Strengthening Integrated Water Resources Management through Institutional Analysis: an Analytical Tool and Operative Methodology for Research Projects and Programmes (‘WaRM-In’)

The WaRM-In project sensitises researchers and practitioners to the political dimensions and institutional contexts of IWRM in European and global contexts, providing them with an analytical and methodological framework to refine their IWRM projects accordingly in both planning and implementation phases. Working closely with project managers and researchers, the Leibniz-Institute for Regional Development and Structural Planning (IRS) produces a handbook to be used within projects as well as key recommendations for programme managers on how to integrate institutional and political analysis in the IWRM projects they fund.

The success of attempts to strengthen IWRM is highly dependent upon the extent to which interventions are tuned to fit the institutional context of implementation. Many IWRM projects, especially those in developing and transition countries, have been criticised recently for failing to address adequately the prevailing political and institutional circumstances at local, regional, national and transnational scales. Future Research and Development projects in this field should incorporate continuous analysis of institutional opportunities and constraints as a core feature of their work programmes.  

To achieve these goals a handbook (‘The IRS Handbook’) was produced. It provides an analytical framework, a methodological guide for utilisation, an appendix of useful resources and general advice on the often difficult task of finding the information necessary to identify relevant political processes and institutional arrangements. The analytical framework presented outlines an inductive, ‘bottom-up’ research process, one in which stakeholders are regularly involved. The overall objective is to facilitate the embedding of these projects within specific socio-political contexts, rather than alongside or in conflict with existing institutional structures and practices.  

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The IRS Handbook has four key elements. First, a four-stage analytical approach is presented (‘Water Storylines’, ‘Domains of Problems/ Solutions’, ‘Political and Institutional Feasibility’ and ‘Ways Forward’). Second, it is two-speed in design: a Fast-track version has been designed to fit with planning or pilot stages of projects (6-12 months). The In-depth version is intended to be used in the main phase of an R+D project (c.3 years). Third, it is modular in form: in each stage key approaches in the literature are detailed and linked into the overall framework in a modular fashion with suggestions as to how research could be extended or supplemented in important areas. Fourth, the framework encourages iterative research, so that the researcher regularly tests and updates findings in what will normally be a changing institutional and political context.

Overall, the IRS Handbook provides a consideration of the best ways forward for most feasible water resources management solutions and an assessment of how less compatible solutions could be supported, including possible means of adapting existing institutional arrangements.


  • The IRS Handbook

    [PDF - 2.58 MB]

    The IRS Handbook - Analysing institutional and political contexts of water resources management projects (URL:


  • Dr. Timothy Moss

    • Leibniz Institute for Regional Development and Structural Planning (IRS)
    • Flakenstraße 28-31
    • 15537 Erkner, Germany
    • Telephone: +49 (0)3362 793-185
    • Email Address:
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