The Global Water Initiative (GWI) was an action-research and advocacy programme that ran from 2008-17. The project is now closed. This site is no longer being updated, but allows access to GWI outputs until 1 October 2020 when it will also close. After that date, information about the project and core GWI technical publications will continue to be available from the IIED website and Publications Library.

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IWRM: Many users, limited water

What is IWRM?

Integrated Water Resources Management is a holistic, future-oriented, collaborative approach to managing water resources within watersheds. It is a dynamic process requiring regular monitoring, the participation of all stakeholders, and adjustments based on ever-changing rainfall and river flows.

IWRM: Many users, limited water

Why do we need an integrated approach?

Access to water is inherently linked to human health and sustainable livelihoods, and is dependent on the physical environment. Public and private sector interests in water are multiple, divergent, and may be opposing. The actions of one user often affect other users, and when opposing forces are strong enough, tensions arise over who gets what water. Energy is put into competing, rather than sharing, which in turn affects development opportunities for everyone.

Farmers, herders, fishermen, energy producers, transport providers and the tourist industry are all competing for increasingly scarce water resources, particularly as environmental degradation and extensive use are reducing the quality and quantity of these resources. An integrated approach seeks to help everyone agree how to best conserve and use the available water.

Participatory IWRM at community level

IWRM is the lens through which we have designed our programmes. GWI’s niche work effectively translates IWRM concepts to the community level. This means bringing together diverse voices and interests around a logical intervention point, such as a river basin, sub-basin, or even an individual water point. For example, we helped stakeholders develop participatory local water resource management plans for individual check dams (or “dugouts”), and for sub-basins covering several municipalities, as well as transboundary basin management agreements.

Sharing the benefits of large dams

More than 150 large dams have been built in West Africa over the last 50 years, and many others are planned. These dams will help meet the region’s water, food and energy demands. But dam reservoirs can displace thousands of people, and those affected do not systematically benefit directly from dams.

We believe that participatory, deliberate and well-informed planning will lead to equitable and sustainable water use and influence government policy. For example, using IWRM best practice we have pioneered a “benefit-sharing” approach to the planning and management of large dams in West Africa.

We have analysed “benefit-sharing” at 6 existing dams in Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal, looking carefully at local experience and how the positive impact of large dams can be shared between different stakeholders. In this section you will find project reports and technical tools illustrating how the lessons learned from this benefit-sharing approach can help guide decision-making for the future. Specifically, in the planning of new dams at Kandadji (Niger) and Fomi (Guinea), we are working closely with regional and national authorities and river basin agencies to improve benefit-sharing with local people.