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Institutional Development. Historical studies nicely demonstrate how the development of water management institutions is largely determined by the region's economic structure and its social, political, and philospohical context [ Kelley , ; Pisani , ; Hundley , ; Witfogel , ; Bish , ; Lach et al.

Balancing Between Trade and Risk: Integrating Legal and Social Science Perspectives

The simultaneous evolution of water management technologies and institutions with internal and external educational, professional, and regulation systems is also important Tarr [ ] for wastewater. Urban water systems and use evolve along with broader social institutions and capacities and motivations [ Melosi , , ; Tarr , ; Blake , ; Walker and Williams , ]. Water institutional development typically follows patterns of social and industrial organization of the society more generally. Institutions also tend to evolve, albeit with resistance, to social and political recognition and responses to controversy and conflicts [ Lach et al.

Centralized Versus Decentralized Management. The advantages and disadvantages of centralized and decentralized management of water are insightfully discussed by historians, political scientists, and sociologists [ Wittfogel , ; Bish , ; Ostrom and Gardner , ; Ostrom , , ; Lach et al. Centralized authority often provides political and financial support and coordination needed for large projects and an overall framework for local actions, such as state enabling legislation and regulation of local water utilities.

However, locally accountable water agencies often are much more responsive and effective at delivering water flexibly and cost effectively. Decentralization into agencies with specific missions compartmentalizes and focuses management, risks, resources, and responsibilities, with coordinating bodies and collaborative efforts dispersing broader risks from agency activities such as environmental impacts to include other agencies and entities [ Lach et al.

Several historical works demonstrate that management can shift to and from centralized versus decentralized forms over historical time under changes in economic and technological conditions and prevailing political philosophy [ White , ; Worster , ; Hayes , ; Kelley , ; Pisani , ]. The development of specialized water agencies and their regional cooperation and competition also are usefully described [ Walker and Williams , ]. Balancing centralization with decentralization in an era emphasizing regional and global sustainability is a challenge [ Brown and Farrelly , ; Lach et al.

A wide range of water management institutions has been successful in the current day and throughout history. These range from government agencies at local, state, and national levels, to small and large private companies and utilities, to a variety of collective management arrangements and organizations, such as water user associations. A massive literature exists on individual management organizations and the pros and cons of most types of water organization.

Discussion and research on these different forms of water organization often is influenced by prevailing ideas on the role of the state in society [ Kelley , ]. Institutions, customers, and residents are more responsive to water system objectives, and their roles in it, if mechanisms exist for accountability.

The same applies to workers and contractors supporting water systems [ Chambers , ; Frontinus , A. Public data and information are important for informed accountability. Water use accountability, accounted for and communicated using water meter data expands household water conservation [ WaterSmart Software , ]. Utility accountability to customers is usually required for effective water management [ Davis , ].

Water management requires resources funding procured from the larger economy. Financial indicators, such as credit ratings and interest rates, are often central to decision making for water utilities. Economists have developed a variety of theories and methods for public finance which are often applied to water management [ Tresch , ]. Historians often detail how funding mechanisms for water management has varied with historical conditions [ Blake , ; Kelley , ]. Effective water management requires integrating social and physical sciences. Such integration is often done informally, iteratively, and pragmatically, motivated more by problems than theory, with successes tending to become adopted more widely.

Despite the informality of much integration, more formal social science research has contributed in several areas. Some major accomplishments in integrating social and physical sciences can be identified as examples of how social science ideas, methods, and findings contribute to more effective water management Table 2. Each success is discussed below. These applied accomplishments are presented to parallel, as much as possible, the social processes in water management discussed in the previous section. Accomplishments are listed in rough order of widespread impact for each social process.

Of course, many other social science ideas and findings have not yet found widespread use in water management. Quantitative Water Demand Estimation. As discussed earlier, economic ideas and methods have become the foundation of our ability to estimate, value, and predict demands for a wide range of water services, from supply to flood control, to recreation [ Young and Loomis , ; USACE , ].

More advanced forms of water demand modeling have merged work from economics, agronomy, and engineering [ Howitt et al. Better understanding water use decisions also has uses for managing demands [ Rosenberg et al. Village water and sanitation management in developing countries has benefitted from fundamental studies of use of water and sanitation technologies in these social and economic contexts [ Jenkins and Scott , ; Cairncross , ; White et al.

Insights on adoption of new sanitation technologies in developing countries have employed methods and ideas from anthropology and sociology to better craft policies for sanitation and water supply [ Jenkins and Curtis , ]. Water conservation is beginning to benefit from studies of behavioral and cognitive aspects of urban water conservation [ WaterSmart Software , ; Dickerson et al. Studies of consumer use of enhanced meter reporting information seem likely to help improve and shape urban water use.

