OOS 1-5 - Community-driven decision support for groundwater management: Explicitly addressing uncertainty and social learning through dialectic intervention

Monday, August 8, 2011: 2:50 PM
16B, Austin Convention Center
Suzanne A. Pierce1, Joseph Guillaume2, Anthony J. Jakeman2 and Sondoss El Sawah2, (1)Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy, Jackson School of Geosciences, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, (2)National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT

Addressing the challenges associated with Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) requires advances and shifts towards systematic and social learning approaches. IWRM engages groups to explore collaborative decision making with the use of simulation-optimization models and decision support systems.   As a significant element in the global water budget, available sources of groundwater are central to the tradeoffs between societal demands and ecosystem needs.  This research draws on transdisciplinary concepts and methodologies for a comparative analysis of two cases of collaborative decision support for groundwater availability. 

The problem of groundwater availability is addressed for cases in Central Texas and South Australia by integrating a Groundwater Decision Support System (GWDSS) with community stakeholder interactions to assess and co-construct a consensus understanding of desired future conditions for governance.  Each case uses the custom research code for GWDSS as a sociotechnical instrument to generate candidate solution sets and support group dialog about possible future groundwater conditions.

Commonalities between the intervention designs follow a decision pathways framework.  Implementation includes interviews to frame analysis, detailed causal modeling, and group processes to elicit model structure and elements.   The GWDSS enables embedding of uncertainty management via an agile prototyping approach that includes subsystems, such as ecological and urbanization models.


Case examples demonstrate the transferability of interventions across settings, highlighting similarities and contrasts.  The GWDSS serves to incorporate scientific information and complex systems analysis into collaborative stakeholder processes.   Results demonstrate the strengths of coupling complementary methods and interventions to applied decision support contexts.  

Group interactions emphasize use of GWDSS information to support dialectic processes as informal planning instruments, or collaborative frameworks, for integrating community values and ecosystem context with groundwater management.  The process for phrasing decision problem formulations is given particular attention as a bridging mechanism between epistemic, disciplinary, and practitioner boundaries.  The South Australia case is distinguished by an embedded management of uncertainty. The result is explicit treatment and communication of uncertainties to improve the robustness of recommendations.   The Central Texas case has advanced to the point that detailed evaluation of scientific uncertainty in parameter inputs can be compared in relation to decision relevance.  While each case is distinct, a set of methodologies, processes, and DSS components can be widely applied to link groundwater with socio-ecological systems.  Implementation of IWRM approaches to groundwater, using collaborative modeling, poses opportunities to educate an informed citizenry with the capacity to explore complex scientific topics and participate in substantive dialogue about resource governance.

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