1geoEncon Ltd., Greifswald, Germany;2University of Greifswald, Institute of Geography and Geology, Greifswald, Germany; 3Institute of Geological Sciences (VAST), Hà Nội; 4People’s Committee of Nam Định Province, Dept of Science and Technology, Nam Định; 5University of Greifswald, Institute of Geography and Geology, Greifswald, Germany as well as Hà Nội University of Sciences (VNU), Hà Nội.

Abstract: Integrated water resources management (IWRM) is based on the four Dublin principles formulated at the International Conference on Water and the Environment held in Dublin 1992. Considering the concepts of intra- and intergeneration fairness as fundament of sustainability GWP (2000) is developed the recent accepted definition for IWRM: “A process which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources, in order to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems”. Furthermore, GWP (2000) describes also in details, which main topics of natural and human system interaction are to consider in any IWRM-activities. Promoting the communication during decision-making processes the European Environmental Agency has developed a DPSIR-framework assessment [24] using a classification of compiled data in different environmental indicators.

The World Bank et al. [26] estimate that theoretically, Việt Nam has an advantageous water situation, with an extensive network of rivers, favourable topography and rainfall patterns. But in detail, the critical situation of water quality in context of economic and social development in Việt Nam is in strong focus of international cooperation in Việt Nam. For that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has developed additional 25 elements for IWRM-activities in river basins [1].


Water consumption has grown at more than twice the rate of the population for the past century. Although there is not yet a global water shortage, about 2.8 billion people, representing more than 40 % of the world’s population, live in river basins with some form of water scarcity. More than 1.2 billion of them live under conditions of physical water scarcity, which occurs when more than 75 % of the river flows are withdrawn [25].

The work [9] highlights that challenges faced by more and more countries in their struggle for economic and social development are increasingly related to water. Water shortages, quality deterioration and flood impacts are among the problems, which require greater attention and action. Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) is a process, which can assist countries in their endeavour to deal with water issues in a cost-effective and sustainable way.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) announced in March 2006 that it would use its Water Financing Program 2006-2010 to help its member countries to introduce IWRM in 25 river basins in the Asia-Pacific region. ADB considered for Việt Nam the two regions the Red River Delta and Đồng Nai River basin [1]. Furthermore, ADB-documents1 report about ADB-projects related to water resources in Việt Nam with a total budget more than 420 million USD in the period from 1995 to 2009. That does not the only one indication of recent strong international interest to water resources in Việt Nam [25].


The International Conference on Water and the Environment held in Dublin 19922, set out four guiding principles associated with water use [22, 16].

- Dublin Principle No. 1: Fresh water is a finite and vulnerable resource, essential to sustain life, development and the environment.

Since water sustains life, effective management of water resources demands a holistic approach, linking social and economic development with protection of natural ecosystems. Effective management links land and water uses across the whole of a catchment area or groundwater aquifer.


1 Projects, ADB, retrieved 2 April 2009,


2Dublin Statements and Principles”, Global Water Partnership, Library, 2008, retrieved 9 March 2009,



- Dublin Principle No. 2: Water development and management should be based on a participatory approach, involving users, planners and policy-makers at all levels.

The participatory approach involves raising awareness of the importance of water among policy-makers and the general public. It means that decisions are taken at the lowest appropriate level, with full public consultation and involvement of users in the planning and implementation of water projects.

- Dublin Principle No. 3: Women play a central part in the provision, management and safeguarding of water.

This pivotal role of women as providers and users of water and guardians of the living environment has seldom been reflected in institutional arrangements for the development and management of water resources. Acceptance and implementation of this principle requires positive policies to address women’s specific needs and to equip and empower women to participate at all levels in water resources programs, including decision-making and implementation, in ways defined by them.

- Dublin Principle No. 4: Water has an economic value in all its competing uses and should be recognized as an economic good.

Within this principle, it is vital to recognize first the basic right of all human beings to have access to clean water and sanitation at an affordable price. Past failure to recognize the economic value of water has led to wasteful and environmentally damaging uses of the resource. Managing water as an economic good is an important way of achieving efficient and equitable use, and of encouraging conservation and protection of water resources.

