State-of-the-Art Report on Systems Analysis Methods for Resolution of Conflicts in Water Resources Management


Water is an important factor in conflicts among stakeholders at the local, regional, and even international level. Water conflicts have taken many forms, but they almost always arise from the fact that the freshwater resources of the world are not partitioned to match the political borders, nor are they evenly distributed in space and time. The watersheds of 261 major rivers are shared by two or more countries and nearly half of the land area of the world is in international river basins. Water has been used as a military and political goal. Water has been a weapon of war. Water systems have been targets during war. The role of a systems approach is investigated in this report as a method for the resolution of conflicts over water. A review of the systems approach provides some basic knowledge of tools and techniques as they apply to water management and conflict resolution. This report provides a classification and description of water conflicts by addressing issues of scale, integrated water management, and the role of stakeholders. Four large-scale examples are selected to illustrate the application of systems approach to such conflicts:

1. Hydropower development in Canada.
2. Multipurpose use of the Danube River in Europe.
3. International water conflict between the United States and Canada.
4. The Aral Sea in Asia.

The water conflict resolution process involves various sources of uncertainty. Section 5 of the report provides some examples of systems tools that can be used to address objective and subjective uncertainties with special emphasis on the utility of the fuzzy set theory. Systems analysis is driven by the development of computer technology. The final section provides one view of the future and systems tools that will be used for water resources management. The role of virtual databases and computer and communication networks is investigated in the context of water conflicts and their resolution.

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