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Contributions to increase the availability of water supply in regions of water shortage: The case study of São Paulo, Brazil


Abstract and Figures

Discussions over water availability increase, as society perceives the shortage of this good essential to human life. However, there is still a long way to go to ensure the efficient and equitable distribution of water. To increase the availability of water, often utilities consider catchment from new sources that constitutes supplyside water management. Currently, new sources of drinking water are scarce. An alternative is the planning based on the demand-side which is the rational management of water in its various uses through greater control measures and use of efficient equipment, water loss reduction, and public awareness. Here, we identify and prioritize relevant criteria to increase water availability via demandside management in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. Based on interviews with experts in the field, the criteria for increasing water availability were defined and divided into groups that structure water demand and water supply management. The results highlight the priorities for water reuse and individualized micromeasurements.
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Contributions to increase the availability of
water supply in regions of water shortage:
the case study of São Paulo, Brazil
R. da Silva Manca1, S. M. Falconi2, A. C. Zuffo1
& J. G. Dalfré Filho1
1College of Civil Engineering, Architecture, and Urbanism,
University of Campinas, Brazil
2Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering,
Johns Hopkins University, USA
Discussions over water availability increase, as society perceives the shortage of
this good essential to human life. However, there is still a long way to go to ensure
the efficient and equitable distribution of water. To increase the availability of
water, often utilities consider catchment from new sources that constitutes supply-
side water management. Currently, new sources of drinking water are scarce. An
alternative is the planning based on the demand-side which is the rational
management of water in its various uses through greater control measures and use
of efficient equipment, water loss reduction, and public awareness. Here, we
identify and prioritize relevant criteria to increase water availability via demand-
side management in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. Based on interviews with
experts in the field, the criteria for increasing water availability were defined and
divided into groups that structure water demand and water supply management.
The results highlight the priorities for water reuse and individualized micro-
Keywords: water supply, water resources management, multicriteria analysis,
water loss reduction, water reuse systems.
1 Introduction
Discussions over water availability increase, as society perceives the shortage of
this good essential to human life. Despite extensive research on water resource
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The Sustainable City IX, Vol. 2 1567
management, there is still a long way to go to ensure efficiency and fair
distribution of water. In this paper specifically, we address the problem of water
scarcity in the Metropolitan Region of São Paulo (MRSP). For many years the
concern centered on finding and securing enough water supply to fuel growth. The
last half of the twentieth century experienced a paradigm shift, albeit gradually,
towards using and managing available water resources more efficiently by
emphasizing in water demand management [1–5].
In Brazil, the National Atlas of Water Supply is an important tool for research
studies and assessments of the country’s water resources [6]. The Atlas predicts
that in 2015, considering the current water availability and distribution systems,
55% of Brazilian municipalities may have a deficit in residential and industrial
water supply, including major cities like São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Belo
Horizonte, Porto Alegre and the Federal District. According to the National Water
Agency (ANA), Brazil’s regulatory water agency whose mission is to promote
integrated water management through sustainable means, investments should be
prioritized towards water springs and the collection and treatment of wastewater
[7]. ANA estimates that investment of $22 billion USD would be required to
expand and improve production of the water collection, treatment, and distribution
systems by 2015, and a total of $70 billion USD by 2025, to prevent urban water
shortage [6]. Nevertheless, in the context of these impending shortages, plans
based solely on finding adequate water sources are not enough.
Utilities often prioritize building infrastructure for water resources
management. The construction of reservoirs, treatment plants, water supply
networks, and other facilities are in fact critical to the well being of the population.
However, plans based on water demand tend to provide a rational allocation of the
diverse uses of water resources. In this case study, providing the efficient use and
conservation of water through controlled measures, higher efficiency equipment,
reduction of water losses, and public awareness and education campaigns. To
improve planning based on water demand management, it is necessary to prioritize
the factors that most impact the availability of water and to consider specific
components to the production and water supply system.
Here we show several strategies to increase the water availability in the state
of São Paulo, Brazil, using multicriteria evaluation methods. We emphasize the
need to improve water demand management by finding new strategies for using
existing water resources more efficiently. In order to increase efficiency in water
use, SABESP in partnership with the Agency Japan International Cooperation
Agency – JICA, created in 2009, the Loss Reduction Program, and has become a
reference in the reduction of water losses in Brazil. Japan is a world reference in
the subject with only 3% loss, while in Sao Paulo current values are 25.6% [8].
