Around 10% of the population worldwide lives in mountainous upstream watershed areas, and around 40% in lowland parts. Water is necessary by ecosystems, as well as for agricultural, industrial and domestic purposes. In order to achieve a sustainable, integrated and just water management, a watershed is used as the decisive planning unit. A watershed can exist within the boundaries of a country, but can also be transboundary. UNEP defines watershed management and development as “the conservation, regeneration and the judicious use of the natural (land, water, plants, and animals) and human habitat within a shared ecosystem (geological, hydrological-aquatic and ecological) located within a common drainage system”. The biggest challenges for sustainable watershed management are to achieve justice between competing users through participatory processes; maintain or improve ecosystem services; and secure socio-economic development to improve livelihoods.
A watershed is an area that drains water to a common outlet, and consists of upstream and downstream areas which are linked through bio-physical and socio-economic factors. It supplies freshwater which is used for agricultural, domestic, industrial and ecosystemic water uses through surface and groundwater bodies, and the soil (Figure 1 and 2). Agriculture consumes around 70% of all freshwater withdrawn for irrigation worldwide. Being the largest water user, the challenge is to use agricultural water more efficiently (see water use efficiency) and to identify measures for improving soil and water management (through conservation agriculture) in order to save water for other water users.
Figure 1: Watershed with agricultural, industrial and domestic water users in upstream and downstream areas, as well as water for ecosystems (source: http://www.clemson.edu/restoration/focus_areas/restoration_ecology/projects/watershed_center/stewardship/index.html).
Figure 2: The hydrological cycle in a watershed. Precipitation is the main source of water: it flows through surface and groundwater bodies out of the watershed or is evaporated from surfaces and transpirated by plants (source: http://www.waterencyclopedia.com/Hy-La/Hydrologic-Cycle.html).
In general, changes through land use alterations in the upstream areas affect lowlands and pose a challenge to equitable water distribution between different users. For example, floods can have positive impacts on downstream agricultural land through depositing nutrient rich sediments. This is limited if upstream constructed reservoirs for irrigation results in sedimen-tation in this structures. In areas with large irrigation schemes upstream, reduced water quantities in rivers can have negative effects in the downstream area. There-fore, conflicts can arise between different sectors and users, especially among farmers.
Land use and water quantity and quality conditions in a watershed are affected by climate change and the increasing variability of extreme weather events. After or during extreme rainfall events, especially after a period of drought, eroded sediments and pollutants are transported downstream. In many mountain regions quicker melting glaciers and perennial snow fields alters downstream flows and reduces freshwater resources. In other areas, in-creasing temperatures lead to changes in the vegetation cover and reduced water availability which affects the crop harvest and food security negatively.
Historical development and approaches of watershed management
Watershed management is part of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). It was introduced in development policies after the Second World War by the UN and the Bretton Wood institutions. “Promoting integrated watershed management” was included as one focus area in chapter 13 of the Agenda 21 on sustainable mountain development (http://habitat.igc.org/agenda21/a21-13.htm). In the past, the focus was mainly on forestry and later land resources management, and engineering solutions. Beginning in the 1990s, participatory and integrated management concepts were introduced, and farming systems accentuated. Natural resource management as part of local socio-economic development processes was highlighted.
In 2003, the FAO composed the Sassari Declaration on Integrated Watershed Management. It emphasises the integrated management of water, vegetation soils and sediments for the benefit of the natural resources, environmental services, uses and users. Furthermore, it points at the importance of a good understanding of linkages between upland and lowland areas and their hydrological and land use systems, as well as socio-economic and cultural aspects. Key elements for the FAO, amongst others, are to have an approach including all sectors and stakeholders, and the identification of compensation mechanisms.
The German International Development Cooperation (GIZ) especially stresses the importance of creating “new forms of cooperation that ensure sustainable ecosystem use, help prevent water conflicts and promote cooperation between the various user groups”. For GIZ, watershed management is “a process including all institutions and stakeholders (…) for a socially and ecologically sound, cost-effective and sustainable ecosystem management”.
Most development programs concentrate on the micro level, e.g. sub-catchments, when addressing location specific problems, and as well tackle macro level related problems. A prob-lem is that often the scope of many planning institutions does not coincide with watershed boundaries. Furthermore, work at the micro scale often cannot deal intensively with the up-stream and downstream linkages  which are important to ensure long-term impacts.
