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1.3.09 Integrated water resource management – global networking to ensure transfer of knowledge

Sustainable management of water resources is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. One of the focuses of Federal Ministry of Education and Research funding involves scientists, engineers and practitioners working on concepts for “integrated water resource management” (IWRM). IWRM is a process that implements sustainability concepts and interlinks ecological, social and economic objectives. An accompanying scientific project is supporting networking among those involved.

There is no escaping the escalating global water crisis. Many emerging and developing countries are suffering from an inadequate supply of drinking water and insufficient means of wastewater disposal. Roughly one in six people in Asia currently has no access to a central supply of drinking water, and 50% have no regulated means of wastewater disposal. Four in ten people in Africa have to get by without a guaranteed supply of drinking water or means of wastewater disposal. In many semi-arid and arid regions of the world, a chronic water shortage is a factor restricting economic development. The explosion in the world’s population and the consequences of climate change and differences in land use will intensify these problems in future on a global scale. The impacts of climate change – such as flooding, drought and desertification ◄– pose major challenges to water management in the future.

Foundations laid in 1992

There are great expectations that the concept of “integrated water resource management (IWRM)” will solve the world’s water problems. The international foundations for this as a concept were laid back in 1992 with the “Dublin Principles” and “Agenda 21”, and many international conferences have signed up to the IWRM concept since then. IWRM is an iterative, adaptive and evolutionary process aiming to maximise social and economic well-being without negatively affecting vital ecosystems, which involves interlinking ecological, economic and social objectives. This requires various public and private entities to get actively involved and work together on the planning and decision-making processes for handling water.

Countries and regions receiving BMBF IWRM project funding

Countries and regions receiving BMBF IWRM project funding
Countries and regions receiving BMBF IWRM project funding

The IWRM approach was introduced by the European Union (EU) as the Water Framework Directive in the year 2000 and is currently being implemented in the EU member states. The management cycles put forth by the EU Water Framework Directive are intended to serve as an international example. This framework – when adapted to the respective local conditions – provides excellent opportunities to overcome existing water problems, both within and outside the EU.

The focus since 2006

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has been funding IWRM projects since 2006, developing and testing new procedures, technologies and management concepts in model regions outside the EU. The aim of this: to ensure water supplies and the preservation of ecosystems in settlements and river basins and to enable sustainable management through integrated concepts that can be transferred to comparable regions. The solutions derived from this work will also make it easier for German companies working in the water sector to tap into new markets. This particular focus is accompanied by additional measures to improve the prospects of infrastructure investment through multilateral financing and funding agencies.

A boy looking for water in Jordan (Source: André Künzelmann, UFZ)

A boy looking for water in Jordan (Source: André Künzelmann, UFZ)
A boy looking for water in Jordan (Source: André Künzelmann, UFZ)

The BMBF is currently funding IWRM research projects in China, Indonesia, Iran, Israel-Jordan-Palestine, Mongolia, Namibia, South Africa and Vietnam. Synergies are being produced from the results of funding focused on “Global Change and the Hydrological Cycle” (GLOWA) and “Research for Sustainable Development of the Megacities of Tomorrow”.

In the meantime, many research projects and initiatives have been working on adapted IWRM concepts. However, one key question is whether generally applicable frameworks and benchmarks for integrated management approaches can be derived from the country-specific activities. The relevant scientists and decision-makers from politics and administration therefore need to enter into an intensive dialogue about the experiences gained from the projects – and draw conclusions from the results.

Networking co-ordination centre set up

in this work, the BMBF set up a co-ordination centre at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ in 2009. The networking activities involve many representatives from science, politics, administration and economics. As many of these representatives as possible need to participate in this networking to enable sustainable concepts to be developed and to establish integrated water resource management as an intelligent management concept.

The aim of this supporting project is to improve meaningful dialogue among those involved, and furthermore to provide contextual and organisational support for IWRM funding measures – including the transfer of technology and knowledge – in order to draw synergy effects from the national and international research activities.

Various cross-cutting themes have been addressed as part of the networking project, where they have been discussed and worked through in workshops and working groups. These themes, which play a central role in the implementation of IWRM, include capacity development, information and data management, water governance, stakeholder participation, financing strategies and implementation concepts. An international conference on IWRM is planned for 2011 for scientists, engineers, administrative bodies and companies to present and to discuss their experiences and research results in this area.

Project website www.bmbf.wasserressourcen-management.de/en/index.php

Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ
Department Aquatic Ecosystem Analysis

Dr. Ralf Ibisch
Dipl.-Loek Christian Stärz
Dipl.-Pol. Sabrina Kirschke
Prof. Dr. Dietrich Borchardt
Brückstraße 3a
39114 Magdeburg, Germany
Tel.: +49(0)3 91/8 10 97 57
Fax: +49(0)3 91/8 10 91 11
E-mail: ralf.ibisch@ufz.de
Internet: www.ufz.de
Ressource Wasser
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