1.1 The case of the state of São Paulo
The state of São Paulo has been historically at the heart of the Brazilian economy.
With only 2.9% of the country’s area, it contributes 32.6% (i.e., $581 million USD
at 2.30 exchange rate) of Gross Domestic Product – GDP [9]. São Paulo is also
the most populous state in Brazil with 43.6 million residents, representing 22% of
Brazil’s population, and a population density of 166.2 inhabitants/km² [9]. The
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©2014 WIT Press
1568 The Sustainable City IX, Vol. 2
State of São Paulo has two very important regions: the Metropolitan Region of
São Paulo (MRSP) and the Metropolitan Region of Campinas (MRC), which
combined account for 20.9% of the national economy and 64.1% of the state
economy [10, 11].
The state of São Paulo has limitations in accessing water. There is a large
variation in annual precipitation throughout the state; for example, the
northeastern coast average rainfall is around 3,000 mm/year, while the average in
the western region is 1,300 mm/year. The MRSP’s aquifers have a rock formation
that has to be fractured to access groundwater. In the remaining part of the state
there are various aquifers of which three stand out, the aquifers of Bauru, Botucatu,
and Guarani. This feature plus intense urbanization and industrialization observed
in the region since the 1950s result in two main problems: the volume extracted
from rivers, groundwater is scarcely replenished and the municipalities
downstream of São Paulo face floods in the rainy season [12]. Moreover, existing
water sources are at risk as degradation intensifies due to domestic and industrial
wastewater discharge and the inadequate occupation of the territory without proper
water treatment. This means contamination of rivers and streams with pollutants
that are not being treated and, as a result, these bodies of water are reaching critical
states with significant environmental consequences for the main drinking water
sources. The confluence of these factors makes the per capita water availability in
the MRSP only 200 m3/inh/year [12]; this is considered very low according to the
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) (Table 1).
Table 1: Water availability classification.
Values (m3/inh/year)
UN/UNEP Classification
Very high > 20.000
High 10.000–20.000
Average 5.000–10.000
Low 2.000–5.000
Very low 1.000–2.000
Catastrophically low < 1.000
Brazil 35000
State of São Paulo 2209
Piracicaba, Capivari, and Jundiaí River
Basins (RB-PCJ)
MRSP – Alto-Tietê River Basin 200
Source: UNEP (2002) [13].
In the 1960s, growing water needs, due to high population and industrial
growth in the MRSP, initiated a long and contentious dispute over water allocation
for residential and commercial uses with upstream basins. This dispute and
economic growth led to the construction of the Cantareira System (Figure 1) in
order to divert water from the Piracicaba, Capivari, and Jundiaí water basins
(where the MRC is located) upstream to provide water for half of the population
in the MRSP. The Cantareira System is a large infrastructure project made up of
five major reservoirs connected in a network by tunnels, canals, and a pumping
station that are jointly operated. It is formed by the rivers Jaguari and Jacarei,
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Figure 1: The PCJ basin’s contribution to the Cantareira System [14].
Cachoeira, Atibainha, and Juqueri of which the first three are located in the
headwaters of the Piracicaba river basin and the last in the Alto Tietê river basin.
The total production capacity of water Cantareira System is approximately
36 m
/s. This water is allocated for human uses between two regions – 31 m
/s for
the MRSP and 5 m
/s for the PCJ basins – but historically low rainfall experienced
in 2014 has compromised this allocation. Based on SABESP records, 73 mm of
water were recorded in February 2014, while the historical average for this month
is 202.6 mm [15]. Contrary to the National Atlas’ predictions, January and
February of 2014 had one of the lowest average monthly rainfall recorded since
1930s [6]. The drought faced by the region in recent months has caused reservoir
levels to recede dramatically to approximately 16% of its active volume capacity.
