Advancing integrated water resources management

Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources to maximize economic and social welfare in an equitable manner, without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems.

IWRM is a cross-sectoral approach that is increasingly recognized as the solution to traditional, fragmented sectoral approaches to water resources management that have led to unsustainable use and poor services. IWRM is based on the understanding that water resources are an integral component of the ecosystem, a natural resource, and a social and economic good.

The basis of IWRM is that the many different uses of finite water resources are interdependent. High irrigation demands and pollution from agriculture, for example, mean less fresh water for drinking or industrial use; contaminated municipal and industrial wastewater pollutes rivers and threatens ecosystems; if water has to be left in a river to protect fisheries and ecosystems (environmental flows), less can be diverted to grow crops.

Implementing IWRM thereby helps to protect the world’s environment, foster economic growth and sustainable agricultural development, promote democratic participation in governance, and improve human health.

What we do

UNEP leads global efforts, through UN-Water and its partners, for countries to report on the status of IWRM implementation, agreed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002, and reinforced as Sustainable Development Goal Target 6.5 on IWRM and transboundary cooperation.

UNEP is the global custodian of SDG indicator 6.5.1 on IWRM, supporting countries to develop and implement national IWRM processes.

The UNEP-DHI  Centre on Water and Environment conducts extensive work on IWRM worldwide, including supporting countries to monitor, plan and implement IWRM through the SDGs. The IWRM Data Portal helps countries track progress towards Target 6.5.

The IWRM Data Portal includes global, regional and national status reports. The latest progress report on SDG indicator 6.5.1 can be found here and a summary video can be seen below.