When creating upstream-downstream linkages, water availability and water quality have to be analysed in both watershed areas, as well as the impacts of different land uses, such as agricultural land use, grazing, fishery and forestry, mining, industrialization and urbanization. On one hand, impacts depend on physical factors like topography, soil properties and climate; on the other hand, factors like economic ability, awareness and participation of the stakeholders, and infrastructures are also important. Instruments for upstream-downstream linkages include:
- Regulatory instruments
- Economic instruments (subsidies, taxes, land use rights)
- Educational and awareness building
- Market support
- Participatory approaches
Further information on each instrument, as well as criteria for successful implementation and literature, can be found in FAO (2000).
The costs and benefits between upstream and downstream users have to be distributed; therefore, values should be analysed for suitable benefit-sharing mechanisms. These mech-anisms then have to be communicated to land users in order to create incentives for changing land uses.
The importance of the participation of all stakeholders (i.e. farmers, land holders, local gov-ernment, line ministries and the business sector) in a watershed association is widely acknowledged. In addition, the development of water user associations for dealing with the concerns of the farmers is valuable. With regard to transboundary watersheds (see also water governance), international linkages need to be identified and an integration of management approaches across scales employed, as well as a sharing of knowledge and experiences.
To ensure sustainable watershed management, a planning and implementation process as indicated in Figure 3 is recommended.
Figure 3: Watershed planning and implementation process (source: US Environmental Pro-tection Agency, http://water.epa.gov/polwaste/nps/handbook_index.cfm).
Examples from the field
Watershed management in the Ewaso Ngiro North Basin in the Mt. Kenya area
The Upper Ewaso Ngiro North Basin is part of the Kenyan highland-lowland system located at the north and west of Mount Kenya. The mountain area provides water through high rainfall and low evapotranspiration. In the lower part of the river the evapotranspiration exceeds the precipitation and the rivers have a perennial character.
Figure 4: The Ewaso Ngiro North Basin, part of the highland-lowland system at Mount Kenya
The area is facing water conflicts and growing water demand from different upstream and downstream users, mainly for agricultural production. Stakeholders with regard to agriculture in this area are urban populations, large-scale horticultural irrigators, small-scale farmers contracted by the large farms, small-scale farmers producing agricultural crops and livestock, large-scale ranchers, pastoralists, tourists, and wildlife and flora (Figure 5).
Figure 5: Water user groups and water conflicts in the Upper Ewaso Ngiro watershed
The small-scale agropastoralists increase irrigation to mitigate variability in rainfall. On the other hand, the large-scale farmers also need additional water, even when using technologies such as drip irrigation (Link water efficiency). Downstream users have to face water shortage through excessive water withdrawal in upstream areas. The melting of the ice caps on Mount Kenya, brought on by climate change, has severe consequences for the agriculture and other water users.
The Water Act 2002 and the Integrated Water Resources Management Strategy enabled the formation of a national water management authority, the participation of local water users on the micro level, the establishment of water user associations, and the development of regional “Ewaso Ngiro North” catchment board. Furthermore, a multi-level strategy, including all stakeholders, was formulated. Different donors are now engaged in a sustainable management of land and water resources. For example, the German development cooperation supports the development of smallholder irrigation (KfW).
Watershed management Honduras
Water in Honduras is a cross-cutting issue, having emerged as a link between different inter-est groups. The watershed management approach has been used to initiate participatory processes and provide scope for action, thus enabling a sustainable spatial development plan to be drawn up in the CELAQUE nature conservation area.
The PRORENA programme for the management of natural resources, which was supported by GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Develop-ment (BMZ), helped to initiate specific coordination processes and brought together water associations, water users, local institutions, municipalities, producer organisations, forestry management bodies and environment agencies. The primary task was to discuss and coor-dinate shared sustainable use of the region’s natural resources.
As a result, small-scale watershed areas were recorded in land registers and an integrated system of resource use was devised, involving the sustainable management of land. Water sources were placed under strict regulation to protect the vegetation cover (forest) and main-tain the quantity and quality of water runoff in the region. In a parallel process, the various stakeholders were trained in administration, management, water management methods and negotiating techniques.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 FAO (unknown): Participatory Watershed Management. Fact sheet. http://www.fao.org/sd/ruralradio/common/ecg/24516_en_factsheet7_1.pdf [Access 2012-11-29].
