Increasing integrated management of water resources

Integrating water resources development and management
Enhancing water environment

Water resources development and management should be planned in an integrated manner, taking into account long-term planning needs as well as those with narrower horizons, that is to say they should: incorporate environmental, economic and social considerations based on the principle of sustainability; include the requirements of all users as well as those relating to the prevention and mitigation of water-related hazards; and constitute an integral part of the socio-economic development planning process.

While there is much to be said in favour of comprehensiveness and completeness, a realistic water strategy should not be so ambitious as to put it beyond the realm of feasibility. The key elements of strategy for the future need to include: (a) ways and means of providing safe drinking water and sanitation facilities to all people on an urgent basis; (b) development of adequate water resources to meet the demand in agriculture and industry; (c) development of institutional and human resources for efficient water resources management; (d) water conservation and-pollution control; (e) international co-operation; (f) mobilization of financial resources for water resources development and management.

Water resources should, as far as possible, be managed in an integrated manner on the basis of catchment areas, with the aims of linking social and economic development to the protection of natural ecosystems and of relating water-resource management to regulatory measures concerning other environmental mediums. Such an integrated approach should apply across the whole of a catchment area, whether transboundary or not, including its associated coastal waters, the whole of a groundwater aquifer or the relevant parts of such a catchment area or groundwater aquifer.


Of all the natural resources available to human beings, water is the most important limited resource for human development. A reliable supply of good-quality water is essential for virtually all forms of economic activity and development, including agriculture and industry, as well as for ensuring the continued existence of all human beings and other organisms in the natural environment.

The provision of drinking water and sanitation facilities remains one of the most pressing problems in most of the developing world, despite some progress made during the [International Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade]. Development of adequate water resources for irrigation also remains a top priority in many parts of the developing world. The proportion of agricultural production resulting from the development of new irrigation or the rehabilitation of existing schemes has, however, been decreasing.

Developments in Africa, in particular, have been cause for increasing national and international concern. In most African countries the initial emphasis should be on the rehabilitation or improvement of existing schemes, to be followed by expansion into new areas, with due consideration of efficient water use.

Owing to the problems caused by poor water management in all sectors in the past, there is a clear need to enhance its efficiency. Water resources management should be encompassed by integrated land and water management with a view to minimizing the waste of water resources, land and water degradation, and natural disasters, particularly floods and droughts.


United Nations Environment Programme promotes a comprehensive approach to the management of the world's water resources since water resources are often shared by two or more states. Its programme for the Environmentally-Sound Management of Inland Waters (EMINWA), launched in 1986, aims to ensure regional development of inland water resources in harmony with the environment. For instance, one EMINWA project led to the signing of the Zambezi Action Plan by eight African countries which share the Zambezi river basin. The Action Plan calls for a unified management system to cover the areas of drinking water, soil, fauna and flora conservation, afforestation, pest control, and fisheries, wildlife and watershed management. Action Plans are also being developed or undertaken for the Aral Sea, the river basins of the Nile, the Danube and the Orinoco, and for Lake Titicaca.

Article 4(1) of the Draft Protocol on Water and Health to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (1992), requires that the parties shall take all appropriate measures to prevent, control and reduce water-related disease within a framework of integrated water-management systems aimed at sustainable use of water resources, ambient water quality which does not endanger human health, and protection of water ecosystems.

Article 4(5) of the Draft Protocol on Water and Health (1999) to the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (1992), requires that: The Parties shall take all appropriate action to create legal, administrative and economic frameworks which are stable and enabling and within which the public, private and voluntary sectors can each make its contribution to improving water management for the purpose of preventing, controlling and reducing water-related disease.

Type Classification:
C: Cross-sectoral strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 2: Zero HungerGOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 4: Quality EducationGOAL 5: Gender EqualityGOAL 6: Clean Water and SanitationGOAL 7: Affordable and Clean EnergyGOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and InfrastructureGOAL 10: Reduced InequalityGOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and CommunitiesGOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and ProductionGOAL 13: Climate ActionGOAL 14: Life Below WaterGOAL 15: Life on LandGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong InstitutionsGOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal