Open Access
Translator Disclaimer
1 August 2008 Integrating Watershed Management—Connecting People to their Land and Water
Andrew Allan
Author Affiliations +

Integrating Watershed Management—Connecting People to their Land and Water by Hans M. Gregersen, Peter F. Ffolliott, and Kenneth N. Brooks. Wallingford, United Kingdom: CABI, 2007. xiii + 210 pp. US$ 70.00, € 55.00. ISBN 978-1-84593-281-7.

* * *

It is difficult to escape the barrage of appalling statistics on the global water crisis and the potential impact on human life. 1.2 billion people currently lack access to safe water, and double that number lack proper sanitation. Predictions indicate that 2 out of 3 people will live in a water-stressed area by 2025. Growing demands for food and water are becoming more difficult to satisfy, especially as population growth is greatest in those areas that are least able to bear it from an economic or water resource perspective. Desertification and salinization are reducing the land area available for irrigation. Rapid urbanization will have severe consequences with respect to water service provision and flood vulnerability. Climate change is shifting rainfall patterns so that existing patterns of water use will no longer be possible, at the same time augmenting vulnerability to flood and water scarcity. Glacier melting will affect availability of water, timing and quantity of flow, and create hazards from glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs). The scope for disagreements between water users, both sectoral and national, is likely to widen.

This increasing attention to the world's freshwater resources has led to a focus on water management practices, as well as the problems caused by inappropriate land management. A result has been general acceptance, not only of the fact that the two should be integrated, but also that decisions affecting water management in any way should take account of their impact on the quality, quantity and flow of that water. In addition, increased awareness of the downstream effects of upstream uses of water and the demands of basin ecosystems has encouraged management practices that seek to take into account the whole catchment, including both surface and related ground waters. The interests of the various stakeholders in a basin—including users, managers, planners and policy-makers—have increased in importance as well, principally from the perspective of sustainability and equity. Consequently, the management of water, land and natural resources has become much more complex, as the factors to be taken into account now include both quantitative ones—eg water quality, be it chemical or ecological—and qualitative ones—eg socioeconomic questions—that would previously not have been considered together. It has been acknowledged, at the very highest level, that implementation of this new integrated form of water resources management is key to addressing the world's water problems. The names given to this coordinated management vary from “Integrated Water Resources Management” (IWRM) and “Integrated River Basin Management” to “Integrated Land and Water Resources Management” and “Integrated Watershed Management,” all of which are largely synonymous. The classic definition of IWRM comes from the Global Water Partnership (GWP 2000): “a process which promotes the coordinated 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.”

At the same time, however, it has also been accepted that the solution to the world's water problems depends on the quality of the relevant governance framework. This means that any attempt to transpose IWRM into a practical tool must recognize that it is inextricably linked to the governance context. IWRM demands that best scientific practice feeds back into policy and planning, but this relies on an appropriate governance framework being in place. A great deal of research and effort—eg in connection with the GWP Toolbox and UNESCO's Hydrology for the Environment, Life and Policy (HELP) program—has addressed the formidable problems of translating theory into practice, with Gregersen, Ffolliott and Brooks providing one of the most recent outputs. The stated aim of their book is to provide “background information and ... factors to be considered and procedures that facilitate organizing and guiding land and water use in concert with one another; it further serves as a reference for planning, monitoring and implementing development efforts and natural resource management through the lens of integrated watershed management (IWM).” With this in mind, they adopt the following structure: 1) “Challenges and opportunities”; 2) “Land use, watershed management and cumulative effects”; 3) “Institutional context”; 4) “Planning and policy making”; 5) “Hydrologic processes and technical aspects”; 6) “Monitoring and evaluation to improve performance”; 7) “Research, training, information and technology transfer”; 8) “Adaptive, integrated management of watershed: concluding thoughts.”

The challenges identified in Chapter 1 and which nominally guide the content of the book suggest that its scope may be narrower than the title implies. They are predominantly land management issues—agriculture and forestry only—and, rather astonishingly, neither climate change nor flooding is mentioned at all. The problems caused by increasing urban development in the basin catchment are ignored throughout the book, and it becomes clear that its focus is really on ensuring that the management of forestry and agriculture is such that water quality and flow downstream are minimally affected. The physical science chapters highlight this and take a fairly high-level approach to land management and hydrology.

The importance of the institutional and governance context is recognized in Chapters 3 and 4, and the authors correctly highlight the difficulties of coordinating practice and policy across inter-sectoral institutions, as well as across political and hydrological boundaries. However, in common with the rest of the book, examples cited from beyond North America are either unbalanced or thin. The importance of information availability for stakeholders is not dealt with other than in the context of training, and protracted borrowing from the authors' previous work in this chapter is jarring. Ultimately, it is difficult to see how the anticipated audience might use this book other than for high-level outlines of some relevant physical science. An absence of integration between the constituent chapters contradicts the intention of producing coherent guidance for practitioners. The narrowness of the scope and the lack of guidance for whole basin management unfortunately limit the interest of this book to land management improvement only, rather than the integrated watershed management it seeks to address.



GWP [Global Water Partnership] 2000. Integrated Water Resources Management. Stockholm, Sweden Global Water Partnership. Google Scholar
Andrew Allan "Integrating Watershed Management—Connecting People to their Land and Water," Mountain Research and Development 28(3), 337-338, (1 August 2008).
Published: 1 August 2008

Get copyright permission
Back to Top