Integrated Water Resources Management 2.0

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Buenaventura Dargantes, Mary Ann Manahan et al.:

"At the same Rio summit, a body of water management practices known as Integrated Water Resources Management or IWRM was born. It is based on some of the Rio declaration’s best stuff – shining expressions of co-existence with nature and matching human aspiration to ecological reality. But IWRM has suffered in implementation and conception; development banks and governments have more often treated water as an economic good than a commons. Citizen participation has been cursory, not nearly as authentic and robust as it should. On the cusp of a global re-commitment to environmental sustainability, we’d be foolish not to step back and reflect: What have we learned during these two decades to improve the way we govern and manage our water resources?

IWRM may not be to blame, but the water crisis’ human and ecological toll is bad and accelerating, egged on by climate change and governance failures. Unfulfilled Millennium Development Goals haunt us. Excellent reporting has recently uncovered woeful mismanagement of our banks and economies, but we need to cast the same spotlight on the mismanagement of water, which threatens our very existence. At the same time, we need to hear stories that narrate the occasional piece of good news, the successful efforts at overcoming the water crisis. The cases we present here inject some of that overlooked good news.

Let’s call it IWRM 2.0, a new ethic that embraces water commons, water citizenship, and water security. Our societies have learned the hard way – through under-performing water systems and degraded watersheds – that if an authentic sense of water citizenship doesn’t guide water governance and management practice – they are likely to fail. The role of the MCWD employees’ union – mentioned above – in making informed recommendations about infrastructure investments for the common good shows just how helpful overlooked constituencies can be in democratizing water system governance. State-community collaborations that embrace community leadership in a meaningful way, as in the Colombian community water system case presented here, illustrate how important this cooperation is for the state to be able to guarantee the right to water, as now mandated by the UN.

IWRM 2.0 stresses basic hydrological and socio-political realities of inter-connected ecosystems. We are ill-served by false divisions between urban and rural water systems. Urban water systems like Baybay and San Salvador’s rest upon a healthy, rural landscape for their long-term sustainability. We imperil the urban consumer and undervalue rural farming families when we separate the two. We note with dismay that so much water system design, by intent or omission, reinforces a false dichotomy between urban and rural systems. This collection challenges a generalized urban water system bias, intentionally choosing rural systems as our departure point, while exploring their connection to urban systems." (

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