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Utilizing Integrated Water Resource Management Approaches to Support Disaster Risk Reduction


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PAPERBACK The increasing worldwide trend in disasters, which will be aggravated by global environmental change (including climate change), urges us to implement new approaches to hazard mitigation, as well as exposure and vulnerability reduction. We are, however, faced with hard choices about hazard mitigation: should we continue to build dikes and walls to protect ourselves against floods and coastal hazards – though we have seen the limits of these – or should we consider alternative, ecosystem-based solutions? Ecosystem management is a well-tested solution to sustainable development that is being revisited because of its inherent " win–win " and " no-regrets " appeal to address rising disaster and climate change issues. It is one of the few approaches that can impact all elements of the disaster risk equation – mitigating hazards, reducing exposure, reducing vulnerabilities and increasing the resilience of exposed communities. Yet, the uptake of ecosystem-based approaches for disaster risk reduction (DRR) is slow despite some very good examples of success stories. Reasons for this are multiple: ecosystem management is rarely considered as part of the portfolio of DRR solutions because the environmental and disaster management communities typically work independently from each other; its contribution to DRR is highly undervalued compared to engineered solutions and thus not attributed appropriate budget allocations; finally, there are poor science–policy interactions on ecosystem-based DRR, which have led to unclear and sometimes contradictory scientific information on the role of ecosystems in DRR. The aim of this book is to provide an overview of knowledge and practice in the multidisciplinary field of ecosystem management and DRR to encourage and further develop dialogues between scientists, practitioners, policymakers and development planners.
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NOTICE: this is the authors version of a book chapter that was accepted for publication in The role of ecosystems in Disaster
Risk Reduction. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other
quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was
published. A definitive version may be found in Renaud, F.G., Sudmeier-Rieux, K. and Estrella, M (Eds). 2013. The role of
ecosystems in disaster risk reduction. Tokyo: United Nations University Press. ISBN 978-92-808-1221-3
The Role of Ecosystems in Disaster Risk Reduction
Edited by Fabrice G. Renaud, Karen Sudmeier-Rieux and Marisol Estrella
PUBLICATION DATA: ISBN-13: 978-92-808-1221-3
PAGES: 440
PRICE: US$40.00
PUBLISHER: United Nations University Press
PUBLISHED: June 2013
The increasing worldwide trend in disasters, which will be aggravated by global environmental change
(including climate change), urges us to implement new approaches to hazard mitigation, as well as
exposure and vulnerability reduction. We are, however, faced with hard choices about hazard
mitigation: should we continue to build dikes and walls to protect ourselves against floods and coastal
hazards though we have seen the limits of these or should we consider alternative, ecosystem-based
solutions? Ecosystem management is a well-tested solution to sustainable development that is being
revisited because of its inherent win–win” and “no-regrets” appeal to address rising disaster and
climate change issues. It is one of the few approaches that can impact all elements of the disaster risk
equation mitigating hazards, reducing exposure, reducing vulnerabilities and increasing the resilience
of exposed communities. Yet, the uptake of ecosystem-based approaches for disaster risk reduction
(DRR) is slow despite some very good examples of success stories. Reasons for this are multiple:
ecosystem management is rarely considered as part of the portfolio of DRR solutions because the
environmental and disaster management communities typically work independently from each other; its
contribution to DRR is highly undervalued compared to engineered solutions and thus not attributed
appropriate budget allocations; finally, there are poor sciencepolicy interactions on ecosystem-based
DRR, which have led to unclear and sometimes contradictory scientific information on the role of
ecosystems in DRR.
The aim of this book is to provide an overview of knowledge and practice in the multidisciplinary field
of ecosystem management and DRR to encourage and further develop dialogues between scientists,
practitioners, policymakers and development planners.
About the Editors:
Fabrice G. Renaud is Head of Section at the United Nations University Institute for Environment and
Human Security, Germany. Karen Sudmeier-Rieux is a Researcher at the Center for Research of the
Terrestrial Environment, University of Lausanne, Switzerland. Marisol Estrella is the Programme
Coordinator of the Disaster Risk Reduction Unit, Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch,
United Nations Environment Programme, Switzerland.
Utilizing Integrated Water Resource Management Approaches to Support Disaster Risk
James Dalton, Radhika Murti, Alvin Chandra
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Disaster risk reduction is a critical policy objective that competes with other development priorities and
cuts across multiple sectors, requiring coordination, management, and resources. Integrated Water
Resource Management is a process of strategic coordination and management of water resources
designed to maximize the returns from good water management for economic and social welfare. Both
approaches yield benefits for people and nature, but can be complex in implementation. Many disasters
are primarily water-related, or impact upon water supply and its provision for multi-sectoral water use.
Consequently, water management approaches have lessons and experience of value to disaster risk
reduction approaches, and vice-versa. Integrated Water Resource Management can also be strengthened
through greater recognition of ecosystems and improved interpretation of the guiding Dublin Principles
and pillars that structure water management approaches. This chapter is devoted to understanding the
linkages between Disaster Risk Reduction and Integrated Water Resource Management, and how
integration of ecosystem-based approaches can strengthen these links to build resilience.
Earthquakes, droughts, floods, and other natural hazards continue to cause thousands of deaths,
injuries, and billions of dollars of economic losses each year. Disaster statistics demonstrate that
flood events are becoming more frequent (World Bank, 2011). According to Guha-Sapir et al.
