operational definition and measurable criteria, it is not possible to
identify what actually constitutes an integrated water resourcesmanagement system at
present,orhow water should be managed so that the system remains inherently integrated
on along-term basis.
Nor have the proponents of the concept givenany serious thought to the data
requirements for the application of this concept. Irrespective of all the intensive promotion
of this paradigm, what type and extent of data are neededtoimplement this concept in the
real world, assuming that somehow it can ever be implemented? Are such levels of data
available even in developed countries, let aloneindeveloping countries? This is an
important topic that is considered in further detail in this issueofthe journal by
RachaelMcDonnell (2008). In addition, the Asian Development Bank (2007) has raised
the serious issue of paucity and reliability of data on all aspects of water-related issues in
theAsian developing countries. The proponentsofintegrated waterresources
management concept have been conspicuous by their neglect of the data availability,
reliability and accessibility issues.
There is no questionthat in the water area, integrated water resources management has
become apowerful and all-embracing slogan during the past 15 years. This is in spite of
the fact that operationally it has not been possible to identify awater management process
at amacro- or meso-scale which can be planned and implemented in such away that it
becomes inherentlyintegrated, however thismay be defined, right from its initial planning
stage and then to implementation and operational phases. Forall practical purposes, most
internationalinstitutions have endorsed this concept, either explicitly or implicitly,
without seriously analysisofits usability and implementability. This is in spite of the facts
that there is no agreement at present among the various international institutions that
endorse it as to whatexactly is meant by integratedwater resourcesmanagement, or
12 A. K. Biswas
whetherthis concept has improved water management practices anywhere in the world,
which wouldnot have occurred otherwise without the explicit use of this concept.
Furthermore, in which countries, if any, this concepthas been successfully implemented,
and, if so, under whatconditions, over whatperiods, and what have been its impacts
(positive, negativeand neutral) on human lives, the environment and otherappropriate
development indicators. Even the donors who have been promoting this concept
vigorouslywillbehard-pressed to identify even onegoodcase at successful
implementation of integratedwater resources management in their own countries. Not
surprisingly, increasingly more and more nationaland international institutions and water
professionals have started to questionthe relevance and the appropriateness of the
implementation potential of integrated water resources management.
As noted earlier, this type of almost universal popularity of avague, undefinable and
unimplementable concept is not anew phenomenoninthe area of natural resources
management. It has happened many times earlier. For example, during the 20th century
many popular concepts have comeand gone, without leaving much of afootprint on how
natural resourcescan be managed efficiently on along-term basis. Such concepts generally
became politically correct during the time of their popularity,and are widely embraced
since they are vague enough for everyone to jump on the bandwagon and claim that they
are following the latest development. In fact, it appears that the vagueness of aconcept, to
asignificant extent, increases its popularity, sincepeople can then continue to do the same
old stuff (SOS)they were doing before, but can concurrently claim that they are au currant
with the latest global thinking. This jumping on the bandwagon also increases, often very
significantly, the potential of receiving funding supportfrom the donors, and also other
personal benefits.
The current popularity of the concept reminds one of another similar concept which
receivedwide popular supportinthe UnitedStates during the early 20th century:
conservation. Even President Roosevelt of the United States said at that time that:
“Everyone is for conservation: no matter what it means!”(Biswas, 2001). The situation
has been somewhat similar in recent yearswith integratedwater resources management.
To paraphrase, and perhaps updatePresidentRoosevelt,itcan be said that “Everyone is for
integrated water resourcesmanagement: no matter what it means, no matter whether it can
be implemented,ornomatter whether it wouldactually improvewater management
processes”. However, there is an important difference betweenthe Conservation
Movementwitnessed during PresidentRoosevelt’s time and the current push by the donors
forintegratedwater resources management.Thisisbecause information and
communication revolution and globalization processes have ensured that the gospel of
integrated water resourcesmanagement could be spread quickly all over the world, and not
mostly confined to one country, as was the case for the Conservation Movementearlier.
Strong funding supportand politicalpush from the donors have further contributed to the
increased globalspread of integrated water resourcesmanagement. These were not
important factorsfor the Conservations Movement.
Is IntegratedWater Management aNew Concept?
Shortly after the Dublin Conference in 1992, and following the embracement by GWPof
integrated water resourcesmanagement as amain component of their programme, the
concept gained traction from several international institutions during the 1990s, manyof
Integrated Water Resources Management: Is It Working? 13
whom were not even aware that the concept had been aroundfor more than half acentury!
Accordingly, and not surprisingly, the authors of Toolbox for IWRM for the Global Water
Partnership claimed, totally erroneously, in 2003, that “IWRM draws its inspiration from
the Dublin principles”, beingblissfully unaware of the longevity of this concept, or the fact
that internationalinstitutions such as the UnitedNations were promoting this concept
extensivelyduring the 1950s, or that the United Nations Water Conference, held in Mar del
Plata, Argentina, in March 1977 had morerelevantstatements on integrated water
resourcesmanagement (Biswas, 1978) than the Dublin Conference. In addition, the
Mar del Plata Conference was an intergovernmentalmeeting, and itsAction Plan (which
includedreferences to integratedwater resources management and otherappropriate
means for water management) was endorsed by all the governments that were members of
the UnitedNations in 1977. In contrast, the DublinConference of 1992 was ameeting of
experts.Accordingly, its recommendations, whatever may be their values or relevance,
were never approved by the globalcommunity of the governments,irrespective of the
claims to the contrary of the individuals and institutions that were responsible for the
organization of the DublinConference, manyofwhom subsequently became the major
promoters of IWRM.Thus, to asignificant extent, many of the post-Dublin proponents of
integratedwater resourcesmanagement not only rediscovered the wheel, but also the
wood with which the wheel was made of!
It shouldbenoted that the Global Water Partnership spent very considerable resources
in developing and promoting the so-called Toolboxfor integrated water resources
management. The examples provided in the Toolbox have never receivedobjective
scrutiny or serious peer-review, and no objective and independentevaluation was ever
made to determineifthe so-called ‘tools’were actually used and resulted in improving
water management measurably which wouldnot have happened otherwise. Nor was the
replicability potential of the various ‘tools’ was ever seriously considered or objectively
assessed.Under theseconditions, and, not surprisingly, the global interest in the Toolbox,
for all practical purposes, has basically disappeared, irrespective of the fact that immense
amount of resourcesand effortswere expended to develop and promote the Toolbox.
