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C2 PLANS FOR IWRM Combining development options, resource use and human interaction

In contrast to prescriptive and rather rigid master plans, an IWRM-oriented planning process takes a more flexible and dynamic approach to planning the development and management of water resources. Planning reflects the total activity in the system, whether defined as river basin, catchment or watershed (interchangeable terms), including for example agriculture, forestry, mining and other land uses. The planning process acquires a special role in strengthening good governance within a strategic water management framework of goals, policies and planned actions to achieve the goals.

National IWRM plans include actions necessary to develop an effective framework of policies, legislation, financing structures, capable institutions with clearly defined roles and a set of management instruments. The purpose of such framework is to effectively regulate the use, conservation and protection of the water resources, balancing requirements for broad economic development and the need to sustain ecosystems.

The emphasis here is on the process of establishing priorities and actions for integrated management of water resources. Priorities include ecosystem protection and conservation.

It is very important to recognise the dynamic nature of the planning process because a significant value of the concept lies in its flexibility. The plans should be continuously monitored and adjusted in order to take account of recent development trends. Only a flexible and non-prescriptive approach will allow for such changes. Often, the geographic limit of water management plans is the river or lake basin (C2.2) but it is important to recognise cross-basin effects as well as the impact on other environmental media, the relationship between rivers and coastal waters (C2.3) and ground and surface water (C2.4). Good plans include social, environmental and economic assessment (tools C2.6, C2.7 and C2.8).

The planning process must take into account not only development options within the water sector itself but also scenarios for development and relations between other sectors that may have an impact on the water resources (e.g. water demand or water quality). Likewise, the consequences of water management decisions in other economic sectors (e.g. tourism or health) should be an integral part of the analyses made during the planning process. It is important that the planning process includes analysis of risks (climatic variations, as well as economic, political and other risks) and addresses the necessary and adequate measures to reduce or manage risks (C2.5). Plans should also take account of potential hazard and the vulnerability of people and ecosystems to extreme events. Planning should also be linked to indicators or targets.

The responsibility for the planning process itself inevitably rests with the authorities, be they national agencies, regional authorities, or river basin organisations. It is important that the responsible authorities design a planning process that allows for involvement and contribution from all affected parties, including the private sector, community groups and disadvantaged stakeholders (see also B2.1).


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