Monitoring is a process of continuous assessment. It involves collecting data on the current situation (baseline) and on changes that are brought about through activities, projects and policies, or caused by socioeconomic and natural trends and events. Evaluation uses indicators to reflect on such measurable change, compare it to goals and targets, and use the information to learn from experience, adjust implementation, and better plan for the future.
Within the context of water security, monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is meant to support and improve the definition, selection, design, implementation of water actions by:
The overall goal of M&E is to improve decision-making and performance over time to achieve better results. It also empowers and builds the capacity of all actors through transparency and accountability. For this reason, it may be resisted by partisans of the status-quo such as low performing water agencies and entrenched interests.
Monitoring measures progress towards goals. Societies improve water security when they manage their water resources and services to:
Different indicators are available to monitor progress towards these different water security goals. Comprehensive water security indexes try to measure overall water security by aggregating various metrics, but these indexes tend to be cumbersome and rely on expert opinion. Also, water security remains a question of perspective because different water users will have different priorities and expectation levels.
The best approach is to focus on what can be reasonably measured:
As risks to water security grow and becomes more complex, the management response (i.e., the capacity to address these risks) must improve accordingly. Evaluation supports this learning process by comparing results with expected targets and against international standards and benchmarks.
Adaptive Management is the systematic process of adapting or improving management policies and practices by regularly reflecting on and learning from their outcomes. It also involves building the capacity of all stakeholders to deal with uncertainties.