Volume 31, Issue 4

December 2015

Editorial »
Cecilia Tortajada and Asit K. Biswas

Research Article

Water resources development considerations for civilian and military institutions working in highly insecure areas: lessons from Afghanistan 

John W. Groningera, Charles M. Ruffnera and Lief Christensonb
aDepartment of Forestry, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, USA; bLHG, Independent Consultant, North Bend, Washington, USA

Contact: John W. Groninger | Email: groninge@siu.edu


Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan included an unprecedented level of international civilian and military cooperation to address water insecurity within violence-prone rural communities. However, water development projects often fell short of expectations held by Afghans and by civilian and military personnel within the International Security Assistance Force. Failure to adequately consider hydrologic principles and social realities was often to blame. Joint pre-deployment training programmes are suggested as key to effective coordination and tactical implementation to address similar problems elsewhere. Also needed are consistent use of metrics for success and the selection of appropriate interventions complementary to long-term development objectives.

Pages: 486-498

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2015.1004304 (Free Access)

Research Article

A legal licence for an ecological disaster: the inadequacies of the 1973 Helmand/Hirmand water treaty for sustainable transboundary water resources development 

Vincent Thomasand Manijeh Mahmoudzadeh Varzib
aIndependent Researcher, Lyon, France; bIndependent Researcher, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Contact: Vincent Thomas | Email: vthoma16@gmail.com


This article questions whether the 1973 Helmand/Hirmand water treaty between Afghanistan and Iran is an appropriate institutional tool for sustainable water resources management in the context of transboundary water resources development. It shows that by failing to fulfil the most basic requisites for integrated water resources management and river basin management, the treaty does not ensure the integrity of the downstream agro-ecological system in the Sistan Delta. As a result, the 1973 treaty may not be the most relevant water regime for helping to balance legitimate development in upstream Afghanistan while also limiting harms to downstream Iran.

Pages: 499-518


Research Article

Sustainable planning model toward reviving Lake Urmia 

Habib Alipour and Hossein Ghasemi Tangal Olya
Faculty of Tourism, Eastern Mediterranean University, Gazimagusa, TRNC, Turkey

Contact: Hossein Ghasemi Tangal Olya | Email: hossein.ghasemi@cc.emu.edu.tr


Lake Urmia (Urumieh in Persian) in north-western Iran is one of the largest permanent hyper-saline lakes in the world and the largest lake in the Middle East. It has numerous ecological, economic and social implications in terms of biodiversity, climate, species, habitat, tourism and recreation. However, during the past decade, the lake has shrunk significantly and its depth has fallen by almost 6 m. Contrary to other studies that have focused on the geomorphology of the lake, this study analyses the socio-environmental impact and provides a sustainable adaptive governance management model for its revival. This study reveals that unless various stakeholders and affected parties are actively involved in an implementable adaptive governance model, the fate of the lake will remain uncertain.

Pages: 519-539


Research Article

Adaptive water management in Israel: structure and policy options  

Nir Beckera and Frank A. Wardb
aFaculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Tel-Hai College, Upper Galilee, Israel; bDepartment of Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, USA

Contact: Nir Becker | Email: nbecker@telhai.ac.il


Difficulties in integrating technical, economic and institutional factors present a major gap in analytical capacity to guide water policy. This article presents an integrated framework to support water policy and guide water management choices, with application to Israel. That framework rests on the theory of economic policy originally developed by Tinbergen. It sees national water challenges as consisting of external factors, constraints, policy instruments and targets. The need for a modern implementation of the theory of economic policy is motivated by emerging environmental requirements, scarce water, growing demands for domestic use, and ongoing needs to implement existing and potential peace agreements.

