Socio-hydrology: Spatial and Temporal Dynamics of Coupled Human-Water Systems

Last Updated: 16 October 2017

Sustainable water management in the era of the Anthropocene demands an understanding of the inter-relationship between humans and water resources. The new field of socio-hydrology was introduced to deal explicitly with long-term dynamics of bidirectional feedbacks between coupled human-water systems. Increasingly socio-hydrology needs to account for feedbacks between hydrological and social processes in order to explore tradeoffs and synergies in the system and provide scientific support for solving water resources problems. Within the prevailing environmental and resource milieu, human choices are mediated by societal values and preferences, which are in turn shaped by the long-term dynamics of the human-water system itself, and must therefore be treated as endogenous to the system. The values and preferences can vary along upstream-downstream, urban-rural, humid-arid, rich-poor, or technologic-green society gradients. Presence of the resulting heterogeneities in both hydrologic conditions and institutional and human behaviors may lead to inequities and conflicts in both human and environmental conditions. These may be alleviated or exacerbated through physical exchanges of water, trading of water intensive commodities, such as food (virtual water), and ecosystem services, and through infrastructure development or institutional change. These complexities have major implications for water management, governance, and policy at all scales. This special section in Water Resources Research includes papers on novel and innovative studies of the dynamics of human-water systems.
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