Other Considerations
Extensiveand intensive analyses of integratedwater resources management literature
publishedduring the past decadeindicate three unwelcome developments.First, there is
no clear understandingofwhatexactlyintegrated water resources management means.
Accordingly, different people have interpreted this concept very differently, but under a
very general catch-all concept of integrated water resources management.The absence of
any usable and implementable definition has only compounded the vagueness of the
concept, and has reduced its implementation potential to aminimum.Second, because of
the recent popularity of the concept, many peopleand institutions have continuedtodo
what they were doing in the past, but under the guise of integrated water resources
management in order to attract additional funds, or to obtain greater nationaland
internationalacceptance and visibility.Third, considerable effortshave been expended by
the various donors to promote the concept extensively, but irrespective of their oft-
repeated rhetoric, the results have been meagre.
An analysis of the recently published literature on only one of the definitional aspects of
the concept, that is, what are the issues that should be integrated, under the IWRM level,
14 A. K. Biswas
indicates avery wide divergence of opinions.Itshouldbenoted that this refers only to
what should be integrated, and not to other equally important fundamental issues such as
how can these issues be integrated (even if they can actually be integrated since manyof
the issues are mutually exclusive),who will do the integration and why, whatprocesses
will be used for integration (do such processes currently exist?), or will the integration, if
at all it can be done, produce the benefits that proponents have claimed. Regrettably, none
of thesequestions have ever been asked seriously in the past and are not beingasked now.
Not surprisingly, at present there are no objective and definitive answers to such
fundamental questions. Consequently, acceptance of the concept has been primarily aleap
of faith, and notbased on its scientific merit or technical strength.
Another very unwelcome development has been that the current high priests of
integrated water resources management,for the mostpart, have refused to argue in public
on the validity and applicability of the concept with those who have questioned it. Instead,
adeliberateattempt has often been made to ostracise and denigrate the opponents of the
concept, and, sometimes, attemptshave even been made to cut off their funding sources
through backdoor channels.Sadly, the proponents have madenoattempt to win the
intellectual and technical arguments behind integratedwater resources management.
Unfortunately, they have either forgotten or have found it convenienttoforget, a
fundamental principle of science and knowledge generation. Knowledge does not advance
by consensus: if it did, we would still be living in the Dark Ages! (Biswas, 2006)
Popularity of the Concept
An important issue that needs to be asked is why an old concept suddenly became so
popular in the 1990s, to the extentthat some people and institutions even considered it to
be the ‘holygrail’ of water management? There are many reasons for its sudden leap of
popularity, and only some of the main reasons will be discussedherein.
Probably one of the two most important reasons for its current popularity is the
simplicity of the concept: it is easy to understand at aconceptuallevel, at least at afirst
glance. In aworld that operates on the principle of reductionism, integratedwater
resourcesmanagement often givesafalse feeling of usingacomprehensive and holistic
approach, which many people apriori assume will producethe best results, irrespective of
its inherent shortcomings and numerous fundamental inconsistencies embedded in the
concept. These constraints and complexities need to be objectivelyand comprehensively
assessed.
The secondreason for its popularity is because of the amount of funds the donors have
pumped in promoting this concept. This enormous level of funding has been primarily
responsible for the creation of anew and thriving industryonintegrated water resources
management. This development is, of course, not new. Forexample, as Hall (2003) has
perceptibly noted:
One needs to be realistic about how humans, universities and researchinstitutions
work. They are driven by egos and money. For example, whenresearchonany issue
starts getting hot, soon by land, sea and air, the field is invaded by researchers
scrambling for apiece of action, pursuing their intellectual curiosity with all the
decorum and dignity of the 19th century gentlemen geologists who pursued their
curiosity about rumours of gold in California.
Integrated Water Resources Management: Is It Working? 15
As long as the donors continue to pump money in promoting the concept, the bandwagon
will keep rolling, until the countries whose water management were supposed to have
improved by this old-wine-in-a-new-bottle concept realize that they are making no visible
progress.Fortunately, there are now increasing signs that somedonors are now carefully
evaluating the validity and applicability of integrated water resourcesmanagement as a
universalsolution, and some developing countries are assessing whetherthis concept,
which they have madenationalpolicies at the urging of donors and international
institutions, has produced the expected benefits. All these objective reassessments should
be considered to be necessarydevelopments.
Need for Reductionism
Historically, it was possible for abrilliant persontoknow nearly all there was to know
until about the end of the 16th century. Versatile geniuses such as Aristotle, Theophrastus,
Vitruvias, Isidore of Seville and Leonardo da Vinci coulddiscuss most subjects
authoritatively. Human knowledge, in terms of natural and social sciences, was at astage
where it was possiblefor atruly gifted person to masterall the knowledge that was
available during their lifetimes.
Thesituationstarted to change aroundthe 17th century. By the early 18th century,
tremendous advances in knowledge had made it impossible for anyone to be auniversal
encyclopaedist, and keep up with the constant generation of new knowledge. This
realizationwas gradually reflected in the development of anew branch of knowledge,
which initially became knownasnatural philosophy, and began to be distinguished
increasingly from traditional philosophy, which was earlier considered to be the exclusive
discipline for knowledge. The 19th century witnessedexponential advances in human
knowledge and, with it, technological developments. It was no longer possiblefor anyone
individual to master even natural philosophy completely. Thus, new disciplines began to
emerge,which further fragmentedthe knowledge-base to manageable levels.Natural
philosophy was subsequently subdivided, initially into physics and chemistry, and later to
other additional disciplines such as life sciencesand biological sciences.
Theknowledge and information explosion of the 20th century further accelerated this
reductionism trend. Disciplines became more and more fragmented.Itbecame humanly
impossible for anyone to know everything there is to know even in amuchmore restricted
subject area such as water. Knowledge, communication and information revolution and
increasing globalization witnessed towards the end of the 20th century further constrained
the mastering of aperson’s disciplinary knowledge-base. With the frontiers of knowledge
expanding continuously, it has become increasingly difficult for professionals to keep up
with the advances even in their limited areas of interest, such as water.
As theworld became increasingly complexand interrelated,the disciplinary
knowledge-base of individuals started to reduce as well.Peoplestarted to specialize in
narrower and narrower subject areas. Concomitantly, managing human societies became
increasingly complex, as aresult of which new institutional machineries had to be created
with increasingly narrower focuses. New institutions had to be createdinareas that were
part of broader groups earlier. For example, in 1972, when the United Nations Conference
on the Human Environment was held in Stockholm, only 11 countries had environmental
machineries. Two decades later, nearly all countries of the world had similar institutions.
