Intergrated Water Resources Management

IWRM in the Zayandeh_Rud main valley

by Mehdi Fasihi

Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) is a process which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources in order to maximise economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems and the environment. In practice, adoption of the IWRM model entails modifications to both the structure of existing governance arrangements and the attitudes and behaviors of a range of social actors (UNCED, 1992, GEF, 2004b, GWP, 2009 and GWP, 2010). Perhaps the most significant of the structural modifications is the formal opening of governmental processes to new actors, such as NGOs, scientists, and local resource users, each of whom have unique and frequently conflicting political-economic and environmental interests. Formation of IWRM professionals is intended to reverse decades of politically-motivated rule-making and development planning in Paraguay and the other countries that share and rely on trans-boundary watersheds for multiple and often competing purposes – e.g. identity, drinking, industry, irrigation, hydroelectricity, and transport (Abbate, 2002, GEF, 2004a and World Bank, 2004). The imperative that IWRM training places on integrating market discipline into watershed-scale, multi-sectoral governance arrangements versus management according to political-administrative boundaries can be understood as an effort to work around the covetous ineptitude of state agencies and to neutralize the destabilizing effects that unexpected swings in political power have on environmental governance and development projects ( World Bank, 2004 and GWP, 2009; abcColor, 2012). IWRM in the Zayandeh_Rud basin is a cross-sectoral policy approach, designed to incorporate into the traditional, fragmented sectoral approach to water resources and management that has led to poor services and unsustainable resource use. It is based on the perceptions that water resources are an integral component of the ecosystem, a natural resource, and a social and economic good. Unfortunately, now there is a continuous and implacable race between supply and unregulated/expanding use that brought this basin to closure, increased its sensitivity to extreme events, affected existing rights, and resulted in third-party impacts. What the ESRW has done upstream since last 40 years consequently have faced downstream water users with socio-ecological breakdown.