Water Resources Assessment

Small waterfalls in a forest

According to the WMO/UNESCO International Glossary of Hydrology (2012), water resources assessment (WRA) is the "determination of the sources, extent, dependability and quality of water resources for their utilization and control.", and of the human activities that affect those resources (Young et al., 1994). It has also been described as the “systematic study of the current status and future trends in both water resources and water supply services, with a particular focus on issues relating to availability, accessibility and demand” (Batchelor et al., 2005).

WRA is also a prerequisite for sustainable development and management of water resources worldwide. It provides a basis for the sound and proper planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance of projects associated with:

  • irrigation and drainage;
  • mitigating flood losses;
  • industrial and domestic water supply;
  • urban and suburban drainage;
  • energy production;
  • health;
  • agriculture;
  • fisheries;
  • drought mitigation;
  • and the preservation of aquatic ecosystems.

Water resources assessment, under various names (e.g. water accounting, water resource audits, water census) are being increasingly promoted as a key component of integrated water resources management.​

Although the concept of water resources assessment may appear straightforward, its comprehensive implementation can be  complex and difficult to achieve.

This webpage is designed to assist National Hydrological Services in implementing WRA by providing an evolving toolkit of appropriate and adaptable techniques that are consistent with their needs and capabilities.​

Critical elements of sound water resources assessments include:

  • a supportive institutional framework;
  • an effective and efficient system for monitoring water quantity and quality, both on the surface and in the ground;
  • a modern and flexible system for storing, retrieving and disseminating the monitored data;
  • a coordinated and hierarchical approach to research and development;
  • and the establishment and support of a cadre of well-trained water resources professionals.

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