(2011), flooding in 2010 affected 178 million people worldwide, representing over 56% of all
disasters and causing 87% of the global reported number of affected populations. Between 2000
and 2006 there were 2,163 water-related disasters, costing $422 billion in damages, and
affecting 1.5 billion people (Adikari and Yoshitani, 2009).
Floods, the most common hydrological hazard, have impacted both developed and developing
nations. In 2010, the flooding in Pakistan was widely covered by the media, as well as the
flooding in Queensland, Australia, and the destructive floods and landslides in Brazil. However,
floods often have a disproportionate impact on the poor and socially disadvantaged who are
most vulnerable to flooding events, least able to help themselves, or less able to cope with the
far reaching and long term impacts of floods (ActionAid, 2006). Between 1900 and 2006,
flooding represented 90% of the „most-fatal‟ disasters (Adikari and Yoshitani, 2009), with
infrastructure damage being a key component of total direct losses (World Bank, 1999). Global
economic losses from floods alone average $3 billion per year, equivalent to 20% of new
investment in the water sector in developing countries (WWDR, 2003).
Many cities are already exposed to multiple hazards such as landslides, floods, and coastal storm
surges (IFRC, 2010). These hazards become disasters because of existing vulnerabilities and
weakened capacity to prepare, respond and recover from disasters. Urban centres are growing,
with 70% of the global population predicted to live in cities by 2030 (WHO, 2010). Some of
this urban growth takes place in informal settlements, where housing construction is often of
poor quality and basic infrastructure (drainage, waste disposal, water supply) is lacking. These
conditions multiply disaster vulnerability, especially for the poorest parts of the population, who
tend to settle in cheaper, degraded, and often more hazard prone areas (Adikari, et al., 2010).
Additionally, these vulnerabilities are further exacerbated due to the lack of legal land
entitlements, lack of support to respond to disasters and limited means to recover from them
(Noy, 2009; Gaillard, et al., 2010).
The way we manage our environment has consequences on our safety, in both urban and rural
areas. The complex pathways between rivers, urban drainage systems, coastal zones, agricultural
drains, combined with changing cropping patterns, dam construction, building characteristics
and paving, wetlands and forests all interplay and affect each other (World Bank, 2010). In
developing our river basins for economic growth, food security and energy needs, we impact the
hydrological properties of river basins, which in turn can lead to changes in, for example, flood
peaks, flows, and sediment loads (Opperman et al., 2009), while other impacts on neighbouring
habitats and ecosystem services are not yet properly understood. Ecosystem degradation affects
our ability to protect ourselves and our livelihoods from disasters, especially when we choose to
live in hazard-prone areas.
Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR)
communities offer many lessons for implementing climate change adaptation approaches, given
that adaptation is unlikely to work in practice without tackling sustainable water resource
management (Pittock, 2009). Neither disaster risk reduction nor climate change adaptation are
distinct “sectors”; rather, they are competing policy objectives, requiring actions to be
implemented through other sectors, which include water, agriculture, health, land use and
planning, energy, and environment (UNISDR, 2011a). Good risk reduction strategies, including
adaptation to hydrological climate change-related risks, will depend on the balance between
ecological needs and development demands of communities.
This chapter is devoted to understanding the linkages between Integrated Water Resource
Management (IWRM) and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). It starts with a discussion on the two
approaches, followed by their comparison. It further highlights the opportunities and challenges
in capitalizing on the commonalities, especially in the context of ecosystem-based approaches
for building resilience to disasters
Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM)
Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) is a process, which promotes the coordinated
development and management of water, land and related resources in order to maximize the
resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the
sustainability of vital ecosystems (GWP-TAC 2000: 5). At the Johannesburg World Summit on
Sustainable Development (WSSD) emphasis was on the need to manage water at the river basin-
scale, under the principles of good governance and public participation
. Furthermore, IWRM
was included in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation as a key component for achieving
sustainable development at the Summit.
IWRM is also based on the Dublin Principles agreed at the International Conference on Water
and Environment in 1992 (ICWE, 1992). These state that (i) fresh water is a finite and
vulnerable resource, essential to sustain life, development and the environment; (ii) water
development and management should be based on a participatory approach, involving users,
planners and policy-makers at all levels; (iii) women play a central part in the provision,
As defined by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2012:5), resilience is: “[t]he ability of a system and its
component parts to anticipate, absorb, accommodate, or recover from the effects of a hazardous event in a timely and efficient
manner, including through ensuring the preservation, restoration, or improvement of its essential basic structures and functions.
Originally discussed at the UN Conference on Water in Mar del Plata (1977), IWRM was promoted as the framework to
incorporate the multiple competing uses of water resources. This framework approach was further strengthened at the
International Conference on Water and Environment in Dublin (1992), the Second World Water Forum in The Hague (2000), the
Bonn International Conference on Freshwater (2001), WSSD in 2002, and the Third World Water Forum in Kyoto (2003).
management and safeguarding of water; and (iv) water has an economic value in all its
competing uses and should be recognized as an economic good.
Organizing activities in a river basin requires coordinated, strategic interventions between water,
environment, land, agriculture, disaster management and climate change communities-of-
practice (Wenger et al., 2002). This is needed to maximize the knowledge, best practices and
policy frameworks in order to address multiple and converging challenges simultaneously.
Often, large river basins are scaled down to individual “catchments, such as individual valleys
so that efforts for land and water management can be coordinated at an appropriate scale
following the principle of subsidiarity. This principle states that only through decentralization
can participation, and therefore management, at the appropriate scale occur (Molle et al., 2007).
