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Managing the resources

gauging stationManagement of water resources is a complex decision-making process. If supplies were available at all times and in all places in adequate quantity and quality to meet the demand, the decision-making would be a simple matter. This is far from the case given the Global changes, such as unprecedented rise in population, rising standards of living, increasing climate variability and change and growing environmental concerns, taking place. Given the resource constraint, Governments and national agencies have to establish clearly-defined policies based on the knowledge of the resource itself and the demands for food production, domestic needs and industrial activity, hydropower generation and the needs of the ecosystems. The demands from various sectors and sections of society have to be met in an, equitable, just, economic and sustainable manner. To achieve this objective an integrated multi-disciplinary approach is essential.

Integrated Water Resources Management

Since the International Conference on Water and Environment (Dublin, 1992) the principle of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) has been an accepted rationale to drive interventions and development in the water sector. IWRM is based on the recognition that the many different uses of finite water resources are interdependent and therefore they have to be addressed not with a disjointed, sectoral approach but rather in a holistic manner.

High irrigation demands and polluted drainage flows from agriculture mean less freshwater for drinking or industrial use; contaminated municipal and industrial wastewater pollutes rivers and threatens ecosystems; if water has to be left in a river to protect fisheries and ecosystems, less can be diverted to grow crops. There are plenty more examples to prove that unregulated use of scarce water resources is wasteful, inherently unsustainable and potentially conducive to conflicts.

IWRM is defined as a systematic process for the sustainable development, allocation and management, of water resource use, aimed at maximizing the social and economical benefits in an equitable manner among users without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems, and having in mind the complex interlinks between water and the surrounding land, ecosystems and socio-economic setting.

WMO through HWRP is contributing to the implementation of IWRM by promoting water resources assessment and hydrological prediction based on scientific and quality data collection and management. It promots use of standardized hydrological data collection and exchange which are essential, particularly in trans boundary basins. WMO is also actively promoting the implementation of the IWRM concept through a two major field level activities. On the one hand it provides technical guidance at national scale through projects that demonstrate on the field the benefits and advantages of IWRM adoption. PROMMA (also available in Spanish) and its successor PREMIA project in Mexico is one good example. At the global level it is promoting Integrated Flood Management within the context of IWRM through pilot projects in the countries and developing guidance material in the framework of  its Associated Programme on Flood Management, being implemented in collaboration with Global Water Partnership.

Water Resources Assessment

The first step to any form of water management and in particular IWRM is the knowledge of the status of the resource through a proper assessment of its present availability, distribution and variability in space and time and perspective evolution. National Hydrological Services (NHSs) play a role of paramount importance in the Water Resources Assessment (WRA) activities at national and regional / basin-wide scale. WMO is supporting NHSs by providing guidance and technical assistance to enhance their capacity to carry out water resources assessment on a continuous basis. Guidance in WRA matters is provided by the relevant manual and technical documents published by WMO as a part of the Quality Management Framework – Hydrology.

The baseline documents in this field are the “Handbook for Review of National Capabilities” jointly prepared by WMO and UNESCO and the “Manual on Water Resources Assessment” (under preparation).

Technical assistance is provided through many technical cooperation projects. WMO implemented the project Hydrometeorological Survey of the Equatorial Lakes (Vicoria, Kyoga and Albert) in Eastern Africa, as a basis for the Governments concerned to better assess and manage these precious resources. Project on Expansion and Improvement of Hydrometeorological and Hydrological Services implemented by WMO in the Central American Isthmus, brought together the seven countries of the region in a cooperative effort to monitor their freshwater resources and forecast flooding. More recently, the WHYCOS programme designed to support water management efforts by strengthening the national and regional capacity to provide a consistent flow of reliable water-related information is being implemented in different parts of the world. At the national level support is provided to developing countries to assess and evaluate their capabilities in WRA. Assessment of the Nigerian National Hydrological Service.

At the policy-making level, WMO works with national governments to develop appropriate action plans to ensure sustainable development of the resource. In this connection, high-level Regional Conferences on Water Resources have been convened by WMO in Africa (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 1995 - read the conference declaration) and in Latin America and the Caribbean (San José, Costa Rica 1996 - read the conference declaration). These were milestone events in launching a drive for self-sufficiency among developing countries in the two regions.

 

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