16 A. K. Biswas
For avarietyofreasons, including efficient management, smaller institutions have
generally been preferred, comparedtohumongous ones.
During the past century, aprogressivelyreductionism approach has been applied to both
knowledge and institutions. In one sense,integrated water resources management can be
viewed as anostalgic approach to abroader and moreholistic way to manage water, as
may have been possible in the past, perhaps half acentury ago. However, since the world
has movedon, water management needs to move with it.
In afundamental sense,integrated water resourcesmanagement, irrespective of the
general impression prevalent in the water profession, is not holistic. This is not surprising,
since most water professionals consider, explicitly or implicitly, water to be avery
important,ifnot the mostimportant, resource for human and ecosystems survival.Other
issues such as energy, agriculture, industry or the environment do not generally receive
appropriate emphasis or consideration from the water profession compared to water,
although some of these issues may receive comparatively more attention than the others.
Increasing Complexities of Natural Resource Management
If integrated water resources management is considered essential by the water profession,
other disciplines can justifiably promote very similar concepts such as integrated energy
management, or integratedagricultural management, or integratedenvironmental
management or integrated rural development. Such terminologies already existat
present,even thoughpromotion of integration in these areas has receivedsignificantly less
attention or emphasis compared to water. Unfortunately, in acomplexand increasingly
interdependent world, issues such as water, energy, agriculture, the environment or rural
development are becoming increasingly interrelated and interdependent. Accordingly,
integrated management of any one of these resources is not technically possible and
institutionally and managerial feasible, because of accelerating overlaps and interlinkages
with the other resource and development sectors.Developments in the water area
invariably affect management of resourcessuch as energy, agriculture or ecosystems,and
the developments in these resource areas, in turn, affect water,both directly and indirectly.
As an example, let us consider the issue of water and energy interrelationships.The
water profession has mostly ignored energy, even thoughinmany ways water and energy
are closelyinterlinked. For example, water not only produces energy (hydropower), but
also the water sector is aprodigious user of energy. Accordingly, in acountry such as
India, hydropower accounts for slightly over 20% of electricity generated, but the water
sector in turn ‘consumes’ asimilar amount of India’s electricity. In Mexico, the water
sector uses an even larger percentage of nationalelectricity generation. Furthermore, no
large-scale electricity production, be it thermal, nuclear or hydro, is possible without
water. In somecountries such as France, the biggest user of water is not agriculture, but the
energy industry. Thus, it simply is not possibletoconsider water resources management in
an integrative manner without reference to energy, or integratedenergy resources
management without considering water. In otherwords, conceptually, technically and
managerially, it is not possibletoconsider parallel efforts which will focus exclusively on
integrated management of water or energy as asingle resource, because of their inherently
extensive and intensive overlaps and interlinkages.
Since water and energy are closely interrelated, integrated water resources management
per se wouldcontribute to ‘unintegrated’ energymanagement,since these two resources
Integrated Water Resources Management: Is It Working? 17
have manycommon factorsinterms of planning, operation and management, which are
sometimes mutually exclusive. Both of these two resourcescannot be separately planned
in an ‘integrative’ manner, irrespective of how integration is defined. Optimizing the
benefits of integratedwater resourcesmanagement, even if this can be operationally
achieved by amiracle, will not result in the maximization of the benefitsofintegrated
energy management or vice versa. There will be substantial trade-offs, both positive and
negative,for anysuch managementapproaches forthese tworesourcesinan
independently integrated manner.
It can be conceivably arguedthat if water and energy cannot be managed in an
integrative manner independently, perhaps these two resources can be managed together
as integrated water and energy resources management. This is also not apractical solution
because while there are significant interlinkages betweenwater and energy, the processes
available at present for their overall management are very different, and the expertise
required to manage thesetwo resources efficientlyisalso very different. Furthermore,
institutionally, if these two resources are combined under one umbrella, for mostcountries
it will result in alarge and unmanageable institution, which is likely to be both undesirable
and counterproductive. In afew countries, at least institutionally, water and energy are
managed by the same governmental ministry. These countries are comparatively small,
and thus the management of these two resourcesbyone single institutionmay still be
feasible. However, this is not possiblefor large- to medium-sized countries such as Brazil,
China, India, Mexico, Nigeria or South Africa.
If the current global institutional arrangements for the management of water and energy
resourcesare analyzed,they are often somewhat arbitrary. Forexample, hydropower in
some countries such as Brazil, India, Mexico or Turkey is placed within the mandate
of aseparateministry, and/or institutions, which means that the Ministry of Water has
somewhat limited responsibility as to how hydropower projects are planned, operatedand
managed. In someother countries, the Water Ministry is responsible for hydropower, even
though hydropowercontributestoavery significant percentage of nationalelectricity
generation. Thus, there is no simple, elegant and universalsolution in terms of integration,
afact that has been consistently ignored by the proponents of integrated water resources
management. It is also interesting to note that in acountry such as Canada, the word
‘hydro’ is synonymous with electricity, even though water and electricity are managed
very differently, both technically and institutionally, at national and provincial levels.
Irrespective of whetherhydropower is located institutionally within the Ministry of
Energy or Water, it ensures that neither water nor energy can be managed on an integrated
basis. Integration requirements, if all these can be achieved, for each of these resourcesare
likely to be different. What is thus needed is not integration in terms of management of
these two resources, but closecollaboration,cooperation and coordination betweenthe
two institutions, as well as other public and privatesector institutions associated with their
development and management. In areal world, such collaborationsare unfortunately
limited, and often somewhat ad hoc. They alsovary with time, even for the same country.
One is reminded of Voltaire’s assertion that “best is the enemyofgood”. The‘best’
approachesfor integrated water management and integrated energy management may not
be compatible. What we can strive for is a‘good’ solutionwhich couldresult in acceptable
management practices for both water and energy in acoordinated manner.
Theproblem becomes even more complexsince it is not only the energy sector that is
closely linked to water,but also other economically important sectors such as agriculture,
18 A. K. Biswas
the environment, industry or tourism. Globally,the agricultural sector is the largest user of
water. Therefore, neither agriculture nor water can be managed in an ‘integrated’ way
without considering the other. The issue becomes even more unmanageable if parallel
efforts are madetomanage water, energy, agriculture, industry, and/or environmental
sectors in an integrated manner however the wordintegrated is defined. Thus, integrated
water resources management, from an initial and somewhat superficial view, may appear
to be aholistic approach, but on deeperconsideration, it still ends up as areductionist
approach, but perhaps at asomewhat higherlevel.
