An Operational Model for Support of Integrated Water Resources Management


Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

Project time

April 2010 – September 2015

Principal investigators

Slobodan P. Simonovic, Professor, The University of Western Ontario

Project Team

Slobodan P. Simonovic, Professor
Vladimir Nikolic, PhD Student, contact person, email

Project description

The stresses faced by most watersheds include population growth, changes in land use and the impacts of climatic change. All of these stresses mean that the ready access to good quality water for water supply that we currently enjoy may not be available in the future. The proposed research will address the stresses that watersheds are exposed to by developing approaches to more efficiently manage water resources. The research builds on the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) paradigm that recognizes the need for coordination in the development and management of water, land and related resources, to maximize economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising ecosystem sustainability (Global Water Partnership, 2000). A central activity within the proposed research will be the development of approaches that can be used to implement the principles of IWRM. The guiding principles of the IWRM process are systems view, integration, partnerships, participation, uncertainty, adaptation and reliance on strong science and reliable data (Simonovic, 2009). Systems view - there is a natural need in water resources management to view a broad set of variables related to water and land resources and their interrelationships as a system. The first role of IWRM is to provide for vertical integration of various levels of government in consideration of water resources problems and horizontal integration - within one level of government - among different agencies of a government, such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries, water, mining, municipal affairs, or economic development. Partnerships - integrated water resources management requires use of the engineering, social, natural, ecological, and economic sciences. Participation - water is a subject in which everyone is a stakeholder. Participation requires that stakeholders at all levels of the social structure have an impact on decisions at different levels of water management. Uncertainty - human modifications of waters and related lands together with the use of imperfect information about many processes involved brings into the IWRM decision making process multiple objective and subjective uncertainties. Adaptation - high degree of uncertainty associated with water management highlights the need for adaptive IWRM, by which the relationships between planning and outcomes are explicit and within a feedback loop. Science and data - IWRM requires science of hydrology, hydraulics, geology, meteorology, oceanography, environmental science, engineering, law, economics, etc.

A modelling framework is required that can properly support implementation of IWRM principles. The proposed research adopts the system dynamics simulation approach to represent the interconnectedness and the important feedbacks inherent in a watershed. The methodology to be developed in this research will provide the support for IWRM through system dynamics simulation. The emphasis is placed on explicit modeling and simulation of key characteristics of complex water resources systems including: feedback based system structure; integral representation of physical and socio-economic processes (and their linkages); proper consideration of complex spatial and temporal scales; and provision of support for multiple stakeholder participation and involvement. The adoption of this approach should result in the efficient and effective management of water resources systems both now and in the future.

Project Publications

Project Papers

Nikolic, V. and Simonovic, S.P. (2015). Multi-method Modeling Framework for Support of Integrated Water Resources Management. Environmental Processes, 2:461-483.

Nikolic, V.V., Simonovic, S.P. and Milicevic, D.B. (2013). Generic Modeling Framework for Integrated Water Resources Management. Proceedings 21st Canadian Hydrotechnical Conference, Banff, Alberta, Canada, May 14-17, 2013.

Nikolic, V., Simonovic, S.P. and Milicevic, D.B. (2012). Analytical Support for Integrated Water Resources Management: A New Method for Addressing Spatial and Temporal Variability. Water Resources Management, 27(2), 401-417.

Project Reports


Project Presentations

Generic Modeling Framework for Integrated Water Resources Management. 21st Canadian Hydrotechnical Conference. Presented by Vladimir Nikolic, Banff, Alberta, May, 2013.

Decision Support for Integrated Water Resources Management - Spatial and Temporal Variability, S.P. Simonovic and Nikolic, V., ASCE - EWRI World Environmental & Water Resources Congress, Cincinnati, Ohio, May 2013.