Integrated River Basin Governance

Integrated River Basin Governance

by Bruce Hooper


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Integrated River Basin Governance- Learning from International Experienceis designed to help practitioners implement integrated approaches to river basin management (IRBM). It aims to help the coming generation of senior university students learn how to design IRBM and it provides current researchers and the broader water community with a resource on river basin management. Drawing on both past and present river basin and valley scale catchment management examples from around the world, the book develops an integration framework for river basin management. Grounded in the theory and literature of natural resources management and planning, the thrust of the book is to assist policy and planning, rather than extend knowledge of hydrology, biophysical modelling or aquatic ecology. Providing a classification of river basin organizations and their use, the book also covers fundamental issues related to implementation: decision-making. institutions and organizations. information management. participation and awareness. legal and economic issues. integration and coordination processes. building human capacity. Integrated River Basin Governancefocuses on the social, economic, organizational and institutional arrangements of river basin management. Methods are outlined for implementing strategic and regional approaches to river basin management, noting the importance of context and other key elements which have been shown to impede success. The book includes a range of tools for river basin governance methods, derived from real life experiences in both developed and developing countries. The successes and failures of river basin management are discussed, and lessons learned from both are presented. The ebook for this title is available to download for free on the WaterWiki.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781843390886
Publisher: IWA Publishing
Publication date: 08/23/2005
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.75(d)

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The IRBM Paradigm


The relationship between the management of a river basin's land and water resources and the quality and quantity of the downstream water resources is apparent. River basin management is widely accepted as a critical task in providing resource use products and the management of natural resources (Burton 1991; Murakami 1991; Newson and Fang 1991; Newson 1992).

The prevailing concern is that the management methods to produce improved river basin governance need to be better known. These methods vary and depend on the local cultural, political, administrative and institutional context. The methods include on ground actions, plans of management, strategic natural resource management policies, use of resource science, engineering and economic analysis of management options, community participation, incentives and many different types of government and community-led initiatives. These are the essential institutional arrangements relevant to a river basin and form the governance dimensions of natural resources management at the basin scale.

In this book, it is contended that the critical factors which preclude effective river basin management are institutional, organisational, economic and socio-cultural. They refer to mechanisms and issues such as the roles and responsibilities of river basin organisations (RBOs), the management of common-pool natural resource 'commons', property rights, water allocations mechanisms, adoption of sustainable land and water management practices, jurisdictions of governments in water and soil resources, limitations and benefits of public involvement in decision-making and others.

This book is written to assist the improvement of river basin management by focusing on the institutional, organisational, economic and social factors involved in decision-making about river basin management. In this first chapter, I discuss how water resources management has undergone a paradigm shift in the latter part of the twentieth century — from a single sector to integrated approaches. I then examine how the 'watershed' (at the local catchment, river valley or river basin scale) has emerged as a locus for implementing integrated water resources management (IWRM). I then finish by addressing some scale issues in river basin management.


1.2.1 Paradigms reflect societal priorities

A definition of a paradigm is:

The working assumptions, procedures and findings routinely accepted by a group of scholars, which together define a stable pattern of scientific activity; this in turn defines the community which shares in it.

(Gregory 1994)

New paradigms for water resources management characterised the last decade of the 20th century, but originated in the political and economic development priorities of earlier times. Natural resources management emerged as a planning process to allocate natural resources for required human uses of land and water resources (O'Riordan 1971). Natural resources management has been practised in various forms since the earliest periods of human occupation and settlement. Some of the earliest know irrigation systems in the Nile, Yangtze and Indus Valleys are examples of harnessing riverine resources, a rudimentary form of river basin management. However, it has only been during the last century that the catchment has been the focus of management, brought about by an increasing recognition of the importance of water resources as fundamentals for human use and ecosystem functioning (Pigram 1986; Newson 1992; MacKenzie 1996).

Approaches to water resources management in any period reflect the prevailing government policies and societal values of the day. There were rapid paradigm shifts in water resources management thinking in the twentieth century, from the ethic of resource exploitation, to resource conservation and sustainable resource management. Traditional approaches were essentially hydro-centric. They were single sector (water) oriented in which the river basin or groundwater province was viewed as a complex physical system — based on interrelationships between the hydrological and geomorphologic characteristics of the basin and its rivers and streams. This approach, common in the 1930s to 1960s and favoured by water engineers and water economists, viewed the basin as a water resources system whose water resources were to be exploited for economic development. The approach emphasised determining maximum possible yield and developing mechanisms for most effective water allocation among users. It was used for significant water resources development projects, such as the Hoover Dam project in the USA — an era characterised by dam building and irrigation expansion in very large water resources projects. The single sector approach was driven by highly scientific methods and technological innovation, with an overall purpose of maximising available yield from the river basins of local watersheds. More complex approaches evolved promoting multi-objective development of water resources systems including recreation, hydropower, navigation and irrigation development, as evidenced in the work of the Tennessee Valley Authority and the US Army Corps of Engineers in the USA, the Nagarjuna Sagar Dam project in India and the Snowy Mountains Scheme in Australia. The engineer's and the water manager's view of river basin management is water-centric, based on complex interrelationships between the hydrological and geomorphological characteristics of the river basin and its rivers. The approach is at best multi-objective, endeavouring to achieve synchronous management of water resources.

