A resilient approach to integrated water resources management in water scarce basins
Resistance is defined as the ability of a system to withstand a disturbance without any reaction, and resilience as the ability of a system to recover easily from a reaction to a disturbance. These concepts are often applied to risk management by adopting a systems approach. The system may be defined as the socio-economic and physical characteristics of the basin where disturbances may affect the normal socio-economic and natural functioning of society and ecosystems. To make the resilience concept more tangible, indicators are defined and to quantify resilience, the aspects which give insight into the reaction of systems are studied and quantified. These aspects were taken as; “Amplitude”: The magnitude of the reaction, “Gradualist”: The increase of reactions with increasingly severe conditions and “Recovery Rate”. The resilience of a system is presumed to be larger when the amplitude is smaller, the gradualist is larger or/and the recovery rate is larger. A toolbox has been developed to investigate the role of resilient risk management on decision/policy making in semi-arid basins facing water scarcity. The toolbox comprises an allocation model, namely the Water Evaluation and Planning System (WEAP) model, as the central engine where water management scenarios and the effect of proposed developments on water resources may be investigated in an integrated manner based on sustainability criteria encompassing socioeconomic and environmental characteristics of the basin.
The toolbox has been utilized for the case of Lake Urmia basin. Lake Urmia, one of the largest saltwater lakes on earth and a highly endangered ecosystem, is on the brink of desiccation. Considering no significant trend in the drought pattern, Lake Urmia's observed physiographic changes may be attributed to the adverse effects of unsustainable development plans and excessive irrigation projects in the basin. To combat this potential catastrophe, the authorities have taken rapid action in drastically curbing dam construction and utilisation and to reduce the overall agricultural allocation by 40% in Lake Urmia basin. The results obtained from the proposed toolbox indicates that adopting a resilient risk management approach would imply that, for instance for the critically important issue of agriculture with possible grave social implications, the same outcomes for the lake’s water demand may be reached through far less reduction.
Keywords: Resilience; Resilient risk management; Water scarce basin; Lakes