Since the United Nations Conference of Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro 1992, the Dublin Principles are included in “Agenda 21”. Among the seven water management programs of “Agenda 21” the first is integrated water resources management (IWRM) [4, p. 2].

The three key objectives for national integrated water management are priority for satisfying basic human and ecosystem requirements, the river basin as basis for managing water resources and preparation of national action and sustainable water use programs by 2000 [21]. The term IWRM was to imply “an inter-sectoral approach, representation of all stakeholders, all physical aspects of water resources, and sustainability and environmental considerations” [23]. Since the 1990s IWRM has been promoted worldwide by the Global Water Partnership [18, p. 1335]. According to information given on its website, the Global Water Partnership (GWP) was founded by World Bank, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) in 19963. It is a network used by government institutions, UN agencies, development banks, professional associations, research institutions, NGOs, and the private sector. Financial support is provided by European and North American governments (e.g. United States, Canada, Denmark, The Netherlands, UK, and Germany) and the European Commission. The GWP network has become active in over 70 countries in 13 regions (e.g. Central and Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, South America, and West Africa) excluding North America, Western and Northern Europe.

In order to support the worldwide process of IWRM implementation the GWP provides a toolbox4. The design of the toolbox is set up in three main modules:

1. Enabling environment (government legislation, policies, and rules);


3“A Water Secure World Global”, Water Partnership, AboutUs, 2008, retrieved 9 March 2009,


4 ToolBox Integrated Water Resources Management, Global Water Partnership, 2008, retrieved 9 March

2009, <>.


2. Institutional roles (policies and programs of organizations);

3. Management instruments (direct action).

This concept considers a widely accepted theory whereby decision-making occurs at three different institutional levels. It was developed by [10] on the basis of an earlier work of OSTROM (1986). Institutional settings are described at: 1. Policy, 2. Implementation, and 3. Operational levels [13].

Furthermore, the GWP (2000) has established a definition according to which integrated water resources management is: “A process which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources, in order to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems”.

For [4, p. 2] the IWRM definition by GWP consolidates two broad conceptual bases, namely, “integration” and “sustainability”. Integration is one of the interpretations of the holistic approach. The holistic approach is desired for water resource management, because of a high number of interrelationships between water resources and land based activities. The integrative interpretation emerged in the mid-1980s and focuses on key variables and relationships that significantly contribute to variation in a system and therefore should be managed [18, p. 1337]. Two concepts characterize the term “sustainability”. One concept of ‘sustainable resources development’ considers an intergeneration fairness (i.e. fairness between successive generations). It announces that sustainable development “implies meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” [5]. Another concept is the concept of intra-generation fairness (i.e. fairness within a generation) with the triangle – key elements “Ecology – Economy – Social Justice” formulated during the United Nations Conference of Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro 1992, with its Rio Declaration and the Agenda 21. The three key elements should initially have the same priority to conserve the basic needs of life, to enable all people to achieve economic prosperity, and to strive towards social justice.


A central challenge of IWRM is to organize water management within physical-ecologic borders of river basins or catchment areas. Consequently political thinking and action have to take place in a new spatial context as a landscape unit is declared as an area of political action. This new spatial policy is contradictory to previous national water management policies that were traditionally aligned with territorial administrative borders, mainly based on hierarchical steering.

In frame to organize water management within borders of river basins or catchment areas GWP (2000) describes in detail the main fields of integration.

1. Natural system integration

1.1. Integration of Freshwater Management and Coastal Zone Management: Freshwater management and coastal zone management should be integrated. Freshwater systems are important determinants of conditions in the coastal zone and hence freshwater managers should consider the requirements of the coastal zone when managing water resources.

1.2. Integration of Land and Water Management: An integrated approach to the management of land and water takes as its departure the hydrological cycle transporting water between the compartments air, soil, vegetations, surface and groundwater sources. As a result, land use developments and vegetation cover (including crop selection) influence the physical distribution and quality of water and must be considered in the overall planning and management of the water resources.

