Managing water resources systems usually involves conflicts. Behaviors of stakeholders, who might be willing to contribute to improvements and reach a win–win situation, sometimes result in worse conditions for all parties. Game theory can identify and interpret the behaviors of parties to water resource problems and describe how interactions of different parties who give priority to their own objectives, rather than system’s objective, result in a system’s evolution. Outcomes predicted by game theory often differ from results suggested by optimization methods which assume all parties are willing to act towards the best system-wide outcome. This study reviews applicability of game theory to water resources management and conflict resolution through a series of non-cooperative water resource games. The paper illustrates the dynamic structure of water resource problems and the importance of considering the game’s evolution path while studying such problems.
Water is a naturally circulating resource that is constantly recharged. Therefore, even though the stocks of water in natural and artificial reservoirs are helpful to increase the available water resources for human society, the flow of water should be the main focus in water resources assessments. The climate system puts an upper limit on the circulation rate of available renewable freshwater resources (RFWR). Although current global withdrawals are well below the upper limit, more than two billion people live in highly water-stressed areas because of the uneven distribution of RFWR in time and space. Climate change is expected to accelerate water cycles and thereby increase the available RFWR. This would slow down the increase of people living under water stress; however, changes in seasonal patterns and increasing probability of extreme events may offset this effect. Reducing current vulnerability will be the first step to prepare for such anticipated changes.
Natural resources management in general, and water resources management in particular, are currently undergoing a major paradigm shift. Management practices have largely been developed and implemented by experts using technical means based on designing systems that can be predicted and controlled. In recent years, stakeholder involvement has gained increasing importance. Collaborative governance is considered to be more appropriate for integrated and adaptive management regimes needed to cope with the complexity of social-ecological systems. The paper presents a concept for social learning and collaborative governance developed in the European project HarmoniCOP (Harmonizing COllaborative Planning). The concept is rooted in the more interpretive strands of the social sciences emphasizing the context dependence of knowledge. The role of frames and boundary management in processes of learning at different levels and time scales is investigated. The foundation of social learning as investigated in the HarmoniCOP project is multiparty collaboration processes that are perceived to be the nuclei of learning processes. Such processes take place in networks or “communities of practice” and are influenced by the governance structure in which they are embedded. Requirements for social learning include institutional settings that guarantee some degree of stability and certainty without being rigid and inflexible. Our analyses, which are based on conceptual considerations and empirical insights, suggest that the development of such institutional settings involves continued processes of social learning. In these processes, stakeholders at different scales are connected in flexible networks that allow them to develop the capacity and trust they need to collaborate in a wide range of formal and informal relationships ranging from formal legal structures and contracts to informal, voluntary agreements.
Humans directly change the dynamics of the water cycle through dams constructed for water storage, and through water withdrawals for industrial, agricultural, or domestic purposes. Climate change is expected to additionally affect water supply and demand. Here, analyses of climate change and direct human impacts on the terrestrial water cycle are presented and compared using a multi-model approach. Seven global hydrological models have been forced with multiple climate projections, and with and without taking into account impacts of human interventions such as dams and water withdrawals on the hydrological cycle. Model results are analyzed for different levels of global warming, allowing for analyses in line with temperature targets for climate change mitigation. The results indicate that direct human impacts on the water cycle in some regions, e.g., parts of Asia and in the western United States, are of the same order of magnitude, or even exceed impacts to be expected for moderate levels of global warming (+2 K). Despite some spread in model projections, irrigation water consumption is generally projected to increase with higher global mean temperatures. Irrigation water scarcity is particularly large in parts of southern and eastern Asia, and is expected to become even larger in the future.