Accordingly, integrated management of aspecific resource such as water cannot simply
be considered to be aholistic approach. It can be arguedthat it may be possibletomanage
two or morenatural resources by combining their management processesthroughone
common institution. Past experiences indicate that this is generally neither apractical nor
efficient solution. Agood exampleiswhat happened in Egypt during the 1970s, when the
two separate Ministries of Irrigation and Agriculture were combined to form one single
institution. Theexpectation was that this combined entity would manage these two sectors
more rationally and efficientlythan what had happened in the past. The Minister of
Irrigation, who was probably one of the most dynamic and competent Ministers of Irrigation
that Egypt had ever had since PresidentNasser’s Revolution in 1952, became the ministerof
this new enlargedinstitution. In spite of his determined and strenuousefforts, it was simply
not possibletomanage the combined Ministry efficiently or integratively. After avery short
period, the management experimentation was reversed: irrigation and agriculture became
two separateministries again. This practice has continued ever since, even thoughthe names
of the Irrigation Ministry of Egypt were changedtwice subsequently. In spite of the name
changes, this ministry has basically remained awater management institution,just as in the
vast majority of the other countries of the world.
Additional Constraints to Implementation
In areal world, integrated water resources management, even in alimited sense, becomes
difficulttoachieve because of extensive inter- and intra-ministerial turf wars and
bureaucratic infighting. In addition, the legal regimes (for example, national constitutions
in countries such as Canada, India and Pakistan) make integrated management of any
single resource very difficult. Integrated management of two or moreresourcesby
institutions that have been historic rivals is an almost impossible task.
It shouldalsobenoted that water has linkagestoall development sectors and social
issues such as poverty alleviationand regional income redistribution. It is simply
unthinkable and totally impracticaltobring them under one roof in the guiseof
integration, irrespective of how integration is defined. Such integrations are most likely to
increasethe complexitiesofmanaging the resources, insteadofsolving them.
Some have arguedthat integrated water resourcesmanagement is ajourney and not a
destination, and the conceptprovides only aroad map for the journey. However, the
problem with such asimplistic reasoning is that in the area of water management, we are
long on road maps, but very short on actual directionsorcompetent drivers! Equally, road
maps may be useful, but in order to use them we need astarting point and adestination.
Without knowing the starting point and the destination, road mapsare of very limited use
since one is mostly likelytobeall over the place. Another problem of using aroad map
analogy for integrated water resources management is that we do not even know where we
Integrated Water Resources Management: Is It Working? 19
wish to go, exceptinavery vague manner, and since we have no idea as to how to identify
the final destination, we wouldhave no idea whenwehave reached that destination, even
if we reachthe destination by some miracle. Not knowing the destination, it is not possible
to decide if we are travelling in the right direction or the probability of reaching the right
end. In the final analysis, it is not very helpful to be long on vague and unimplementable
concepts but short on their implementation potential, as has been the case thus far for
integratedwater resourcesmanagement.
There are alsosome negativeimplications of integratedwater resources management,
which, for the most part,are not being seriously considered.
Already, in afew countries, there are indications that the main national water institution
is trying to take over otherwater-related institutions in the name of more effective
integration. The implicit assumptionisthat such integration of water-related institutions
will contribute to integratedwater resourcesmanagement. However, even if this was
possible, it is unlikelytobeanefficient and socially desirable approach since different
institutions have different stakeholdersand interests, and this diversity is acomponent of
any democratic process. The consolidation of institutions, in the name of integration, is
likely to produce more centralization, and reduced responsiveness of such institutions to
the needs of the different stakeholders, which is not an objective that the present societies
and international institutions prefer. Water management must be responsive to the needs
and demands of agrowingdiversity of central, state and municipal institutions, user
groups, the privatesector, NGOs and other appropriate bodies. Concentration of
authorities into one, or fewer,water institutions could increasebias, reducetransparency
and properscrutiny of their activities.
In addition, objectives such as increased stakeholders’ participation, decentralization and
decision making at the lowest possiblelevel are unlikely to promoteintegration at ahigher
macro level, however the integration process is defined. Undermostconditions, especially
for macro- and meso-scalewater policies, development objectives such as stakeholders’
participation and abottom-up approach at the micro-level are often unlikely to contribute to
‘integration’ at higher levels.This has been repeatedly observed in many developing
countries such as India and Bangladesh.Avariety of trade-offs betweenthese development
objectives will be necessary, since these objectives often are not mutually exclusive.
Integrated water resources management, like othersimilar concepts (e.g. integrated
rural development, or integrated area development), has historically run into very serious
difficulties in terms of their implementation. Conceptually these integrated concepts may
be easy to understand, at least initially, but the world is complex, and manyconcepts,
irrespective of their initial attractiveness and simplicity, cannot be applied to solve
increasingly complex and interdependent issues and activities (Biswas&Tortajada,
2004). Even after morethan half acentury of existence, it has not been possible to find a
practical frameworkthat couldbeused for the integration of the various issues associated
with water management. There is absolutely no evidence at present,irrespective of the
widespread international rhetoric of the past 15 years, that this situationislikely to change
in the foreseeable future.
Conclusions
It is arguedthat integrated water resources management has become apopular concept
in recent years, but its track record in terms of application to moreefficientlymanage
20 A. K. Biswas
macro- and meso-scale water policies, programmesand projects has been dismal.
Conceptual attraction by itself is not enough.
It shouldbenotedthat extensive analyses and researchcarriedout at the Third World
Centre for Water Management indicate that on ascaleof1to 100 (1 being no integrated
water resources management and 100 beingfull integration),one is hard pressed to find
even asingle macro- or meso-level water policy, programme or project anywhere in the
world that can be givenascore of 30, based on medium- to long-term performance.
Indeed,itisavery dismal implementation record for aconcept that has been aroundfor
nearly two generations.
Concepts and paradigms, if they are to have any validity and usefulness, must be
implementable so that better and more efficient solutions can be obtained. Not only is this
not happening at present for integrated water resourcesmanagement, butalsothere are no
visible signsthat the situationislikely to change in the foreseeable future.