Another aspect is the fact that water is a key determinant of the character and health of all ecosystems (terrestrial as well as aquatic), and their water quantity and quality requirements therefore have to be taken into account in the overall allocation of available water resources. The promotion of catchment and river basin management is an acknowledgement that these are logical planning units for IWRM from a natural system perspective.

1.3. “Green Water” and “Blue Water”: A conceptual distinction can be made between water that is used directly for biomass production and “lost” in evapotranspiration (“green water”) and water flowing in rivers and aquifers (“blue water”). Terrestrial ecosystems are “green water” dependent, whereas aquatic ecosystems are “blue water” dependent. Most water management, including the literature on IWRM, tends to focus on the “blue water”, thus neglecting rain and soil water management.

Management of “green water” flows holds significant potential for water savings (crop per evaporated drop in rain fed and irrigated agriculture), increasing water use efficiency and the protection of vital ecosystems.

1.4. Integration of Surface Water and Groundwater Management: The hydrological cycle also calls for integration between surface and groundwater management. The drop of water retained at the surface of a catchment may appear alternately as surface- and groundwater on its way downstream through the catchment. The widespread use of agro-chemicals and pollution from other non-point sources already pose significant threats to groundwater quality and force managers to consider the linkages between surface- and groundwater.

1.5. Integration of Quantity and Quality in Water Resources Management: Water resources management entails the development of appropriate quantities of water with an adequate quality. Water quality management is thus an essential component of IWRM. Clearly, institutions capable of integrating the quantity and quality aspects have to be promoted to influence the way human systems operate in generating, abating and disposing of waste products.

1.6. Integration of Upstream and Downstream Water-related Interests: An integrated approach to water resources management entails identification of conflicts of interest between upstream and downstream stakeholders. The consumptive “losses” upstream will reduce river flows. The pollution loads discharged upstream will degrade river water quality. Land use changes upstream may alter groundwater recharge and river flow seasonality. Flood control measures upstream may threaten flood-dependent livelihoods downstream. Such conflicts of interest must be considered in IWRM with full acknowledgement of the range of physical and social linkages that exist in complex systems.

2. Human system integration

2.1. Mainstreaming of Water Resources: When it comes to analyzing human activities or service systems, virtually all aspects of integration involve an understanding of the natural system, its capacity, vulnerability and limits. Such integration is inevitably a complex task and perfect integration is unrealistic. It involves three subtopics (i.e. providing fora and mechanisms to ensure that all stakeholders can participate in water resource allocation decisions, conflict resolution and trade-off choices).

Integrative measures are needed at all levels from the individual household to international product markets.

2.2. Cross-Sectoral Integration in National Policy Development: The IWRM approach implies that water-related developments within all economic and social sectors should be taken into account in the overall management of the water resources. Thus, water resources policy must be integrated with national economic policy, as well as with national sectoral policies. Conversely, economic and social policies need to take account of the water resource implications, for instance, national energy and food policies may have a profound impact on water resources - and vice versa. Cross-sectoral integration is divided in following sub-sectors: i) water for people; ii) water for food; iii) water for nature; and iv) water for industry and other uses.

2.3. Macro-Economic Effects of Water Developments: In situations where large amounts of capital are mobilized for water sector investments the macro-economic impacts are often quite large and deleterious to overall economic development. The increased demand for goods and services in the non-water sectors caused by the capital inflows raises their prices and thus leads to inflation. This has often induced long-term macro-economic effects that are far from desirable.

2.4. Basic Principles for Integrated Policy-Making: Cross-sectoral and “integrated” policy-making is extremely hard to achieve in practice but there are five basic principles with focus to economic planners, land use policy-makers and other water-related policies.

2.5. Influencing Economic Sector Decisions: The decisions of economic sector actors (from trans-national or large state-owned companies to individual farmers or households) will in most countries have significant impact on water demands, water-related risks and the availability and quality of the resource. These decisions will not be water sensitive unless clear and consistent information is available on the full costs of their actions.

