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From IWRM back to integrated water resources management


  • Mark Giordano
  • Tushaar Shah


Integrated water resources management provides a set of ideas to help us manage water more holistically. However, these ideas have been formalized over time in what has now become, in capitals, Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), with specific prescriptive principles whose implementation is often supported by donor funding and international advocacy. IWRM has now become an end in itself, in some cases undermining functioning water management systems, in others setting back needed water reform agendas, and in yet others becoming a tool to mask other agendas. Critically, the current monopoly of IWRM in global water management discourse is shutting out alternative thinking on pragmatic solutions to existing water problems. This paper explains these issues and uses examples of transboundary water governance in general, groundwater management in India and rural-urban water transfer in China to show that there are (sometimes antithetical) alternatives to IWRM which are being successfully used to solve major water problems. The main message is that we should simply get on with pragmatic politics and solutions to the world's many individual water challenges.

Suggested Citation

  • Mark Giordano & Tushaar Shah, 2014. "From IWRM back to integrated water resources management," International Journal of Water Resources Development, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 30(3), pages 364-376, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:cijwxx:v:30:y:2014:i:3:p:364-376
    DOI: 10.1080/07900627.2013.851521

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Molle, Francois, 2005. "Irrigation and water policies in the Mekong region: Current discourses and practices," IWMI Research Reports 53062, International Water Management Institute.
    2. Molle, Francois, 2005. "Irrigation and water policies in the Mekong region: current discourses and practices," IWMI Research Reports H037466, International Water Management Institute.
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    Cited by:

    1. Davison Saruchera & Jonathan Lautze, 2018. "Measuring Transboundary Water Cooperation: Learning from the Past to Inform the Sustainable Development Goals," Working Papers id:12845, eSocialSciences.
    2. repec:spr:endesu:v:19:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s10668-016-9762-2 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Andrea Gerlak & Farhad Mukhtarov, 2015. "‘Ways of knowing’ water: integrated water resources management and water security as complementary discourses," International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 15(3), pages 257-272, September.
    4. repec:taf:cijwxx:v:33:y:2017:i:6:p:935-954 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Kuzdas, Christopher & Wiek, Arnim & Warner, Benjamin & Vignola, Raffaele & Morataya, Ricardo, 2015. "Integrated and Participatory Analysis of Water Governance Regimes: The Case of the Costa Rican Dry Tropics," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 254-268.
    6. Woodhouse, P. & Muller, M., 2017. "Water Governance—An Historical Perspective on Current Debates," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 225-241.

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