Mediterranean areas of both southern Europe and North Africa are subject to dramatic changes that will affect the sustainability, quantity, quality, and management of water resources. Most climate models forecast an increase in temperature and a decrease in precipitation at the end of the 21st century. This will enhance stress on natural forests and shrubs, and will result in more water consumption, evapotranspiration, and probably interception, which will affect the surface water balance and the partitioning of precipitation between evapotranspiration, runoff, and groundwater flow. As a consequence, soil water content will decline, saturation conditions will be increasingly rare and restricted to periods in winter and spring, and snow accumulation and melting will change, especially in the mid-mountain areas. Future land management will be characterized by forest and shrub expansion in most Mediterranean mountain areas, as a consequence of farmland and grazing abandonment, with increasing human pressure localized only in some places (ski resort and urbanized of valley floors). In the lowlands, particularly in the coastal fringe, increasing water demand will occur as a consequence of expansion of irrigated lands, as well as the growth of urban and industrial areas, and tourist resorts. Future scenarios for water resources in the Mediterranean region suggest (1) a progressive decline in the average streamflow (already observed in many rivers since the 1980s), including a decline in the frequency and magnitude of the most frequent floods due to the expansion of forests; (2) changes in important river regime characteristics, including an earlier decline in high flows from snowmelt in spring, an intensification of low flows in summer, and more irregular discharges in winter; (3) changes in reservoir inputs and management, including lower available discharges from dams to meet the water demand from irrigated and urban areas. Most reservoirs in mountain areas will be subject to increasing water resource uncertainty, because of the reduced influence of snow accumulation and snowmelt processes. Besides, reservoir capacity is naturally reduced due to increasing sedimentation and, in some cases, is also decreased to improve the safety control of floods, leading to a reduction in efficiency for agriculture. And (4) hydrological and population changes in coastal areas, particularly in the delta zones, affected by water depletion, groundwater reduction and saline water intrusion. These scenarios enhance the necessity of improving water management, water prizing and water recycling policies, in order to ensure water supply and to reduce tensions among regions and countries.
In regions with frequent water stress and large aquifer systems groundwater is often used as an additional water source. If groundwater abstraction exceeds the natural groundwater recharge for extensive areas and long times, overexploitation or persistent groundwater depletion occurs. Here we provide a global overview of groundwater depletion (here defined as abstraction in excess of recharge) by assessing groundwater recharge with a global hydrological model and subtracting estimates of groundwater abstraction. Restricting our analysis to sub‐humid to arid areas we estimate the total global groundwater depletion to have increased from 126 (±32) km3 a−1 in 1960 to 283 (±40) km3 a−1 in 2000. The latter equals 39 (±10)% of the global yearly groundwater abstraction, 2 (±0.6)% of the global yearly groundwater recharge, 0.8 (±0.1)% of the global yearly continental runoff and 0.4 (±0.06)% of the global yearly evaporation, contributing a considerable amount of 0.8 (±0.1) mm a−1 to current sea‐level rise.
At times, certain areas of China suffering from water shortages. While China's government is spurring innovation and infrastructure to help head off such problems, it may be that some water conservation could help as well. It is well-known that water is embodied in traded goods—so called “virtual water trade” (VWT). In China, it seems that many water-poor areas are perversely engaged in VWT. Further, China is engaging in the global trend of fragmentation in production, even as an interregional phenomenon. Perhaps something could be learned about conserving or reducing VWT, if we knew where and how it is practiced. Given some proximate causes, perhaps viable policies could be formulated. To this end, we employ China's multiregional input-output tables straddling two periods to trace the trade of a given region's three types of goods: local final goods, local intermediate goods, and goods that shipped to other regions and countries. We find that goods traded interregionally in China in 2012 embodied 30.4% of all water used nationwide. Nationwide, water use increased substantially over 2007–2012 due to greater shipment volumes of water-intensive products. In fact, as suspected, the rise in value chain-related trade became a major contributing factor. Coastal areas tended to be net receivers of VWT from interior provinces, although reasons differed, e.g. Shanghai received more to fulfill final demand (67.8% of net inflow) and Zhejiang for value-chain related trade (40.2% of net inflow). In sum, the variety of our findings reveals an urgent need to consider trade types and water scarcity when developing water resource allocation and conservation policies.