Integrated Water Resources Management

What is Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM)? According to the Global Water Partnership, IWRM is “a process which promotes the co-ordinated development and management of water, land and related resources, in order to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems.” (GWP 2000, p. 22)

According to many, IWRM would imply the concentration of all water-related tasks and responsibilities in the water sector. In practice, this is often not politically feasible because of opposition from other sectors that would lose tasks and responsibilities. A more sophisticated view on IWRM sees cooperation as the key to IWRM. There is no perfect fit possible between water management problems and the organisation setup for water management. Hence the need to cooperate.

In our research we apply this IWRM-philosophy. We study a lot of very specific problem, but we always put them in a broader context. If, for instance, we study rules for the operation of specific water management infrastructure, we carefully identify the objectives that this infrastructure should help to reach, considering the interests of the major stakeholders.

What makes our IWRM research somewhat special is that we approach management of water systems as much as possible quantitatively. Technology has much to offer when it comes to integrated management. We use models to project the consequences of possible decision. We also use special optimization techniques to allow real-time control for multiple objectives, see for example Xu et al. (2010). Gaming and visualization are other technical tools that can enhance the performance of IWRM. Our philosophy is that advanced calculations and computer application will enable decision makers to implement IWRM efficiently.

Moreover, we have written on the concept of IWRM, its organisational implications and how to promote cooperation (see the references). Finally, we teach the Masters Course Integrated Water resources Management (CT4450), in which students gain experience with following a focused integrated approach, using project work.

More information: Erik Mostert, Nick van de Giesen.


GWP (2000). Integrated Water Resources Management. TAC Background Papers No 4. Stockholm: Global Water Partnership.

Mostert, E. (2006). Integrated Water Resources Management in The Netherlands; How concepts function. Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education, 135: 19-27.

Mostert, E., M. Craps, and C. Pahl-Wostl (2008). Social Learning: the key to integrated water resources management? Water International, 33(3): 293-304.

Xu M., P. J. van Overloop, N. C. van de Giesen, G. S. Stelling (2010). Real-time Control of Combined Surface Water Quantity and Quality: Polder Flushing. Water Science and Technology, 61(4): 869–878, doi:10.2166/wst.2010.847.

Related Projects:

  • i-Five
  • NeWater
  • HarmoniCOP
  • Melia
  • FLOODsite