Water Management Managing Water Effectively

Author / Editor: Praggya Sharmaa / Dominik Stephan

Adaptive and integrated water management implies a real paradigm shift in water management from what can be described as a prediction and control to a management as learning approach.

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Adaptive water management can help to maximise economic and social welfare without compromising sustainability. (Picture: World Water Council)
Adaptive water management can help to maximise economic and social welfare without compromising sustainability. (Picture: World Water Council)

Adaptive Water Management (AWM) is defined as an approach that addresses uncertainty and complexity by increasing and sustaining the capacity to learn while managing. Learning is sustained by an iterative process of testing and improving methods of analysis and management policies and practices – in response to insights from monitoring outcomes of implemented management strategies. Learning and policy implementation can flexibly respond to (‘passive adaptive’) or pro-actively probe (‘active adaptive’) for new information. Adaptive management increases the dynamic capacity of integrated management approaches – to navigate uncertain transitions in complex adaptive systems – rather than as solving multi-objective optimisation problems of a predictable and controllable system.

What is behind Integrated Water and Resources Management

Now let’s also look at the relationship between AWM and Integrated Water and Resources Management (IWRM).What is IWRM? IWRM is essentially a guiding principle for managing water resources, which emphasises the need to consider the variety of uses to which water is put and the diversity of benefits it brings to our communities and their environments. Adaptive management proposes a strategy for managing water resources through ‘learning to manage by managing to learn’, promoting the use of planned interventions as starting points for learning about system behaviour. Both concepts were shaped by similar critiques of previous approaches to water management, making them natural bedfellows in terms of their broad claims to legitimacy.

Water Management And The Climate Issue

There is also a clear link between AIWM and climate change. Climate change has the potential to increase the frequency and intensity of extreme events globally by increasing flood risk in some regions, increasing drought risk in others, and even increasing the occurrence of both floods and droughts in some parts of the world (IPCC 2007). The challenge is to develop strategies and measures to guarantee an adequate water supply to multiple users, and to provide adequate protection against climatic hazards in river basins under climate change conditions.

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