Special Issue "Managing Water Resources in Large River Basins"

A special issue of Water (ISSN 2073-4441). This special issue belongs to the section "Water Resources Management, Policy and Governance".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 July 2020).

Printed Edition Available!
A printed edition of this Special Issue is available here.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. William Young
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Water Global Practice, World Bank, 1818 H St NW, Washington, DC 20433, USA
Interests: river basin management; water information; integrated water management; water security; water systems modelling
Dr. Nagaraja Rao Harshadeep
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Environment Global Practice, World Bank, 1818 H St NW, Washington, DC 20433, USA
Interests: natural resources management; water security and IWRM; climate change; international water; water economics; hydromet

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Management of water resources in large rivers basins typically differs in important ways from management in smaller basins. While in smaller basins the focus of water resources management may be on project implementation, irrigation and drainage management, water use effciency and flood operations; in larger basins, because of the greater complexity and competing interests, there is often a greater need for long-term strategic river basin planning across sectors and jurisdictions, and considering social, environmental and economic outcomes. This puts a focus on sustainable development, including consumptive water use and non-consumptive water uses, such as inland navigation and hydropower. It also requires consideration of hard or technical issues—data, modelling, infrastructure—as well as soft issues of goverance, including legal frameworks, policies, institutions and political economy. This Special Issue of Water traverses these hard and soft aspects of managing water resources in large river basins through a series of diverse case studies from across the globe that demonstrate recent advances in both technical and goverance innovations in river basin management.

Dr. William Young
Dr. Nagaraja Rao Harshadeep
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • river basin planning
  • sustainable development
  • water governance
  • transboundary cooperation
  • flood forecasting
  • intersectoral allocation

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
Managing Water Resources in Large River Basins
Water 2020, 12(12), 3486; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12123486 - 11 Dec 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 520
Abstract
The management of water resources in large rivers basins commonly involves challenges and complexities that are not found or are less common in smaller basins [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Managing Water Resources in Large River Basins)

