A Practical Guide to Catchment-Based Water Management

Water is a critical resource for all processes involved in mining and metals operations; without water, there can be no mining. Water is also a precious shared resource with significant social, environmental and economic value. It is a basic human right and fundamental requirement for healthy ecosystems to sustaining life on earth.

ICMM member companies realise successful risk management is based on understanding all water catchment-based concerns and finding solutions that work for the business and other water users.

Collaborating with others, mitigating shared risks, addressing communal impacts and responsibly managing water resources are key components to understanding and managing water-related risks in line with ICMM’s water stewardship principles (p6).

The guide and its practical tools aims to help companies:

  • Outline a clear and systematic approach for identifying, evaluating and responding to catchment-based water related risks
  • Understand the relevance, risks and opportunities of a catchment-based approach to water risk management
  • Define and deliver their own catchment-based water risk management strategies

The guide is intended to help three principal audiences:

  • Operational level – those looking at water as an issue of corporate strategy or risk management
  • Commodity or business level – those looking at water as an operational issue, who may wish to evaluate water as a business and operational risk
  • Site level – site managers or technical water specialists who wish to evaluate and inform strategies and plans, and drive different approaches to water risk management

The tools have been divided into three sections according to their main concerns: awareness, assessment and response.

Download more detailed text around the tools and their uses


1, 2, 3, 4, 5

A catchment-based approach to managing water resources looks at activities and issues in the catchment as a whole. A diverse range of processes should be considered including the hydrology and land-use, and the broader political, economic, social and ecological dynamics.

This section discusses:

  • The business case for catchment-based water management
  • Corporate approaches to water stewardship
  • Broader catchment activities, processes and regimes


6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Through screening a complex mix of possible issues in the catchment, companies can identify material risks.

This section discusses:

  • How to define the operation’s functional boundary and identify major issues
  • Understanding water issues in the catchment
  • Water issues across the mine life cycle
  • The operation’s catchment risks


11, 12, 13, 14

Once it has been determined that an external response is required, companies should critically consider the range of possible response options available.

This section discusses:

  • Response options to mitigate water risk
  • Evaluating potential responses
  • Developing a response strategy

The Toolkit 4 Step Process


Early, open and inclusive stakeholder engagement


Continual risk assessment and response


Thinking across multiple timescales


Dealing with, and integrating uncertainty into strategic approach and assessment stages