We take water management to be the outcome of the interplay between the biophysical, technological, social, institutional and economic processes involving water systems. Management is thus understood as an emergent, integrative property. It is hypothesised that how water systems are used (sustainably or unsustainably, pro-poor or not, etc.) is strongly influenced by the socio-material dynamics that gave rise to their existence, and which these systems in turn engendered.
The research strategy of the WM chair group consists of the following three research lines:
- Biophysical and social dimensions of water systems
- Institutional and economic dimensions of water systems
- Integrative instruments and interventions
These three research lines are inter-linked and form a solid structure for the research agenda of the WM chair group. The first two lines encompass the scientific grounding of the chair group, tentatively distinguishing two interdisciplinary knowledge fields that cannot be completely compartmentalised. The third line deals with outcomes and reflects the chair group's aspiration to make a difference in the real world. This line seeks to develop tools and instruments that contribute to and enhance the water management practice, and to experiment with intervention modalities.
The research line on the biophysical and social dimensions of water systems has two foci. The first focus is on the question of how such systems can be modelled in a holistic and fully integrated fashion. Key issues here are how complex systems can be understood and how coupled socio-ecological systems can be modelled. The second focus is on how the social-technical interplay of water systems can be described and analysed. Here the focus is not only on concrete issues, such as water and sanitation, water, environment and spatial planning, water storage, but also on conceptual issues, such as `practice´, `conflict´ and `cooperation´.
The research line on institutional and economic dimensions of water systems also has two foci. The first is geared towards understanding the performance of water institutions, both concerned with water supply, sanitation at municipal scale as well as watershed management and water allocation at catchment and river basin scale, with a view to improving their effectiveness. The second focus is on economics and finance - not only how water institutions can be financially viable enterprises, but also how economic analyses can be and are being used to justify water allocation decision-making.
The research line on integrative instruments and interventions engages with the exciting world of tools, participatory methodologies and making a difference in the real world. This research line creates space within the WM chair group to dedicate time and expertise on facilitating change, encompassing the development and testing of educational, technological and analytical tools, as well as intervention strategies that can be used in policy and planning, and in capacity building projects. Key words include serious gaming, value maps, integrated assessment methodologies and methods to integrate spatial planning and water management.