This means that the allocation was decreased from 5 m
/s to 4 m
/s due to water
rationing in some municipalities of the PCJ basins. The Piracicaba, Capivari, and
Jundiaí (PCJ) water basin consortium estimates that the amount of water stored in
the Cantareira system reservoirs could be totally consumed in about 80 days if low
rainfalls persist and the current water withdrawals from the system are maintained
[15]. According to the PCJ’s technical report, estimate rainfall of 17 mm average
per day will be required for 60 days – or 1000 mm accumulated rain – in order to
return to operate the Cantareira System reservoirs at 50% of its water storage
capacity. Thus, it is crucial to research other options and to identify innovative
ways to meet the region’s water demands, especially in the areas most affected by
water shortages.
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1570 The Sustainable City IX, Vol. 2
2 Literature review
Problems of water shortages are not unique to Brazil. Similar experiences of
growing urban water needs have driven a “paradigm shift” in management based
on an integrated water management approach [3]. Among other things, it calls for
the integration and equal consideration of Water Supply Management (WSM) and
Water Demand Management (WDM) strategies. This new water management
paradigm has questioned if WSM alone is sustainable and can guarantee water for
present and future generations. Water supply management policies rely heavily in
large infrastructure projects that dredged, diverted, and channel water to provide
for various human uses [4, 5]. Consequently, WSM is dependent on continually
finding new water sources or transporting large water quantities from neighboring
basins or more distant places. Such large water transfers are common in Brazil, as
are the major transboundary conflicts that they entail. Although the country is
endowed with larger quantities of water, for the most part, they are distributed
away from the large population centers. Thus, the São Paulo case displays the
growing need to obtain water in greater volume, from greater distances, causing
tension between basins, and often generating political and environmental problems
that affect the region [16].
While WSM aims to increase water sources, WDM aims to prolong the life of
resources that are already available by using them more effectively. WDM
involves technology, but it also demands manager’s know-how for implementing
new strategies that conserve water. It includes strategies like economic incentives,
education and awareness programs, rainwater harvesting, water reuse, reduction
of water loss in the distribution systems, use of efficiency appliances, and
educational measures. This type of management is more decentralized as it
involves public, private, and civil society to engage in an effort to change
behaviors towards rates and water uses. In Brazil, the main job of water utilities
has been to provide clean potable water for human use. Nevertheless, several
strategies exist to reduce water demand, as we identify bellow.
Water losses refer to the volumes of water not accounted for. In this case, we
consider actual and apparent losses [17]. Actual losses are leaks in the networks,
while apparent losses correspond to unaccounted volumes caused by illegal or
non-registered users, malfunctioning or broken meters, and water meters fraud
[18]. In 2010, utility companies in Brazil averaged a 37.57% share revenue loss
due to water losses [19]. Revenue loss varied greatly by regions in the country: the
average regional distribution was 51.55% in the north, 44.93% in the northeast,
32.59 % in the midwest, 35.19% in the southeast, and 32.29% in the south [19]. In
some states, the rate of water loss reach alarming levels as in the case of Alagoas
with 65.87 %, and Amapá with 74.6% revenue loss [19]. Estimating the financial
loss caused in 2010, a mere 10% reduction of water loss in Brazil would translate
to $560 million USD in water revenues; this is equivalent to 42% of the investment
in water supply made by all utilities in the entire country in the same year [19].
The waters of lower quality, such as sewers, particularly from households,
agricultural drainage waters and brackish waters shall, whenever possible, be
considered as alternative sources for less specialized uses. Currently, the use of
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appropriate technologies for developing these reusable sources is, along with
improving water efficiency and control of demand, the basic strategy for solving
the universal problem of lack of water [17]. According to Shubo [20], some
countries have been prominent in research on water reuse such as the USA in
Arizona which recycles 80% of their wastewater, and in Japan where
approximately 80% of the water used in industry is treated and reused. Moreover,
in Japan, water from showers is reused for toilets in condominiums, hotels, and
hospitals. In Brazil, the industrial sector of São Paulo has increased investment in
the treatment and subsequent reuse of their effluents [21]. Although current efforts
by large producers of water reuse like Aquapolo [22], it doesn’t have the ability to
attend large number of consumers. However, present scenarios of water scarcity
in the region cannot ignore the reuse of water in a much larger scale.
The main way to increase efficiency is to improve end water uses, such as
switching to equipment and technologies available that consume less water [23].
Furthermore, awareness campaigns are very important for large consumers and for
society as a whole, and they may be regarded as a form of direct communication
with the public [23].
