Installed water resource modelling systems for catchment management agencies

  • MC Dent


Following international trends there are a growing number of modelling systems being installed for integrated water resource management, in Southern Africa. Such systems are likely to be installed for operational use in ongoing learning, research, strategic planning and consensus-building amongst stakeholders in the catchment management agencies (CMAs). These installed systems are poised to change fundamentally, the way modelling is approached in Southern Africa. They are a logical and irreversible response to the enormous forces which have led to the revision of the South African Water Law and the water resource management paradigms which it embodies.

This paper examines the business forces behind this paradigm shift and it explores the evidence of the changes already taking place in terms of the modelling technology and the organisational and individual responses. Such installed modelling systems are essential for the social process of water allocation as well as for dealing with externalities. Given the paucity of observed data in Southern Africa, it follows that in many decision-making situations the model is not required to produce accurate answers, for we would have no way of checking their accuracy. Rather it is a tool to help organise a negotiation or learning process in which its primary function is to provide a framework for thinking by enabling the participants to make their implicit assumptions explicit in a systematic manner. This, in turn, provides a means for stakeholders to visit the possible consequences of their intended actions. The creativity and opportunities for compromise which this process releases is where the real benefit of modelling lies. Recurrent themes in this paper will be the business, technical and human resource issues pertaining to the use of installed modelling systems in the social process of water allocation.

WaterSA Vol.27(3) 2001: 333-340

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eISSN: 0378-4738