The water resource is regarded as an infinite resource in which many uses can be achieved from a single water resource stock. Reuse is common, and highly engineered solutions to complex water management are built on the premise for maximising yield and allowing no water to 'go to waste' through ocean ('end of pipe') outflows. This approach is typified by the use of highly sophisticated decision support systems, spatial planning of water resources using geographical information systems, top–down hierarchical command and control management systems, large investments in data collection and management, and strong commitment by governments to support water resources development by political will (including direct intervention) and long term funding programmes.

The environmental movement of the 1970s heralded a new era in water management and questioned these approaches. A new focus on ecosystems based on the new science of ecology, questioned the single or multi-objective approach to water resources management, with its strong development emphasis. The reality was that the traditional paradigm ignored the more diverse range of resource use features of river basins, which interact to create the so-called 'wicked' problems of environmental management and sustainable water resources management. The new paradigm recognised river basins as large, complex, integrated ecological systems.

The concern was for ecosystem deterioration and negative social impacts caused by water development projects.

1.2.2 Integrated water resources management — use and definitions

An integrated approach to water resources management (IWRM) emerged in the 1980s but had its origins in this new thinking of ecosystems management and transactional planning which goes beyond the single resource and multi-objective approach paradigm. It emerged as a new paradigm for several reasons. First, traditional environmental management had been largely reactive, disjointed and based on narrow or limited purposes. As (Mitchell 1991) suggests,

Many if not most of our government natural resource management organizations were not designed to deal with ecological problems which are characterized by inter-linkages and interrelationships.

Second, many environmental problems have been called 'wicked' problems. They arise from interrelationships among biophysical, human and economic systems, and therefore can rarely be treated in isolation. Finally, increasing resource demands have led to conflicts over environmental management. Governments are finding it increasingly difficult to make environmental management decisions without incurring conflict.

The integrated approach is sometimes called, more generically, integrated resources management (IRM) or integrated resource and environmental management (IREM). The approach is the foundation for international and global environmental management initiatives aimed at more sustainable management, as developed at the World Commission on Environment and Development 1987, and the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development Agenda 21, 1992 (Born and Sonzogni 1995). These global initiatives reflect the prevailing concerns of their time: that co-ordination achieves far more than fragmentation of decision-making in resource use, and that water is fundamental to human life and ecosystem functioning.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the implementation of the World Water Council's World Water Vision 2000, which strongly endorsed an integrated approach to water management. This initiative has various origins, including:

• International Conference on Water (Mar del Plata, Argentina, 1977);

• World Consultation on Drinking Water and Sanitation (New Delhi, India, 1990);

• Dublin Conference on Water and Environment (1992);

• Rio Summit (Chapter 18 of Agenda 21) (1992);

• Ministerial Conference on Drinking Water and Sanitation (Noordwijk, Netherlands, 1994);

• First World Water Forum (Marrakech, Morocco, 1997);

• Ministerial Conference on Water and Sustainable Development (Paris, 1998);

• Sixth Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (1998);

• Workshops and publications leading up to the SecondWorldWater Forum (The Hague, 2000);

• Outcomes of the Third World Water Forum, 2003.

As these dates suggest, IWRM emerged at the international level as the new paradigm in the 1990s. It brought with it concerns for ecological health of rivers, floodplains and river basins which supply water to rivers and groundwater resources, and resource use impacts on the functioning of ecosystems within a watershed. Mitchell (1983) claimed that the challenge is how such an approach is to be interpreted. Advocates of an ecosystem approach have interpreted it to be synonymous with a comprehensive approach in which attention is given to all components and linkages in a system. When a comprehensive approach is taken, the probability is very high that the period of time required to complete an analysis or a plan will be very long, resulting in the final plan often being no more than a historical document, because too many events or processes will have changed and made the plan obsolete before it is even completed. Alternatively, the interpretation of an integrated approach involves a more selective or focused perspective. Not all components and connections in a system are considered, but only those which, on the basis of knowledge from all stakeholders (through focus groups or other forums involving people ranging from technical analysts to long-term residents), are judged to be the key drivers of variability in the system. Both a comprehensive and an integrated interpretation are consistent with an ecosystem approach, but the latter leads to a more focused approach and therefore increases the likelihood of a more practical output (Hooper, McDonald and Mitchell 1999).

Much of the conceptual development and experience with integrated approaches relates, not surprisingly, to water and related land resources, with catchments and bioregions being used as the site of implementation. Such efforts include inter-relating the management of water quality and quantity, ground and surface waters, the land–water interface, biologic concerns and the objectives of the user community.

