Community Agriculture Alliance: Explaining basic concepts of an integrated water management plan |

Community Agriculture Alliance: Explaining basic concepts of an integrated water management plan

Gena Hinkemeyer
For the Steamboat Pilot & Today

The Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable (YWG BRT) is one of nine grassroots water policy roundtables throughout Colorado working to develop locally driven, collaborative solutions to water supply challenges.

The YWG BRT has been working on an Integrated Water Management Plan (IWMP) for the past several years.

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is, “Explain what an IWMP is and its purpose?”

An IWMP has been defined as “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.”

An IWMP is based on the three principles: social equity, economic efficiency and environmental sustainability. Considering these principles means answering the following questions:

• How will my decision or action affect access for other users to water or the benefits from its use?

• Will my decision or action result in the most efficient use of the available financial and water resources?

• How will my decision or action affect the functioning of natural systems?

Social equity means ensuring equal access for all to an adequate quantity and quality of water necessary to sustain human well-being. The right of all users to the benefits gained from the use of water also needs to be considered when making water allocations.

Benefits may include enjoyment of resources through recreational use or the financial benefits generated from the use of water for economic purposes.

Economic Efficiency means bringing the greatest benefit to the greatest number of users possible with the available financial and water resources. This requires that the most economically efficient option is selected. The economic value is not only about price — it should consider current and future social and environmental costs and benefits.

Ecological sustainability requires that aquatic ecosystems are acknowledged as users and that adequate allocation is made to sustain their natural functioning. Achieving this criterion also requires that land uses and developments that negatively impact these systems are avoided or limited.

IWMP approaches involve applying knowledge from various disciplines, as well as the insights from diverse stakeholders to devise and implement efficient, equitable and sustainable solutions to water and development problems. As such, an IWMP is a comprehensive, participatory planning and implementation tool for managing and developing water resources in a way that balances social and economic needs, and that ensures the protection of ecosystems for future generations.

Water’s many different uses — for agriculture, for healthy ecosystems, for people and livelihoods — demands coordinated action. An IWMP approach is an open, flexible process, bringing together decision-makers across the various sectors that impact water resources and bringing all stakeholders to the table to set policy and make sound, balanced decisions in response to specific water challenges faced.

This is an in-depth definition, but I hope this clarifies the definition. Clear as mud right? For more on the IWMP efforts,

Gena Hinkemeyer is the Yampa River segment coordinator for the YWG BRT Integrated Water Management Plan.

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