Pages: 540-557


Research Article

Trends and perceptions of rural household groundwater use and the implications for smallholder agriculture in rain-fed Southern Laos

Camilla Votea,b, Jonathan Newbyc,d, Khamphou Phouyyavonge, Thavone Inthavonge and Philip Eberbacha,b
aSchool of Agricultural and Wine Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia; bGraham Centre for Agricultural Innovation, Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia; cSchool of Agriculture and Food Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia; dInternational Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Hanoi, Vietnam; eNational Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute, Agriculture and Forestry Policy Research Centre, Vientiane, Laos

Contact: Camilla Vote | Email: cvote@csu.edu.au


In Laos, the extent of rural groundwater use is largely unknown. This paper presents results of a study conducted in Champasak province, Southern Laos, to examine rural household attitudes to groundwater use and management; and to gauge farmer perceptions of the opportunities/constraints of increased groundwater use for smallholder agriculture. Significant differences in groundwater use, total cash income and perceived groundwater quality were found. Further agricultural expansion was constrained by insufficient labour and the limited area of individual landholdings, not by the limited groundwater supply, which was the preferred source to fulfil increased demands for domestic/agricultural use. There were no groundwater regulations.

Pages: 558-574


Research Article

Adaptation, resilience and sustainable livelihoods in the communities of the Lower Mekong Basin, Cambodia

Serey Sok and Xiaojiang Yu
Research Office, Royal University of Phnom Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Department of Geography, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong, China

Contact: Serey Sok | Email: sokserey@gmail.com


This paper analyses key contributors to sustainable livelihoods in the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB), Cambodia, by focusing upon villagers’ access to assets, adaptation to shock and stress, and their degree of resilience to declines in natural resources. The study reveals that their access to the five assets for sustainable livelihoods is limited; that their capacity to adapt to shock and stress is low due to floods, drought and high food prices; and that their resilience to declines in natural resources is weak. Improvement in their capacity to adapt and in their resilience will be influenced by the degree to which they can access human, physical and social assets.

Pages: 575-588


Research Article

The effectiveness of small-to-medium river basin organizations in China: a case study of the Erhai Lake Basin Management Commission 

Jianping Wanga,b and Haizhou Maa
aQinghai Institute of Salt Lake, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China; bSchool of Resource and Environment and Earth Sciences, Yunnan University, China

Contact: Jianping Wang | Email: jianpingwang@isl.ac.cn


Drawing on empirical evidence from a case study conducted in the upper Mekong catchment, this article assesses the performance of the Erhai Lake Basin Management Commission, an organization mandated to control pollution and integrate the diverse interests of those individuals and communities living and working near Erhai Lake. Clear local rules, strong enforcement, practical protocols, clear responsibilities and extensive mobilization have been crucial to the success of this small river basin organization. However, the insufficient involvement of numerous important stakeholders in decision-making processes has decreased the commission’s capacity to address water issues.

Pages: 589-603


Research Article

Groundwater depletion and water extraction cost: some evidence from South India 

A. Narayanamoorthy
Department of Economics and Rural Development, Alagappa University, Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu, India

Contact: A. Narayanamoorthy | Emails: na_narayana@hotmail.com, narayana64@gmail.com


From less than 6 million ha in 1950–51, groundwater-irrigated area increased to about 45 million ha in 2010–11, which is over 62% of India’s net irrigated area. But the rapid development of groundwater has brought many negative outcomes for farmers. An attempt is made in this study to find out the losers and gainers of groundwater irrigation using survey data on 234 dug-well- and bore-well-owning farmers selected from two regions having different agro-economic settings in the Pudukkottai District of Tamil Nadu, a state in South India. The study shows that the dug-well- and bore-wellowning farmers had to incur a huge additional cost on account of modifications of wells in order to keep up with the falling water level. The modification cost alone accounted for about 33–48% of the real capital of bore-wells. The pumping cost of water is found to be higher for bore-wells fitted with submersible pump-sets as compared to deep bore-wells fitted with submersible pump-sets.