Acceptance of recycled water for urban and potable uses is an important subject where social science has been providing insights [ Friedler et al. These insights have been useful, but have not yet become widely integrated into management. Economic water management instruments of markets, pricing, and insurance are ideas from economics, now widely used in water management and integrated with physical management and estimation [ Howe et al.

Flood insurance as a substitute for flood protection originated from work in human geography and has become a widespread and useful, but still imperfect, policy [ White , , ; Burby , ]. For markets to be effective, practical measurement and accounting for water and water use must parallel the assignment of water rights, so rights and contracts can be enforced.

Formal quantitative evaluation is attractive when large utilities or governments must make routine investment decisions among many alternatives. They must decide a is a particular alternative desirable and b of many alternative investments, which ones should be funded. To better represent uncertainty and variability, quantitative economic risk analysis has become a common basis for flood system design [ van Dantzig , ], particularly in the Netherlands.

Both approaches involve an explicit integration of hydrologic, engineering, and economic ideas and methods. Hydroeconomic Modeling and Methods. This follows a long tradition of integrating economics and water engineering [ Ekelund and Hebert , ]. More recent hydroeconomic modeling integrates our most advanced understanding of coupled human — natural systems [ Harou et al.

Nonstructural flood control , including flood insurance, floodplain zoning, floodproofing of buildings, and disaster response significantly arose from the work of geographer Gilbert White and his colleagues [ White , , ; Kates , ]. This involved wide ranging work on flood perception [ Kates , ] as well as broader policy studies relevant for most areas of water management [ White , ].

Geographic information systems have formed a geographic bridge between social and physical sciences in water management. This set of methods, arising as much from social as physical analysis, has provided an almost universal technical platform for social science and its integration with physical systems. Organization of irrigation and water supply systems has benefitted from social science research and methods. Field and theoretical studies have provided fundamental theoretical and empirical insights that have helped shaped current thinking on how water supply and irrigation systems should be organized [ Ostrom , ; Maass and Young , ; Wade , ].

The incorporation of collective user governance of water systems has been especially well developed and influential [ Ostrom , ]. Decentralized management institutions are often more flexible, responsive, and accountable than centralized governmental institutions, and cultivate broader financing and innovation for water systems.

The political organization and activities of stakeholders are also usefully illuminated [ Sabatier , ]. Social Processes in Institutional Decision Making. Most water management decisions are substantially the result of social processes of decision making. Anthropology and sociology provides a broadly useful set of approaches and methods for studying social aspects of water problems [ Kreps , ; Dunlap and Catton , ; Lansing and Kremer , ; Geertz , ]. Useful applications of these methods and ideas include water conservation [ Attari , ], perception of drought [ Keenan and Krannich , ; West and Smith , ], social organization [ Lach et al.

However, most policy decision making makes relatively little use of such research. Community and Agency Engagement and Conflict Resolution. There has been considerable research on sociological and political aspects of community, stakeholder, and agency engagement in water management. This ranges from academic work on political and social behavior in such settings [ Sansom , ; Rayner et al. These approaches have been somewhat successful for these difficult problems. Game theoretic approaches have provided more fundamental insights into water conflicts, multiagent management, and conflict resolution.

Important challenges remain in integrating expert knowledge, political authority, and community and stakeholder engagement. Scientific and technical processes are typically not designed or managed to integrate well with decision making and implementation processes, and vice versa. Ideas, insights, and methods from the social sciences have been central to the success and evolution of modern water management systems and have great potential to further improve the success and adaptability of water systems into the future. Sometimes these successes have come directly from work in academic disciplines.

As often, the success of these ideas and methods has been through their adoption, adaptation, and application by engineers, lawyers, and administrators, who tend to be more involved in water management. The most useful ideas are those adopted by others. Economics has been the most successful social science seeing its ideas and methods adopted for actual water management [ Griffin , ].

Economics has become fundamental for finance, understanding economic water demands, and providing rigorous approaches for the analysis of conflict and cooperation particularly game theory. Using water prices sometimes set through markets to understand and allocate water scarcity and influence water use, in addition to funding water operations, is a basic contribution of economics to water management. Water applications also historically have supported the development of social science disciplines. Modern economics originated with analytical work on water problems related to engineering in the nineteenth century [ Ekelund and Hebert , ].

As water management has become more influenced by environmental objectives and resolution of more complex conflicts, which have been more problematic for economic approaches [ Pate and Loomis , ; Loomis et al. Economic ideas and methods tend to be shared more easily with other mathematically oriented disciplines, such as engineering and administration. Political science and history also have seen more fundamental development from efforts to understand the need for social organization to manage water and the nexus of water management with centralized, even authoritarian, political organization [ Wittfogel , ; Worster , ].

The engagement of social sciences with water problems provides both disciplinary and applied benefits. The social aspects of water problems are often harder and more controversial than physical aspects of these problems. As with many complex and difficult problems, there is a high initial rate of failure and perfect solutions are rare and ephemeral, even for our best solutions. The effectiveness of social science ideas and methods for water problems is often hobbled by a plethora of competing theoretical perspectives, a babel of disciplinary jargons, and a lack of focus on problem solving.

