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Operationalizing Integrated Water Resource Management in Latin America: Insights from Application of the Freshwater Health Index
- Maíra Ometto Bezerra, Derek Vollmer, Natalia Acero, Maria Clara Marques, Diego Restrepo, Eddy Mendoza, Bruno Coutinho, Ivo Encomenderos, Lina Zuluaga, Octavio Rodríguez, Kashif Shaad, Sarah Hauck, Ramon González, Francisco Hernandéz, Rodolfo Montelongo, Eliana Torres, Lina Serrano
- Environmental management 2022 v.69 no.4 pp. 815-834
- basins, decision making, environmental management, freshwater, freshwater ecosystems, governance, rivers, stakeholders, sustainable development, water management, Brazil, Colombia, Latin America
- Water crises in Latin America are more a consequence of poor management than resource scarcity. Addressing water management issues through better coordination, identification of problems and solutions, and agreement on common objectives to operationalize integrated water resources management (IWRM) could greatly improve water governance in the region. Composite indices have great potential to help overcome capacity and information challenges while supporting better IWRM. We applied one such index, the Freshwater Health Index (FHI) in three river basins in Latin America (Alto Mayo, Perú; Bogotá, Colombia; and Guandu, Brazil) to assess freshwater ecosystem vitality, ecosystem services, and the water governance system in place. The approach included convening management agencies, water utilities, planning authorities, local NGOs and industries, community groups and researchers to co-implement the FHI. The results provide detailed information on the ecological integrity of each basin and the sustainability of the ecosystem services being provided. All three basins show very low scores for governance and stakeholder engagement, thus improving both in the region should be a priority. The results also shed light on how the FHI framework can help inform decision-making to improve IWRM implementation by facilitating stakeholder engagement while contributing to coordination, identification of problems and solutions as well as agreement on common objectives. Because implementation of IWRM is part of the solution for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6.5 (“By 2030, implement IWRM at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate”), our case studies can serve as examples to other Latin American countries to achieve SDG 6.5.