2.6. Integration of all Stakeholders in the Planning and Decision Process: The involvement of the concerned stakeholders in the management and planning of water resources is universally recognized as a key element in obtaining a balanced and sustainable utilization of water.

2.7. Integrating Water and Wastewater Management: Water is a renewable and reusable resource. Where use is non-consumptive and returned after use, mechanisms are needed to ensure that wastewater flows are a useful addition to resource flows or water supply. Reuse of water can be provided to individual users but to be effective reuse opportunities have to be designed into the political, economic, social and administrative systems.


5 European Environmental Agency - Environmental Terminology and Discovery Service (ETDS), retrieved 26 August 2009, <>



Most environmental reports compile sets of physical, biological or chemical indicators. They generally reflect a systems analysis view of the relations between the environmental system and the human system. For any communication with stakeholder, it is recommended to classify all these data and the kind of reports. Environmental indicators may be used as a powerful tool to raise public awareness on environmental issues (Fig. 1). Providing information on driving forces, impacts and policy responses, is a common strategy to strengthen public support for policy measures [24]. The European Environment Agency has introduced for that in 1999 the DPSIR framework assessment for reporting on environmental issues [24].

DPSIR-framework “The causal framework for describing the interactions between society and the environment adopted by the European Environment Agency: driving forces, pressures, states, impacts, responses (extension of the PSR model developed by OECD)”. European Environmental Agency (EEA)5.


Figure 1. The DPSIR framework for reporting on environmental issues (Smeets & Weterings, 1999)

According to this systems analysis view, social and economic developments exert Pressure (P) on the environment and, as a consequence, the State (S) of the environment changes, such as the provision of adequate conditions for health, resources availability and biodiversity. Finally, this leads to Impacts (I) on human health, ecosystems and materials that may elicit a societal Response (R) that feeds back on the Driving forces (D), or on the state or impacts directly, through adaptation or curative action.

In order to demonstrate this DPSIR-framework it is recommended to follow an example like [3] have published it. They report about eutrophication of marine and coastal environment in Europe. The analysis in this report refers to the DPSIR assessment framework. Driving forces (or human activities) lead to Pressures (emissions of nutrients and hazardous substances) on the environment. As a result, changes in the State of the environment may lead to Impacts on ecosystems and human health and societal Responses must be defined to reduce the adverse effects. The focus of the report is on pressure, state and impact indicators, taking into consideration the European Union’s policies to reduce eutrophication and pollution in the context of its strategies towards biodiversity and sustainable development. It is a good example, whose data represent a high indicator potential as well as have communicative power (easy to understand) and statistical power (trends may be detected easily). Eutrophication indicators with high potential are: inputs of nutrients into marine and coastal waters (pressure indicator) and nutrient concentrations in coastal waters (state indicators). Oxygen and chlorophyll-a are chemical impact indicators under development.

The work [3] defined agriculture, industry, traffic, water treatment plants etc. as Driving forces. These mentioned elements are responsible for substantial loads of nutrients in the environment. For instance use of fertilizer and manure in agriculture and effluents from communal and industrial wastewater treatment plants contribute to the emission of nutrients in a river basin. Traffic and energy production also contributes by emitting nitrous oxides to the atmosphere. They identified direct discharges, riverine inputs (average river concentrations of nutrients) and atmospheric deposition of nitrogen as Pressure. The nutrient concentrations (e.g. sum of NO3, NO2 and NH4; phosphate) and the molar ratios of nutrients (e.g. N/P ratio) are useable to characterize the Status. In European coastal waters nutrients in the summer period are used for primary production, resulting in a decrease of the nutrient concentrations. For this reason, the winter period is preferred to use for indicator purposes. Algal blooms, toxic mussels and oxygen depletion are typical indicators to describe the Impacts. There is large natural annual phytoplankton variability, but intensity of phytoplankton blooms, including those of toxic algae, may be a general indicator of primary production increase. The increased production and sedimentation of plant biomass may also lead to increased oxygen consumption in the deep soft-bottom areas affecting benthic communities. As Responses to Impacts they recommend to limit human consumption of toxic mussels and as Responses to Driving forces they demand an emission abatement (end of pipe treatment). 


