Principles of Integrated Water Resources Managment

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Southern Africa

Southern Africa Youth Forum, 24-25 September 2001, Harare, Zimbabwe.

Principles of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM)
B. Gumbo and P. van der Zaag Department of Civil Engineering, University of Zimbabwe. Introduction The world’s fresh water resources are under increasing pressure. Growth in population, increased economic activity and improved standards of living lead to increased competition for and conflicts over the limited freshwater resources. A combination of social inequity, economic marginalisation and lack of poverty alleviation programmes also force people living in extreme poverty to overexploit soil and forestry resources, which often results in negative impacts on water resources. Lack of pollution control measures further degrades water resources (GWPTAC4, 2000; Gleick, 1993, Savenije 2000). This calls for a need to find appropriate ways to co-ordinate policy making, planning and implementation in an integrated manner across sectoral, institutional and professional boundaries and to take into account the even more complex coordination issues arising over the management of international watercourses. These attempts have gave birth to a new school of thinking and action to be taken in the water sector termed Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). The purpose of this paper is to reiterate at a glance the guiding principles of IWRM with a bias towards Southern Africa for the Global Water Partnership Youth Forum. The paper does not attempt to be exhaustive but gives a brief scenario for digestion during this Forum. Definition of IWRM There is growing awareness that comprehensive water resources management is needed, because: • fresh water resources are limited; • those limited fresh water resources are becoming more and more polluted, rendering them unfit for human consumption and also unfit to sustain the ecosystem; • those limited fresh water resources have to be divided amongst the competing needs and demands in a society • many citizens do not as yet have access to sufficient and safe fresh water resources • techniques used to control water (such as dams and dikes) may often have undesirable consequences on the environment • there is an intimate relationship between groundwater and surface water, between coastal water and fresh water, etc. Regulating one system and not the others may not achieve the desired results. Hence, engineering, economic, social, ecological and legal aspects need to be considered, as well as quantitative and qualitative aspects, and supply and demand. Moreover, also the ‘management cycle’ (planning, monitoring, operation & maintenance, etc.) needs to be consistent (van der Zaag, 2000; van der Zaag 2001). Integrated water resources management, then, seeks to manage the water resources in a comprehensive and holistic way. It therefore has to consider the water resources from a number

Principles of IWRM B. Gumbo and P. van der Zaag

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Southern Africa

Southern Africa Youth Forum, 24-25 September 2001, Harare, Zimbabwe.

of different perspectives or dimensions. Once these various dimensions have been considered, appropriate decisions and arrangements can be made. The challenge ahead for water resources management is to strike a balance between the use of the resource as a basis for the livelihood of the world’s increasing population and the protection and conservation of the resource to sustain its functions and characteristics. Due to the nature of water, integrated water resources management has to take account of the following four dimensions: 1. the water resources, taking the entire hydrological cycle in account 2. the water users, all sectoral interests and stakeholders 3. the spatial scale, including 3.1 the spatial distribution of water resources and uses 3.2 the various spatial scales at which water is being managed, i.e. individual user, user groups (e.g. user boards), watershed, catchment, (international) basin; and the...
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