Finally, rainwater-harvesting practices are an old and recognized tradition in
many cultures. Over time, the collection of rainwater began to be replaced as new
and modern supply systems were built [24]. However, more recently water
shortages revived in various countries and sectors of society the tradition of
rainwater harvesting. Countries like Germany, United Kingdom, Japan,
Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Australia and the
United States have developed extensive research in the use of rainwater [25]. In
Brazil, rainwater has mostly been used and stored through tanks in arid and semi-
arid regions like the northeast. Despite water shortage in these regions of the
country, rainwater harvesting is still not a considerable source of water.
2.1 Multicriteria expert elicitation methods
To achieve our goal, the Delphi method and AHP method were used. The Delphi
technique is a structured and systematized sequential individual interviews
seeking expert opinion, often through a series of questionnaires and feedback
mechanisms [26]. It focuses on solving complex problems based on the opinion
and/or judgment of a panel of expert [27]. The first questionnaire tends to focus
on broader issues, while each subsequent questionnaire is based on answers to
previous questionnaires. The number of interactions of this method can range
between three and five [28], depending on the degree of agreement between
experts’ responses and whether the amount of information obtained is sufficient to
solve the problem.
Zuffo [27] also states that the Delphi technique is especially recommended
when there is not sufficient or reliable data to extrapolate, or, even when there are
expectations of structural changes in the determinant factors of future occurrence.
Despite these advantages, Zuffo [29] explains that the relative importance of each
criterion will be reduced insofar as values outside the range defined by the 1st and
3rd quartiles are discarded, and all the remaining assigned values approach a
narrow range. In most applications the maximum and minimum values end up in
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a small range of values between 7 and 9 (on a 1-10 scale). To avoid that, we
complemented the analysis with the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) method.
The AHP consists of creating a hierarchy of criteria and alternatives of the
proposed problem with the main objective of maintaining the highest level of
hierarchy. The second level consists of criteria and the third level of alternatives;
however, both levels should also be prioritized. This is done by a pairwise
comparison of alternatives and by analyzing the influence caused by each
alternative on each criterion. Consequently, one arrives at the influence that each
alternative causes on the general objective of the problem [31–33]. In the AHP
method, first the criteria are ranked from highest to lowest [31].
3 Methodology
On the first stage we choose four professional experts from the field of water
resources with extensive knowledge in the water management sector. Upon
selecting the respondents, individual meeting were scheduled with each of them
in which questions were raised on various important criteria when considering the
best options for increasing water availability. In this initial stage, experts are given
an opportunity to include other criteria not identified by the interviewer, but which
allowed for an organized manner to construct a cognitive map for each of the
respondents and then grouping criteria.
In the second phase, we made use of Vue software for grouping the criteria that
resulted in the following groups: structural, technological, economic,
sociocultural, and environmental criteria. The Visual Understanding Environment
(VUE) is a software for drawing up a mental map. For this, use is made of designs,
words, pictures, designs, and other constructions.
In the third stage, the Delphi method was employed to aid decision-making. To
obtain and prioritize the values of each criterion, 30 web questionnaires
(webDELPHI method) were distributed with priority levels ranging from 0 to10
for low to high priority, respectively. Of the total questionnaires sent 20 responses
were received, or a 67% return rate, enabling the application of Delphi method.
The answers were statistically analyzed after being organized into a database.
Additionally, we applied Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) to the database, to
separate the weights of prioritization between criteria and to compare the results
of prioritization between the two methods, thus, generating consistent results.
4 Results and discussion
4.1 Data evaluation
Within WSM and WDM, it was necessary to define from the point of view of
experts which criteria should have a greater emphasis. Even if managing in
integrated manner (same weight is given to supply and demand), priorities within
criteria need to be identified. It is interesting to note that when only given the
option to choose between managing based on supply-side and demand-side
(without detailing the appropriate actions in each of the groups), we obtained a
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result of 56.4% for WDM and 43.6% for WSM (based on the Delphi method).
Thus, there is a tendency among experts to prefer integrated water management.
However, to evaluate the advantages of an alternative with respect to others, we
must first know their actual costs. Otherwise, costs could prove prohibitively high
to be applied. Such costly alternatives only take place with the support of
government or private sector and are often forced by environmental pressures or
resource scarcity with lack of other viable options to meet demand.
