‘Shared’ Modeling for Management of Shared Waters

A former student of mine,Vaishnavi Balachandran, will be presenting some of her M.Eng. work at the International Water Week Conference being held in Amsterdam next month. The title of her paper is ‘”A Shared Optimization Water Balance and Quality Model for Shared Water Systems Under Uncertainty” and is part of the session on “Optimizing the water, food and energy nexus in cities and deltas”. Here’s the abstract:

This paper presents a regional water balance and quality model which was developed and applied to the Lower Mekong Basin. This model makes use of minimal data requirements allowing it to be rapidly calibrated. A water quality index (WQI) was developed based on international drinking water standards. The WQI provides a simple method of conveying water quality information in a concise manner. Whilst the WQI means some of the quality model preciseness is lost, it is easily adaptable for other requirements. The simple conceptual structure means that multiple stakeholders can use the model to communicate their viewpoints through adapting the WQI to their needs, whilst maintaining the agnostic data throughout. This is demonstrated through creating multiple stakeholder WQIs to consider the impacts of hydropower development on the water quality in the basin. Although this model is less precise than traditional models, it has its benefits in being
conceptually simple with little time and expertise requirements to calibrate. The model could therefore be useful as a complementary tool to traditional models for decision-making involving multiple stakeholders at a catchment level and across many regions.

Vaishi is one of several students from my group at Cambridge over the past few years that has been working on better ways to understand and manage conflict and consensus in the [water] commons, and the implications for/feedbacks effects with engineering (e.g. infrastructure) design and investment. Her case study datasets focused primarily on rural and peri-urban management. An interesting aspect of her work is the inclusion of a subjective ‘water quality’ index that takes into account the perceived value to stakeholders depending, for instance on their relative positon (i.e. upstream/downstream), trade, or otherconsiderations. A framework that formalizes some understanding of myrida viewpoints associated with users of shared resources may hold inherit value in efforts to build collaborative and equitable management frameworks.

The IWW Conference Programme runs from November 4th to the 13th. The conference theme this year is “Integrated Water Solutions for a Green Economy”.