The WVLC is designed to enhance the capacities of developing nations to plan and implement sustainable national water strategies at local, sub-regional and basin levels. The WVLC does so through a core curriculum on IWRM, which offers opportunities for continuing education and the upgrading of professional skills in the water sector. The curriculum offers broad-based coverage of the principles and practice of IWRM, focusing on core knowledge in the natural sciences, engineering, health, governance, social sciences, public administration, economics, resource conservation, and strategic planning, as well as aspects of programme and project management.
The WVLC is unique - it is the first global-scale effort to create and implement such a comprehensive IWRM program as a distance education programme directed to the current generation of practicing water professionals and leaders. The programme is undertaken by WVLC RCs located at universities or institutes which serve as the prime delivery mechanism. Faculty members at the RCs are closely involved in course production, modification and customization for the region, and they operate and administer the programme. This programme structure is in contrast to the usual “short course” delivery model, often “prepackaged” and delivered by “northern” personnel.
The program is intended as a specialized, undergraduate-level, distance education program for practicing and new professionals in the water sector. Its purpose is to provide engineers, biologists, hydrologists, modelers, social scientists, economists, etc., who could be involved in IWRM planning, with core knowledge (and vocabulary) in areas of IWRM other than their specialty, as a means to integrate that knowledge into a more holistic view than they would otherwise have. Students will typically have undergraduate degrees, but little or no previous training in the IWRM-related aspects of environmental engineering and natural and social sciences. Other individuals may also take the programme as part of a self-directed learning experience.
The water leaders and professionals who graduate from the WVLC receive a prestigious UNU Diploma in IWRM, the first offered in the history of UNU. They then return to their home institutions, trained and knowledgeable in IWRM, and prepared to serve as practitioners, catalysts and mentors for the broader implementation of IWRM, whether at the community, regional or national levels in their own countries.
The WVLC Core Curriculum covers the essential elements of contemporary IWRM (Figure 1) in ten courses. The first course, an Introduction to IWRM, involves a broad examination of critical concepts and knowledge needs related to IWRM, including essential human and institutional capacities, and a preview of the subsequent eight courses. These eight include:
- Water Transfer: components and processes of the hydrologic cycle, temporal variance, global and regional processes and human impacts
- Impacts of Land Use Changes in terrestrial ecosystems
- The Aquatic Ecosystem: concepts, processes, and analytical approaches concerning the structure and function of aquatic ecosystems
- Ecosystem Health and Impact Assessment: anthropogenic changes in physical, chemical, biological and ecological components of the aquatic environment
- Water Use: implications of consumptive and non-consumptive uses for hydrology, ambient water quality and human and ecosystem health
- Wastewater: potential impacts, methods of treatment and mitigation of wastewater discharge in natural, urban and artificial catchments
- Governance and Community-Based Approaches: legislative, regulatory, community and individual responsibilities for IWRM, including gender issues, capacity building and public education
- Organizational Management and Infrastructure: public and private-sector organizational models, strategic planning, auditing and reporting and sustainability of water infrastructure
The last course is a practicum in applying IWRM, usually conducted in tutorial format at the Regional Centers. It involves customized case studies, practical illustrations of IWRM concepts and procedures, and investigative techniques for students to assess their own IWRM needs.