Reports of IWRM’s Demise are Greatly Exaggerated

President's Message, May 2019

Lisa Beutler 

The famous and often misquoted Mark Twain was once mistakenly reported as dead.  In 1897 Twain’s cousin, James Clemens, fell gravely ill. Soon the story evolved into a tale that Clemens had died. Newspaperman Frank White, hearing of Clemens’ demise, contacted Twain (Samuel Clemens) directly to learn if he was in fact dead.  Twain amused, replied by letter, “The report of my illness grew out of his illness.  Tell them the report of my death was an exaggeration.”

The story of Twain and that of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) have much in common. A lack of communication, mistaken notions, and scattered examples of poor execution have led many to believe that IWRM has expired.  They proffer it was just a fad or the management du jour of a past decade.

The enthusiastic declarations of IWRM as the way of doing business may have augmented the resistance to its adoption. Further, the branding and marketing of its promise often ignored the unglamorous hard work required to create functioning multidisciplinary approaches and integrated systems.  It also made IWRM a target of any new leader seeking to void what a previous leader had done.

AWRA has long promoted sustainable water management and the adoption of IWRM principles to achieve it.  As the nation first and most prominent multidisciplinary water association, its significant leadership has advanced the science and practices of IWRM.  This very leadership was on display at the recent IWRM Specialty Conference in Omaha, Nebraska.  Participants converged to share successes and tactics to overcome barriers.  

Conference co-chairs Amy Zoller (Nebraska) and Mike Antos (California), also co-chair AWRA’s IWRM technical committee.  They continue the Omaha conversation as the guest editors of this Impact issue.

We can happily announce that reports of IWRM’s demise are greatly exaggerated.  Even so, much work remains.  Readers may notice a significant theme threading through the articles.  While technological advances continue to facilitate better understanding interfaces with complex physical systems, the people side of the equation, and the institutions they govern, require more attention.  

AWRA’s focus on promoting community, conversation and connection is a great place to start.  Doing business this way models the very elements needed to truly advance sustainable water management.  Feedback from Omaha and information gleaned from the Impact articles, will be used by the AWRA IWRM and Policy Technical Committees to submit an updated IWRM policy statement later in the year.  We would love your input. Contact AWRA or Amy and Mike directly to participate.

Climate Change: Resilient Infrastructure or Infrastructure for Resilience?  Named IMPACT 2018 Article of the Year

Seeking to recognize exemplary work and encourage readers to revisit important topics, beginning in 2018, the Impact Editorial Advisory Board initiated its first ever article of the year award.  AWRA Board members and Editors nominated 15 articles for consideration with several articles being nominated more than once.  The editors then evaluated all of the submissions and named an article from the November Issue by John H. Matthews, Climate Change: Resilient Infrastructure or Infrastructure for Resilience? winner. In this article, Matthews’ engaging writing style draws in the reader, asks critical questions, and promotes multidisciplinary approaches.  

Matthews also know what he is talking about, as lead and co-founder of the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation, he engages with the World Bank and the Stockholm International Water Institute and serves as a senior water Fellow at Colorado State University and courtesy faculty at Oregon State University.

Matthews’ article and the second -place tie winners - Endangered by Injustice: The Human Right to Water in the United States, by Susan Lea Smith and Integrating Law, Science and a Path Forward: Opportunities for Collective Action in a Time of Change, by Lara B. Fowler, and Robert T. Caccese are available now for download on the AWRA website. (Links to these excellent articles can be found in the link above.)

Lisa Beutler
is the 2019 president of AWRA. Contact:


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