Economics has been more successful in having its ideas and methods implemented, partly from greater focus on problems relevant to economic purposes and partly from greater analytical kinship, allowing easier transfer of ideas, to engineering and business administration, which tend to dominate actual water system management.

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Other social sciences bring important and useful ideas and perspectives on some problems, but often have not succeeded in applying these ideas. The complexity of social aspects of water systems can be daunting, but are hardly unique. Fields of public health, aviation, construction, and urban transportation, to name a few, are all complex problems which require a successful mix of physical and social sciences.

What makes for a successful mix of social and physical sciences? Disciplinary specialists do not integrate without a reason to do so. It is far easier, and academically safer, for disciplinary work to remain isolated within its original field. Focus on the solution of a practical problem, with accompanying financial, political, and social support, allows and motivates most successful integration in both public and private sector work.

The quality and usefulness of research tends to improve as researchers become more involved in the problem [ Hooke , ]. Organization of knowledge. No complex problem is ever solved as a complex problem. Humans can only solve simple problems. But we often succeed by organizing complex problems into a set of compatible simple problems which can, in turn, be solved and integrated into overall solutions.

In all of our more successful complex systems water and nonwater , the organization of the problem, intellectually and institutionally has been vital, and evolves over time [ Tarr , ; Disco and van der Ende , ]. Research leaders must be able to communicate across organized subproblems. And solutions cannot be convincingly and effectively communicated to managers and policy makers charged with implementation. Having a common language and vocabulary across fields is almost essential. Mathematics has been the most common and successful way to communicate, clarify, and integrate logic and information across and within economics, engineering, hydrology, and administration to support integrated multidisciplinary thinking and application.

It is rare that social and physical sciences successfully mix in a short period of time. All problems change with time.

1. Introduction and Background

Without organization and persistence, it is difficult for unrelated research to usefully converge faster than the problem changes. Integrating social, physical, and biological sciences for solving water problems is a challenging and much needed field, which requires discipline and pragmatism to be successful [ Briscoe , ]. Both integration and research on integration are hindered by gaps in concepts, communications, and disincentives among academic disciplines. Although the contributions of social science to water management are extensive and important, it is unfortunate that more effort has not been made to make social science more effective in improving water management.

Whereas major physical and ecological aspects of water problems routinely muster well or moderately organized research and development efforts, social aspects of water problems typically have little, if any, organized funding or research. And much social research on water problems is not tailored for problem solving. The solution of such complex and controversial problems is never complete or perfect. A host of promising directions exist for social science research tailored to problem solving for water management.

New analytical and data collection methods, many drawn from the physical and mathematical sciences, can support such work. Some examples of promising areas include: Use of data on the physical end uses of water within households or businesses, to better understand water demands and water conservation behavior. Use of mobile technology for data collection and to guide flood warning and evacuation.


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Examination of agency and interagency networks of communications, influence, and decision making. Use of social media to better understand environmental perception, actions, and willingness to pay, as well as to better organize public engagement in water management. Consumer perception and social communication of water quality related to potable reuse of treated wastewater. Valuation and tradeoff decisions for ecosystem and environmental values. Customer perception and use of information in making water use and conservation decisions.

Consumer willingness to pay to avoid implementation of particular water conservation activities. Improved modeling and data management frameworks to better integrate social and physical knowledge for both scientific and management purposes. Institutional structures and regulations, including financial tools, markets, and pricing, for effective regional groundwater management.

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Water management problems do not respond well to solutions from any single discipline. The most successful solutions to these problems, throughout history, have drawn on ideas, insights, and methods from physical, biological, and social thought and understanding. If our water systems are to continue and expand their successes, and adapt as problems change, we need to more explicitly integrate research across disciplines.

There are numerous examples of success in such endeavors, both for water problems and other fields. But most fundamentally, if researchers want to solve problems and have their work applied, they must become focused on the problem for a prolonged period of time in an organized way, and communicate well to develop and integrate ideas within and across disciplines. The author apologizes for being unable to cite or be aware of all the interesting and important work in this broad field. Volume 51 , Issue 8. If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account.

If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username. Open access. Water Resources Research Volume 51, Issue 8. Jay R. Lund, E-mail address: jrlund ucdavis. Tools Request permission Export citation Add to favorites Track citation. Share Give access Share full text access. Share full text access. Please review our Terms and Conditions of Use and check box below to share full-text version of article.

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Abstract Water management has always required more than physical science. Water Use Type Major Contributions and Disciplines Agricultural supply Economic theory of agricultural water use, and predictive modeling methods based on theory: E— Howitt [ ], Howitt et al. Agthe, D.

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Emergence of Green Criminology A. Typologies and Empirical Work B. Key Comparisons IV. The Issue of Climate Change A.

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