Systems Analysis Applied to Water Management in Developing Countries

During the last decade or so, the use of systems analysis and the application of computer technology for planning water resources development and management processes have increased significantly in many developed countries. The progress in most Third World countries, however, has not been commensurate and leaves much to be desired. Water management in recent years has become increasingly complex, and there is every indication that it will continue to do so in the future. Therefore, it is essential to utilize all the techniques which are available in order that the appropriate strategies and viable alternatives can be properly analysed, and the consequences of possible policy-decisions can be evaluated.

Systems analysis, if used properly, can significantly improve the management process; but whether, in spite of its great potential, it will actually be used for these purposes in Third-World countries, is another question, though it seems more likely to be adopted in those that are really developing than in the others.

Few models fail because technical expertise or state-of-the-art computer technology is inadequate, of because they are improperly implemented from a technical standpoint; they fail more often because too much concentration is placed on the technical issues and not enough on the managerial ones.

There seems no room for doubt that systems analysis has now advanced sufficiently to be of decisive use in water management for developing countries. This paper outlines the principal reasons as to why such a situation has developed, and what steps can be taken to increase the use of systems analysis for more rational and effective management of the often limited water resources that are available to Third World countries. Admittedly, some of our current models in this field are rather crude and liable to be dependent on the experience and judgement of the analysts; but in the final analysis, the issue is very definitely on the side of having a model—even a crude one—rather than on having no model at all.

By Asit K. Biswas, 1981. Article published in Environmental Conservation, Volume 8, Issue 2, pages 107-112. DOI: 10.1017/S0376892900027090

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