Basic IWRM principles

IWRM is based on the following key principles that define its practical backbone:

- Public participation. Those individuals (parties) concerned about decisions or who are affected by water-related decisions must participate in water governance. Although political leadership plays important role, the integrated approach will not work if water resources management is based fully on top-down approach and does not ensure user participation in the water management process.

The public monitors water suppliers so that the latter do not undertake illegal or irresponsible actions. The public may both control actions and policies of decision makers and render assistance to them or contribute to regulation of relationships between the public and private sectors in order to overcome institutional weaknesses.

Public participation in water resources management is to create an environment of transparency and openness, under which the likelihood of decisions not corresponding to public interest is decreased. The more intensive the public participation, the less favorable conditions for corruption and ignoring of public interests. Public participation also is the critical factor for struggling against “administrative (or professional) hydroegoism”.

Based on the principle that water is not only a private good but also a public one may arrive to conclusion that public participation is the major component of IWRM. Adoption of this principle in the context of CAR is a complicated issue. However, this does not mean that the communities divided into social groups, where junior groups are subordinated to elder groups should leave the IWRM approach. In such case, gradual transition is needed. For instance, the first step for user groups and other stakeholders could be their gathering and identifying common problems that need joint actions. When problems are identified, one may start collecting and sharing information, as well as drafting proposals to be submitted to governmental authorities for consideration and approval.

- Hydrological principle: water resources management is implemented within hydrological units in concordance with geomorphology of the drainage basin under consideration. An illustrative example of the hydro-geographical principle under organizing water governance can be a leaf of a tree on which the configuration of arteries and their integration into a single organism are visible.

The hydro-geographical principle is in opposite to ‘territorial hydro-egoism’. A transition to water management based on hydrological principle cannot, in itself, provide more equitable and effective decisions made from the side of water managers. It only creates necessary prerequisites for overcoming this kind of hydro-egoism.

- Usage of all kinds of water resources (surface water, groundwater, and return water).

- Coordination of all kinds of water uses.

The Uzbek law on water and water use sets the following priority among the main water users:

  • Drinking and household water supply
  • Energy
  • Industry
  • Fishery
  • Agriculture.

Traditionally, major water consumer is agriculture, while priority of water allocation is given to such sectors, as drinking and household water supply, industry, etc., except for the natural environment. In general practices, water for ecology is allocated by a leftover principle (ecosystem maintenance and restoration, sanitary releases) that damages the nature (Aral Sea tragedy). Everyone knows the implications of such an approach.

One of the key principles of IWRM is taking into consideration all kinds of water users. For considering demands of all kinds of water users, these demands must be reasoned and submitted to water suppliers. For those demands to be heard, the water users should act jointly by coordinating their actions and be able to hold their own.

Consideration of all types of water users is problematic at all hierarchical levels. For instance, at the lowest level, it is essential to consider demands of the owners of homestead plots, fish farmers, etc. At the level of main canals, drinking water supply and water-protection zones represent a challenging issue. And, particularly important is the problem of consideration of environmental demand at upper levels.

- Consideration of ecological requirements.

One of the water management issues is the transition from water supply management for meeting demands of one user - urban area or agriculture – to integrated water resources management for meeting different demands. Water managers are skilled in managing water for hydropower, drinking water supply, and irrigation. However, we should also be able to manage water for the nature. And this will require knowledge and experience that are lacked today. The first step in this direction will be the identification of ecological requirements. From our research it becomes clear that in developing countries ecological requirements are rarely recognized and even measured by water managers. Whereas, recognition of ecological requirements is a big step forward in water management.

Ecological requirements are as follows:

  • The pollution level of the economically-operated area and affected eco-systems should not exceed the permissible concentrations, and trends of accumulation of toxic pollutants are to be negative, i.e. pollution reduction is in progress in the concerned area.
  • The contamination level of water sources over all zones of the drainage basin, from headwaters to mouth, shall not exceed the maximum permissible concentrations for all water users using water from these water sources.
  • Strength of anthropogenic pressure on ecosystems in a catchment area should not exceed the optimal limits that ensure maintaining of biodiversity and bio-productivity of ecosystems.

- From water supply management to water demand management.

It is well-known that whether the focus is placed on water supply management or on water demand management depends on degree and scale of irrigation development in given country and, mostly, on type of country’s socio-economic system.

Water supply management is more characterized by structural (engineering) approach, where accent is placed on water infrastructure: dams, reservoirs, canals, etc.

Water demand management is characterized by non-structural measures more oriented towards human component rather than to engineering structures. Here, human component in water supply systems is presented by individual water users and by those, who work in water supply organizations.

Many countries have understood that non-structural measures better meet the community interests rather than many dams and reservoirs. Therefore, it is time for CAR to turn from water supply management to water demand management and from structural approach to non-structural one.

Certainly, water demand can be decreased voluntarily or on the basis of instruction; thus, leading to lowering of water requirements. Essentially, this means that the consumer changes patterns of its consumer’s preferences. Regulatory measures, such as permissions, restrictions and distribution systems may also lead to reduction of water demand.

However, currently, the main factors encouraging water saving in CAR are water shortage and administrative forcing (discontinuance of water delivery or cutting of water limits). Thus, moral and, more important, financial incentives are needed to achieve water saving voluntarily rather than proceeding from the extreme need. Demand management may decrease investments in physical infrastructure, thus providing real useful output.

Author: Mirzaev N.N., SIC ICWC