This approach is designed to build capacity at watershed level, and scale this up to build wider
river basin capacity and learning.
It can be argued that IWRM is the most internationally accepted water policy „tool‟ (Rahaman
and Varis, 2005). However, integrated management of water and land is a challenging concept
because it deals with resources that are subject to competing interests, degradation, economic
values, highly complex legal and institutional environments and yet fundamental to life and
economic needs. IWRM has been critiqued as a „nirvana‟ concept that lacks practical ways to
link issues of water poverty with alternate livelihoods (Merrey et al., 2005; Wester et al., 2009;
Butterworth et al., 2010). While water management issues are fundamentally local in nature
they have the potential to disrupt national energy and food security (Grey and Sadoff, 2007).
The concept of a single philosophical approach for sustainable water resources management
which can encompass all countries, with different cultures, social beliefs and values, climatic
conditions, physical attributes, management and technical capacities, institutional and legal
frameworks, and systems of governance seems almost impracticable (Muller, 2010).
Consequently, there are criticisms of IWRM implementation (Medema et al., 2008; Biswas,
Disaster Risk Reduction and IWRM
Disasters are mainly social constructs: they are largely determined by how a society manages its
environment, how prepared it is to face adversity and what resources are available for recovery
from the hazard (Sudmeier-Rieux and Ash, 2009; see also Chapters 1 and 2 in this volume).
DRR refers to the development and application of policies, strategies, and practices that
recognize and minimise vulnerabilities or underlying causal factors of disasters (UNISDR,
2009). The Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and
Communities to Disasters provides the international framework for guiding and prioritizing
action on disaster risk reduction and aims towards the substantial reduction of disaster losses in
lives and in the social, economic and environmental assets of communities and countries
(UNISDR, 2007).
Due to the variability in the location, quantity, and quality of water, and the role of extreme
events (such as floods and droughts) in the natural hydrological cycle, managing risk and
uncertainty has long played a key role in the development of water management capacity.
Understanding disaster risk is critical to the implementation of IWRM, as water resource
management requires decisions on levels of risk bearing (i.e. spreading the costs either
financially or environmentally) or risk mitigation, and is concerned with who will bear the costs
or enjoy the benefits involved in water management decisions (Rees, 2002). Yet there are
challenges to this approach. Water management often requires significant financial and human
resources due to the need for built infrastructure, and this can result in „risk shifting‟ (Rees,
2002). For example, upstream abstraction for irrigation or for capturing and storing water to
enhance water security leaves downstream users short of water, potentially increasing their risks
during dry periods. Upstream decisions can therefore generate risks for downstream users.
Furthermore, decisions about which hazards to address, when, and how have consequences for
those outside this decision-making process. For example, built irrigation canals, embankments
and land grading provide benefits to agriculture, food security and economic activities, but can
have huge implications during flood events which can impact on wider society and the
environment. Flooding in the Indus Basin in Pakistan in 2010 provides a case in point, when
upstream decisions on dam operations were made which allowed some areas to flood in order to
relieve other areas downstream from potentially devastating flood waters (Mustafa and Wrathall,
2011). The Indus River Basin provides food and livelihoods for millions of people who depend
on their land for subsistence. Upstream water management infrastructure, such as dams and
diversion structures have provided regular and controlled water for irrigation and this can in turn
create a sense security from floods in downstream populations. This sense of protection and
water control can intensify development in floodplains, making it difficult to protect assets from
flooding. Yet, this sense of security often causes people to expect „back to normal‟ conditions as
quickly as possible after flood events disregarding the fact that the flood risk still remains.
The operating frameworks between IWRM and the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA)
share many similarities. Both are technocratic in nature, driven by science-based or technical
assessments to underpin decision-making. As many risks are water-related, solutions therefore
concern water management (Hoverman et al., 2011). In IWRM, water management is often
taken down to local scale, and can develop strong community-based institutions such as Water
User Associations, Drinking Water Unions, Irrigation Unions and Watershed Councils (Jaspers,
2003). These community governance structures should be seen as multi-sectoral development
mechanisms, which can also contribute towards disaster risk reduction. Bringing people
together to collectively participate in solving problems is valuable because it can provide more
efficient and cost-effective solutions. It can also deliver quicker action on the ground than top-
down approaches (Pahl-Wostl et al., 2007).
Learning from water management communities-of-practice may also catalyse the action needed
to address the cross-cutting issues of addressing underlying risks (priority 4) identified in the
HFA, which are lagging behind in terms of implementation (UNISDR, 2011b). By bringing all
sectors into the decision-making process (via governance actions and capacity building), IWRM
is able to contribute towards the objectives of DRR via means of planning for hydrological
variability, development of strong community agencies, providing technical support and tools,
and through understanding probability and impact (Ako et al., 2010).
At strategic levels, IWRM focuses on establishing an „enabling environment‟ in terms of new
and improved policies, legislation and financial mechanisms, which could also support meeting
HFA priorities. IWRM‟s focus on policy reform can help regulate stress on ecosystem services
across different spatial dimensions (i.e. hydrological cycle, groundwater, surface water,
watersheds, coastal and marine resources). IWRM is „designed‟ to be a contextual and tailored
approach according to each country and river-basin, operating as a philosophy in approach and
not as a rigid framework. There is no prescription for the IWRM approach, despite many
academic debates over the application, replicability, and relevance of IWRM (IUCN, 2011).
