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. Integrated Water Resources Management is based on the recognition that the many different uses of finite water resources are interdependent and, therefore, have to be addressed 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 of examples to prove that unregulated use of scarce water resources is wasteful, inherently unsustainable and potentially conducive to conflicts.
Integrated Water Resources Management 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 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 Hydrology and Water Resource Programme is contributing to the implementation of Integrated Water Resources Management by promoting water resources assessment and hydrological prediction based on scientific and quality data collection and management. It promotes the 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 Integrated Water Resources Management concept through two major field level activities. On the one hand, it provides technical guidance at a national scale through projects that demonstrate the benefits and advantages of Integrated Water Resources Managemen adoption. On the other, at the global level, it is promoting Integrated Flood Management within the context of Integrated Water Resources Management through country level pilot projects and by developing guidance material in the framework of its Associated Programme on Flood Management, which is being implemented in collaboration with Global Water Partnership.