Typically, the discussion to IWRM-activities is linked commonly with a focus to water scarcity. But also the availability of a certain water quality is a part of IWRM-related investigations. This aspect may is mainly to consider for Việt Nam.

Việt Nam has 10 major river basins (> 10,000 km²) that are dominated by the catchment areas of the Red River in the north and the Mekong River in the south [19, p. viii)]. Red River and Mekong basins alone carry 75% of the annual runoff. Theoretically, Việt Nam has an advantageous water situation, with an extensive network of rivers, favorable topography and rainfall patterns [26, pp. 10-13].

The total mean annual runoff is 830 BCM (billions of cubic metres). Nearly 57% is discharged in the Mekong basin, more than 16% in the Red - Thai B́nh River basin, and more than 4% in the Đồng Nai basin. But Việt Nam lies downstream of the largest rivers. Totally more than 60% of the surface water of Việt Nam is generated outside the country, with only about 309 BCM generated within the borders of Việt Nam. In the Mekong basin only about 5% of the runoff is generated in Việt Nam, 40% of the runoff of Red - Thai B́nh surface water originates from China, 30% of Mă basin flows, and 22% of Cả basin flows come from Laos, and nearly 17% Đồng Nai River basin surface water flows in from Cambodia [14, p. 14]. Thus, water availability, especially during the dry season, is often beyond Vietnamese control. This results locally in seasonal water shortages, particularly as demand increases [26, pp. 10-13].

Việt Nam wide 82% of surface water is used for agriculture, 11% for aquaculture, 5% for industry, and 3% for domestic use. Nevertheless, in the Đồng Nai basin for example industry uses up to 14% of total water, agriculture has a far smaller portion than the national average [14, p.17].

The country’s total groundwater reserves amount to estimated 48 BCM, with annual exploitable groundwater at about 6-7 BCM. In the 1990s the annual withdrawals was less than 1 BCM. However the largest and growing municipalities Hồ Chí Minh City and Hà Nội rely primarily on groundwater. In Việt Nam, 30% of urban water demand is met by groundwater. The demand on groundwater is growing for more development in areas where surface water shortages have occurred or are anticipated, or where quality is becoming a problem, such as in the Srêpok, Đồng Nai and Mekong basins [26, pp. 13-16]. In Hồ Chí Minh City and in Hà Nội, where groundwater tables are falling 1 m per year in some areas, overexploitation of groundwater is an issue [14, p. 21]. In general, the quality of groundwater is good except where iron and manganese content are high. However, seawater intrusion is affecting groundwater quality in some coastal areas of the RRD and Mekong Delta  [26, pp. 13-16].

With a local view the estimation of surface water situation by World Bank is to find again e.g. in [20]. They describe that in Việt Nam, water resource, including surface and groundwater, is one of plentiful resources. And there are some reasons leading to weak management of water resource: lack of interest in water resource, slack management, inadequate implementation of law, lack of community awareness on water exploitation and usage. The authorities still face many challenges that are: i) the water resource is plentiful, but it is unevenly distributed in space and time. In addition, the deforestation is out of control. All of that leads to water shortage in dry season and flood in rainy season; ii) water resource is polluted by economic activities. It is shown that 90% of all enterprises fail to reach the fresh-water standard, 60% of water supply facilities do not meet the requirement; iii) water supply sources are wastefully utilized. Nationwide 37% of water resource is lost. In some regions, the water loss reaches to 50%. It is 45% in Nam Định City.

The work [6] offer a detailed overview to the six hydrogeological groundwater regions in Việt Nam. The total dynamic natural reserves of groundwater in Việt Nam territory shall be 128,500,000 m³/day. In North Việt Nam, A, B, C1, C2 categories the calculated reserves are 600,503, 554,673, 897,521 and 5,284,951 m³/day, respectively. In addition, these authors pronounce a better future managing and protecting of groundwater resource, too.

