In international circles, advocacy of integrated water resource management is often based on the Dublin Principles of the 1992 International Conference on Water and the Environment. Those principles include (1) the understanding that freshwater is a finite and vulnerable resource, (2) a participatory approach to water management, (3) an emphasis on the role of women in water management, and (4) the recognition of water as an economic good. In 2000, the Global Water Partnership (GWP) developed an interpretative understanding of the Dublin Principles. The GWP described the participatory approach as (1) real participation, (2) participation as more than consultation, (3) achieving consensus, (4) creating participatory mechanisms and capacity, and (5) involvement and decisions at the lowest appropriate level. Advocacy of increased participation and local decision making stems from observance of a history of centralized decision making and inadequate attention to local needs and resources, which have resulted in ineffective water management and water use.
The practice of advocating the development of integrated and local participation at the river basin level has progressed without a determination of whether this model is working. The World Bank, in conjunction with partners, set out to chronicle the decentralization and local participation model. Integrated River Basin Management Through Decentralization documents the research and findings—the most comprehensive examination of this topic to date. The study, moreover, contributes to understanding three critical development and poverty reduction issues: (1) water management, (2) the links between sustainable natural resources management and infrastructure, and (3) participatory decision making. The first three chapters in this 12-chapter book provide an overview, a summary of the comparative analysis of eight case studies, and a summary of determinants of decentralized water management. The next eight chapters address the eight case studies. Each of the case study chapters is presented in the same format, facilitating readability and comparisons across river basins. The concluding chapter sums up major findings and identifies further areas of research. The book is edited and in part written by three recognized experts in institutional development and water management. They are joined by local experts who possess good working knowledge and experience in the basins that form the case studies.