Towards an Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM)
ABSTRACT: This chapter analyses the pros and cons of key tools and methods for achieving a more Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM), with special reference to the application of the concepts of virtual water and water footprint. IWRM is widely recognized as a good idea but its practical guidance and implementation has hardly begun. IWRM requires consideration of the tangible (measurable or quantitative) and intangible values of water resources (difficult to quantify, such as cultural, spiritual values or intergenerational equity) and related socio-economic and environmental aspects both from the production and consumption perspective. The water footprint tool, coupled with other socioeconomic and environmental data, can be a good tool providing a transparent and multidisciplinary framework for informing and optimizing water policy decisions and to facilitate the IWRM for the analyses of nations, regions, basins or products. It generally provides an easily communicable framework for sensibilisation and is usually a good tool to deal with the stakeholders. Nevertheless, it is necessary to keep in mind its limitations, such as data constraints or comparability limitations. By extension it seems that perhaps the most important issue to solve the global water problems is to achieve a more fair and equitable regulation of the food (virtual water) trade.