River Basin Planning: Principles, Procedures and Approaches for Strategic Basin Planning

Publication | May 2013

This book distills best practice approaches to basin planning in large and complex basins and provides an overview of the emerging good practice.

Growing competition for scarce water resources has driven major changes in the way river basin planning is undertaken. This has resulted in a shift away from 'technical' approaches designed to maximize water availability and led to more strategic approaches to basin planning. These approaches aim to optimize outcomes by reconciling the competing demands of different sectors of the economy, the natural environment, and society as a whole.

This book is the result of a collaborative effort between the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the General Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Planning and Design (GIWP), Ministry of Water Resources, People's Republic of China (PRC). GIWP has been tasked with coordinating the review and revision of a number of PRC's water policies, including PRC's master basin plans, the national water strategy, and the development of new inter-provincial water allocation plans. This book was originally conceived to provide support to these processes through the review and dissemination of modern approaches to water management challenges. The final product provides systematic analyses of the general process and methodologies for basin planning which the authors consider to have universal relevance.

The primary output from this collaboration has been three books, which together consider three fundamental water resources management issues: river basin planning, basin water allocation, and flood risk management.


Basin planning is the process by which decisions are made over the competing uses and different demands for water resources and associated systems within a basin. Basin plans set objectives and the measures for developing, protecting and harnessing the resources of the basin in order to achieve these objectives and health and safety of the river itself. In its most developed form basin planning can bring together a range of different disciplines and themes, from hydrology and engineering to ecology and economics.

Basin planning has been undertaken over many years, for many different purposes and in different types of basins in many countries. Some of this planning has been very formal and organized; on other occasions it is more sporadic, less organized, or develops organically over time. As a result of this history, our understanding of the process, nature, methodologies and techniques for basin planning has developed.

While there are some common themes and principles that have emerged, there is no universally applicable template or roadmap for river basin planning. By nature, basin planning must reflect, consider and respond to the historical, physical, political, social, economic and institutional characteristics of the basin and country. It is this feature that complicates the development of generic guidelines for basin planning.

The main purpose of this document is to present an overview and synthesis of principles, procedures and techniques used in basin planning.


  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Glossary
  • Background and Overview of Strategic Basin Planning
    • Role, History and Evolution of Basin Planning
    • Strategic Approach to Basin Planning
    • Purpose and Goals of Basin Planning
    • Planning Framework for Basin Planning
    • Content and Structure of a Basin Plan
    • Process of Developing a Basin Plan
    • Strategic Environmental Basin Planning
    • Enabling Environment and Implementation
  • Techniques for Basin Planning
    • Baseline Situation Assessment
    • Engaging Trends and Uncertainty
    • Developing the Basin Plan
    • Balancing Objectives and Managing Trade-offs
    • Developing Thematic Plans
    • Postscript
  • References

Additional Details

  • Environment
  • Governance and public sector management
  • Water
  • Basin Water
  • Water Resource Management
  • 182
  • 8.5 x 11
  • 978-92-3-001152-9 (print)

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