FAQ: Adaptive and Integrated Water Resources Management (AIWM)
- What is adaptive water management (AWM)?
- What is NeWater?
- What is the difference between current water management systems and AWM?
- What is the relationship between AWM and Integrated Water and Resources Management (IWRM)? What is AIWM?
- What are key factors for the transition to AIWM?
- What is uncertainty and what does it mean for water management?
- What is dynamic vulnerability?
- What is resilience?
- What is adaptive capacity?
- What is social learning?
- What is the link between AIWM and climate change?
- How can AIWM address poverty alleviation, gender and health?
- What is the conceptual framework for AIWM in NeWater?
- Where can I find tools and methods for AIWM?
- Where can I learn more?
- How can I contribute to AIWM?
Questions and answers
Adaptive water management is here 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 optimization problems of a predictable and controllable system.
Adaptive management arose out of decades of experiments to make ecosystem management more flexible and systematic. It is based on the perception that the ability to predict future key drivers that influence an ecosystem, system behaviour and responses, is inherently limited. The most effective form of adaptive management employs management programmes that are designed to experimentally compare selected policies or practices by evaluating alternative hypotheses about the system being managed. This implies that hypotheses can be generated and that the outcomes of experiments allow a differentiation between the comparative advantages of different hypotheses. As defined in NeWater, adaptive management is rather more encompassing and broader than the established use of the concept in environmental management. A systematic approach to learning under conditions of high uncertainty need not necessarily include the implementation of small-scale experiments on the ground (which are not always possible) but should be perceived as the guiding paradigm for the design of adaptive policy processes.
NeWater (New Approaches to Adaptive Water Management under Uncertainty) is a research project supported by the European Commission under the sixth framework program, PRIORITY 6.3 "Global Change and Ecosystems" (contract No 511179 (GOCE), running from 2005 to 2009.
The project NeWater is based on the hypothesis that sustainable water management requires an integrated approach but that IWRM cannot be realized unless current water management regimes undergo a transition towards more adaptive water management. Water managers need to solve a range of interrelated water dilemmas, such as balancing water quantity and quality, flooding, drought, maintaining biodiversity and ecological functions and services, in a context where human beliefs, actions and values play a central role. Furthermore, the growing uncertainties of global climate change and the long term implications of management actions make the problems even more difficult.
NeWater identifies key elements of current water management regimes and investigates their interdependence. Research is focused on transformation processes of these elements in the transition to adaptive and integrated water resources management. Empirical work on the new methods of adaptive management is done in seven case studies in Europe, Central Asia and Africa. The participation of stakeholders in the basins plays a crucial role in guaranteeing that methods developed meet practical demands and take into account concerns and expertise in the basins.
In order to reflect and embrace central project outputs and getting attention for the project’s core messages and results, twelve NeWater synthesis products are developed. The synthesis products have to be understood as a joint effort by all NeWater partners to wrap up the project’s research insights and products.
More information on Newater can be found at: www.newater.info.
Current water management systems might already show some characteristics of adaptive and integrated water management, some maybe more than others. In any case, 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. Such change aims at increasing the adaptive capacity of river basins at different scales and implies a change in the whole water management regime (Pahl-Wostl et al. 2005). Some structural requirements for a water management regime to be adaptive are summarised in the table below. Two different regimes characterised by two different management paradigms – management as control versus management as learning - are contrasted as the extreme, opposing ends of six axes.
|Dimension||Prediction, Control Regime||Integrated, Adaptive Regime|
|Governance||Centralised, hierarchical, narrow stakeholder participation||Polycentric, horizontal, broad stakeholder participation|
|Sectoral Integration||Sectors separately analysed resulting in policy conflicts and emergent chronic problems||Cross-sectoral analysis identifies emergent problems and integrates policy implementation|
|Scale of Analysis and Operation||Transboundary problems emerge when sub-basins are the exclusive scale of analysis and management||Transboundary issues addressed by multiple scales of analysis and management|
|Information Management||Understanding fragmented by gaps and lack of integration of information sources that are proprietary||Comprehensive understanding achieved by open, shared information sources that fill gaps and facilitate integration|
|Infrastructure||Massive, centralised infrastructure, single sources of design, power delivery.||Appropriate scale, decentralised, diverse sources of design, power delivery.|
|Finances and Risk||Financial resources concentrated in structural protection (sunk costs)||Financial resources diversified using a broad set of private and public financial instruments.|
- Pahl-Wostl, C. and J. Sendzimir (2005): The relationship between IWRM and Adaptive Water Management. NeWater Working Paper 3. [online] URL: http://www.newater.uos.de/intern/sendfile.php?id=50