In the multicriteria method comparison, the degree of importance of WDM was
perceived to be above WSD in both Delphi and AHP method. Based on the AHP
results, WDM was considered twice as important as WSD measures (20.3%
compared to 10.1% respectively). Thus, there is a consensus among expert
opinions that WDM should be prioritize over measures to increase WSM. Based
on our results, WDM proved a viable and important criterion to take into account.
Additionally, by applying the AHP method to the data, we asked experts to rank
the alternatives and opportunities of working with demand management options
to ensure increased availability of water. Figure 2 presents the results.
Label: (1)Reduction of real and apparent water losses; (2)Water reuse; (3)Micro-
measurement of Water; (4)Avoid Wasting Water; (5)Optimization of Water Networks;
(6)Pressure Management System for drinking water supply; (7)Environmental
importance in the water demand management; (8)Water-Efficient Equipment;
(9)Improving the efficiency of hydraulic pumps and valves; (10)Increased water prices;
(11)Rainwater use.
Figure 2: Importance of actions in the management of water demand.
Here we show the AHP prioritization results because this method refines the
results obtained with the Delphi method and more clearly shows the distances
among the criteria. Reducing real and apparent water losses scored 11.2% priority
on interviewed expert opinion. In the analysis shown in Figure 2, one can conclude
that reducing water loss is the most important action and the one that could
0.0% 5.0% 10.0% 15.0% 20.0%
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contribute the most in increasing the availability of water in the state of São Paulo.
This result is confirmed by the need to decrease the 30% to 40% average water
loss in the MRSP distribution system [18].
According to expert opinion, reuse of water (7.1%) is the secondary measure
that will increase water availability for less vital uses and will decrease the use of
high quality water for secondary purposes like flushing toilets, watering plants, or
washing cars. Ranked third was sub-metering and individualized micro-
measurement (5.5%). This characteristic can be directly related to the current
situation of water scarcity due to lack of rains in the state of São Paulo. Individual
micro-measurements encourage savings and reduce water wastage due to direct
charges to the individual.
Measures that take into account water rationing are also directly related to
reducing water waste and optimizing. The extent of water wastage reduction at
5.4% occupies fourth place in the priority list of experts. This result follows the
general belief that through education and awareness campaigns and the eminent
threat of water rationing, society as a whole learns to value water as a scarce
resource and conserves water. On the issue of water distribution networks, a block
of measures could be jointly organized for the optimization of hydraulic network
(5.1%) and the reduction of network pressure (5.0%).
Environmental factors are criteria of fundamental importance, yet, they still
rank low in the weights and considerations of experts. In the evaluation of this
study, the importance of the environment represented 4.7 %, ranking number
seventh in priority. Nevertheless, environmental impacts are directly linked to the
continual maintenance of flora, fauna, and river flows. Environmental factors
include the protection of water springs and are directly related to water quality,
supply, and overall availability.
Despite being recognized as an important measure in water conservation
programs, the use of water-efficient equipment showed only 3.7% in terms of
expert priority. This decision is directly linked to the fact that currently the
equipment that consumes less water in the execution of these services is
standardized for large use [33]. The same occurs with the criterion for improving
the efficiency of hydraulic pumps and valves that ranked ninth with a weight of
3.5%. These two last criteria show the low index of modernization and technology
replacement in the water utilities sector.
Finally, among the experts’ choice, the criteria of rainwater use obtained a
weight of 2.9%, which is representative of the current weather condition. Record
low rainfall since December 2013 proves that water management and planning
that depend on weather conditions come at high risk. Furthermore, there are
several structural problems like moving residence, new construction,
modification, and storage unites, as well as, public health problems such as the
protection of the local storage from insects and other vectors, that pose other
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5 Conclusions
In the context of impending water scarcity, plans based solely on water supply
management and the increase of new water sources are subject to supply problems.
Thus, it is necessary to discuss other strategies to increase future water availability.
