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The course provides brief historical background of IWRM - how it moved from sectorial to ecological to management goal oriented IWRM.

A working definition of IWRM has been developed by the Global Water Partnership - Technical Advisory Committee, 2000) as follows:

"Integrated water resources management 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."

Another definition by UNDP is: "IWRM is necessary to combat increasing water scarcity and pollution. Methods include water conservation and reuse, water harvesting, and waste management. An appropriate mix of legislation, pricing policies and enforcement measures is essential to optimize water conservation and protection."

IWRM is not a new idea, it evolved in the 1970s-80s as a response to sectoral approaches to water management. While the conceptualization of the idea (cross-sectoral, participatory-driven, co-ordinated approaches to land and water management, on a watershed basis, at the scale of river valleys and river basins), has captured much interest and action, little work has been done in developing a rigorous theoretical basis. IWRM derives from new approaches to resource management and planning, one which seeks collaboration and consensus building and using a systems approach to resource management. The challenge remains to build this theoretical framework - should it be built solely on systems theory, or on a theory of consensual planning, on a theory of ecosystems science?

IWRM has gone beyond the traditional description of the resource and integrating or balancing demand. The concept now embodies integration across sectors, integration of use, integration of demand, integration with the environment as well as integration with the people.

This introductory course examines the following topics in IWRM:

    * Definitions and Introduction
    * Water resources planning and management: History & Development of IWRM
    * Integration - what needs to be integrated?
    * Capacity Building for IWRM
    * Governance and Community Approaches for IWRM
    * Organizational and Management Issues in IWRM
    * Procedures for a Successful IWRM Planning Process
    * Filed Examples and lessons learnt in IWRM
    * Application of IWRM in Drylands
    * Summary

Some of the conclusions as discussed in this introductory course:

1. There is no simple "recipe" or computer software program that ensures that a good IWRM plan is produced in all circumstances. Each IWRM will be different to a large extent, depending upon local factors and conditions, and so a "one size fits all" solution will probably not work.

2. "Integration" means different things to different people

    * "technical integration" where scientific descriptions of the environment being studied are reported in a compatible manner. Each report should be useful to the other groups involved
    * "procedural integration" where an agreed set of protocols is used for all the aspects of the IWRM to try and make all the information accessible to others in a standard or known format.
    * "imposed integration" where one or a few agencies drive the process and define the scope, methods, format and reporting of the various aspects of the study.
    * "reporting integration" where the various aspects are summarized, analysed and reported by an appointed group or unit (and they integrate the various aspects)

3. Relevant, affordable, and accessible information exchange is the key starting point for integration activities.

    * Relevant information is appropriate to the tasks, has been tested, is reliable and is of sufficiently high quality.
    * Affordable and accessible information encompasses not only the cost of the data and information but also refers to the means and processes that the users already have to fully use such information. New systems and software should not be required unless absolutely necessary. It should also be in formats that can be used (or should be capable of easy transformations to such formats)
    * Equitable information access is also critical: users should not be discriminated against because of geography (distance), gender, economic, cultural or social issues

On completion of the course, the student should be able to understand what IWRM is and the concepts needed for integrated thinking.

Copyright 2013, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource. Introduction. (2008, January 25). Retrieved October 28, 2013, from UN University OCW Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Creative Commons License