4. What is the relationship between AWM and Integrated Water and Resources Management (IWRM)? What is AIWM?
Perhaps the easiest way to address this query is to initially describe the difference between these two concepts. 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.
IWRM therefore encourages a holistic approach to water resources management, whilst AWM guides the production of relevant knowledge to justify and scope intervention. So we can see how the two concepts differ quite substantially one from another. Consequently, the question of their relationship needs to be addressed with regard to a different frame of reference – namely whether they are complementary in their application or exclusionary. Would implementation of IWRM and AWM in a single watershed be necessarily doomed to failure? Are there inevitable causes of friction or incompatibility when deploying both approaches? The answer to these enquiries must be in the negative. There is no a priori reason why any attempt to manage water resources across multiple uses and for the benefit of diverse interest groups should be compromised by an AWM approach to designing and learning from appropriate interventions. Similarly, learning to manage by managing to learn is not constrained by an integrated perspective. However, it is worth pointing out that an IWRM ambition does not make AWM any easier and an AWM approach to learning does not make IWRM any easier.
How IWRM or AWM might be modified to better allow use of the other in the same watershed is a subject for research. This does not prevent us hypothesising about what sort of beast Adaptive and Integrated Water Management (AIWM) might be. Pahl-Wostl et al. (2007) have suggested a set of desirable characteristics for an AIWM regime, emphasising polycentric governance with a broadly based constituency, cross-sectoral analysis to support holistic understanding of system behaviour, transparent approaches to communication and knowledge sharing, and diversified funding through private and public sources.
- Pahl-Wostl, C., J. Sendzimir, P. Jeffrey, J. Aerts, G. Berkamp, and K. Cross. (2007). Managing change toward adaptive water management through social learning. Ecology and Society 12(2): 30. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol12/iss2/art30/
- Water transitions are preceded by a lengthy process of incremental changes within a policy subsystem, which result in the adoption of new policies in the end
- New policy paradigms do not immediately replace the 'old' ones, rather they are placed alongside or integrated with the 'old' paradigms, hence most transitions are partial
- Individuals and organizations with new ideas and visions about water management are very important in bringing about transitions. Individual policy entrepreneurs can be found anywhere, but what they have in common is (1) a good reputation within their respective communities, (2) relevant networks, (3) networking skills, and (4) perseverance
- There are different strategies for realizing policy change: top-down (political leaders instigating change) and bottom up (niches formulating and fermenting new ideas). International organizations such as the World Bank play a crucial role in disseminating new water management discourses around the globe and play a key role in several top down instigated transitions
- Top down strategies of imposing new policies run a higher risk of an implementation gap than bottom-up strategies aimed at attracting supporters to and the upscaling of newly developed policy practices
- Successful policy entrepreneurs are characterized by a set of strategies (1) they anticipate on windows of opportunity by developing and testing attractive policy alternatives and demonstrating their feasibility; (2) they employ strategies of venue manipulation, venue shopping and/or create new venues to be able to insert new ideas, which have been developed in shadow networks, into formal decision making forums, and (3) they entrepreneurs use narratives or other discursive strategies to frame issue strategically, and by that to attract supporters and justify change
- Policy change often leads to institutional change. Because institutions are change-resistant, the possibility of future change may be limited. Thus, policy entrepreneurs institutionalizing new ideas (discourses or ways of knowing) create barriers to future change
Dealing with current water management problems in river basins is a very complex issue. It needs a broad perspective where the technological, environmental, economical and societal aspects of the problems are considered simultaneously. Besides, it also requires taking into account the views of the different interest groups, as well as the long term implications of various managing options. The uncertainty associated with these types of problems complicates the situation. Managers and decision-makers have to develop solutions under conditions of conflicting interests, diverse managing goals, changing environmental conditions and lack of predictability.
