The need for a systems approach to water management
Water management problems are often the realm of complex, dynamic systems consisting of interdependent factors and multiple stressors. There is therefore a need to develop a better understanding of these problems from a more systems-based perspective. Science has historically focused too much on understanding individual disciplines rather than developing an interdisciplinary understanding, while decision making has too often focused on solving individual problems by comparing alternative courses of action, rather than on developing a wider understanding of systems and the complex interrelationships within them.
The work included research on key areas for illustrating the importance of a adopting a systems approach. These include water and sanitation provision, WFD implementation with a focus on monitoring requirements and mining with regard to its implications for water and other resources management.
Key points of the work are the following:
- Water reuse using desalination processes as a management option was assessed in the context of the water-energy-food nexus. The nexus examines the interdependencies and trade-offs that exist between water, energy and food, that must be considered for determining the sustainability of management options.
- Determination of how risk assessment can improve planning, monitoring and management in mining and mineral processing operations focusing on the importance of better understanding source-pathway-receptor linkages for all stages of mining. It was assessed how mining can form an integral part of wider sustainable resources management, with a focus on water resources.
- Monitoring, on which the WFD places particular emphasis plays an integral part in its success. The research reviewed the implications of implementing the WFD on monitoring requirements, and compared them to previous arrangements in England and Wales. The challenge associated with making the transition from established monitoring networks to those that support a more integrated approach to water management were evaluated.
The research demonstrated that a sustainable solution can only stem from an inclusive understanding of environmental problems, that will account for the wide range of interactions, interdependencies and trade-offs that inevitable occur across the various components of the environment. Priority should shift from optimising decision making processes, which is the current situation, to strengthening understanding that will make the solution obvious.
Findings demonstrated that interdisciplinary, integrated and holistic solutions have the potential to deliver benefits across different sectors, disciplines, and systems, with a real potential for taking us a bit closer to sustainability.
A change in mindsets is required in order to reconsider our approach in applying established solutions and utilising current technologies and tools to deliver them, with a renewed focus on re-assessing what the real problems are from a systems perspective. Moreover, there is need to better understand demand and pressure on water resources, followed by appropriate pricing that is inclusive of all environmental costs.Add Pingback