Integrated River Basin Management

Why Integrated River Basin Management?

Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM) emphasises cross-disciplinary coordination of water, land and related resources in a river basin, watershed or catchment to achieve long-term sustainability. IRBM highlights the importance of ecosystem function in the long term, and reminds us that an integration of policies, decisions and costs are necessary across a multitude of sectors.

Water has ecological, social and economic dimensions. Our living systems transcend the globe, and their management can have consequences or benefits for communities, groups and individuals around the world. We rely on our ecosystems for our lives—yet they face persistent threats from overuse, contamination, disruption of natural flows and a changing climate.

How do we advance Integrated River Basin Management?

Effective river basin planning and management can have benefits as wide as poverty alleviation, sustainable development, access to energy, healthy ecosystems, gender equality and thriving livelihoods. Yet complex hurdles threaten to stand in the way of a water-secure world. When rivers cross international, interstate, or administrative boundaries, there are often different institutional, regulatory, policy, and planning procedures and processes in place and no coordinating mechanisms to bring these together. Across sectors, there are different indicators for success, and across communities there are a variety of competing reasons to use water resources.

Integrated river basin management aims to break these barriers to establish a holistic framework for coordination, bringing together diverse regulatory, policy and planning. It involves all stakeholders involved in river basin planning and management collaboratively develop an agreed set of policies and strategies to achieve a balanced approach to land, water, and natural resource management. It helps us understand that we can find best practice river management in many activities—from community use to environmental science, economics, urban planning or business management. And, it puts the focus back onto achieving healthy river ecosystems with wide-ranging benefits for all communities, economies and biological processes within it.

Integrated river basin management is how we can revive our rivers—and is crucial to a sustainable water future.

Challenges for river basin management

Cultural and political barriers

Lack of engagement or recognition of all key stakeholders

Insufficient scientific or practitioner knowledge

Poor understanding of alternate value systems

Inadequate funding and resources

Varying land use and agricultural processes

Working across jurisdictional and international boundaries

A changing climate