It is also necessarytoask avery fundamental question: why it has not been possible to
properly implement aconcept that has been around for some two generations in the real
world for macro- and meso-level water policies, projects and programmes? Another
important question that needs to be answered is that is the concept of integrated water
resourcesmanagement an universalsolution, as its numerous proponents have consistently
claimed, or is it aconcept that has limited implementation potential, irrespective of its
initial conceptualattractiveness and current popularity?Unless the concept on integrated
water resources management can actually be applied in the real world to demonstrably
improvethe existing water management practices,its current popularity and extensive
endorsements by donor institutions will unquestionablybealimited-term phenomenon,
which will become irrelevant on amedium- to long-term basis.
In addition, the world is heterogeneous, with different cultures, social norms, physical
attributes, skewed availability of renewable and non-renewable resources, investment
funds,management capacities and institutional arrangements. Thesystemsofgovernance,
legal frameworks, decision-making processes and types and effectiveness of institutions
mostly differ from one country to another, and often in very significant ways. Accordingly,
and under such diverse conditions, one fundamental question that needs to be asked is that
is it possiblethat asingle paradigm of integrated water resourcesmanagement can
encompassall countries, or even regions, with diverse physical, economic, social, cultural
and legal conditions? Can asingle paradigm of integrated water resources management be
equally valid for an economic giantlike the United States, technological powerhouselike
Japan,and for countries with very diverse conditions such as Brazil, Bhutan or Burkino
Fasso? Can asingle concept be equally applicable for Asian values, African traditions,
Japanese culture, Western civilization, Islamic customsand the emerging economies of
Eastern Europe?Can any general water management paradigm be equally valid for
monsoon and non-monsoon countries, deserts and very wet regions, and countries in
tropical, sub-tropical and temperate regions, with very different climates, institutional,
legal and environmental regimes? Theanswer is most probably to be an emphatic ‘no’.
What is now neededisanobjective, impartial and undogmatic assessment of the
applicability of integrated water resources management.Unfortunately, most of its current
promoters have apriori assumed that this concept will automatically make the water
management processes and practices ideal. Equally, the proponents of this concept have
already spent so muchtime, energy and resources that they are mostly very reluctant to
consider,let aloneadmit,atleast in public, that the emperor may not have any clothes.
Integrated Water Resources Management: Is It Working? 21
What is mostlikely happen in the coming yearsisthat both the donors and the developing
countries will finally appreciate the non-implementability of this concept. Based on past
experience, its promoters are unlikelytoadmit that the concept has not worked in the past,
is not workingatpresent, and is highly unlikely to work in the future for arapidly changing
world. Accordingly, the mostlikely scenarioofthe future will be that its past and present
promoters will gradually start downplaying the strong rhetoric of integratedwater
resourcesmanagement,and start focusing on the ‘ends’ofwater management rather than
exclusive emphasis on only one of its ‘means’, as has been the case in recent years. A
careful analysisindicates that afew international and nationalinstitutions, which have
actively promoted this concept earlier, have already started to downplay it. This trend is
likely to accelerate in the future.
Thecurrent evidence indicates that irrespective of the current popularity of the concept,
its impact to improvewater management has been, at best,marginal. It may work for
micro-scale projects, but thereisabsolutely no evidence from anywhere in the world that it
will workfor macro- or meso-scale policies, programmes and projects on along-term
basis. Acynic might even say that manyinthe water profession mostly sit in watertight
compartments, but preach integrated approaches to water management. Perhaps, the
salutary caution of HaroldMacmillan, the former Prime Minister of the UK, is appropriate
in the current context: “After along life Ihave come to the conclusion that whenall the
establishment is united, it is always wrong!” Is it possiblethat integrated water resources
management falls squarely within this cautionary statementofthis remarkablestatesman?
References
Asian Development Bank (2007) Asian Water Development Outlook 2007 (Manila: Asian Development Bank).
Biswas, A. K. (Ed.) (1978) United Nations Water Conference: Summary and Main Documents (Oxford:
Pergamon Press).
Biswas, A. K. (2001) Water policies in the developing world, International Journal of Water Resources
Development,17(4), pp. 489–499.
Biswas, A. K. (2006) Challenging Prevailing Wisdoms: 2006 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate Lecture
(Stockholm: Stockholm International Water Institute). Availableatwww.thirdworldcentre.org
Biswas, A. K. &Tortajada, C. (2004) Appraisingthe Concept of Sustainable Development: Water Management
and Related EnvironmentalChallenges (Oxford: Oxford UniversityPress).
Biswas, A. K., Varis, O. &Tortajada, C. (2004) Integrated Water Resources Management in South and Southeast
Asia (Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Biswas, A. K., Braga, B. P. F., Tortajada, C. &Palermo,M.(2008) Integrated water resources management in
Latin America, International Journal of Water Resources Development,24(1), special issue.
Global Water Partnership (2000) Integrated Water Resources Management.TAC Background Papers No. 4, p. 22
(Stockholm: GWP Secretariat).
Global Water Partnership(2003) Integrated Water Resources Management Toolbox, Version 2 ,p.2(Stockholm:
GWP Secretariat).
Hall, S. S. (2003) Merchants of Immortality (Boston: Houghton Mifflin).
McDonnell, R. (2008) Challenges for integrated water resources management: how do we provide the knowledge
to support truly integrated thinking?, International Journal of Water Resources Development,24(1),
pp. 131–143.
22 A. K. Biswas
... As such, the community of practice around water has responded with a wave of support for Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM), which promotes a coordinated approach toward managing water and related resources in a manner that ensures equitable socioeconomic and environmental welfare (Perry, 1999;Agarwal et al., 2000;United Nations, 2002;Biswas, 2004;Jønch-Clausen, 2004;Lenton and Muller, 2012). While IWRM serves as a broad foundation for practitioners and researchers alike to address water-related issues from a more holistic perspective, the framework is not without its critics; citing the inherent vagueness in terms of its definition, consideration of what resources and/or sectors ought to be integrated and the implementation of the framework itself (Moench et al., 2003;Biswas, 2008). In addition, despite efforts to promote a more comprehensive view on natural resource management, IWRM is still to a large extent weighted toward the water sector as the primary focus; with other sectors such as land-use planning, energy, agriculture etc. considered as de facto secondary sectors (Biswas, 2008;Savenije and Van der Zaag, 2008;Giordano and Shah, 2014). ...
