Can Integrated Water Resources Management Increase Adaptive Capacity to Climate Change Adaptation? A Critical Review


Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) is now a global paradigm. While conceptions of IWRM principles vary between contexts, it primarily aims to ensure more coordinated management between different aspects of water issues such as water quality, land management and habitat protection. However, one increasingly significant cross-cutting management issue is climate change adaptation which presents multiple problems for IWRM approaches. This paper therefore seeks to gauge the extent to which IWRM principles can, and indeed are, enhancing the adaptive capacity of water management through reducing vulnerability and increasing the resilience of social-ecological systems. A review of research into vulnerability and resilience to date suggests that IWRM has significant potential for supporting some of the key determinants of adaptive capacity. However, despite IWRM being promoted as an attractive approach, our assessment argues that IWRM, as currently practiced, cannot readily enhance flexibility and adaptability, which is required for climate change adaptation. Normative recommendations for future policy are then provided.

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Gain, A. , Rouillard, J. and Benson, D. (2013) Can Integrated Water Resources Management Increase Adaptive Capacity to Climate Change Adaptation? A Critical Review. Journal of Water Resource and Protection, 5, 11-20. doi: 10.4236/jwarp.2013.54A003.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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