- ↑ UNEP (2009): Rainwater harvesting: a lifeline for human well-being http://www.unep.org
- ↑ IMWI / Sharma, R.B., Samra, J.S., Scott, C.A. et.al. (2005): Watershed Management Challenges: Improving Productivity, Resources and Livelihoods. International Water Management Institute. New Delhi, India. http://www.intranet.icrisat.org/gtaes/downloads/Publication%20CD%20Ver%204.0/ECD/ebooks/92-9090.pdf [Access 2012-12-01].
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Thapa, G. R. (2005): Integrated Watershed Management: Basic concepts and. UNESCO – EOLSS sample chapters Human settlement development, Vol. II. http://www.eolss.net/Sample-Chapters/C14/E1-18-04-05.pdf [Access 2012-12-01].
- ↑ FAO (2006): The new generation of watershed management projects. FAO Forestry Pa-per 150. Rome, Italy. http://www.fao.org/docrep/009/a0644e/a0644e00.htm [Access 2012-12-01].
- ↑ The Worldbank / Darghouth, S., Ward, C., Gambarell, G. et.al (2008): Watershed Man-agement Approaches, Policies and Operations: Lessons for Scaling Up. Water Sector Board Discussion Paper Series, Paper No.11. Washington D.C., USA. http://siteresources.worldbank.org/TURKEYEXTN/Resources/361711-1216301653427/5218036-1267432900822/WatershedExperience-en.pdf [Access 2012-12-01].
- ↑ FAO (2003): Sassari Declaration on Integrated Watershed Management: Water for the Future. http://www.fao.org/forestry/11707-0909805923c3bea0dbbdab292a68deec2.pdffckLR[Access 2012-11-10].
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 GIZ (2011): Integrated Watershed Management (IWSM). Advisory Service. Eschborn. http://www.giz.de/en/downloads/gtz2010-en-integrated-watershed-management.pdf [Ac-cess 2012-10-15].
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 FAO / Kiersch, B. (2000): Land-water linkages in rural watersheds. http://www.fao.org/docrep/004/y3618e/y3618e07.htm [Access 2012-12-03].
- ↑ Kiersch., B. & Tognetti, S. (2002): Land-water linkages in rural watersheds: Results from the FAO electronic Workshop. Land Use and Water Resources Research 2 (2002) 1.1-1.6. http://www.luwrr.com/uploads/paper02-01.pdf [Access 2012-11-29].
- ↑ MRC / Bach, H., Clausen, T. J., Trang, D. T. et.al (2011): From local watershed to inte-grated river basin management at national and transboundary levels. Mekong River Commission. Vientiane, Laos. http://www.mrcmekong.org/assets/Publications/Reports/Watershed-Management-report2011.pdf [Access 2012-12-08]
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 Kiteme, B. P. & Gikonyo, J. (2002): Preventing and Resolving Water Use Conflicts in the Mount Kenya Highland–Lowland System through Water Users' Associations. Mountain Research and Development Vol 22 No 4: 332-337. http://www.bioone.org/doi/pdf/10.1659/0276-4741%282002%29022%5B0332%3APARWUC%5D2.0.CO%3B2 [Access 2012-11-01].
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 Wiesmann, U., Gichuki, F. N., Kiteme, B. et.al (2000): Mitigating conflicts over scarce water resources in the highland-lowland system of Mount Kenya. Mountain Research and Development, 20(1): 10-15. International Mountain Society. http://www.bioone.org/doi/pdf/10.1659/0276-4741%282000%29020%5B0010%3AMCOSWR%5D2.0.CO%3B2 [Access 2012-12-01].
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 DIE / Neubert, S., Hesse, V. Iltgen, S. et.al. (2007): Poverty Oriented Irrigation Policy in Kenya: empirical results and suggestions for reform. Discussion Paper 12/2007. German Development Institute. http://www.die-gdi.de/CMS-Homepage/openwebcms3.nsf/%28ynDK_contentByKey%29/ADMR-7BRHCE?Open&nav=expand:Publikationen\Discussion%20Paper;active:Publikationen\Discussion%20Paper\ADMR-7BRHCE [Access 2012-11-29].
- ↑ Ong’or, D.O. (2005): Community participation in Integrate Water Resource Management: The case of the lake Victoria Basin. Summer School 2005, Department of Agriculture (Kenya). http://www.uni-siegen.de/zew/publikationen/volume0305/on_gor.pdf [Access 2012-12-01].
Agenda 21 – watershed management: http://habitat.igc.org/agenda21/a21-13.htm [Access 2012-11-29]
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