Whilst establishing an enabling policy environment is crucial for long-term sustainability and
resourcing, action-on-the ground is needed to deliver on water- related priorities, including
Table 1 shows the IWRM framework advocated by the Global Water Partnership (GWP-TAC
2000). The three “pillars: of IWRM - the enabling environment, the institutional framework and
management instruments required to implement IWRM - need to work together to deliver the
maximum shared benefits from land and water resources. The right side of Table 1 shows our
an interpretation of the HFA, based on the outcome, strategic goals, and priority action areas
(UNISDR, 2007). Integrating both frameworks can provide an enabling environment to deal
with multi-sectoral challenges, but needs to be supported by the relevant institutions.
Table 1: Integrated water resources management and the Hyogo Framework for Action
Integrated Water Resource Management
A process which promotes the coordinated development
and management of water, land and related resources in
order to maximize the resultant economic and social
welfare in an equitable manner without compromising
the sustainability of vital ecosystems
Disaster Risk Reduction (adapted from the HFA)
The substantial reduction of disaster losses in lives and in the
social, economic and environmental assets of communities and
Pillars of IWRM
Strategic Goals of HFA
Integration of
disaster risk into
policies and
Development and
strengthening of
mechanisms, and
capacities to build
resilience to
Incorporation of risk
reduction approaches
into implementation
of emergency
response, and
recovery programs
IWRM Components
DRR components
Water resources
IWRM plans
Water demand
Social change
legislative, and
planning based
on land-use,
Recognition of
geo and hydro-
geological risks
Monitoring and
Improve early
Develop risk
and resource
Data sharing,
Planning and
Training and
learning on DRR
Awareness raising
ecosystems and
Sources: IWRM- GWP-TAC (2000), DRR- UNISDR (2005), adapted by the authors.
Table 1 shows that IWRM and DRR share common objectives and approaches. Both IWRM and
DRR frameworks recognize the role of ecosystems in water management and disaster risk
reduction. IWRM and DRR both seek to strengthen policies and legislative frameworks and
prioritise improving water and land management to maximize benefits derived from these
natural resources, through coordinated planning that take into account water-related disaster
risks. The two communities-of-practice also promote the need for strengthening institutional
capacity in policy implementation and improving knowledge and social learning. IWRM and
DRR approaches focus on assessment needs and technical capacity development including
conducting risk assessments, improved understanding of water resources and hydrological
networks, and promoting new technologies (i.e. space-based systems), early warning systems,
data storage and information sharing. Yet another shared feature between IWRM and DRR is the
emphasis on cross-sectoral integration and multi-stakeholder participation to reduce transaction
costs and improve awareness and efficiency.
The Role of Ecosystems in IWRM and DRR Approaches
Operational water resource management generally assumes a level of natural climate variability
(annually or over a decade/s), based on historical records of seasonal variation as a good
indication of future hydrology (Matthews and Le Quesne, 2009; Milly et al., 2008). Yet, many
regulated river systems show a decline in environmental conditions due to efforts aimed at
increasing hydrological stability, usually through engineered structures that make river flows
more uniform in order to control water supplies, but which do not necessarily consider
ecosystem requirements in relation to ensuring the temporal distribution and quality of water
resources (for example, Nilsson and Malm Renöfält, 2008). As the climate is expected to
become more variable, especially in areas where natural variability is more common, the
planning, construction and design of built infrastructure solutions are expected to become more
complicated, and probably more expensive (Bouwer, 2011). Well-built infrastructure normally
lasts a long time, but with climate change impacts and increasing disaster risks, can built
infrastructure offer „protection‟ in the context of future climate variability? While such measures
may initially work well for one or two decades, further changes in climate and the inflexible
nature of built infrastructure may lead to challenging trade-offs in the future (Matthews et al.,
With decreasing availability of financial resources, and in the context of future climate
variability, ecosystem-based solutions are increasingly recognized as an invaluable tool for DRR
(UNISDR, 2011a). Ecosystems management tools need to be promoted and implemented as part
of disaster management strategies as they may provide cost-effective solutions for reducing
disaster vulnerability, especially in local communities (discussed further in the next section).
Moreover, ecosystem-based solutions often provide multiple livelihood benefits (for example,
water, fuel, building materials, arable land, etc) beyond risk reduction (Tallis et al., 2008; see
also Chapter 2 in this volume). Ecosystem management approaches are not only cost-effective
when compared to hard infrastructure investment plans (Emerton, 2006), they are also flexible,
are tried and tested, and offer readily available lessons, allowing for quick start-up in
implementation (Mainka and McNeely, 2011).
Owing to the more local and place-specific nature of ecosystems, local communities, especially
those whose livelihoods are heavily dependent on natural resources, understand the value of the
ecosystem services they use. Local communities and their natural resource base are also
frequently affected by disasters, giving communities access to historical local knowledge and
experience of past disaster events. Communities can therefore take an active role in water
resource management for DRR.
Benefits of Natural and Built Infrastructure
River basins may contain many different watersheds and ecosystems that are all hydraulically
connected and are shaped by natural and anthropogenic processes and that cross administrative
and even national boundaries (Cohen and Davidson, 2011). Ecosystems play an important part
in the water collection, purification, storage, and water conveyance process. Ecosystem
functions within the river basin, therefore, have implications for disaster risk, as too much or too
little water can be destructive. Ecosystems in themselves can thus be considered as „natural
infrastructure‟ (Smith and Barchiesi, 2009). The functioning of conventional built water
infrastructure (e.g. sea walls, dams, reservoirs, irrigation systems, levees, canals) relies on
ecosystem services to function correctly, as do the livelihoods of poor people and the
performance of key industry sectors.
