Water strategy


“Strategic planning” is the term, which has become often used in business and public administration. It is understood as some desirable state of the planning object in the mid- and long-term.

Strategy is a method chosen to control the world around: it is an ability to clearly visualize what is needed, what is to be achieved and how to achieve this.

Strategy is not about visualization of an ideal future but about specific ways and methods chosen to reach own values and goals at present.

Strategy is about your perceptions and your actions in line with your perceptions.

Strategy is a range of measures oriented to shift from one to another state. In the process of strategic planning, these measures will be further elaborated as initiatives, projects or programs that will help to achieve the desirable state in given river basin. Often, strategy consists of several stages, each creating new state on a gradual pathway to the set goal.

3 key questions of strategic planning:

  1. What is the current situation in water use? It is necessary to analyze strengths and weaknesses of the current approaches and practices, i.e. identify gaps (resources, projects, experience, etc.). Answers to this question will help to see the starting point in the current period of time to set further actions. Thus, you estimate the state of affairs.
  2. Where do we want to move? It is necessary to set strategic goals, achievement of which will lead to the desirable state. Current and potential partners need to be identified, legal, economic and political factors must be determined, etc. And strategic directions of activity should be decided.
  3. How do we organize the process that will lead to the desirable state? We need to decide what should be done in the near-, mid- and long-term and specify activity types that will lead to the desirable state.

Elements of a strategic plan

  • Resume
  • Rationale: description of problems, existing gaps and expected benefits.
  • Past records with respect to the problems.
  • Identification of partners to be involved or concerned by the strategy.
  • Problem solution options; these options contain technical details to identify pros and cons in practical, political and social/gender terms.
  • Description of the selected option, with the full set of technical decisions.
  • Implementation schedule – how, where, when…
  • Financial analysis/cost analysis, + procurement options, if necessary.
  • Proposed option for organization of the implementation process.
  • Legal and other requirements to strategy implementation.
  • Sustainability and risks (high, medium, low), how can the risks be mitigated and sustainability be improved.
  • Monitoring and evaluation plan to control implementation.

Main stages of strategic plan development

  • Evaluate the current state (in terms of specific aspect of water management, including review and assessment of all past and on-going relevant projects)
  • Identify priorities to plan actions (difference between the current and desirable state)
  • Formulate goals in priority areas
    • Clear vision of a specific state, which the strategy is going to achieve by the end of the period covered by the plan
    • If one priority area has multiple elements to be changed, list all the elements and set specific goals on each element.
  • Propose strategies (or ways/methods) to achieve the goals set for priority areas
    • What does work and may be extended or continued
    • What does not work and needs new, more strategically oriented approaches
    • What is in contrast with the current needs and must be rejected
  • Analyze strengths and weaknesses of the proposed strategies
    • Acceptability – will the proposed measures be duly accepted?
    • Capacities (are there necessary institutional capacity, knowledge and skills, personnel, means?)
    • Feasibility (strategies should keep up with the times; a new state often requires new initiatives even if the latter has not been approbated before.

In such circumstances particular attention should be paid to feasibility of planned initiatives)

The strategy should aim at longer term future for achievement of sustainable water development and management rather than be oriented to solution of current problems or achievement of short-term goals. Then, an IWRM plan will be used for stage-by-stage implementation of the strategy.

Irrespective of an approach taken initially, the strategy should be aimed at institutional reformation that will bring to strategically-based and coordinated decision making on a long-term basis. Thus, one should think not only about ‘what’ is to be changed but also about ‘when’ this should be changed. Actions must be step-wise and take several years.

Guiding principles for the selection of a strategy

  • Maximal use of existing possibilities. Use existing capacities instead of creating new ones.
  • Development of coordination mechanisms. A ‘coordinating group’ (or any other suitable mechanism) could be established to coordinate involvement of beneficiaries and ministries in strategy selection and planning.
  • Information management. Good coordination must facilitate and maximize exchange of information between organizations, programs and plans (like poverty reduction strategies, water supply and sanitation programs, and environmental programs) and, consequently, ensure more effective use of resources.

Author: Mirzaev N.N., SIC ICWC