For developing this study, the choice of the Delphi and AHP methods enable us to
structure the study objectively and proved to enrich our understanding of the
alternatives available for water planning and management. In this sense, three
criteria were defined as essential: 1) the reduction of real and apparent losses at
11.2%; 2) water reuse was at 7.1% was second; and 3) sub-metered and
individualized micro-measurement at 5.5%. It is worth noting the similarities
between the weights given in the assessment criteria by the technical experts,
despite their different areas of expertise, such as utility companies, universities,
and basin committees. These results provide a starting point for a longer discussion
on the main benefits and challenges to the implementation of various WDM
strategies in the MRSP, which will be performed by the group in a future work, in
a second and third round of data. Lastly, the results obtained in this study provide
a basis for the application of other methods, such as the CP, CGT and fuzzy
Rapid urban changes and demographic growth pose unique challenges for
water management. As this study demonstrates finding new strategies to address
the water shortages based on this method has its limitations; it can be time
consuming and the measures and criteria identified by managers vary with context.
Nevertheless, water demand management needs to be integrated as a strategy to
water supply management in order to effectively address water shortages in
densely populated urban regions like the metropolitan region of São Paulo.
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The Metropolitan Region of São Paulo (MRSP) has faced significant water crises. In this chapter, the authors describe the challenges faced by the city as policymakers consider the ways and means of achieving water security. The State Government of São Paulo and SABESP have taken several steps in the wake of the 2014–15 water crisis: infrastructure development, encouraging conscious consumption and improving the national regulatory framework. The authors argue that São Paulo must make better use of the water that it does have; improve coordination among water authorities; and meaningfully engage all stakeholders, including slum-dwellers in devising a way forward.
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The decision process on the IT Service Portfolio is characterized by uncertain and changing information, dynamic opportunities, multiple goals, strategic considerations and interdependencies between services. Several methods have been developed to assist decision makers. This article discusses the method Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) in a case study for prioritizing a portfolio of IT services. Resumo. O processo de decisão sobre o Portfólio de Serviços de TI é caracterizado por informações incertas e mutáveis; oportunidades dinâmicas, múltiplos objetivos, considerações estratégicas e interdependências entre serviços. Diversos métodos foram desenvolvidos para auxiliar os tomadores de decisão. Este artigo aborda o método Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) em um estudo de caso para priorização de serviços em um portfolio de TI.
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Water resources management approaches around the world are changing dramatically. This “changing water paradigm” has many components, including a shift away from sole, or even primary, reliance on finding new sources of supply to address perceived new demands, a growing emphasis on incorporating ecological values into water policy, a re-emphasis on meeting basic human needs for water services, and a conscious breaking of the ties between economic growth and water use. A reliance on physical solutions continues to dominate traditional planning approaches, but these solutions are facing increasing opposition. At the same time, new methods are being developed to meet the demands of growing populations without requiring major new construction or new large-scale water transfers from one region to another. More and more water suppliers and planning agencies are beginning to explore efficiency improvements, implement options for managing demand, and reallocating water among users to reduce projected gaps and meet future needs. The connections between water and food are receiving increasing attention as the concerns of food experts begin to encompass the realities of water availability. These shifts have not come easily; they have met strong internal opposition. They are still not universally accepted, and they may not be permanent. Nevertheless, these changes represent a real shift in the way humans think about water use. This paper summarizes the components of this ongoing shift and looks at the new paths being explored. It evaluates the major reasons for the change in approach and discusses the applicability of these new concepts in different parts of the world
Defining and measuring sustainability is a major challenge. This article argues these limitations need not stop us from trying to identify and value the possible impacts of what we are doing, or are thinking about doing, over time periods much longer than the lives of our investments, or even of the lives of those of us living today. Sustainability is a relative concept that must be applied in an environment undergoing multiple changes, changes that are occurring over different temporal and spatial scales. We depend on our water resource systems for our survival and welfare. Yet no one expects them to be restored to, or survive in, their most productive pristine states in the face of increasing development pressures for land in their watersheds and for water in their streams, rivers, lakes, and aquifers. A continuing task of water resource planners and managers is to identify the multiple impacts and tradeoffs resulting from what we who are living today may wish to do for ourselves and our immediate children and what we can only guess our yet-to-be-born descendants may wish us to do, or not do, for them in some distant future. This task must involve professionals from other disciplines in a context much broader than just water management. Once these impacts and tradeoffs are identified, it is then up to the political process to make choices when they are in conflict. All of us need to be a part of this decision-making process.
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