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C2.2 Basin management plans


Water flows according to natural characteristics and does not respect administrative boundaries. Therefore, from a pure water resources point of view, there might be much logic in managing water according to drainage basin boundaries.

The basin plan is an action plan, a tool that describes the framework for management of the water and related land resources in the basin. It outlines how the concept of integrated water resources management is going to be implemented at the concrete (basin) level. A basin management plan typically addresses such aspects as:

  • Physical description of the basin and land use inventories;
  • Current water availability and demands;
  • Pollution source inventories;
  • Aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem needs;
  • Vulnerability to floods or extreme meteorological events;
  • Identification of stakeholders;
  • Implications of changing land use;
  • Identification of priority issues (impact issues or user requirement issues);
  • Short- and long-term goals for the river basin;
  • Water-related development scenarios; future water demands;
  • Water allocation and water quality objectives;
  • Strategy, measures and action plan for achievement of goals;
  • Financing of water use and management;
  • Responsibility and schedule for implementation;
  • Mechanisms for monitoring and updating.

Because of long retention time and bio-accumulation, lake basin plans need greater focus on prevention of nutrient and toxic pollution, and careful assessment of the shoreline functions. Other issues addressed in lake basin plans include prevention and control of exotic species, inventory of biodiversity and fisheries management issues.

In accordance with the principle of demand-driven development, river basin management and planning should only be established in response to a perceived and expressed demand. Other factors, such as existing institutional and regulatory conditions, social environment (e.g. ethnic boundaries) or strong dependency on groundwater resources, might discourage the management of water according to river basin boundaries (see C3 Demand management and C1.2).

Lessons learned

  • Involvement of all relevant stakeholders and the general public is essential for the implementation and success of the plan (see also B2.1).
  • River basin planning is most successfully applied in circumstances where an appropriate institutional structure (e.g. river basin organisation, see B1.4, or drainage basin organisations for lakes) has been established.
  • The long recovery period after stress in lakes means that prevention and planning are much more effective than restoration.
  • Conflict is a common feature for rivers and lakes – conflicts between upstream and downstream users, and conflicts in the same place among different users or over time between uses (e.g. fishing vs. recreation, or biodiversity vs. commercial fishing).

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