D1.1 Technology survey: Prospective and challenges - Revised version (2018)

4 ICT based systems for monitoring, control and decision support

4.8 Integrated approaches for watershed management

Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM)

According to the GWP [GWP, 2004], IWRM is a stakeholder-driven process for promoting coordinated activities in the pursuit of common goals for multiple objective development and sustainable water resources management. IWRM addresses the full range of physical, biological, and socioeconomic variables related to land and water resources within a watershed. Therefor IWRM supersedes traditional multi-purpose natural resources management (such as the multi-sectorial approached by Tennessee Valley Authority in early 1950s, by explicitly combining societal goals and ecosystem functions [Ballweber, 2006].

Taking advantage of the recent advancements in information and communication technologies, the IWRM community has recently proposed the adoption of the digital observatory framework for a conducting integrated science-research-management in the water resources. A digital observatory (DO) is an electronic representation of watersheds and their processes are documented by data, the spatiotemporal representation of the data, simulation models, and the analysis and synthesis of the available data and information [Muste, 2012]. DO’s must embrace the best available information to provide the digital description of the natural environment and the man-made constructed infrastructure (e.g., dams, water abstraction, and discharge systems) using a variety of data sources. DO’s comprise data servers and software tools that aggregate third party data acquired by various federal and state agencies with local data (including academic settings) in a system that is open, easy to use, and enables integrated analysis and modelling.

Currently, the decision-making processes in water resources management is undergoing major transformations during its transition from the sectorial approaches of the past (e.g., water use for only irrigation, hydropower, or navigation) to contemporary ones that are integrative and comprehensive approaching watersheds as complex system with interrelated processes surrounding the water cycle. This transformation comes at a time when acute problems are rising in water resources by direct (land use change) or indirect (climate change) human interventions in the natural systems within which we live. Among the most obvious example of extreme events related to water are floods, droughts, excessive pollutant in streams, and an increasing demand of fresh water to sustain economic and social needs. Past disaggregation of surface- and groundwater, as well as separately addressing concerns about water quality and quantity, can be problematic when considering multiple water resources management objectives. The traditional single-objective focused watershed management of the past with primary emphasis on short-term economic development has oftentimes led to inefficient expenditure, to exclusion of consideration of multiple benefits, and ultimately to costly restoration efforts. In recent years, the failure of the conventional fragmented and sector-based water resources management approaches to attain sustainability of the environment along with the well being of the communities have boosted public awareness, thus highlighting the need for a radical departure from long-established ways of managing natural resources. Currently, worldwide water policy and management have come to address the fundamentally interconnected nature of watershed resources using a holistic, integrated approach to water management, whereby the whole watershed system is taken into account. This includes the relationships and dynamic interactions between land and water systems, the human and natural systems, and key relationships among watershed stakeholders.

The complexity of research related to water resources management is extremely high and requires deep expertise in several ICT-related research domains such as: Big Data and Smart Data; semantic Internet of Things; context-aware and event-based systems; Cloud computing; Web services; and social Web. The dynamics of water and the role of humans in the water cycle are not well understood largely because environmental and socio-economic analyses have traditionally been performed separately; and the methods, tools, and data needed for multidisciplinary work are not yet at the required level to satisfactory address problems posed in managing resources in aquatic environments.

ICT can contribute to several areas of research such as better understanding of coupled human-natural system dynamics; finding risk mitigation measures for the unintended consequences and side effects like water scarcity, increased pollution, unreasonable use of water, flood, food prices; and can contribute to the development of strategies for efficient use of water resources. There are situations when information is to be accessed only by designated stakeholders, but there is a huge amount of information that is, and should be handled, as public information. There are already regulations, at national, European or international level, that oblige decision making actors related to water resource management, to ensure the access of the population at certain types of information.

Adaptive Management (AM)

According to [Williams, 2007], AM is a systematic approach for improving resource management by learning from management outcomes. AM is a process of sequential activities that include: exploration of alternative ways to meet management objectives, predicting the outcomes of alternatives based on the current state of knowledge, implementing one or more of these alternatives, monitoring the impacts of management actions, and finally adjusting the management actions based on the knowledge inferred from the monitoring results [Marmorek, 2003]. AM is not a simple ‘trial and error’ process, but rather emphasizes learning and adaptation, through partnerships of managers, scientists, and other stakeholders who work together to devise ways for creating and maintaining sustainable resource systems. Adaptive management does not represent an end in itself, but rather a means to more effective decisions and enhanced benefits. Its true measure is in how successful it is in helping to meet environmental, social, and economic goals; to increase scientific knowledge; and to reduce tensions among stakeholders.

Figure 11. Components of the integrative approaches: a) IWRM (http://wvlc.uwaterloo.ca); b) AM (adapted from [Raadgever, 2006]).

Optimization of Water Reservoir Operation

Accidental water pollution causes important economic losses, not to mention tragic events such as deaths or injuries. One effective measure that can be taken is to reduce the concentration of pollutant in the river water by adding clean water released from dams placed on tributaries of the river. In article [Ciolofan, 2018] the authors focus on finding an optimal operation of the water reservoirs (such as opening/closing time of the gates) with the goal of minimizing the total cost of the economic damages.

The total cost function is proposed as a sum of two components: the cost of the water released for dilution and the economic losses caused by the river's water pollution. Further the authors formalized the problem in terms of a non-linear multi-objective simulation - optimization model, subject to constraints. The proposed solution is evaluated for a real use case (Jijia River, respectively Dracsani and Halceni reservoirs in N-E Romania). The results of the two experiments conducted have shown that by using the proposed optimization solution, the total cost of economic losses may be reduced almost six times as compared with an empirical operation of the reservoirs, and by almost ten times if no dilution takes place.