... While IWRM serves as a broad foundation for practitioners and researchers alike to address water-related issues from a more holistic perspective, the framework is not without its critics; citing the inherent vagueness in terms of its definition, consideration of what resources and/or sectors ought to be integrated and the implementation of the framework itself (Moench et al., 2003;Biswas, 2008). In addition, despite efforts to promote a more comprehensive view on natural resource management, IWRM is still to a large extent weighted toward the water sector as the primary focus; with other sectors such as land-use planning, energy, agriculture etc. considered as de facto secondary sectors (Biswas, 2008;Savenije and Van der Zaag, 2008;Giordano and Shah, 2014). ...
Article
Full-text available
Rapid population growth along with increased rates of economic growth around the globe are placing valuable natural resources, water in particular, under unprecedented stress; this in turn drives the pursuit of innovative tools to support integrated Water-Energy-Food (WEF) nexus management. This paper presents a framework for the integrated management of the WEF nexus, which brings together four separate models that address the less well-examined socio-anthropological aspects of the nexus. The proposed framework provides insight into the human element as part of the wider ecosystem in terms of socio-cultural and economic activities, the laws and policies that govern these activities, as well as their potential socio-economic impacts and consequences. This paper outlines each individual model, before going on to present a conceptual framework for the integration of the various models for the purpose of supporting more robust decision-making. The framework, which is grounded in systems thinking, adopts the principles of sustainable development as structural foci in order to position the various models in relation to one another; harmonizing their inputs as well as outputs.
... The approach continues to build upon existing and emerging approaches. Within the water sector, integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) [10,11] and integrated water resources management (IWRM) [12,13] approaches have both emerged in an attempt to enable integration. Such approaches tend to focus on the management process (rather than outcome) [14]. ...
Article
Full-text available
The low-lying coastal areas of the countries around the North Sea are exposed to flooding and the influence of sea level rise. The countries in the North Sea Region need to continue to adapt if the associated risk is to be well-managed into the future. In addition to reducing flood risk, adaptation measures can bring development opportunities for those same places. These opportunities, however, are unlikely to be achieved through a ‘defence only’ paradigm, and instead a new approach is needed that simultaneously reduces risk and promotes liveable places, ecosystem health and social well-being. The building blocks of this new approach are promoted here and are based on an adaptation process that is collaborative and takes a whole-system, long-term perspective. The approach developed through the Interreg funded project, C5a, brings together governments, practitioners and researchers from across the North Sea to share policies, practices and the emerging science of climate change adaptation and enabling sustainable development. The new approach reflects a Cloud to Coast management paradigm and emerged through a combination of knowledge exchange and peer-to-peer learning across seven case studies. Central to the case studies was a maturity analysis of existing capabilities across the North Sea countries and their ability to adopt the new approach. This paper presents the results of this analysis, including the common challenges that emerged and the methods and examples of good practice to overcome them. Building upon these findings, the paper concludes by presenting four priority policy directions to support the uptake of the Cloud to Coast approach.
... All these perspectives are thus normative and all of them include potential shortcomings in terms of equity. The pursuit of sustainable development is internationally agreed upon; however, its implementation -for example, concerning IWRM -has been critiqued as being too simplistic and as being focused on the implementation of instruments rather than on the effects they yield (Franks and Cleaver, 2007;Biswas, 2008;Giordano and Shah, 2014;Fritsch and Benson, 2020). Rather than prescribing specific tools -as IWRM and the SDGs do -adapting broad international aims could bring betterment if the triggering effect of goals can be combined with leaving space for innovation that draws on locally suitable institutional processes (Merrey and Cook, 2012). ...
Article
Full-text available
International targets such as the Sustainable Development Goals or those that are set as part of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) programmes are, on the whole, universally accepted; however, they are often shaped mainly in the Global North. As a result, when these institutionally set targets conflict with pre-existing rules and norms in implementing states, implementation difficulties may result, as one can currently observe with regard to IWRM and SDG 6.5. Governance challenges that result from implementation gaps are often filled at the local level, where actors arrange for functional management processes despite institutional insecurity. Applying institutional bricolage theory, we investigate such processes for South Africa, Mongolia and Peru, focusing on how horizontal and vertical coordination, as well as participation, are achieved as key aspects of IWRM. By adopting an analytical frame focusing on institutions, discourses and power relations based on Frances Cleaver's bricolage dimensions, we show how their governance and management arrangements have evolved. In the process of comparing the three cases, we consider what conclusions can be drawn from these arrangements with regard to facilitating institutional transfer processes. Our study shows that informal aspects of governance systems powerfully influence the interpretation of newly introduced policies. We find that efforts to implement international blueprints that neglect institutional legacies, sociocultural dynamics, and pre-existing inequalities are unlikely to result in arrangements that are suited to local realities.
... The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement became a foundation of transforming the way of which social, economic, and environmental aspects are taking place [10] [21]. Farmers in rural areas often experiencing problem in food production resulted from water scarcity [16] and several hydrometeorological disasters including flooding, land slide, and droughts [7]. This situation is worsened by the growing population which occupied land surrounding buffer zone of forest or catchment area [2]. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Illegal logging and unsustainable land management practices are the biggest challenges to achieve a sustainable development. Economic demands and lack of knowledge of land management have led people to behave instantaneously and destructively. This study aims to explore the landscape-based approaches of livelihood transformation in Aunupe Village, South Konawe District, Southeast Sulawesi as an effort to adapt to climate change. Through a qualitative method using semi-structured interviews, this study found multiple factors contributed to the transformation including people’s awareness of the importance of ecosystem sustainability, the increased of knowledge and capacity of the community of eco-friendly agricultural practices, and intervention of both government and non-governmental organization in providing landscape-based land management models and land use schemes for community in forest area. The livelihoods that were transformed into the more landscape-based and eco-friendly ways including illegal logging to organic farming and agroforestry practices, and ordinary farming to non-pesticides agricultural practices. Keywords: livelihood transformation, climate change, landscape-based management, spatial planning.
... Provision of sustainable public and portable water supply is essential for meeting economic needs industrial development, protection and improvement of public health, improving the quality and standard of living, ecosystem preservation as well as poverty alleviation and eradication especially in developing countries (Biswas, 2008;Huttly et al., 1990;Bartram and Cairncross, 2010;McDonald et al., 2014;Saravanan and Gondhalekar, 2013;Balogun et al., 2017). It is estimated that public water supply accounts for 90% of water supply in middle and low-income countries (Hall and Lobina, 2006) and serves domestic, institutional, industrial and commercial functions while domestic water supply represents between 50-70% of public water supply (Ayanshola, et al., 2013;Lu and Smout, 2008). ...