Pages: 604-617


Research Article

Assessment of the environmental, social and economic benefits of a water transfer tunnel in the Nakdong River, Korea

Jae Chung Parka, Young-II Songb, Yong Moon Jungc, Sang Jin Songc and Daeryong Parkd
aMiryang Regional Office, K-water, Gyeongnam, Korea; bKorea Adaptation Center for Climate Change, Korea Environment Institute (KEI), Seoul, Korea; cWater Resources Development Department, K-water, Daejeon, Korea; dDepartment of Civil and Environmental System Engineering, Konkuk University, Seoul, Korea

Contact: Daeryong Park | Email: drpark@konkuk.ac.kr


This study compares the benefits and disadvantages of two options, i.e. dam construction and a water transfer tunnel between two existing dams, with a particular focus on their effects on the natural environment and local communities and their respective economic efficiencies. It is concluded that significant advantages exist for the construction of a water transfer tunnel between two dams in Korea. This option would secure water resources in a manner that minimizes the economic, environmental and social effects of water resource development and which maximizes the utility of existing water resources.

Pages: 618-629


Research Article

Supplementing urban water supply with rainwater harvesting in Accra, Ghana

Kwadwo Owusu and Joseph Kofi Teye
Department of Geography and Resource Development, University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana

Contact: Kwadwo Owusu | Email: kowusu@ug.edu.gh


This article examines the challenges associated with rainwater harvesting and usage in peri-urban Accra. Data collected from 357 heads of household reveal that rainwater harvesting has the potential to supplement existing water sources in peri-urban Accra. However, high investment costs for rainwater harvesting facilities, short-term tenancy arrangements, the perception that rainwater is not clean, and the unique dry climate of the Accra Plains emerge as key challenges limiting domestic use of rainwater. Public education for house owners to invest in rainwater harvesting facilities and governmental support will be needed to increase investment in rainwater harvesting, purification and usage.

Pages: 630-639


Research Article

Groundwater use in Spain: an overview in light of the EU Water Framework Directive 

L. De Stefanoa,b, J.M. Fornésc, J.A. López-Getac and F. Villarroyaa,b
aDepartment of Geodynamics, Faculty of Geological Sciences, Complutense University of Madrid, Spain; bWater Observatory, Botín Foundation, Madrid, Spain; cSpanish Geological Survey, Madrid, Spain

Contact: L. De Stefano | Email: lstefano@ucm.es


In semi-arid regions, aquifers provide a series of practical advantages that make them preferential sources of water supply. In Spain, groundwater meets about one-fifth of the total water demand and is used to irrigate over one-third of the total irrigated land. This article examines groundwater use in Spain from the perspective of the EU Water Framework Directive. Analysis of different sector uses suggests that core problems (and solutions) related to groundwater lie in agricultural uses and that the Directive’s environmental requirements remain distant from reality on the ground, where economic, political and social reasons prevail on legal obligations set by national and supranational authorities.

Pages: 640-656


Research Article

Towards a more flexible water concession system in Spain: public water banks in Andalusia 

Pilar Panequea and María J. Beltránb
aDepartment of Geography, History and Philosophy, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Seville, Spain; bFrench National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), École Nationale du Génie de l’eau et de l’environnement de Strasbourg, France

Contact: Pilar Paneque | Email: ppansal@upo.es


The traditional management paradigm that has governed water policy in Spain during the last century is currently undergoing a critical process of change. Recently, regional Andalusian and national legislation have developed a new framework, where novel strategies, based on the reallocation of concessional rights, can be adopted to respond to water shortage conditions. The purpose of this study is to examine the factors that could potentially affect the legal reform in Andalusia, which is targeted at developing a market-based redistribution system of water rights in the various river basins within the region.

Pages: 657-668


Research Article

Spatial Water Use efficiency Index towards resource sustainability: application in the island of Crete, Greece 

O. Tzorakia, M. Kritsotakisb and E. Baltasc
aSchool of Environment, Marine Sciences Department, University of the Aegean, Mytilini, Greece; bDirectorate of Water, Decentralized Administration of Crete, Iraklion, Greece; cSchool of Civil Engineering, National Technical University of Athens, Zografou, Greece

Contact: E. Baltas | Email: baltas@chi.civil.ntua.gr


This paper introduces a new index to test water resource sustainability in regions where groundwater is the main source of water supply. The Spatial Water Use efficiency Index (SWUI) is a geographical information system (GIS) environment index which expresses the ratio of potential available water volume (groundwater recharge minus water needs) to the respective water needs. Its low and/or negative values indicate water stress. SWUI is applied in the island of Crete, Greece, where water needs are mainly covered by groundwater abstractions. The annual water mass balance is estimated using the RIBASIM (River Basin Simulation) model. The total freshwater needs in the Cretan region reach 535 hm3 annually according to the model’s simulation. SWUI with values ranging from 20.8 to 214.3 has proved to be an important visual tool towards depicting the low efficiency of the east part of the island to cover water demand and a useful decision-making tool in the sustainability evaluation of groundwater aquifers.

