Knowledgebase Collection

Integrated Water Resource Management

Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM), also known as One Water, is an approach to managing water that looks holistically at the planning and management of water supply, wastewater, and stormwater systems.  IWRM focuses on the water cycle as a single connected system and promotes coordinated development and management of water, land, and related resources to maximize the economic and social benefits while minimizing impacts on the environment.

From this page, you can search for resources that provide background, and policy guidance on integrated water resource management, as well as examples of regulations, reports, and  functional plans. And you can filter these search results by resource type and various geographic characteristics.

APA Resources

APA POLICY GUIDE ON WATER

This policy guide recognizes the importance of water as a central and essential organizing element in the built environment. It addresses the importance of ensuring that land-use, environmental and infrastructure planning for water will increase resilience to extreme events and climate change.

Read more

PLANNERS AND WATER

This PAS Report focuses on the One Water paradigm, which advances management of water supply, water quality, and stormwater as a single resource. It includes strategies that planners can use to integrate water issues into their work.

Read more

INTEGRATED URBAN WATER MANAGEMENT FOR PLANNERS

This PAS Memoexplores the challenges and opportunities associated with integrated urban water management and addresses the need for cooperation and leadership between urban planners and water service personnel.

Read more

INTEGRATING WATER MANAGEMENT AND SPATIAL PLANNING STRATEGIES BASED ON THE DUTCH EXPERIENCE

This JAPA article reviews the Dutch and European trends in water management and identifies four potential approaches to integrating water management and spatial planning in the Netherlands or elsewhere, depending on the adoption of a regulatory or strategic approach in planning.

Read more

ONE WATER: COORDINATION EFFORTS FOR SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES

This session from ‘Tuesdays at APA’ provides a brief overview of One Water and discusses research efforts in the water supply and wastewater sectors to help communities move toward One Water.

Read more

WATER CONSERVATION STRATEGIES

This PAS QuickNotes introduces the One Water concept and discusses water conservation strategies.

Read more

RECOMMENDATIONS AND REPORT OF APA’S WATER TASK FORCE

This report evaluates the link between water management and land use planning. It provides over 30 recommendations under six core theme areas and seeks to engage all planners in issues of water management.

Read more

IWRM and the Water Cycle

Water exists in many forms—as lakes and rivers, glaciers and ice sheets, oceans and seas, underground aquifers, and vapor in the air and clouds. The water cycle (or hydrological cycle) describes the process through which water cycles in and out of the atmosphere – evaporating from the earth’s surface and falling again as precipitation.  As water falls, it collects in waterbodies, and recharges ground water supplies.  Urban development and the built environment impact the water cycle, altering patterns of drainage and runoff and affecting water quality and supply.

Traditionally, water supply, wastewater, and stormwater systems have been designed and managed separately. IWRM approaches the water-cycle as a single connected system and creates intentional linkages between water supply, wastewater, and stormwater systems and the utilities that manage them.  It also looks systematically at other areas that impact water systems, including land use patterns, agriculture, and energy.  

There are four central components of integrated water resource management: stormwater management, wastewater treatment, water supply, and conservation of existing water sources.

  • Water Supply - Water for human use comes from two primary sources—surface water and groundwater. Water supply systems convey, store, treat, and distribute water. Understanding water use helps to evaluate the effects of future development on water supply sources.
  • Wastewater Treatment - Wastewater is the byproduct household, industrial, and commercial uses of water. Wastewater management systems are designed to prevent waterborne pollutants from contaminating surface or groundwater sources. Increasingly, communities and wastewater utilities are beginning to view wastewater as a commodity with potential for resource recovery and reuse.
  • Stormwater Management – Stormwater runoff results from precipitation as it flows over land or impervious surfaces. Runoff includes pollutants and toxins that can impair waterways. Stormwater systems include traditional grey infrastructure, such as storm sewers, as well as green or nature-based infrastructure.
  • Conservation of existing water sources (Groundwater and source water) – Water conservation strategies are an important part of an IWRM approach. Water conservation measures address both indoor and outdoor water usage through regulations, education, outreach, and incentives.

IWRM and Planning

Water resources are impacted by decisions related to land use and growth management.  These decisions influence water demand, affect water supply, and impact water quality.  While planners have not traditionally worked directly on water and wastewater systems, they are often engaged in natural resources conservation and management, floodplain management, and green infrastructure projects. Increasingly, planners are working with collaboratively with water professionals and integrating water needs and challenges into local plans and regulations.

IWRM represents a paradigm shift in the management of water, both in terms of the physical systems that manage water and the institutional structures. Planners play a key role in facilitating implementation of IWRM efforts, which depend on interdisciplinary collaboration between water professionals, planners, engineers, landscape architects, public works professionals, and other related professions.

Background Resources

GUIDES

View all guides

Toolkits

View all toolkits

REPORTS

View all reports

ARTICLES

View all articles

FUNCTIONAL PLANS

View all functional plans

ONLINE TRAININGS

View all online training material

STATUTES

View all statutes

REGULATIONS

View all regulations