Article
Full-text available
The study examined the levels of selected chemical pollutants in groundwater and their potential health implications in Barnawa, Kakuri and Kinkinau, Kaduna South LGA. Samples were collected directly from hand dug wells and boreholes in 2020. Two locations were selected in each of the representative location. A total of four samples were collected at each of the sampling location (town), representing two samples in each point (borehole or hand dug well) for dry season (December-January) and wet season (August-September) respectively. Heavy metals were analyzed for Cadmium (Cd), lead (Ld), arsenic (As), cobalt (Co), chromium (Cr), manganese (Mn), mercury (Hg) and iron (Fe). Results of student's t test showed p>0.05, d = 0.477, (Borehole), p>0.05, d = 0.385 (Hand dug wells) in Barnawa, p>0.05, d = 0.446, (Borehole), p>0.05, d = 0.24 (Hand dug wells) in Kakuri and p>0.05, d = 0.23, (Borehole), p>0.05, d = 0.25 (Hand dug wells), indicating there is significant differences in water quality between the two seasons in each of the selected locations. Highest concentrations were observed more in wet season. Across samples locations, variation was not observed in the quality of water from both borehole and hand dug wells at different location at p>0.05, d = 0.97 and 0.98 respectively. On the whole, Pb, Fe, Mn, As, Hg and Cd were above the WHO and NESREA standards in both seasons. There is need to promote awareness on the dangers of water pollution, especially heavy metals, and collective preventive measures against water pollution. Finally, there is need revamp and adequately fund the Kaduna State Water Corporation (KADSWAC) to reduce the level of reliance on groundwater.
... In the early 1990s, the IWRM systemic and integrated water governance approach was "rediscovered" by some water experts, and the concept was heavily promoted by specialists and international institutions as a mantra for integrated water resource management to solve water problems (Biswas, 2008). IWRM was considered as a "process to promote the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources to maximize economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems and the environment" (Global Water Partnership, 2011). ...
Article
Full-text available
This study explores how the concept and research on the water-energy-food (WEF) nexus has evolved over time. The research uncovers the key terms underpinning the phenomenon, maps the interlinkages between WEF nexus topics, and provides an overview of the evolution of the concept of WEF nexus. We analyzed published academic literature from the Scopus database and performed both qualitative and quantitative analyses using Natural Language Processing method. The findings suggest that the nexus approach is increasingly evolving into an integrative concept, and has been incorporating new topics over time, resulting in different methods for WEF nexus research, with a focus on interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral analyses. Through the five periods outlined, we have identified the nexus approach debate focused on the following predominant topics: i) Trend 1 (2012–2016) debates on WEF nexus for water management and natural resource security, ii) Trend 2 (2017–2018) linkages between the nexus, the sustainable development goals and green economy, iii) Trend 3 (2019) WEF nexus governance and policy integration, iv) Trend 4 (2020) application of the nexus concept on different scales, including regions, countries, watersheds, urban areas as well as other components coupled to the WEF nexus, and, v) Trend 5 (2021) climate change and urban nexus challenges.
... Some authors have argued that normative recipes like IWRM do not work in the real world (Biswas, 2008;Ingram, 2008), because the approach can prove to be too restrictive, at least in terms of avoiding infrastructure development (Woodhouse & Muller, 2017). Therefore, the solution of the Lerma-Chapala conflict was celebrated as a non-normative approach to IWRM (Lenton & Muller, 2009). ...
Thesis
Full-text available
This thesis is about a number of rural communities resisting flooding and the eradication of their ancestry, history and culture by opposing the implementation and imposition of a large dam in rural Mexico that would supply water to two large cities. The importance of this case lies in the unlikely odds of not only resisting a State-led, large-scale infrastructure project for almost two decades, but also building a grassroots movement that grew in extent, scope and scale to advocate for a comprehensive water management transformation in Mexico. The scientific analysis of the conflict and this grassroots movement, informally dubbed ‘Temaca’, contributed to several scientific fields including water conflicts, transition management, science-policy processes, socio-hydrology and transdisciplinary action research. The analysis of the case study shows how politics influences science by defining a limited decision space that can only superficially address the serious water problems of large cities. As a result, cities follow a development pathway that may deepen their water problems in the long term. Therefore, water conflicts and grassroots movements play a crucial role in opening the decision space. This thesis demonstrates that through transdisciplinary action research, scientific knowledge can become actionable and relevant; addressing power asymmetries and finding sound alternative water management solutions that are more equitable and sustainable.
Thesis
L’objectif principal de cette thèse est d’analyser les conflits liés à la traduction contrastée des principes du modèle voyageur de Gestion Intégrée des Ressources en Eau (GIRE) au Burkina Faso. Ce pays est présenté internationalement comme une « success story » en matière de mise en oeuvre des principes de GIRE en Afrique. Il a été le premier pays d’Afrique de l’Ouest à l’adopter avec le soutien d’une diversité d’acteurs, peu coordonnés, à travers leur coopération institutionnelle et des actions de solidarité internationale. Or, les réalités locales aux échelles de deux sous-bassins contrastés (sous bassin Ziga du Nakanbé et de la Vallée du Kou du Mouhoun) traduisent des « résistances » à certains principes de GIRE tels que pensés dans les pays où ils ont été conçus.Le modèle de GIRE a circulé à l’échelle internationale depuis les années 1970, la Conférence des Nations Unies de Mar del Plata (1977) constituant le point de départ. Ce modèle repose sur des principes élaborés lors de conférences internationales (Dublin et Rio, 1992) : l’eau est reconnue comme un bien économique ; la participation de l’ensemble des parties prenantes est préconisée, notamment celle des femmes ; et le bassin versant constitue l’échelle territoriale pertinente de gestion des ressources. Des acteurs globalisés tels que le Global Water Partnership (GWP) et les bailleurs ont diffusé ces principes à l’échelle internationale, les experts internationaux et agences de l’eau y contribuant à travers des coopérations institutionnelles (Petit et Baron, 2009). Bien que bon nombre d’auteurs aient montré les limites de ce modèle à travers des études de cas qui illustrent le décalage entre théorie et pratiques, évoquant un « concept nirvana » (Molle, 2008), la GIRE reste la norme, même dans le contexte des Objectifs du Développement Durable (ODD, 2015-2030).A partir d’une démarche s’inscrivant dans l’interdisciplinarité en mobilisant des grilles de la socio-anthropologie du développement et plus marginalement, à la science politique, l’analyse des données de terrain a montré que si, dans les discours de justification, l’efficacité des principes du modèle de GIRE pour assurer la préservation des ressources en eau est postulée, la déclinaison de ses règles aux échelles locales connait des contournements et des contestations. Ceux-ci se traduisent par des conflits d’acteurs, de représentations et d’usages dans les environnements caractérisés par la présence des règles pré-GIRE et des modes de gouvernance des ressources en eau encastrés dans des systèmes complexes hydro-sociaux-locaux. Ainsi, la thèse montre que la GIRE rencontre des obstacles aux échelles locales en raison de la non prise en compte de ces règles encastrées ce qui a un impact négatif sur les ressources en eau, en qualité et en quantité et traduit un relatif échec de la GIRE.
