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Expert views on strategies to increase water resilience: evidence from a global survey

Lucy Rodina, Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia
Kai M.A. Chan, Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia


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Scholars and policy-makers are advocating for increasing the resilience of water systems, both social and biophysical, to climate change impacts, and global environmental change more broadly. But what is “water resilience,” and what does it imply for water resources management and water governance? Generally, water resilience may include ecological aspects of water quality or flood mitigation, engineered infrastructure to ensure safe and reliable water supply and to mitigate floods, and the socially inclusive and equitable governance of these systems. Following this, our goal was twofold: (1) explore and draw out a comprehensive set of water resource management strategies across sectors that are likely to contribute to increased resilience, and (2) investigate whether disciplinary divides are indeed a barrier toward convergence around key water resilience actions. To address these two gaps, we drew on a survey of experts in resilience and various aspects of water management and governance (n = 420), and aimed to synthesize their views on the specific strategies that can help enhance water resilience. Specifically, we surveyed experts across various water domains from ecosystem management to drought and flood management. Overall, we found that while debates about how to theorize or operationalize resilience in relation to different systems—social or biophysical—may be unresolved, there is considerable convergence among various experts about which actions are likely to make water systems more resilient to increasing risks and uncertainties. The most widely agreed upon strategies for building water resilience revolve around improved ecosystem health, integration across scales, and adaptation to change.

Key words

drought; flood; water resilience; water resource management; water security; watershed governance

Copyright © 2019 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087