Frequently, uncertainty is considered an attribute associated only with the quality of technical information used to characterize or understand a system. However, this description is limited when dealing with river basin management issues, where the conflicting views about how the system operates, the diversity of stakeholder's expectations and value systems may provoke disagreement about how the river basin should be managed. Therefore in NeWater we use a broad definition of uncertainty, trying to cover different theoretical approaches to the concept: Uncertainty refers to the situation in which there is not a unique and complete understanding of the system to be managed.
The NeWater "Uncertainty Guidelines" specifically addresses the topic of uncertainty in water resource management. Taking a practical stand, this guideline aims at improving the general understanding of uncertainty, by providing general concepts and resources of existing guidelines and strategies to incorporate/deal with uncertainties in the water management practice. In this way, the NeWater project wants to contribute to a higher awareness about uncertainties and possible related impacts, and, according to these insights, to more adaptive decisions and actions.
Vulnerability is a complex that encompasses multiple stresses (social, economic, environmental) which change at different speeds (slow and rapid change) – therefore, it is dynamic. We cannot assume to be able to capture a vulnerability state per se, using static indicators as it cannot be bounded,. The system changes faster then it can be assessed (or perceived in many cases) and indicators do not always capture the functional processes of the system or the interrelationships between these processes as they are often poorly understood.
Our point of departure in attempting to integrate dynamic vulnerability into water catchment planning are the six attributes discussed in Downing et al. (2006). The existence or lack of the following attributes contribute to the degree of ‘lock-in’ to a particular development pathway or to the adaptation of responsive coping cycles which are more likely to lead to sustainability and resilience.
- Vulnerability is the differential exposure to stresses experienced or anticipated by different exposure units.
- Vulnerability is not static – it is constantly changing on a variety of inter-linked time scales.
- Social vulnerability is rooted in the actions and multiple attributes of human actors.
- Social networks drive and bound vulnerability in the social, economic, political and environmental interactions.
- Vulnerability is constructed simultaneously on more than one scale (e.g. economic impacts at the national or international scale can have cascading and unpredictable impacts at the local, micro-economic scale).
- Multiple stresses are inherent in integrating vulnerability of peoples, places and systems.
These attributes may be analysed using a variety of methods which are described in various cases in the NeWater project. This will demonstrate their conditions of applicability and ‘added value’ to derive recommendations for processes of change. One of the main barriers to adaptive water management are sunk costs where large previous investments predetermine and constrain the pathway of development. However, planned interventions and adaptive responses not only need to address this with respect to stresses on the system, but more importantly they need to address the element of ‘surprise’, or unexpected events, which may be more likely to lead to increased or new vulnerabilities and a change in the structure of the vulnerability complex. This is one of a number of barriers to adaptation, including poorly understood socio-cultural and political constraints which restrict the connections between policy and action. These mechanisms must be understood in order to promote social learning and the transition to new and sustainable decision pathways.
Resilience is most commonly defined (Folke et al. 2005) as "the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity, and feedbacks. After exposure to shock or stress a non-resilient water social-ecological system would no longer be recognizable (identity) because the management regime's components and their reinforcing relations (structure and feedbacks) no longer deliver the same functions, e.g. water quality, power, productivity, flood protection, etc. The potential that such degradation can emerge as a sudden and irreversible surprise is what the resilience concept assesses, and it drives much of the science and policy related to resilience. Resilience is not simply the product of a defensive capability in response to shock or stress. It emerges from the twin capacities of reaction (minimize or absorb disturbance) and initiative (reorganization following disturbance). This definition is dynamic in that the system responds "on the move" as it undergoes change. Finally, it specifies the factors that combine to build and sustain the system's identity: structure (the web of interactions that link the system's key actors or processes), function (the services or activities characteristic of the system) and feedbacks (the processes that cyclically reinforce or dampen activities in the system). This definition aims for the difficult balance between stasis and dynamism, building and destruction, single acts or actors and collective response. Even "disturbance" is recognized for its contribution in opening gaps to be filled and creating opportunities for "recombination of evolved structures, renewal of the system, [and] emergence of new trajectories" (Folke 2006). Challenging "productivity" as the only mainstay of system integrity and decriminalizing "disturbance" as a promoter of healthy renewal are parts of the revolt that resilience has led against conventional paradigms that suggest the "health" of a system is evident in monotonic and smooth growth trajectories within a single, static equilibrium.
