There is realisation throughout the world that we need to conserve essential life-support ecosystems for our well-being and survival, and to maintain an adequate resource base for coming generations.
At the same time there is a realisation that ecosystems are used and hence should be used wisely.
The maintenance of environmental integrity for sustainable development requires both technical (ecotechnology, ecology, sanitation, environmentally friendly design) and institutional (legal and policy frameworks, regulatory capacity, implementation mechanisms) knowledge.
Our research operates within the overall framework of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM). It tests theories, analyses data and contributes to strategies and policies aimed at sustainable management and the wise use of water and environmental resources. It covers the linkages between the biophysical dimensions of water resources and the social-institutional dimensions.
- Exploring the impacts of global change on water
- Delivering a blueprint for integrated water systems management
- Development of guidelines for the design and management of wetlands
- Development of environmental water allocation models
- Studying the role of water for food production and poverty alleviation
Chair Groups groups involved:
- Aquatic Ecosystems
- Pollution Prevention and Resource Recovery
- Sanitary Engineering
- Water Supply Engineering
- Coastal Systems and Engineering and Port Development
- Water Management
We are currently studying the specific interactions between climate change and water both in terms of biophysical processes, as well as in terms of social patterns and coping mechanisms.
An important research question is how the vulnerability of water systems can be reduced and resilience enhanced in order to minimise the negative impacts of these interactions. Moreover, the institutional and knowledge requirements to deal with the resulting uncertainties and shocks are being studied.
This area studies the interconnectedness of water systems and users, and aims to develop methods and multi-criteria analysis models for participatory integrated assessment.
Research questions that are being addressed include how the techniques of modelling water allocation can be improved, and how multi-criteria analysis can be used to reconcile different and non-commensurable objectives and criteria. A new area of inquiry attempts to analyse physical and social processes within one common framework.
Wetland management aims at the sustainable utilisation of wetland resources for the benefit of humankind while ensuring their environmental integrity. The performance of constructed and natural wetlands for water and wastewater treatment, by modelling the biofilm activity is addressed.
In addition, we are studying the structure and processes of the natural wetland and river basin systems (soil and water quality, nutrient flows, productivity, biodiversity) and wetland ecotones as nutrient buffers in the upstream-downstream continuum. Wetland farming systems and their relation to productivity, ecosystem functioning and livelihoods is also tackled.
The aim is to test methods of assessing environmental flows in rivers, lakes and wetlands in a range of climatic and socio-economic contexts.
Challenges include: predicting how much water needs to be retained in rivers to achieve different levels of protection; persuading users to limit their demands; and implementing the required flows.
The research compares the suitability of different EWA methods in differing climatic and socio-economic conditions, and provides with the tools to achieve environmental flows that provide a balance between resource use and resource protection for the long-term.
This research line addresses the important role that water plays in the livelihoods of small-scale farming households in the semi-arid savannah areas of the world.
A key research question is how rainfed agriculture can be improved by rainwater harvesting techniques, supplementary irrigation and better nutrient management.
Can the resilience of rainfed agriculture against climate shocks be increased and can the vulnerability of smallholder farmers that are dependent on these systems be reduced?
To what extent does the rainfed smallholder farming sector hold the key to solving the looming food crisis?