Systems Thinking in Environmental Water Management

Theme 1: Holistic approaches to water resource management

Water, as a resource, is not limited to clearly defined management units. Instead, it is part of a wider system comprised of numerous dynamic processes and feedback loops. This theme addresses this 'whole-system' approach to water resource management.

This includes (but is not limited to):

  • Integrated water resource management.

  • Surface water - groundwater interactions.

  • Environmental flow requirements.
Theme 2: Risks and resilience in aquatic ecosystems

Aquatic ecosystems face a noxious cocktail of anthropogenic impacts. However, not all ecosystems face similar pressures, nor do they respond to these pressures identically. Contributions to this theme should focus on the risks faced by aquatic ecosystems and how these systems respond to these risks.

This includes (but is not limited to):

  • Systematic conservation planning for aquatic habitats.

  • Wetland delineation and prioritisation.

  • Ecological dynamics of at-risk species and habitats.

  • Tools and techniques for managing risk in aquatic systems.
Theme 3: Efficient processes for water provisioning

Getting water from a source to our taps requires the development and maintenance of specialised infrastructure. However, the process doesn't end there because we also have to ensure that waste-water is properly treated before returning to the source. This theme focuses on closing the water provisioning loop as effectively as possible. This includes (but is not limited to):

  • Developing and maintaining physical infrastructure.

  • Developing and applying regulatory infrastructure.

  • Monitoring and revaluating processes using an adaptive management framework.
Theme 4: Novel approaches to water conservation

Water is a finite resource and large sections of sub Saharan Africa face pressures due to water shortages. There are obvious incentives to get more out of every drop of water. This theme incorporates all efforts to maximise the utility of water as a finite resource.

This includes (but is not limited to):

  • Rainwater harvesting.

  • Producing drought-resistant agricultural systems.

  • Limiting and/or reusing water for industrial processes.
Theme 5: Governance and socio-economic consensus in water resource management

Water is a common resource in most democratic countries. This means that the management of water should reflect the views of the electorate. However, water management also faces obvious fiscal and infrastructure constraints. As a consequence, good governance should not only incorporate the views of local communities in decision-making, but should also communicate strategies and limitations to those same communities. This theme promotes closing the loop between community- and government-based water resource management.

This includes (but is not limited to):

  • Policy considerations of community-based water management.

  • Novel approaches to stake-holder engagement.

  • Promoting effective water usage through environmental education.
Theme 6: Closing the knowledge-implementation gap

Often, effective water management is compromised by lack of implementation even in instance where clear and effective strategies exist. This theme is general in the sense that it encourages any contribution to closing the gap between the development of policies or strategies and the implementation thereof.

This includes (but is not limited to):

  • Cases that identify clear causes for lack of implementation (and offers actionable solutions).

  • Case studies that effectively overcame the knowledge-implementation gap.

  • Best-practice solutions for creating policies and strategies that streamline effective implementation.

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