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How has the Integrated Watershed Management approach been developed?

Cornerstones in the development of the IWM approach

Cornerstones in the development of the IWM approach
Image Credit: after data from Heathcote 1998, Neary 2000.

Two statements about the novelty of the IWM approach are given in the following:

  • IWM is a well-established approach as it already existed in 1950. The management of water resources was practised even in prehistoric time (Heathcote 1998)  ??
  • IWM is a new approach: as it is understood today, it has not been practised at any earlier time  ??

Which statement is correct?

Integrated Watershed Management is a new concept with a long history during which it has been understood in different ways (see figure).

For thousands of years people have attempted to control the flow and quality of water. Different activities undertaken to manage water have been documented since these early times. This included also irrigation of agricultural land. Also conflicts about water uses are known from Mesopotamia 4,500 years ago. But the management of water was not done within watersheds. And as Heathcote stated (1998, 2): “Despite this long experience in water use and water management, humans have failed to manage water well”.

Especially the economic developments since the 19th century have proceeded at the expense of sound water management.

Rethinking took place in the 1960s. It was recognised that a centralistic way of water management on a national level failed. Instead it was realised that a decentralistic water management on the level of watersheds is required (Heathcote 1998). An early concept of Watershed Management emerged in 1950. However, this was not a concept of rural development which is orientated to a sustainable and integrated natural resource management (Förch und Schütt 2004 b). As the ecosystem concept emerged in the 1980s the integrated approach for a sustainable management of natural resources and rural development was developed (Neary 2000).

   References for the 'Introduction to Integrated Watershed Management'-chapter you will find if you follow this hyperlink.

   You can answer the test questions of this chapter by click on this hyperlink.

Integrated Watershed Management - Network