Water & Society

Water and Society Technical Committee

In Water and Society Technical Committee, we study how human-water systems affect and be affected by the natural systems, and we have been focused on the technical side of ultimate water management practices, but lately, we’ve realized that effective engagements with stakeholders at different levels are the keys to persuade better water decision-making. Therefore, we’ve amended our research focus toward the following three emerging science questions.

  1. How to better characterize human activities and integrate those in the process-based water modeling at different spatial scales?

This question intends to address the quantification of human activities (including implicit changes such as return flow) and coupled that into the evaluation and modeling of water resources and water-related disasters. The spatial scale can be as large as the global scale land surface hydrologic model or as small as the urban/city scale water infrastructure model. The utilization of qualitative data from social science (interview or focus group discussion) is a notable concern.   

  1. How to better communicate scientific results to the general public and inform policymaking?

This question addresses the fundamental purpose of any scientific research which is improving human well-being in our society. In Water and Society field, the possibility of future disasters, the uncertainty of hydro-climatic forecast and the commercial success of scientific research are three key aspects. As a scientific organization, how can AGU support these efforts is also highlighted by members. 

  1. What is the appropriate institutional structure to facilitate water governance and management?

This question targets the social/political/legal sides of the topic and tries to understand problems related to sectoral water right transfer, new technology diffusion and adaption, and coordination of tradeoff at institutional and individual level.    

Fall Meeting 2019 Sessions


Session Title

Session Description/Transfer


Water & Society: Dynamics and sustainability of multiscalar human-water systems

Communities around the world are experiencing worsening water availability and quality issues, often in spite of well-conceived local interventions. While the societal impacts of these water problems are most pronounced at the local level, drivers stretch across multiple spatial and temporal scales, making effective management of these human-water systems challenging. For instance, national subsidies for water-intensive crops and electricity can incentivize local groundwater depletion, with global consumers ultimately benefiting from the overexploitation of this water resource. Nutrient runoff and landcover changes in distant connected watersheds have lead to water quality and flooding issues in downstream communities. These examples are a sample of the multiscalar human-water challenges we aim to explore in this session. We welcome novel contributions providing new understanding of human-water systems operating across multiple spatial and temporal scales, and research offering solutions for sustainable water resources management in a telecoupled world.


Water and Society: Adaptive Short-Term Management of Coupled Human-Natural Systems Confronting Long-Term Global Change

The impacts of long-term global change on coupled human-natural systems often manifest themselves as short-term, local adaptation challenges. For example, changes in the frequency and severity of extreme events under climate change will require adaptation of infrastructure and short-term operating policies. These investment and policy decisions must also consider longer-term dynamics of human systems (regulation, economics, land use) that occur simultaneously. Bridging the gap in spatiotemporal scales between exogenous forcing and endogenous system response remains an unresolved scientific challenge, in part because each scale introduces a range of different uncertainties, impeding our ability to simulate coupled systems to inform adaptive planning. Emerging work focuses on developing flexible systems that actively adapt and respond to new information. This session solicits novel contributions in modeling the vulnerability and adaptation of coupled systems to climate change, with a broad focus on water, energy, agricultural, and ecological systems.


Water and Society: Challenges and Benefits of Involving Users in Groundwater Allocation: Institutional Arrangements, Strategies and Support Tools

By determining who can extract water, how much and for what purpose, water allocation regimes are essential policy instruments to tackle water scarcity. Traditionally operated by the state, they have proved difficult to implement in agricultural groundwater dependent economies due to the difficulty of regulating thousands of extraction points. Many countries are thus decentralising allocation decisions to agricultural users and other stakeholders. These user groups have the challenging task of producing robust allocations that reconcile potentially conflicting objectives on equity, economic efficiency and ecosystem health. This session will explore how stakeholders craft collective allocation rules that resolve competing societal objectives while harnessing the temporal and spatial variability of groundwater resources. Examples on novel institutional arrangements, original engagement strategies, innovative information systems and decision-support tools are sought. Interdisciplinary work showing how scientists interact with stakeholders to harness the complexity of hydrogeological systems for developing effective groundwater policies and institutions is welcome.


Water and Society: Communication, Decision Support and Stakeholder Engagement to improve Policy and Management in an Uncertain World.

Governance is fundamental for the optimization of water management, whether it is about minimizing the impact of extremes or maximizing the benefits from water use. For improving governance, ensuring that science is credible, salient and legitimate, is essential in integrating science into policy and management. Depending on the context, integration of science takes a variety of forms, using a wide variety of communication methods. Key approaches relate to decision support, stakeholder engagement, co-creation, and the idea of bridging research and policy-making communities. This session seeks any contribution that aims to report on or advance the state of understanding on these topics. Contributions are also specifically invited regarding how uncertainty is discussed, managed and communicated as part of this integration process. The session is co-sponsored by the Water and Society and Hydrologic Uncertainty Technical Committees.


Water and Society: Enhancing and Communicating Hydroclimatic Forecasts for Water Resources Decision-making

The past decade has seen numerous advancements in hydroclimatic forecasts in terms of accuracy, information context, and spatial and temporal resolution and scope. However, major questions remain: Why are forecasts still not readily utilized in water resources decision making? What are the specific barriers to real-world use of hydroclimatic forecasts? What can be done to increase the uptake of forecast information? This session invites scientists, engineers, operational forecasters, and stakeholders to address these questions from a range of aspects including, but not limited to: 1) improving forecast accuracy and tailoring them to the needs of decision makers; 2) integrating predictive uncertainty with users’ behavioral and institutional settings; 3) improving information delivery technologies; and 4) using forecasts for the operation and planning of water and associated nexus systems.


Water and Society: Water Resources Management and Policy in a Changing World

Water plays a critical role in sustaining human health, food security and ecosystem services. Population growth, climate and land use change increasingly threaten water quality and quantity. Successful management of water resources requires an integrative understanding of coupled human and natural system components that can be used to generate practical, scientifically sound, and socially acceptable solutions. This Water and Society session provides a forum for discussing the advances in water resources systems analysis, planning and management to inform public policy, water resource allocation, conflict resolution, water governance, and sustainable development in a changing world.


Water and Society: Water, Energy and the City

Rethinking of planning and management policies for water and energy networks is key for meeting future demands under population growth, urbanization, changing socio-economic conditions, and climate change. A growing body of work is analyzing water and energy networks, relying on increasing availability of high-resolution data, emerging technologies, data analytics and modelling techniques. Modeling water and energy supply, demands, and their interdependencies across spatial and temporal scales, and across heterogeneous future scenarios is an essential step to inform planning, management, and supply operations. This session will provide an active forum to discuss consolidated and emerging frameworks, methods, tools, and technologies belonging to any area of water and energy network systems analysis and policy, including demand management, intelligent sensors, big-data analytics, consumer behavior, demand forecasting, intersectoral water-energy nexus, innovative regulations or pricing schemes, conservation strategies, water-energy supply optimization, trend and anomaly detection, and integration of local scale and larger scale assessment models.

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