Nov 22: CEFO Sustainability Seminar ‘Hydrological Extremes, Water Management and Society’

‘Modeling the Interactions Between Hydrological Extremes, Water Management and Society.’

Tues, Nov 22, 10.15-12-00
Baltic University Library, Geocentrum, Villavägen 16, Uppsala

Fabián Martínez P., Civil Engineer, M.Sc. Hydrology

Throughout history there has been a close relationship between hydrological and social processes. Most
of early civilizations around the world developed thanks to the accessibility to rivers and their water
resources. However, traditional hydrological approaches have not been able to capture this observed
interaction and have ignored for too long the human-driven impacts in the hydrological system and how
they, in turn, shape the hydrological conditions that have been commonly observed.
The present research develops a new conceptual model with the intention to capture the two-way
interactions between societies and their responses under extreme hydrological events, both floods and
droughts. This conceptualization accounts for the observations that societies accumulate memory
(increase the level of awareness) after an extreme events. Based on the accumulation of societal memory,
the human system (societies) takes decisions about water management, thus impacting the hydrological
system (rivers). When no extreme hydrological events are registered, societal memory decays at a
certain rate and then new decisions are taken over the water management of the hydrological system.
Inspired by the extreme droughts and floods events observed in the three last decades in the
catchment of the Brisbane River in Australia, the aforementioned conceptualization is applied. Results
indicated that the simple proposed conceptual model is able to capture the interactions between the
human and the hydrological system. Additionally, the model exposes that societal memory is the driver
of the human system and is the main reason for societies to create impacts on the natural conditions of
the catchment. At the same time, this conceptualization demonstrated that water management decisions
based on the accumulation of societal memory can actually create an exacerbation of the potential
damages associated to extreme hydrological events.
Finally, the development of this new approach points out the strong necessity to acquire further
insights to improve the understanding of the interplay between hydrological and social processes.