However, ecosystem services, particularly their hazard regulatory functions, are usually
overlooked in water and disaster risk investment decisions, which often entail large capital costs.
The adverse impacts of built water infrastructure on local ecosystem services may thus go
unrecognised. Ecosystem services therefore need to be linked more directly and clearly into
water infrastructure development, as part of their broader integration into development and risk
reduction interventions.
Many studies show the benefits of conserving and restoring ecosystems as infrastructure
(Ramsar, 2010; Campbell et al., 2009). Batker et al. (2010) provide evidence in their case study
on the Mississippi Delta that ecosystem restoration options offer significant economic gains in
addressing the problem of increasing flood risk in the Delta. Increased flooding is due to built
infrastructure that has been constructed to provide a certain level of flood protection, but which
require constant maintenance and have affected water flows along large stretches of the river
system and delta. This can lead to risk transfer, where one area is protected from flooding while
another is sacrificed. Hence, most modern flood management plans now include natural
infrastructure solutions, such as protection and/or restoration of wetlands and floodplains
(DEFRA, 2008), as part of a portfolio of strategies, due to their unique ability to regulate water
and sediment flows. In the US, Constanza et al. (2008) have valued wetlands at US$33,000 per
hectare in their role of reducing the impacts of Caribbean hurricanes, while offshore coral reef
systems have been valued at between US$0.7-2.2 billion in total in terms of the protection they
offer from coastal storms (Burke and Maidens, 2004).
Nonetheless, the relationship between hazard mitigation functions provided by ecosystems and
built infrastructure is not linear (Koch, et al, 2009). Built infrastructure solutions do not provide
full protection against hazards and deal with the uncertainty of future hydrology by using
technical parameters and safety margins to reduce the risk of infrastructure failure. This requires
the use of probability and statistical factors, such as planning flood protection measures based on
the return period of floods with varying potential impacts. The science of probabilities and flood
return periods are not communicated adequately to those living in areas of risk, and built
solutions thus become the primary option selected to reduce risk. Communities living in flood
plains often expect built infrastructure to provide the „protection‟ they need against water
hazards (see Murti and Dalton, 2010; Dickie, 2011), while the general public demands action on
risks without understanding or considering the full cost of providing protection (Margolis,
1996). Saalmueller (2009) further states that providing protection to „stop flooding through
climate-proofing‟ can be counter-productive, and at worst fatal, in areas where people living in
danger zones are not fully informed of the residual risks.
Similarly, it must also be recognised that ecosystems are themselves dynamic in their response
to changes in the climate, anthropogenic pressures and natural change, and their responses to
pressures are complex to determine due to non-linear, and often non-predictive, responses. As
Feagin et al (2010) point out, ecosystems are not a panacea, but ignoring the role of ecosystems
in disaster risk management solutions may be both an economic mistake, and a missed
opportunity. Infrastructure planning and investment therefore need to consider alternate mixes or
„portfolios‟ of built and natural infrastructure, based on their various social, economic and
environmental costs and benefits.
If we are to include natural infrastructure in disaster risk reduction approaches, then ecosystems
themselves also need to be subjected to the same level of scrutiny applied towards built
The risk that remains in unmanaged form, even when effective disaster risk reduction measures are in place, and for which
emergency response and recovery capacities must be maintained (UNISDR, 2009).
infrastructure, in order to better understand risk, uncertainty, and non-linearity, in responding to
disasters. Practically, it remains difficult to compare ecosystems with built infrastructure and
swap one for the other because of limited understanding of the responses of ecosystem options
to disaster impacts, and the difficulty in modelling these responses with any degree of certainty.
There is a real opportunity to consider disaster risk options more clearly in water resource
management. Given an increase in disasters reported (Emmanuel, 2005) and the potential
additional risk of climate variability, we can no longer ignore disaster risk in natural resource
management frameworks. Complementary approaches that learn from each other are required
(Wågsæther and Ziervogel, 2011). Inter-disciplinary thinking is critical for supporting capacity
building of local administrations, information exchange, developing operational capabilities,
network development, and improving management skills. The integration aspect allows for
consideration of stakeholder interests, while developing sectoral partnership strategies for
exchange of scientific data, facilitating transfer of technology and linking with other
development policy and planning processes. These are all critical „lag‟ items identified in the
Mid-term Review of the HFA (UNISDR, 2011b), which could be addressed and supported by
experiences from IWRM communities-of-practice.
The opportunity of linking DRR with water resource management approaches can also bring
benefits to more traditional approaches to water service provision. Following the 2007
earthquake in the Ica region of Peru, the cost of restoring the water supply and sewage system to
pre-earthquake levels was US$27.5 million. This figure represented over six times the water and
sanitation expenditure of municipalities in the region in 2007 (WSP, 2011). The Water and
Sanitation Programme study showed that proper maintenance work of the water systems could
have led to a reduction in damages of almost six times less, totalling approximately US$23
million. The study concluded that proper risk management should be part of ongoing
maintenance of water and sewage systems. The study also recommended that different
construction material should be used and that proper site selection and location of the piped and
storage infrastructure networks in the landscape should be considered, including factors such as
soil type and structure, and slope gradients. This example provides a solid case for integrating
improved risk assessment and forecasting into water resource management and water service
delivery. More importantly, it also alerted engineers and planners towards the need to harness
the natural resilience of the landscape for locating built infrastructure, highlighting the crucial
link between land and water management.