Pages: 669-681


Research Article

Cumulative risk management, coal seam gas, sustainable water, and agriculture in Australia

Poh-Ling Tana,b, David Georgeb and Maria Cominoc
aGriffith Law School, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia; bAustralian Rivers Institute, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia; cLaw Water, Woodlands, Australia

Contact: Poh-Ling Tan | Email: p.tan@griffith.edu.au


Australian communities are lobbying governments to improve regulation of the Coal Seam Gas (CSG), a fast growing industry. This article examines the effect of CSG extraction on agriculture, water resources and ecosystems in Queensland where CSG development is most intense. Supporters of the industry view Queensland’s regulatory framework as ‘best-practice’. Whilst policy documents adopt an ‘adaptive management’ framework, legislation provides an enabling environment for industry, allowing unlimited volumes of groundwater to be extracted as a by-product. In an important agricultural region, the Darling Downs, irrigators who access groundwater in the same area as the CSG mining are experiencing water quality and quantity problems. Regulation provides limited ‘make-good’ arrangements for individuals if groundwater wells suffer impact. While potential impacts on individual wells and farmers are locally significant, there is limited recognition of cumulative risk management of CSG development at the regional scale. Contrasting two risk assessment approaches, the authors suggest a more appropriate pre-emptive regulatory framework for a stronger focus on cumulative risk management to satisfactorily address sustainable water management, irrigated agriculture and development issues. Lessons may assist other countries grappling with managing impacts on agriculture and the environment.

Pages: 682-700

https://doi.org/10.1080/07900627.2014.994593 (Free Access)

Research Article

Investing in recovering water for the environment in Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin

Onil Banerjee
CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences and CSIRO Sustainable Agriculture Flagship, Dutton Park, Queensland, Australia

Contact: Onil Banerjee | Email: onilb@iadb.org


Irrigated agriculture makes an important contribution to the economy of Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin. Competing water demand, recurring drought and climate change have ushered in an era of water policy reform. To recover water for the environment, surface water extraction is capped and investment in irrigation infrastructure is prioritized. This article applies a computable general equilibrium model to evaluate the economic impacts of investment in irrigation in a case study of the Murrumbidgee subcatchment. Results indicate an increase in regional output, income and employment, while at the national level there is a small negative impact resulting from the transfer of resources to the basin and the crowding out of private investment.

Pages: 701-717


Research Article

‘Integrated’ approaches to water and natural resources management in South Australia

Bruce Mitchella,b, Kathryn Bellettec and Stacey Richardsond
aFaculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Flinders University, Bedford Park, Australia; bDepartment of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo, Canada; cSchool of the Environment, Flinders University, Bedford Park, Australia; dProgram in Public Policy and Management, Flinders University, Bedford Park, Australia

Contact: Bruce Mitchell | Email: mitchell@uwaterloo.ca


In the context of criticism that the definition and scope of integrated water resources management have not been clearly defined, experience in South Australia from the early 1970s to 2014 related to a holistic and integrated approach to water and natural resources management is examined. Three different approaches have been used in South Australia, each striving to be more holistic and integrated than its predecessor. A key challenge for managers is to achieve efficient and effective implementation of related policies, programmes and plans as more aspects become incorporated into a holistic and integrated approach. A main conclusion is that to successfully implement a holistic and integrated approach it is essential to be clear what ‘integrated’ and ‘holistic’ mean, because they are not the same or interchangeable. Furthermore, integrated and focused approaches are not mutually exclusive, and can be pursued simultaneously. This conclusion questions the argument that an integrated approach inevitably leads to so many variables being considered that it becomes so complex, unwieldy and cumbersome that it leads to non-actionable initiatives.

