Water Resources Management

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 837–856 | Cite as

Maturing the New Water Management Paradigm: Progressing from Aspiration to Practice

Article

Abstract

Over the past decade a series of major revisions to the generation and use of knowledge in the context of natural resources management has started to undermine basic assumptions on which traditional approaches to water management were based. Limits to our ability to predict and control water systems have become evident and both complexity and human dimensions are receiving more prominent consideration. Many voices in science and policy have advocated a paradigm shift in water management—both from a normative (it should happen) and a descriptive (it happens, and how) perspective. This paper summarizes the major arguments that have been put forward to support the need for a paradigm shift and the direction it might take. Evidence from the fields of science, policy, and management is used to demonstrate a lacuna in the translation of political rhetoric into change at the operational level. We subsequently argue that learning processes and critical reflection on innovative management approaches is a central feature of paradigm change and that contributions from psychology which emphasise the roles of frames and mental models can be usefully applied to paradigm change processes. The paper concludes with recommendations to facilitate debate and test alternative approaches to scientific inquiry and water management practice leading to critical reflection and analysis.

Keywords

Paradigm shift Adaptive and integrated water management Social learning Uncertainty 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Environmental Systems ResearchUniversity of OsnabrückOsnabrückGermany
  2. 2.Centre for Water ScienceCranfield UniversityCranfieldUK
  3. 3.Department of Water Engineering and ManagementUniversity of TwenteEnschedeNetherlands

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