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Innovative Approaches & New Paradigms

Current paradigms in the management of water: Resulting information needs

 Leandro del Moral, Maria Fernanda Pita, Belén Pedregal,  Nuria Hernández-Mora, and Natalia Limones Department of Human Geography, University of Seville, Spain 
Water management goals, methodologies, conceptual approaches and institutional frameworks have evolved significantly over the past 30 years. These transformations have been stimulated by the promotion of the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) paradigm by experts, academics, managers and international institutions. However, the application of IWRM faces resistance from defenders of the previously dominating infrastructural and resource-oriented hydraulic paradigm. It is also challenged by the contradictions and limitations that emerge from the practical experiences in its implementation at different scales. From a general perspective, criticism against the hydraulic paradigm and the emergence and consolidation of IWRM can be understood as being a part, in the water policy arena, of the historical shift from the post-war Keynesian regulation model to the current neo-liberal globalization system or, in more specific terms, from the “administrative rationalism” stage to the current “neo-privatization” trend. Increasing attention is being paid to the potential interconnections between the encouragement of water governance, a central focus of the IWRM approach, with wider global socio-economic processes that challenge existing democratic institutions. The wider hegemonic economic thought in which IWRM prescriptions are integrated, particularly the commodification processes and monetary reductionism of natural resources and the preeminence of the river basin as the natural scale for water resources management, is also coming under scrutiny.  From an epistemological perspective, the traditional separation of social and natural sciences has ignored the overlap of both fields of knowledge, which results in the limited theoretical and methodological development for their joint analysis, as well as the paucity of available data for management. The consideration of water as a socio-ecological patrimony requires linking biophysical and socioeconomic variables, a significant challenge given the current knowledge and modeling capabilities. There is a strong need for information on the complexity of socio-hydrological systems, which are reflexive, adaptive, non-linear and complex, and have feed-back loops, emerging properties and nonpredictable responses to management interventions. In the context of the evolving paradigm for water management the recognition of these knowledge limitations are of vital importance.  


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