- Folke, C. , Hahn, T. Olsson, P. and J. Norberg (2005): Adaptive governance of social-ecological Systems. Annu. Rev. Environ. Resour. 30: 441–73.
- Folke, C. (2006): Resilience: The emergence of a perspective for social-ecological systems analyses. Global Environmental Change 16 (3): 253–267.
Adaptive capacity relates to society's capacity to adapt to the uncertainty of a world changing at many levels. Human communities can be vulnerable to the indirect (uncertainty) and direct (impacts) of disturbance. Vulnerability can be assessed at various interlinked scales (e.g. individual, household, society) based partly on capacities (coping capacity) to cope with shocks and stresses. The availability of physical and social resources provides a context of constraints within which people cope. Coping capacity can also be influenced by adaptive capacity - the ability to experiment, learn and adapt to alter and improve the context of constraints and thereby improve the capacity to either cope with change or to adapt and thrive. This capacity increases as the social and physical elements needed for adaptation are already in place prior to disturbance and can be readily mobilized in response (Nelson, Adger and Brown 2007).
- Nelson, D. R., Adger, W. N. and K. Brown (2007): Adaptation to environmental change: contributions of the resilience framework. Annu. Rev. Environ. Resour. 32: 395-419.
Social learning in river basin management refers to developing and sustaining the capacity of different authorities, experts, interest groups and the public to experiment, learn, discuss and manage their river basins effectively. Collective action and the resolution of conflicts require that people recognise their interdependence and differences, and learn to deal with them constructively - this need not always imply consensus. The various groups need to learn about and heighten their awareness of their biophysical environment and the complexity of social interactions. Social learning entails processes which allow participants to reflect on their behaviour and interests, the underlying assumptions or guiding principles - on an individual base and also transferred to organizational/ institutional structures. It needs openness for the participants in terms of process design and process outcomes.
Why is social learning needed to move towards and sustain AIWM?
Technical infrastructure (e.g. large technical infrastructure for flood protection), stakeholders’ interests, citizens’ behaviour (e.g. expectations regarding safety in floodplains, risk perception) and habits, and engineering rules of good practice are often mutually dependent and stabilise each other. This has the effect that changes towards new and improved resource management schemes are blocked. If the costs deployed in building and maintaining those structures, both physical and relational, preclude opportunities to experiment with innovative options, a society’s capacity to learn and adapt to uncertainty is constrained. Social learning has proven crucial to break up such “lock-in” situations. It is required for implementing change towards and for sustaining adaptive management practices, as well as experimentally developing and implementing innovative technologies and practices to adapt to uncertainty.
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. Water management related to extreme events is characterized by a high complexity and involves uncertainty. Therefore, water resource management should be approached from a broad perspective, taking into consideration interests of different related sectors, different spatial and temporal scales, as well as transboundary issues. This requires an application of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM), which is defined as a process promoting the coordinated management of water, land, and related resources to maximize economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems. Moreover, projections of climate change and its impact on the water sector suggest that the goal of water managers should be to increase adaptive capacity to better cope with uncertain future developments rather than rely only on finding traditional optimal solutions. Adaptive management is defined as a systematic process of improving management solutions and policies by learning from the results of already implemented management strategies. Therefore, strategies for coping with climate change impacts inevitably stress the need for Integrated Water Resource Management in river basins, supplemented by adaptive management under uncertainty.
Integration of poverty, gender and health issues should start from a genuine recognition of all stakeholders and all water uses for adaptive river basin management. This involves a process of inclusive dialogue and analyses across the scales. Water management authorities should assume an active role in promoting this integration.
At the basin level, a formal declaration of commitment to the integration of poverty, gender and health issues is a critical first step. The commitment needs to be backed up by adequate resources that could be provided by a task force composed with expertise and leadership from across the basin countries. A protocol also needs to be established for inclusive and representative participation of all water users in multi-stakeholder dialogues. Further an active advocacy campaign needs to be launched for promoting the pro-poor and gender equity agenda.