Some recent local water-related developments in the context of environmental, economic and social state are described by [2] as well as [15] for industrial activities in rural areas. [12] as well as [7] visualize the mirroring of socio-geographical conditions in typical water consumption behavior in rural areas of North Việt Nam. An option to improve the situation for water management in handicraft villages of Việt Nam is given by [11]. [8] offers an integrative option to develop a domestic wastewater treatment concept for urban areas.


[1] has mainstreamed IWRM principles into water projects in several countries in South and Southeast Asia and on a region wide scale in Central Asia. The following 25 elements are widely accepted to be important in introducing IWRM in river basins. Incorporating these elements into institutional reforms, development strategies, and investment projects will make a significant difference for IWRM in the basin.

1. River basin organization: Build capacity in new or existing RBO, focusing on the four dimensions of performance (stakeholders, internal business processes, learning and growth, and finance) under the Network of Asian River Basin Organization’s (NARBO) benchmarking service.

2. Stakeholder participation: Institutionalize stakeholder participation in the river basin planning and management process including active participation of local governments, civil society organizations (academe, NGOs, parliamentarians, media), and the private sector, and an enabling framework for meaningful stakeholder participation in project specific planning decisions.

3. River basin planning: Prepare or update a comprehensive river basin plan or strategy, with participation and ownership of basin stakeholders, and application of IWRM principles in land use planning processes.

4. Public awareness: Introduce or expand public awareness programs for IWRM in collaboration with civil society organizations and the media.

5. Water allocation: Reduce water allocation conflicts among uses and geographical areas in the basin with participatory and negotiated approaches, incorporating indigenous knowledge and practices.

6. Water rights: Introduce effective water rights or entitlements administration that respects traditional or customary water use rights of local communities and farmers and farmer organizations.

7. Wastewater permits: Introduce or improve wastewater discharge permits and effluent charges to implement the polluter pays principle.

8. IWRM financing: Institutionalize models whereby all levels of government contribute budget to IWRM in the basin.

9. Economic instruments: Introduce raw water pricing and/or other economic instruments to share in IWRM costs, stimulate water demand management and conservation, protect the environment and pay for environmental services.

10. Regulations: Support the development and implementation of a legal and regulatory framework to implement the principles of IWRM and its financing in the basin, including tariffs, charges, quality standards and delivery mechanisms for water services.

11. Infrastructure for multiple benefits: Develop and/or manage water resources infrastructure to provide multiple benefits (such as hydropower, water supply, irrigation, flood management, salinity intrusion, and ecosystems maintenance).

12. Private sector contribution: Introduce or increase private sector participation in IWRM through corporate social responsibility (CSR)-type contributions.

13. Water education: Introduce IWRM into school programs to increase water knowledge and develop leadership among the youth, including responsibility for water monitoring in local water bodies.

14. Watershed management: Invest to protect and rehabilitate upper watersheds in collaboration with local communities and civil society organizations.

15. Environmental flows: Introduce a policy and implementation framework for introducing environmental flows and demonstrate its application.

16. Disaster management: Investments in combined structural and nonstructural interventions to reduce vulnerability against floods, droughts, chemical spills and other disasters in the basin.

17. Flood forecasting: Introduce or strengthen effective flood forecasting and warning systems.

18. Flood damage rehabilitation: Investments in the rehabilitation of infrastructure after floods.

19. Water quality monitoring: Initiate or strengthen basin-wide water quality monitoring and application of standards.

20. Water quality improvement: Invest in structural and nonstructural interventions that reduce point and non-point water pollution.

21. Wetland conservation: Invest to conserve and improve wetlands as integral part of the river basin ecosystems.

22. Fisheries: Introduce measures to protect and improve fisheries in the river.

23. Groundwater management: Institutionalize and strengthen sustainable groundwater management as part of IWRM.

24. Water conservation: Institutionalize a policy and implementation framework to promote efficiency of water use, conservation, and recycling.

25. Decision support information: Improve on-line publicly available river basin information systems to support IWRM policy, planning, and decision-making, including dissemination of “tool boxes” and good practices.


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