Integrated Urban Water Management

Integrated Urban Water Management


Over the decades, India has witnessed continuous migration from rural areas to urban areas. The Census 2011 data estimates that, the proportion of the population residing in urban areas increased to 31.2% in the year 2011 from 27.8% in 2001. It is estimated that 50% population will start residing in urban areas by the year 2050. (Census of India, 2001) This increase in the population of urban areas is putting tremendous pressure on natural resources available for the city such as water, the physical infrastructure of the city like water supply, sewage management, solid waste management, storm water management and transportation.

The responsibility of urban water supply is dispersed among various agencies at the city and state level. Along with State Public Health Engineering agencies, water supply and sewerage or drainage board at the city and state level, as well as Municipal governments share the responsibility. Mismanagement of water resources has led cities to face critical situations in many parts of the country. The issues which are being raised due to improper water governance are not addressed properly. People from many parts of the country do not have access to safe water for drinking and domestic purpose. Water scarcity is leading to conflicts between cities, states and countries. As water demand for industrial and domestic use will increase in the coming years so the conflicts.

Many municipalities in India are struggling for water, which includes abstracting the water resources, water losses during the supply and collection of water, non-revenue water losses, inadequate wastewater treatment capacity, followed by improper drainage and solid waste management. Ground water table level in many parts of the country is reaching dangerous levels. It is considered as an individual property and exploited at an alarming rate. Climate change is one of the main concerns in urban development.

Climate change is triggering increase in the temperature, increased frequency of drought and floods, cyclones and heat waves. Sea levels across the whole world are increasing at an alarming rate.(Vairavamoorthy et al., 2015) Many cities along the shore experience the flood situation. Eventually climate change will affect the water in terms of quality and quantity, seasonality of water available and sanitation as it will increase the water treatment requirements due to flood damage. It will reduce the availability of potable water sources and operational capacity of the infrastructure.

To overcome the problems, there is need to evolve a framework which will help in addressing the problems related to urban water loop. The National Water Policy, 2012 by Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India also addressed the need to evolve National Framework Law, which will recognise water not only as a scarce resource but also as a Sustainer of life. (GOI, 2012)


Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) is an approach that builds on planning, managing and maintaining the water sector in cities by considering entire urban water loop and closing it. It provides a framework for planning, designing and managing urban water systems. (Global Water Partnership, 2013) Integrated Urban Water Management framework covers environmental, social, economic, technical and political aspects of water management. IUWM takes into consideration fresh water, waste water, storm water and solid waste and integrate it with land use planning and economic development. This practice helps in proper management of water in terms of quality and quantity.

IUWM integrates planning for water sector considering other sectors of urban planning such as land, housing, transport, energy and environment. It will improve the conventional water management practices to sustainable practices. Collective goals can be formed for all the sectors through IUWM and worked on to give sustainable practices. The goals of urban water management are to provide a framework which will manage the water supply, sanitation infrastructure, water pollution due to solid waste management, rainwater management, control of the water borne diseases, controlling the flood damage to the riverside and shore areas, reducing the risks due drought and water related hazards and landslides taking into consideration the preservation of natural water resources.    

Figure 1: System of Integrate Urban Water Management

Source: (Global Water Partnership, 2013)


IUWM works on certain principles to get a framework which is better coordinated and promotes the sustainable practices: (Vairavamoorthy et al., 2015)

Ø  Protect, conserve and utilize water resources at source

Ø  Make use of alternative water resources

Ø  Considering urban water loop (Water storage, distribution, treatment, collection of sewage, treatment and disposal)

Ø  Sustainable development in water sector

Ø  Maintaining water quality according to water use

Ø  Recognise relationships among water resources, land use and energy

Ø  Improve formal and informal institutions and practices

Ø  Encourage participation by stakeholders

IUWM practice was propagated in India since 2015. Due to lack awareness and limited knowledge of IUWM it was not adopted in smaller cities. National Institute of Urban Affairs carried out study to analyse the extent of Integrated Urban Water Management in Indian cities in the year 2021, one of which was Delhi. Delhi is Megalopolis experiences the growth in population, urbanization and financial growth. The IUWM framework is applied to Delhi and feasibility of the Delhi city was studied under three heads namely:

1)     Analysis of Delhi’s enabling environment for IUWM

2)     Analysis of Delhi’s institutions for enabling IUWM

3)     Analysis of Delhi’s management instruments for facilitating IUWM

The detailed study of water related policies and strategies of Delhi, financial status to support the infrastructure required for IUWM, coordination among various water related agencies in city, available and required human capacity of water related agencies, available database on water resources, technological advancement in water sector and research and innovation in water sector was studied under these heads.  

Singapore is one of the best examples in the world which has evolved over decades to give the water management solutions. Advanced technologies like membrane-based water purification (NEWater) is helped Singapore in reclaiming water in large scale. Singapore has worked on its water demand by providing water saving devices in households. Revenue coming out of water supply is used for the development of water related infrastructure. The water recycling programme is managed by Public-private Partnership. Integrated Water Management policy is the priority for the country. (ADB, 2010) Political will and commitment towards sustainable development drives the development of a sector.

