SP2: Uncertainty Guidelines


Much has already been discussed in connection with uncertainty in scientific and decision-making arenas. Increasingly, this topic has become unavoidable for policy makers, manager practitioners and the various stakeholders involved in water management. At the same time, uncertainty has also been subject to numerous scientific studies, triggering new developments and theories. However, despite the great advances and growing awareness in respect of uncertainty, coping with it in areas such as water resource management still constitutes a notably problematic issue, posing significant challenges for decision making. Finding themselves faced with a Babylonian confusion, decision makers are left with the responsibility of identifying an appropriate response to uncertainty in a world where many different – and sometimes contradictory – strategies exist for doing so.

The following “uncertainty guidelines” specifically address the topic of uncertainty in adaptive water management. Taking a practical stand, these guidelines also aim to enhance the appreciation of uncertainty and its implications for water policy-making and management practice. In this way, we hope to contribute not only to raising awareness of the multiple sources, types and impacts of uncertainty, but also to providing decision makers with effective strategies and instruments for handling uncertainty in an adaptive way.

About this guidelines document

There are many useful guidelines documents extant that dip into various aspects of uncertainty. Better to exploit their potential to assist practical water resource management, the current guidelines (or better, meta-guidelines) link up those documents in a manner that will be particularly useful for those interested in adaptive management.

This document contains six chapters, which provide a brief introduction to selected uncertainty topics and point to additional reading for deeper exploration. It is not intended to remain as a static piece of text. The first chapter explains the concepts of uncertainty; types, sources and ways to characterize the different levels of ‘incertitude’. The second chapter provides an overview of how uncertainty is manifested in practical water management and how existing guidelines documents can help to handle these uncertainties. The third chapter describes the adaptive management proposal for coping with uncertainty. The fourth chapter offers an overview of existing guidelines documents and suggests how these can be used at different water resource planning stages. The fifth chapter dips into the relational aspects of uncertainty and methods for handling frame differences. Finally, the sixth chapter explains what uncertainty means for policy and decision making, and what regulatory and others instruments are available when addressing uncertainty.

There are many useful topics not included among the initial chapters. For example the initial essays provide little guidance for somebody interested in conducting quantitative uncertainty assessment on its own. Instead, the emphasis has been placed on helping readers to make sense of uncertainty, rather than teaching them scientific skills.


Uncertainty Guidelines
4759 kb Christian K.2009-05-25 13:49:01