Towards a pragmatic approach for dealing with uncertainties in water management practice


Management of water resources is afflicted with uncertainties. Nowadays it is facing more and new uncertainties since pace and dimension of changes (e.g. climatic, demographic) are accelerating and are likely to increase even more in the future. Hence it is crucial to find pragmatic ways to deal with these uncertainties in water management. So far, decision-making under uncertainty in water management is based on either intuition, heuristics and experience of water managers or on expert assessments all of which are only of limited use for water managers in practice. We argue for an analytical yet pragmatic approach to enable practitioners to deal with uncertainties in a more explicit and systematic way and allow for better informed decisions. Our approach is based on the concept of framing, referring to the different ways in which people make sense of the world and of the uncertainties. We applied and tested recently developed parameters that aim to shed light on the framing of uncertainty in two sub-basins of the Rhine. We present and discuss the results of a series of stakeholder interactions in the two basins aimed at developing strategies for improving dealing with uncertainties. The strategies are synthesized in a cross-checking list based on the uncertainty framing parameters as a hands-on tool for systematically identifying improvement options when dealing with uncertainty in water management practice. We conclude with suggestions for testing the developed check-list as a tool for decision aid in water management practice. Key words: water management, future uncertainties, framing of uncertainties, hands-on decision aid, tools for practice, robust strategies, social learnin

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