At the national level, often there is a need to review and reform existing policies and institutions. An inter-agency working group with an adequate organisational mandate and financial strength may be formed to carry on the job of defining a national strategy towards this aim. Implementing the national strategy would also require capacity building of government agencies and partners from non-government and private organisations.
At the local level, a crucial step is to undertake a review of institutions, i.e., rules, norms and values, and reform mandates of local organisations. Ensuring equitable access to water to all users is an important step for an inclusive approach. Capacity development at the local level should include skill development to enable disadvantaged women and men engage in decision making processes that could lead to equitable practices. water uses for adaptive river basin management. This involves a process of inclusive dialogue and analyses across the scales. Water management authorities should assume an active role in promoting this integration.
The "Management and Transition Framework" (MTF) is an interdisciplinary conceptual framework supporting the analysis of water systems and management regimes to improve the scientific understanding and to give practical guidance for the implementation of adaptive and integrated water management. The framework integrates a range of concepts to develop a more coherent understanding of the complexity of water management regimes. Specific emphasis is given to adaptive capacity, learning processes and regime transitions. The implementation of effective and efficient adaptive water management may often require regime transitions, major structural transformations in regime properties such as technologies, regulatory frameworks, rules of good practice, approaches to deal with uncertainty and risk. In particular the following questions have been addressed:
- What are the essential elements needed to understand the complex dynamics of water management regimes and their ability to cope with future challenges such as climate change?
- How can one analyse and assess the adaptive capacity of water systems and the role of management strategies for its enhancement?
- What determines the dynamics of a transition to adaptive management, what are barriers and what are drivers?
- What is an appropriate methodology for the participatory assessment and implementation of transformation processes and evaluation of progress that can be applied to a wide range of different contexts?
- Which kind of guidance and tools are required for policy and practitioners to implement integrated and adaptive management regimes?
The framework has been developed in a participatory process involving a wide range of researchers from different disciplines and stakeholders from the different NeWater basins. The framework has been tested and re-fined in an interactive process between case study implementation, comparative analyses and generic concept development.
There is a section WISE-RTD (www.wise-rtd.info), where you can find tools, guidances etc. that are useful for the implementation of adaptive and integrated water resources management. You can find resources for the various water management steps in the AIWM branch of the guided search for practitioners. Resources, that are related to the components of the water system, can be found in the AIWM branch of the guided search for scientists.
The following articles can be recommended as essential readings.
- Pahl-Wostl, C. (2007): Transitions towards adaptive management of water facing climate and global change. Water Resources Management 21(1), pp. 49-62. [online] URL: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/klu/warm/2007/00000021/00000001/00009040
- Pahl-Wostl, C., Sendzimir, J., Jeffrey, P., Aerts, J., Berkamp, G. and K. Cross (2007): Managing change toward adaptive water management through social learning. Ecology and Society 12(2): 30. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol12/iss2/art30/
- Pahl-Wostl, C., Downing, T., Kabat, P., Magnuszewski, P., Meigh, J., Schlueter, M., Sendzimir, J. and S. Werners (2005): Transition to Adaptive Water Management; The NeWater project. NeWater Working Paper 1. [online] URL: http://www.newater.uos.de/intern/sendfile.php?id=48
- Medema, W. and P. Jeffrey (2005): IWRM and Adaptive Management: Synergy or Conflict? NeWater report Series 7. [online] URL: http://www.usf.uni-osnabrueck.de/projects/newater/downloads/newater_rs07.pdf
- Geareya, M. and P. Jeffrey (2006): Concepts of legitimacy within the context of adaptive water management strategies. Ecological Economics 60(1), pp. 129-137. [online] URL: http://hdl.handle.net/1826/1359
In addition, an online curriculum has been created in the NeWater project. It explains adaptive water management in a detailed, but comprehensible way.
If you are involved in AIWM and have developed a tool, guidance etc., you can record it in WISE-RTD and make it available to a large audience of practitioners and scientists. In this way, you can contribute to the spread of adaptive water management practices. During the registration, you can add various information describing your product. The registration is quite easy! It only takes a few minutes of your time.