Water Resources Management

, Volume 21, Issue 7, pp 1075–1090

Uncertainty Matters: Computer Models at the Science–Policy Interface

  • Marcela Brugnach
  • Andrew Tagg
  • Florian Keil
  • Wim J. de Lange

DOI: 10.1007/s11269-006-9099-y

Cite this article as:
Brugnach, M., Tagg, A., Keil, F. et al. Water Resour Manage (2007) 21: 1075. doi:10.1007/s11269-006-9099-y


The use of computer models offers a general and flexible framework that can help to deal with some of the complexities and difficulties associated with the development of water management plans as prescribed by the Water Framework Directive. However, despite the advantages modelling presents, the integration of information derived from models into policy is far away from being trivial or the norm. Part of the difficulties of this integration is rooted in the lack of confidence policy makers have on the incorporation of modelling information into policy formulation. In this paper we examine the reasons for this apparent lack of confidence and explore how some tools, presently in use, address this problem. We conclude that public confidence in models is highly dependent on the way uncertainties are addressed and suggest possible directions of action to improve the current situation. Four real case studies illustrate how computer models have been used in The Netherlands for carrying out management plans at regional and national scale. We suggest that the solution to integrate modelling information into policy formulation lies on both the modelling and the policy-making communities.

Key words

water framework directive integrated management model uncertainty model confidence participatory modelling science policy interface 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marcela Brugnach
    • 1
  • Andrew Tagg
    • 2
  • Florian Keil
    • 3
  • Wim J. de Lange
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute of Environmental Systems ResearchUniversity of OsnabrückOsnabrückGermany
  2. 2.HR Wallingford Ltd.WallingfordUK
  3. 3.Institute for Social–Ecological Research ISOEFrankfurt am MainGermany
  4. 4.National Institute for Inland Water Management and Waste Water Treatment, RWS–RIZALelystadThe Netherlands