Figure 2: PUB NEWater Loop

Source: (Water et al., 2021)

Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) at local level can be considered as the first step towards IUWM. The three basic principles on which IWRM works are the enabling environment of appropriate policies and laws, the institutional roles and framework and the management instruments. (CWC, 2016) The goal of IWRM is to achieve water security for domestic, irrigation and industrial water use and reducing risks caused by water hazards. Rivers are considered as a potential source of fresh water in India, hence to have integrated approach to river basin management is necessary. Involvement of Stakeholders in the sustainable basin management will help in participation of various sectors in preparation of basin management plans at different levels. This will assist levels of administration to improve the work based on the local factors. Management of finance for project plays a key role. Delay in fund raising, delay in implementation of projects, environmental clearance can cause heavy economic losses. There is need to reconsider the allocation of water to various uses. The issues over the river basin between the states can be solved by joint projects, treating the issues together, preparing appropriate legal and institutional framework.

Conventional water management considers water supply, wastewater management and storm water management as isolated units which have different policies, legislation and standard operating procedure. Water is only used once and then goes to treatment and disposal; storm water, which needs less degree of treatment directly goes to common drain, increasing the load on waste water treatment plants. In many cities in India the water supply and waste water treatment systems are centralised which puts tremendous pressure on a single unit. Linear approach in conventional water management promotes the single use of water and increases the quantity of water to be treated.

IUWM approach confines all type water resources: surface water, ground water, transferred water, desalinated water, rain water, black, brown and grey water, reclaimed water, storm water and virtual water. (Global Water Partnership, 2013) IUWM promotes the multiple use of water before it is disposed. IUWM instigate the circular approach in the water management. A transition from a linear economy to circular economy will help with adoption of wastewater reuse in the community. Circularity in urban water management can be achieved by reduction, reclamation, reuse, recycling, recovery and rethinking. In IUWM water supply, waste water, storm water will be handled as a single unit creating combined goals, policies and framework. Storm water as a potential resource will recharge ground water, aquifers and vegetation.


Central Government can encourage the IUWM by setting national policies on land and infrastructure services. By working closely with local governments, Central Government can enhance the system. Local governments need to focus on long term planning for water management. It should establish better coordination between the different government departments handling water sector, involvement of stakeholders, addressing the local level water related issues and finding solutions for it at ground level. The practice of managing water needs at local level should be promoted. It will help in local water planning, optimum use of local water resources, minimising water pollution and recycling the water.

Involvement of private sector in IUWM will help in delivering services; extend service coverage and giving financial stability to project. Brazil has taken the help of the private sector to strengthen the commercial water management.  (Vairavamoorthy et al., 2015)

The framework for IUWM should contain good coordination between the departments dealing with water sector. Coordination structure that will ensure good coordination between authorities, departments, levels of governments, local communities and stakeholder can be explained with the help of figure 3.

Figure 3: Integrated Urban Water Management

(Source: Tucci, 2009)

Urban Planners can play an important role in policy formulation for various water sectors department by considering it as one unit, by linking planning with infrastructure provision, involvement stakeholders, deciding plan of action, defining responsibilities of each authorities, coordination between water services, control of water use and maintenance of water infrastructure. To achieve sustainable urban development goals, bringing all the parameters in a single frame is necessary (Figure 4).


Figure 4: Framework for Integrated Urban Water Management and Land Use Planning

Source: (Carlos et al., 2010)

Advancement in technologies and policies is necessary to adopt the IUWM approach at commercial level. Advanced technologies such as membrane technologies, nanotechnology and microbial fuel cells, natural treatment systems and treatment systems with source separation will help in adopting IUWM at large scale. (Global Water Partnership, 2013)

There should be changes in policies and institutional framework as per requirement. Water supply quantity may be seen as the human development index and made uniform in rural and urban areas.  Periodic reviews and progress check in the sectors is important. Along with the institutional reform public awareness is necessary to reduce the water consumption and to promote the multiple use of water before disposing it.


An increase in the population of urban areas and resulting urbanization is putting tremendous pressure on city infrastructure. Managing the water sector for a city has become the primary task for local governments. Mismanagement of water resources has led cities to face critical situations in many parts of the country. Climate change, increasing sea level, increased frequencies of floods, droughts and cyclones are adding to the problem. IUWM provides a framework to overcome the issues and address the problems related to urban water loop.

IUWM framework covers environmental, social, economic, technical and political aspects of water management. It helps in water conservation measures, reduces demand and supply gap in water scarce areas. IUWM also focuses on water quality and quantity according the water use. It brings circularity in the water sector eliminating the conventional approach for single water use.

Government’s role at various levels is a key to success of IUWM. Financial incapability for building water infrastructure and related projects can be solved with the involvement of private sectors, which will help in the completion of the project in time. IUWM approach promotes the involvement of stakeholders to utilize the knowledge. Integrated approach foe water management will help in achieving the sustainable development goals. It will help in providing water and sanitation services to all the community in appropriate quantity and quality.


Ø  ADB. (2010). Annual Report 2010. 1.

ؠ Carlos, T., N., P. J., & A., G. J. (2010). Integrated Urban Water Management : Humid Tropics.

Ø  Census of India. (2001). Migration Tables. Census of India, 1, 1–35.

Ø  CWC. (2016). Guidelines for Integrated Water Resources Development and Management Table of Contents.

Ø  Global Water Partnership. (2013). Policy Brief | Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM): Toward Diversification and Sustainability. 16, 1–4.

Ø  GOI. (2012). National water policy (Vol. 114, Issue 4).

Ø  Vairavamoorthy, K., Eckart, J., Ghebremichael, K., & Tsegaye, S. (2015). Integrated urban water management. In Routledge Handbook of Water and Health (Issue 16).

Ø  Water, N., Pub, A., Rainwater, C., Raw, P., After, D., & Water, R. (2021). What We Do. 1–3.




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