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The future of Integrated Water Management

IWC partners and other professionals in water and other related fields gathered recently at the IWC Partners’ Forum to discuss where integrated water management (IWM) is heading, and what role IWC and the scientific community can play in supporting its journey.
The future of Integrated Water Management

IWC Partners' Forum 2011

As the world changes, and new learnings and experience continually inform our natural resources management, the water sector is continually revising its goals and activities in order to achieve the most sustainable outcomes possible.

Changing drivers of integrated water management

Many things drive the changes that affect water and other natural resources, and humanity’s and the planet’s needs in regard to them, but participants at the Forum identified that among the most influential drivers of change currently are:

  • Changing climate
  • Increasing and ageing population
  • Patterns of migration, including urbanisation and increasing poverty
  • Limited natural resources (e.g. water, energy)
  • Changing investment in aid (in Australia this is particularly evident in Australian Government aid, with increasing quantity of aid, but changes in programming and delivery)
  • Shifting paradigms, such as from polluter-pays to user-pays, from local-scale understanding to basin-scale systems understandings
  • Unshifting paradigms, such as Resistance to adjust our lifestyle expectations to match integrated water management needs for sustainable outcomes

How might we (IWC and the scientific community) respond?


… the complexities of water (and related technologies) through whole-landscape, systems-based and trans-disciplinary approaches, recognising the ‘seepage’ of water into other spheres (e.g. health, food production, energy, climate-change-adaptation).


… community in conversations about the scientific basis for water management to increase public understanding.


… from communities about social, economic and environmental needs and expectations for water and related natural resources. 


… on pragmatic water management actions and trade-offs using deliberative and participatory processes, which

  • involve all players
  • draw on trans-disciplinary science
  • are risk-based
  • support ‘liveability’ for all, and
  • are socially and economically acceptable, transparent, and fundable.


… and support implementation of actions, using adaptive management approaches and best available knowledge.


… assess and adjust actions, for continual improvement and most sustainable outcomes.

Going into the future

IWC will seek to embrace these principles in all its business activities, based around the continually evolving themes of:

  • Education and training
  • Healthy rivers and aquatic ecosystems
  • Water, sanitation and hygiene
  • Science-policy integration
  • Water sensitive cities
  • Indigenous integrated water management





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