Applying IWRM for disaster risk reduction
Table 2 presents an ecosystem approach to water-related disaster risk reduction based on lessons
from Smith and Cartin (2011) and in relation to the summary recommendations from the Mid-
term Review of the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) (UNISDR, 2011b). Application of the
ecosystems-based approach (Shepherd, 2008) has been interpreted and tailored in the context of
disaster risk reduction, based on recommendations by Sudmeier-Rieux et al. (2006) and
additional reflections from the authors. The table elaborates on how IWRM approaches could be
applied for water-related disaster risk reduction (IUCN, 2011) and further emphasizes the
similar and complementary goals and priorities for action advocated by the HFA and IWRM
frameworks (as previously discussed; see also Table 1).
IWRM approaches take a strategic overview of water resources in river basins. Initiatives such
as the Tacaná watersheds of Guatemala (see Box 1) have demonstrated that bottom-up and
integrated approaches in highly degraded watersheds can help build cooperation, capacity and
resilience for managing disaster risks. Disasters are most often location specific and disaster
events provide a useful entry point for introducing activities to reduce vulnerability and to re-
build using natural infrastructure, as also shown in the experience of Peru.
Disaster risk reduction approaches could be better included in water management planning, and
in supporting the delivery of the HFA strategic goals, through improving the understanding of:
The role of built infrastructure solutions in reducing risks and the costs of providing this
protection relative to the role and costs for natural infrastructure solutions for the same
risks (including the cost of longer term maintenance of ecosystem protection and
Complementary portfolios of natural and built infrastructure solutions (i.e. “hybrid”
solutions) to reduce risks and maintain ecosystem functions, and;
Entry points for DRR interventions in water management practices and processes at the
river basin level, including in post-disaster contexts to facilitate the timely identification
of natural infrastructure options for reconstruction and recovery.
Applying such integrated ecosystem-based DRR approaches will require moving beyond the
mere documentation or understanding of the impacts on ecosystems following disasters. It will
also require the application of engineering approaches to ecosystem solutions in order to reduce
risk. Presently, many of the tools and approaches available (PEDRR 2010) have been developed
by NGOs and international organisations. While this multiplicity of approaches, tools and
methods may improve knowledge of practice, there is an urgent need to accelerate the learning
processes required in establishing good practices, through convening cross-sectoral dialogues,
documentation and dissemination of good practices and scaling up of quality interventions.
Moreover, it is critical that traditional and more value-based knowledge is presented as part of
the water management debate, in order to support more technocratic and purely scientific
Table 2: Mobilising practical IWRM approaches to water-related disaster risk reduction:
Principles of the approach
Principles of the Approach
Institutions, Policies and
Processes and Approaches
Demonstration and Learning
Identify and understand multi-
stakeholder and institutional
Operate at appropriate scale
relative to multi-stakeholder and
institutional needs and
capacities (i.e. river basin
spatial scale) and better
understand temporal changes in
ecosystems and hydrology
Recognise that multi-
stakeholder includes multiple
Understand and work with
decision making, technical,
institutional capacity, and
political realities
Recognise, understand, and
harmonise where possible with
frameworks for poverty
reduction, sustainable
development and climate
change adaptation
Take advantage of post-disaster
and other sectoral policy
windows to strengthen the
enabling environment
Ensure flexibility in design of
policies and regular feedback to
avoid stagnant policies and
practices (plan for uncertainty)
Create discourse platforms for
multi-stakeholder discussion,
learning and data sharing
Operate at appropriate levels (i.e.
community) and encourage social
learning and use of local knowledge
Undertake HFA National Platform
„reality check‟ discussions and
provide evidence that natural
infrastructure offers appropriate
protection based on rigorous testing
and analysis
Ensure HFA National Platforms
understand and work with water
management agencies and vice-
versa especially regarding data
collection and sharing, early
warning systems, etc.
Use IWRM platforms and
approaches to replicate successes
and support DRR activities (and
vice-versa with DRR)
Mobilise investments to support
natural infrastructure solutions to
complement built infrastructure
Reduce economic distortions and
align incentives for conservation
and sustainable use
Build on the subsidiarity principle
of IWRM to inform decisions and
use social learning techniques to
strengthen self-organisation
Recognise ecosystems are linked
and better understand cause-effect
relationships between them
Apply DRR approaches as
demonstrations to learn and adapt
across multi-sectoral
environments avoid getting
caught in planning cycles with
minimal implementation
Capture evidence from
demonstration practice and share
Use cost-benefit analysis for
evidence-based advocacy
During and post-disaster events,
capture evidence on the
functioning of ecosystems in
terms of protection offered and
their role in recovery
Build strong and new partnerships
across rural and urban contexts,
and sectoral divides
Ensure natural infrastructure is
included in analysis as a risk
reducing asset, subject to similar
management controls as built
Share all information
Stakeholder participation
Note: Recall that IWRM represents the coordinated development and management of water, land and
related resources (GWP-TAC, 2002).
