What is Water Resource Assessment (WRA)?

Updated: Jul 5, 2019



Water is the most essential resource for proper functioning and growth of any human initiative, howsoever small or large that initiative is. For centuries, water resources have played a significant role in growth of major civilizations across the globe. The increasing human footprint and rise in the human activities including trade and industrialization affect the water resources available in any given region.


Apart from that, many natural factors like soiling and the chemical profile of soil can also affect a water resource like a lake or a river. Degradation of a water resource on qualitative or quantitative front can pose major risks to the civilization which depends on that particular water resource. This makes water resource assessment, an essential activity while setting up and periodically monitoring a locality for its water needs. 


Along with analyzing the water resources, it is also important to periodically study the status of existing water services, which cater to a particular user base. 


What is Water Resource Assessment?

Water Resource Assessment is a process of creating a common and trusted information base about the qualitative and quantitative status of different water resources and water services along with various human, hydrological and topographical factors which might affect these water resources. In the process of WRA, numerous social as well as economic factors are also considered, while validating the sustainability of various water resources in relation to the long term evolution of human activities in that region. 


In the process of WRA, various qualitative and quantitative parameters are measured and collected. All of these parameters either directly or indirectly help in better development and management of water resources. WRA helps in developing sound understanding of the status quo which helps in better planning and development of water resources.


To put it simply, WRA is a process of finding out how dependable present water resources and services are, in light of various human activities and natural features of a given geography and the civilizations in it. 


When to do a WRA?


WRA must be conducted when:

  • When it is desired to improve sanitation and water system to make it more sustainable

  • When a comprehensive and large-scale change in the water and sanitation system is envisaged

Example of WRA (Source: www.sswm.info)

How is WRA done?

Components of a water resources assessment (WRA) program (Source: UNESCO and WMO, 1997)

Carrying out WRA is a tedious and comprehensive task, and calls for collaborative efforts from experts from various backgrounds. The data collected from these experts is analysed to arrive at actionable pointers. The process of WRA involves capturing data on following pointers: 


  1. Hydrological parameters: Historic data for numerous hydrological parameters is collected over a large number of locations spread across the said regions. The parameters which are collected include quantity and quality of surface  water as well as groundwater, station information, topography, soil composition and soil health, Geology, etc.

  2. Physiographic Data: Physiographic characteristics include a wide range of data about the natural characteristics like variations of the water cycle components, topography, surface and bed rock geology, land use, etc. The scope of physiographic area also extends to river networks, political boundaries, catchment borders etc.

  3. Environmental Impact Assessment: Numerous development programs and projects have long lasting impact on the local environment, which in turn affects the water resources and services. Environmental impact assessment involves gathering and processing data collectively by project developers, civic authorities, water managers and the public representatives to arrive at actionable inputs which are valid in light of long term developments happening in a given geography. 

  4. Social Impact Assessment: Various social factors like availability of educational and healthcare infrastructure etc. affect the water usage and hence, these factors should be well documented in the process of WRA.


Apart from merely collecting and measuring data, many other activities are crucial to the success of WRA. Some of them are: 


  1. Research and Data extrapolation: Many times, the required data is missing or outdated. In such circumstances, advanced statistical and data modelling tools are used to extract the required data or extrapolate the available data to arrive at more realistic data points.  Many times, technological and mathematical models are used to arrive at data-driven and conclusive decisions.

  2. Education and Training: The process of WRA requires highly skilled professionals or even call for provision of additional training and education to cater to the special needs of the project.

  3. Aerial or Spatial Assessment: Often, in order to transform the gathered data into usable information, it has to be integrated with the aerial or spatial assessment of the region under study. Many other techniques like Geographic Information Systems also help in this process, leading to better assessment of existing water resources and services. 

  4. Study of water users: The existing and future spatial distribution of consumers is also an integral part of the WRA process. 

  5. Demand assessment: In the process of WRA, the economics is also taken into consideration. The demand assessment is carried out, to assess viability of water tariffs against water demand. This process also helps in determining the financial resources required for water resource management.

  6. Risk or vulnerability assessment: The likelihood of extreme events, such as flood and droughts, and the societal, financial and infrastructural vulnerability must also be taken into consideration.


How does carrying out WRA help? 


  • Carrying out WRA helps immensely to arrive at a comprehensive water policy for a given set of users and nearby resources. This policy helps in development of various water resources and services, in order to cater to present as well as future water demands in that region. 

  • Unnoticed degradation of water resources can have catastrophic outcomes and can severely impact the consumers who depend on these resources. WRA is a trusted method of identifying such degradation in time and arresting them through course correction. 

  • WRA brings clarity and transparency in the water related policies and helps to resolve any water related conflicts holistically, by providing water related insights and user perspectives. 


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