The IWRM approach uses stakeholder participation, cross agency co-ordination and a wide range of innovative tools to improve water management. These tools are now documented (such as in the Global Water Partnership's ToolBox It is being increasingly used on a watershed/river basin basis (Environmental Protection Agency 1992; Environmental Protection Authority 1993; Mitchell and Hollick 1993; Hooper 1997; Born and Genskow1999; Bellamy et al. 2001). IWRM, while a response to past narrow and disjointed approaches to natural resources management, aims to overcome the dysfunctional mechanisms between and within the government and communities in the management of water resources. This participatory approach seeks involvement through negotiation and building partnership agreements. It seeks to avoid marginalising resource user groups or agencies. It builds bridges and partnerships to achieve commonly accepted resource management goals.

Anintegrated approach to natural resources management is intuitively appealing and reinforces an ecological approach to landuse planning (Mitchell 1989). Many agency natural resource managers, academics, agency professionals, industry organisations, community organisations and resource user groups have supported planning and managing water and related land resources on a watershed (catchment, river basin) basis and the approach is now being widely adopted (Burton 1986; Mitchell 1987; Burton 1988; OECD 1989; Downs, Gregory and Brookes 1991; Born and Margerum1993; Environmental Protection Agency 1993; Mitchell and Hollick 1993; Rogers 1993; Born 1994; Born and Sonzogni 1995; Anonymous 1997; White 1997; Heathcote 1998; Ballweber 1999; Batchelor 1999; Bellamy et al. 1999; Margerum and Born 2000; Gonzalez and Arias 2001; Jonch-Clausen and Fugl 2001; Hooper 2002; CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food 2003).

Examples include:

• The World Water Council which endorsed an integrated approach to water resources management in the World Water Vision, 2025, and used an expert panel to promote sustainable river basin management based on integration. The report provides a five-stage framework for IRBM at the river basin scale: assessment of the institutional framework, co-operation strategies, formation of a river basin management authority and management plan, implementation of the management plan, evaluation and compliance monitoring (Anonymous 2000).

• The Global Water Partnership which developed a Framework for Action to implement IWRM and an IWRM ToolBox containing over 50 methods to implement the IWRM approach (See projects/gwp.fau/toolbox/).

• The International Network of Basin Organisations (INBO), based in France, established to promote IWRM at the level of river basins and facilitate implementation of tools suitable for the integrated management of water resources at this scale.

• The International River symposium and River prize based in Brisbane, Australia, which rewards demonstrated achievement in river management with an annual prize of A$100,000 and a symposium of latest river management practices, undertaken within an IRBM approach. The 2000 winner was the Grand River Conservation Authority, Canada ( symposium/riverprize_2000winner.asp),

• The Stockholm Water Symposium and The World Water Prize which demonstrate and showcase advances in IWRM.

• The International, American and CanadianWater Resources Associations who promote and continue to enhance knowledge of IWRM, and international collaboration between, professional experts and practitioners in IRBM, in countries both of the south and north.

There have been many definitions of IWRM or the integrated approach. These include:

A process of formulating and implementing a course of action involving natural and human resources in an ecosystem, taking into account the social, political, economic and institutional factors operating within the ecosystem in order to achieve specific societal objectives.

(Dixon and Easter 1986 quoted in Born and Sonzogni 1995)

The co-ordinated control, direction or influence of all human activities in a defined environmental system to achieve and balance the broadest possible range of short- and long-term objectives.

(Cairns 1991 quoted in Born and Sonzogni 1995)

A more comprehensive or inclusive approach that takes into account the scope and scale of environmental and human issues and their interconnections ... a strategic and interactive process is used to identify the key elements or goals at which to direct attention. These critical elements or goals then become the focus of an inter-organizational or coordinated approach to reforming environmental decision-making.

(Queensland Department of Natural Resources 1991)

Proactive or preventative measures that maintain the environment in good condition for a variety of long-term sustainable uses. Alternatively ... co-ordinated control, direction, or influence of all human activities in a defined environmental system ... to achieve and balance the broadest possible range of short- and long-term objectives.

(Scherer 1994 quoted in Born and Sonzogni 1995)

A process which promotes the co-ordinated development and management of water, land and related resources, in order to maximise the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems.

(Global Water Partnership Technical Advisory Committee 2000)

The similar theme running through these definitions is co-ordination.


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Table of Contents

Preface, vii,
1 The IRBM paradigm, 1,
2 River basin governance: experiences and evaluations, 24,
3 Governance in IRBM: a decision-making process, 59,
4 IRBM protocols and plans, 109,
5 Information systems for IRBM, 164,
6 A prototype river basin information exchange programme, 200,
7 Social dimensions, institutional arrangements and performance measurement for IRBM, 226,
Annex: International River Basins, 277,
Index, 301,

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