Box 1: The Tacaná watersheds programme: risk reduction through IWRM
The Tacaná watersheds of Guatemala on the Mexican border begin in the high-altitude watersheds of the
Suchiate and Coatán rivers. These poor and fragile areas are heavily dependent on ecosystem services for
livelihoods, but are very vulnerable in terms of ecological and political factors. Unregulated land use
change has damaged steep catchments, and deforestation has reduced the capacity of the landscape to
retain water, causing increases in rainfall runoff, a reduction in the soil water storage capacity, and
increases in flood risk after intense rainfall. Intensive animal farming and a relatively dense population
associated with poor waste and waste water management have contaminated rivers and affected fisheries
along the Pacific coast.
In response to increased flood risk and landslides, community workshops were held to elaborate on the
basic notions of disaster risk and identify the main risks faced by the communities in the watersheds.
During these capacity building sessions, interactions between how human activities in the middle and
upper zones of the catchment affected lower zones of the catchment were analyzed and the importance of
conservation and catchment management to reduce adverse impacts better understood. Knowledge
around risks and vulnerability were generated predominantly at community levels.
Local government committees are now working together to be better prepared using tools such as GIS to
identify and map areas more prone to landslides and the possible evacuation routes. Disaster
preparedness is now a high priority for authorities when managing climatic variability and climate
change adaptation in the region. Local communities have organized two micro-watershed Councils
around the Coatán River and another two around the Suchiate River.
Established in order to lead in watershed restoration and development that meet their priorities, the
Councils were recognized by local governments from the start, and Mayors participated in their
formation. Whilst participation in the upper watersheds was limited to municipal councils, the process
has now started to incorporate the private sector in the mid-section of the Suchiate River.
Learning from these community-led initiatives, a National Microwatershed Commission was established
to recognize the watershed as a planning unit for institutions in Guatemala for environmental
management and conservation. Capacity building and empowerment played a major role in improving
natural resource management in the catchment and reducing risk and vulnerability. The scaling-up of the
micro-watershed approach and the creation of new institutions have improved social capital by
developing and applying new skills in relation to risk awareness and risk reduction. By expanding
learning from the local to national level, experiences in the Tacaná watersheds have shown that it is
possible to break through a „ceiling of impact‟ by building up adaptive capacity through the creation of
new national level coalitions. This experience has shown that through linkages at different levels, scaling
up of efforts has been achieved and communities have been able to push the limits of their influence and
communicate their messages upwards.
Source: Adapted from Cartin et al. (2012)
The overall goals of IWRM can be complex to achieve over the short term, yet it provides a
valuable framework already institutionalized by many countries. Given the increasing frequency
of water-related disasters and pressures on ecosystems, adopting an integrated risk management
and IWRM approach is not only practical but cost-effective. More national IWRM plans are
being formulated and implemented, providing better knowledge on best practices at the river
basin and micro-watershed levels. This has provided the basis for national IWRM committees to
refine programmes, and adopt good practices and better technologies from other areas. The
benefits of utilising an IWRM approach to support DRR include the ability to use adaptive
strategies across multiple sectors to deal with human insecurity resulting from disasters. Such
investments require minimal financial maintenance, as they are largely based on collaborative
thinking, planning and decision making and adaptive management approaches that are
institutionalised via means of IWRM programmes.
Natural infrastructure solutions may be politically and socio-culturally harder to implement, but
in some cases they may be more cost effective. Water managers cope with variability and
changes in hydrology, and decades of experience allows built solutions that reduce disaster risk
to be tried, tested, and tested again. While ecosystem management approaches can also be
regarded as tried and tested, further applied research is required to understand ecosystem-based
solutions using natural infrastructure in the context of disaster management, in order to better
understand the role of ecosystems in disaster risk reduction and post-disaster recovery (see:
Barbier, 2007; Feagin et al., 2010). Relying solely on ecosystems for disaster risk reduction
without understanding the probability or magnitude of disaster and the vulnerability of people
may result in sub-standard protection of at-risk populations and their assets and may raise the
level of „moral hazard‟ in the sense that those who make the decision to rely solely on
ecosystems are not those in harm‟s way. Therefore, portfolios of solutions need to be developed
in the future, including early warning systems, contingency planning and hybrid solutions of
both engineered and natural infrastructure; but such an integrated approach challenges the
current institutional set-up in addressing both water management and risk reduction.
Although combined engineered and ecosystem-based approaches are recently being tested,
increases in water-related disasters have stimulated policy and behavioral changes towards
disaster preparedness and risk reduction. It is imperative that political attention targets how to
address institutional challenges, decentralisation, participation, and environmental stresses rather
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often not interconnected across sectors. As water and disasters have impacts across sectors and
society, the opportunity is there for both the water and disaster risk management communities-
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infrastructure as part of the solutions to reduce risk.
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... Site-specific assessment of environmental factors that must be considered in evaluating natural infrastructure projects is beyond the typical uniform water system development process, and few engineers are trained in such assessments. One complicating factor is the inherent uncertainty associated with natural systems, and how, for example, natural infrastructure might respond to a changing climate (Dalton et al. 2013). Without reliable quantitative analysis, those charged with evaluating infrastructure options are limited to (weaker) qualitative arguments for natural infrastructure investments. ...
... This not only involves integration of the theoretical approaches, but importantly, reflective learning from experiences of having applied such approaches elsewhere [25]. Such an example of integrating practical approaches is demonstrated in Dalton, Murti, and Chandra [21] who present insights on how the principles and practices from Integrated Water Resource Management can be merged with those of DRR. "Because water and disasters have impacts across sectors and society, the opportunity is for both the water and the disaster risk management communities-of-practice to work more closely together through recognising river basins and natural infrastructure as part of the solutions to reduce risks" [21, p264]. ...
Ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction, a concept that has recently evolved from the notion of employing ecosystem management approaches for reducing societal risks to disasters, requires active and inclusive involvement of a range of stakeholders in order to enhance the knowledge base, facilitate favourable policy mechanisms and inform suitable practices on the ground. The integration of different disciplines of knowledge, alignment of policies such as those related to natural resource management, disaster risk management and development, as well as execution of unified practices are necessary conditions in order to successfully harness the benefits of nature for protecting people from the impacts of disasters. Social learning is an iterative, collective learning process that can convene the wide range of stakeholders support co-creation of knowledge, enhance collective understanding of what action is needed as well as strengthen the willingness for joint action and advocacy. The paper explores opportunities in applying social learning for ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction, especially in light of the emerging challenges documented from early applications and in evolving literature. It also elaborates on the limitations of social learning itself and the research opportunities social learning for ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction holds.
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The daily media is filled with images of catastrophic events which seem increasingly frequent and violent. In parallel there are a large range of scientific studies, debates in the policy arena, and a growing number of international institutions focused on disaster reduction. But a paradox remains that despite advances in technology, disasters continue to increase, affecting many individuals in rich as well as poor countries.
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The complexity of natural resource use processes and dynamics is now well accepted and described in theories ranging across the sciences from ecology to economics. Based upon these theories, management frameworks have been developed within the research community to cope with complexity and improve natural resource management outcomes. Two notable frameworks, Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) and Adaptive Management (AM) have been developed within the domain of water resource management over the past thirty or so years. Such frameworks provide testable statements about how best to organise knowledge production and use to facilitate the realisation of desirable outcomes including sustainable resource use. However evidence for the success of IWRM and AM is mixed and they have come under criticism recently as failing to provide promised benefits. This paper critically reviews the claims made for IWRM and AM against evidence from their implementation and explores whether or not criticisms are rooted in problems encountered during the translation from research to practice. To achieve this we review the main issues that challenge the implementation of both frameworks. More specifically, we analyse the various definitions and descriptions of IWRM and AM. Our findings suggest that similar issues have affected the lack of success that practitioners have experienced throughout the implementation process for both frameworks. These findings are discussed in the context of the broader societal challenge of effective translation of research into practice, science into policy and ambition into achievement.
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Water quality describes the physicochemical characteristics of the water body. These vary naturally with the weather and with the spatiotemporal variation of the water flow, i.e., the flow regime. Worldwide, biota have adapted to the variation in these variables. River channels and their riparian zones contain a rich selection of adapted species and have been able to offer goods and services for sustaining human civilizations. Many human impacts on natural riverine environments have been destructive and present opportunities for rehabilitation. It is a big challenge to satisfy the needs of both humans and nature, without sacrificing one or the other. New ways of thinking, new policies, and institutional commitment are needed to make improvements, both in the ways water flow is modified in rivers by dam operations and direct extractions, and in the ways runoff from adjacent land is affected by land-use practices. Originally, prescribed flows were relatively static, but precepts have been developed to encompass variation, specifically on how water could be shared over the year to become most useful to ecosystems and humans. A key aspect is how allocations of water interact with physicochemical variation of water. An important applied question is how waste releases and discharge can be managed to reduce ecological and sanitary problems that might arise from inappropriate combinations of flow variation and physicochemical characteristics of water. We review knowledge in this field, provide examples on how the flow regime and the water quality can impact ecosystem processes, and conclude that most problems are associated with low-flow conditions. Given that reduced flows represent an escalating problem in an increasing number of rivers worldwide, managers are facing enormous challenges. Copyright © 2008 by the author(s). Published here under license by the Resilience Alliance.
Table of Contents: Introduction, Sustainable Construction in the Developing World, Objectives and Scope, Motivation for Objectives, Roadmap Background on Water Aspects of Sustainable Buildings, Water Quality Indicators, Rainwater Harvesting in Developing Countries, Summary/Lessons Learned Background on Wastewater Aspects of Sustainable Buildings, Wastewater Systems Presented in Panama Case Study, Wastewater Systems Presented in Kenya Case Study, Summary/Lessons Learned Panama Site and Water Management Practices, Description of Study Area and STRI Building, Potable Water and Wastewater in Bocas del Toro,Municipal Potable Water in Bocas del Toro, Water Management at STRI, Conclusion Water Quality Testing at Panama Site, Rainwater Harvesting Water Quality Experiment, Rainwater Harvesting Experiment Results Kenya Site and Water Management Practices Description of Kenyan Climate and Water Resources, Description of Study Area, Water Management in Laikipia near Mpala Research Centre Water Quality Testing at Kenya Site, Rainwater Harvesting Water Quality Experiment, Rainwater Harvesting Experiment Results Designing Rainwater Harvesting System in Kenya Policy Considerations and Conclusions,Similarities and Differences between Case Studies, Feasible Low-Cost Technologies, Policies that Encourage Sustainable Building Water Practices
As the world joins forces to support the people of Haiti on their long road of recovery following the January 2010 earthquake, plans and strategies should take into consideration past experiences from other postdisaster recovery efforts with respect to integrating ecosystem considerations. Sound ecosystem management can both support the medium and long-term needs for recovery as well as help to buffer the impacts of future extreme natural events, which for Haiti are likely to include both hurricanes and earthquakes. An additional challenge will be to include the potential impacts of climate change into ecosystem management strategies.