Pages: 718-731


Research Article

The evolution of water management in Alberta, Canada: the influence of global management paradigms and path dependency 

Alan Shapiro and Robert Summers
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

Contact: Alan Shapiro | Email: ashapiro@ualberta.ca


This study examines the evolution of Alberta’s water management framework in response to changing demands, national policy and global paradigms. The South Saskatchewan River basin is presented as the crucible for Albertan water policy, given the severity of droughts, over-allocation, and environmental degradation. The analysis finds a distinct trend in the past two decades towards integration and sustainable management, as affirmed by the globally dominant integrated water resource management paradigm. The concept of path dependency offers valuable insight into the barriers posed by past policy frameworks to water management systems, particularly in relation to the prior-allocation system of water rights.

Pages: 732-749


Research Article

Applying water soft path analysis in small urban areas: four Canadian case studies 

David B. Brooks, Carol Maas, Oliver M. Brandes and Laura Brandes
POLIS Project on Ecological Governance, University of Victoria, Canada

Contact: David B. Brooks | Email: david.b.brooks34@gmail.com


Water soft paths begin from the vision that future water management has more to gain from reducing demand than from increasing supply. This article reviews three case studies of water soft path analysis in small urban areas in Canada, and one study of an urban planning process incorporating soft path concepts. The analytical studies indicate how communities can avoid the need for expansion of water infrastructure with negligible impacts on lifestyles or livelihoods. The planning study demonstrates that it is possible to introduce water soft paths early in a review, and that this will stimulate more ecologically sensitive thinking among citizens, officials and political leaders. Similar conclusions can be expected from soft path studies in urban areas elsewhere in the developed world.

Pages: 750-764


Research Article

Tourism as tragedy? Common problems with water in post-revolutionary Nicaragua 

G. Thomas La Vanchy and Matthew J. Taylor
Department of Geography and the Environment, University of Denver, Denver, CO, USA

Contact: G. Thomas La Vanchy | Email: gtlavanchy@gmail.com


This paper examines the increased demand placed on limited water resources by a rapidly growing tourism sector in Playa Gigante, Nicaragua. Results from field campaigns suggest that recharge of the local aquifer may not meet burgeoning tourism demands for water. This paper also points to initial conflicts over water between locals and tourism operations, which are further complicated by ineffective implementation of national water policies and the common pool nature of groundwater. The conclusion discusses the need for more extensive research and better implementation of water policy through community governance and collaboration.

Pages: 765-779


Research Article

Response to the Opinion article entitled ‘Environmental over enthusiasm’ by Chetan Pandit published in International Journal of Water Resources Development on 20 January 2014 

Harsha Jade Puttaswamy
Central Water Commission, Government of India, Monitoring South Organisation, Bangalore, India

Contact: Harsha Jade Puttaswamy | Email: infoharsha@yahoo.com


The opinion article ‘Environmental over enthusiasm’ has considered four case studies such as the Sardar Sarovar Dam, the Land Acquisition Bill, Linear Projects and the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) to propound a hypothesis of the existence of Environment Over enthusiasm in India. According to the article, this is causing a strict environment regulatory system in the country to ignore the developing economy’s needs and people’s aspirations, providing ammunition to activists to thwart infrastructure projects, thus putting India’s food, water and energy security in jeopardy. The case of the Sardar Sarovar Project is discussed below arguing otherwise.

Pages: 780-784


Conference Report

Tropical Agriculture as ‘Last Frontier’? Food Import Needs of the Middle East and North Africa, Ecological Risks and New Dimensions of South-South Cooperation with Africa, Latin America and South-East Asia, (Barcelona, 29–30 January 2015) »

Conference Report

Interdisciplinary knowledge frameworks for transboundary river basins »

Book Review

Water scarcity, livelihoods and food security: research and innovation for development, edited by Larry W. Harrington and Myles J. Fisher Oxon, Earthscan Studies in Water Resources Management, International Water Management Institute, UK and New York, NY, Routledge, 2014 »