ADB IHE Delft Knowledge Partnership
Asian Development Bank - IHE Delft

IWRM Proficiency Certification

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has, for a number of years, identified the inextricable link between sustainable use of water and economic development. Their 2013 report Asian Water Development Outlook 2013 highlights the water challenges of Asia. The catch phrases "Too Much Water, Too Little Water" and "Too Dirty Water" encapsulates the challenges for water security and water safety. But where there is water, there is land and meeting the water challenges needs the perspective of catchments, landscapes, and the governance that underpins water management. 

A large body of evidence points to an increasing crisis for sustainable water use. Like many global stresses there are disproportionate impacts relating to geography, climate, poverty and governance. The historical fragmentation of water management reduces the capacity of human societies to address water scarcity, water pollution and impact from severe climatic events. The challenges of sustainable water management are accentuated by a changing climate. The pressures on water resources impacts many sectors, individual and societal well-being. It reduces integrity of ecosystems, with a negative feedback for adaptive strategies for water management, and has major direct and indirect financial costs.

Connecting land, water and people for a more secure future is widely advocated through Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM).  The principles of IWRM are widely accepted as necessary, but entail serious challenges in often intransigent, water management structures. Switching deep rooted perceptions and institutional traditions is not a simple matter.  Developing the mechanisms that adopt and execute IWRM reaches out to all aspects of water management, embracing technical knowledge to stakeholder participation.  It requires awareness of the problems and engaging the players who can make a difference. 

The Network of Asian River Basin Organizations works closely with ADB to meet water management challenges through an IWRM approach.  Recognizing the complex set of skills and attitudes needed for IWRM the ADB and IHE Delft are working together to develop a set of principles and support to roll out a certification process to build and recognize capacity with River Basins and those organizations involved in sustainable water management.  Identifying a key set of competencies and the education and administrative structures needed to support certification has been exercising the thoughts of staff involved in capacity development and knowledge management, and catchment management across IHE Delft.  One size cannot fit all, yet certification for IWRM professional needs to follow guiding principles, but be responsive to both the individual needs of the professional in his/her career and be relevant  to the solution needed for sustainable water use. It is not just about water, but institutional management and leadership.

The project has followed a path of participation involving workshops during Asian Water Week in Manila in March 2013; the NARBO general meeting, Chaing Mai, Thailand, May 2013; the Delft Symposium for Water Leadership, May 2013; and in Mysore, India, associated with a fact finding mission to the State of Karnataka in India linked with the development of an Advanced Centre of IWRM. This journey revealed many perceptions of how to effect IWRM certification and how to validate, or accredit the process.  Through a process of increasing clarity, we consider that the certification of an individual draws on (i) formal and informal knowledge, supported by prior and on-going education and learning, and (ii) professional activities. It links the Education and Professional domains, knowledge and work experience. 

The project is there to help the ADB support  sustainable  water management through contributing to the needs for certification, associated training and institutional structures; providing the bridge between professional organizations,  educational and continuing professional development. Certification across NARBO can inform the need and process for developing international standards for IWRM.

Certifying sand accrediting IWRM proficiency is novel, with a need to develop credible structures and realistic procedures. It is early days, but can be the first step to internationally recognized competency profiles for IWRM professionals.  It can shape the future approach to river basin management, and as such improve water use efficiency and equitability, and reduce risk from floods and pollution.