Thesis
La thèse part du constat d’une difficulté à articuler des objectifs de protection des ressources en eau avec ceux visant l’accès à une eau potable pour tous. Dans un contexte de pressions anthropiques et climatiques sur les ressources en eau, ces objectifs ne peuvent plus être appréhendés de façon déconnectée dans le cadre de politiques publiques comme sur le plan théorique. Pourtant, leur articulation est rarement étudiée comme objet d’étude à part entière en sciences humaines et sociales. La thèse vise donc à discuter cette articulation, en élaborant un cadre d’analyse original. Elle combine des approches institutionnalistes pour étudier la construction des règles de gouvernance des eaux (ressources, eau potable) avec les recherches conduites en political ecology qui prennent en compte les rapports de pouvoir dans la coordination des acteurs. Ce cadre permet aussi d’analyser les diverses qualifications de l’eau utilisées par les acteurs pour justifier un mode de gouvernance de l’eau spécifique. La thèse s’appuie sur deux études de cas complémentaires dans le contexte indonésien, fondée sur une méthodologie qualitative. En Indonésie, cette question de l’articulation apparaît comme centrale. Ce pays est en effet marqué par de forts enjeux de répartition des eaux entre les usagers et de pollution des ressources qui constituent une entrave à l’accès à l’eau potable. La première étude de cas porte sur le processus de construction d’une règle controversée, la loi sur l’eau, qui encadre le secteur (ressource et eau potable). Nous analysons ce processus à travers les discours de justification des acteurs qui oscillent entre accès équitable à l’eau potable et protection des ressources. La seconde étudie une ville indonésienne, Surakarta, qui concentre des enjeux portant à la fois sur la durabilité des ressources et l’accès à l’eau potable : pollutions aux points de captage, densité, ou encore conflits relatifs à l’allocation des ressources pour l’accès à l’eau potable. Dans les deux cas, une lecture sur le long terme des dynamiques institutionnelles permet d’identifier les moments de changements, caractérisés par de nouvelles hiérarchisations des finalités entre protection des ressources et accès à l’eau potable. Nous montrons aussi l’importance des rapports de pouvoir entre acteurs pour privilégier une finalité plutôt qu’une autre, en lien avec le processus de qualification de l’eau. Nous mettons enfin en évidence des différences dans la façon d’appréhender l’articulation dans des contextes locaux urbains et dans d'autres aterritorialisés, lors de la négociation de règles.
Article
Full-text available
The ideas of good governance through integrated water resources management (IWRM) are predicated on bringing together our understanding of water from many domains, thus the provision of knowledge and information is an important part of any enabling environment. Strategies put forward so far have been based on developing systems to integrate existing data from many sources then using different analytical methods such as Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to determine the effects of particular policies or management strategies on various water subsystems. This paper reviews some of the challenges associated with such approaches, ranging from the practical problems of data provision to the more fundamental ones associated with adopting such a positivist, techno-scientific framework. It becomes obvious that new approaches are needed which take on board important research findings emanating from fields such as social theory and geographical information science (GIScience).
Article
Full-text available
Even though water policy has generally been considered to be an important issue, its rational formulation and implementation have basically received lip service in the past. Water policies in the 21st century must consider the important changes that have occurred during the past decade, and also the changes that are likely to occur in the coming years. All water policies have risks and uncertainties associated with them. The main changes and constraints are analysed. Water policies cannot be static: they should be considered to be a journey and not a destination. Future policies must address rapidly diversifying social interests and agendas that are likely to be awash in chaos, conicting views, rapid technological changes, globalization, relentless economic competition, politi-cal uncertainties and steadily increasing human aspirations. Theoretical and conceptual approaches, irrespective of their attractiveness, are not enough, unless they can be operationalized. This will not be an easy task, but one that must be undertaken.
Chapter
Full-text available
Throughout the development of civilization, people have come to the important realization that water, being the principal element of nature, calls for comprehensive management based on the integration of different waters, users, and impacts that determine the sustainability, efficiency, and safety of water availability. It is us, living on the cusp of a new millennium, whose rough lot it is to witness growing water deficits in nearly all parts of the Earth. Today, annual per capita fresh water resources available for use averages 750 m3. By 2050, this value will decrease to an average of 450 m3 even without taking into account climate change effects. This implies that over 80% of the countries worldwide will reach the UN water deficit level (Water: A Shared Responsibility. The UN World Water Development Report 2. UNESCO-WWAP 2006).
Challenging Prevailing Wisdoms: 2006 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate Lecture (Stockholm: Stockholm International Water Institute) Availableatw ww.thirdworldcentre
  • A K Biswas
Biswas, A. K. (2006) Challenging Prevailing Wisdoms: 2006 Stockholm Water Prize Laureate Lecture (Stockholm: Stockholm International Water Institute). Availableatw ww.thirdworldcentre.org Biswas, A. K. &Tortajada, C. (2004) Appraisingthe Concept of Sustainable Development: Water Management and Related EnvironmentalC hallenges (Oxford: Oxford UniversityP ress).
  • S S Hall
Hall, S. S. (2003) Merchants of Immortality (Boston: Houghton Mifflin).
United Nations Water Conference: Summary and Main Documents
  • A K Biswas
Biswas, A. K. (Ed.) (1978) United Nations Water Conference: Summary and Main Documents (Oxford: Pergamon Press).
Asian Water Development Outlook
  • Development Asian
  • Bank
Asian Development Bank (2007) Asian Water Development Outlook 2007 (Manila: Asian Development Bank).
Integrated Water Resources Management, 22Stockholm: GWP Secretariat
  • Global
  • Water