Integrated water resources management

Scale level :

Synonym(s) : IWRM

Definition :

Integrated water resources management (IWRM) is the application of the principles of sustainable development to the water sector. Within a coherent territorial framework, the IWRM aims to integrate the multiple stakeholders, and opposing uses and stakes, including environmental conservation in order to maintain the sustainability of water resources. So as to take into account the many interactions and interdependencies between these components, IWRM promotes a participative governance.

Water is a vital resource for ecosystems and humanity, though sometimes subject to shortages and pollution. The uniqueness of IWRM is the integration, on a coherent spatial scale (watershed), of the various bodies of water (groundwater, surface water, fresh and marine water), the stakeholders and their uses (agricultural, industrial, energetic, recreational and domestic purposes), the environmental issues (natural habitat preservation for example), and the socioeconomic concerns. Interactions between human activities and with natural systems must be considered, in order to ensure supply/demand balance while preserving the quality of this resource. Hence, the strategical and participatory approach of the IWRM strives for a coordinated management of water. In France, this management is conducted by Water Agencies and River Basin Committees, a model which inspired the European Union Water Framework Directive (2000). Basin committees bring together the different stakeholders to develop water management policies at the different geographic scales of the basin.

In territories where water is scarce, IWRM supports concertation among local stakeholders. This can lead to rethinking agricultural systems, notably through the implementation of agroecological practices (soil conservation, cover crops to increase water-retention capacity, agroforestry, new plant species and better adapted varieties, etc.).

Published on 18 April 2019

Bibliographic references :

Biswas A.K. 2008. Integrated Water Resources Management: Is It Working? Water Resources Development, 24 (1), pp 05 – 22.

Medema W., McIntosh B.S., Jeffrey P.J. 2008. From Premise to Practice: a Critical Assessment of Integrated Water Resources Management and Adaptive Management Approaches in the Water Sector. Ecology and Society, 13 (2): 29.

Savenije H.H.G., Van der Zaag P. 2008. Integrated water resources management: Concepts and issues. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, 33 (5), pp 290 – 297. DOI: 10.1016/j.pce.2008.02.003.

United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA). 2014. Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). International decade for action “Water for life” 2005-2015. United Nations.

To quote this definition or part of it :
Alix de La Plaza, Thomas Baré, Delphine Burger-Leenhardt. 2019. Integrated water resources management : Definition. Dictionnaire d'Agroecologie,

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