Research

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Article
Disruptive Technologies for Improving Water Security in Large River Basins
Water 2020, 12(10), 2783; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12102783 - 06 Oct 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 963
Abstract
Large river basins present significant challenges for water resource planning and management. They typically traverse a wide range of hydroclimatic regimes, are characterized by complex and variable hydrology, and span multiple jurisdictions with diverse water demands and values. They are often data-poor and [...] Read more.
Large river basins present significant challenges for water resource planning and management. They typically traverse a wide range of hydroclimatic regimes, are characterized by complex and variable hydrology, and span multiple jurisdictions with diverse water demands and values. They are often data-poor and in many developing economies are characterized by weak water governance. Rapid global change is seeing significant changes to the pressures on the water resources of large basins, exacerbating the challenge of sustainable water management. Diverse technologies have long supported water resource planning and development, from data collection, analytics, simulation, to decision-making, and real-time operations. In the last two decades however, a rapid increase in the range, capability, and accessibility of new technologies, coupled with large reductions in cost, mean there are increasing opportunities for emerging technologies to significantly “disrupt” traditional approaches to water resources management. In this paper, we consider the application of ‘disruptive technologies’ in water resources management in large river basins, through a lens of improving water security. We discuss the role of different actors and institutions for water management considering a range of emerging disruptive technologies. We consider the risks and benefits associated with the use of these technologies and discuss the barriers to their widespread adoption. We obverse a positive trend away from the reliance solely on centralized government institutions and traditional modeling for the collection and analysis of data, towards a more open and dynamic ‘data and knowledge ecosystem’ that draws upon data services at different levels (global to local) to support water planning and operations. We expect that technological advances and cost reductions will accelerate, fueling increased incremental adoption of new technologies in water resources planning and management. Large-basin analytics could become virtually free for users with global, regional, and national development agencies absorbing the costs of development and any subscription services for end users (e.g., irrigators) to help improve water management at user level and improve economic productivity. Collectively, these changes can help to ‘democratize’ water management through improved access to data and information. However, disruptive technologies can also be deployed in top-down or centralized processes, and so their use is sometimes contested or misunderstood. Increased attention therefore needs to be given to ensuring equity in technology access, and to strengthening the governance context for technology deployment. Widespread adoption of disruptive technologies will require adjustments to how water professionals are trained, increased adaptiveness in water resources planning and operations, and careful consideration of privacy and cybersecurity issues. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Managing Water Resources in Large River Basins)
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Article
Quantifying the United Nations’ Watercourse Convention Indicators to Inform Equitable Transboundary River Sharing: Application to the Nile River Basin
Water 2020, 12(9), 2499; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12092499 - 08 Sep 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1263
Abstract
East African riparian countries have debated sharing Nile River water for centuries. To define a reasonable allocation of water to each country, the United Nations’ Watercourse Convention could be a key legal instrument. However, its applicability has been questioned given its overly generalized [...] Read more.
East African riparian countries have debated sharing Nile River water for centuries. To define a reasonable allocation of water to each country, the United Nations’ Watercourse Convention could be a key legal instrument. However, its applicability has been questioned given its overly generalized guidance and non-quantifiable factors. This study identified and evaluated appropriate indicators that best describe reasonable and equitable principles and factors detailed under Article 6 of the convention in order to allocate Nile River water among the states. Potential indicators (n = 75) were defined based on multiple sources that can address conflicting interests specific to this basin context. A questionnaire based on these indicators was developed and distributed to 215 prominent experts from five professional groups on five continents. To analyze the presence of agreements or disagreements within and outside of the basin, as well as differences across expert groups, a k-mean clustering analysis and statistical tests (ANOVA and t-test) were employed. The results imply agreement on 75% of the proposed indicators by all experts across all continents. However, a significant difference in identifying the importance and relevance of many indicators between experts from Egypt and other countries was evident. This study thus demonstrates how the UN watercourse convention principles can be quantified and applied to transboundary water allocation, and ideally lead to informed discourse between basin countries in conflict. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Managing Water Resources in Large River Basins)
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Communication
An Integrative Framework for Stakeholder Engagement Using the Basin Futures Platform
Water 2020, 12(9), 2398; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12092398 - 26 Aug 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 885
Abstract
Water resources are under growing pressures globally, and better basin planning is crucial to alleviate current and future water scarcity issues. Communicating the complex interconnections and needs of natural and human systems is a significant research challenge. With advances in cyberinfrastructure allowing for [...] Read more.
Water resources are under growing pressures globally, and better basin planning is crucial to alleviate current and future water scarcity issues. Communicating the complex interconnections and needs of natural and human systems is a significant research challenge. With advances in cyberinfrastructure allowing for new innovative approaches to basin planning, this same technology can also facilitate better stakeholder engagement. The potential benefits of using digital basin planning platforms for stakeholder engagement are immense; yet, there is limited guidance on how to best use these platforms for more effective stakeholder engagement in water-related issues and projects. We detail our digital platform, Basin Futures, and highlight the potential uses for stakeholder engagement through an integrative framework across different assessment levels. Basin Futures is a web application that is an entry-level modelling tool that aims to support rapid and exploratory basin planning globally. As a cloud-based tool, it brings together high-performance computing and large-scale global datasets to make data analysis accessible and efficient. We explore the potential use of the tool through three case studies exploring agricultural development, transboundary water-sharing agreements and allocating water for environmental flows. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Managing Water Resources in Large River Basins)
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Article
Re-Interpreting Cooperation in Transboundary Waters: Bringing Experiences from the Brahmaputra Basin
Water 2019, 11(12), 2589; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11122589 - 08 Dec 2019
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2757
Abstract
Several studies have demonstrated the continuum of cooperation on transboundary rivers, but have largely focused on government to government (Track 1) cooperation and formal diplomacy. Formal arrangements like treaties, agreements, joint mechanisms, joint bodies, joint commissions (e.g., river basin organizations), etc., fall within [...] Read more.
Several studies have demonstrated the continuum of cooperation on transboundary rivers, but have largely focused on government to government (Track 1) cooperation and formal diplomacy. Formal arrangements like treaties, agreements, joint mechanisms, joint bodies, joint commissions (e.g., river basin organizations), etc., fall within the scope of transboundary waters cooperation. However, in some transboundary rivers, often due to political constraints, Track 1 cooperation might not be a feasible option. When governmental cooperation is a non-starter, effort and progress made outside the government domain through informal dialogues can play a significant role. It is therefore important to re-examine the definition of cooperation as it applies to international rivers, and potentially to broaden its scope. Such an examination raises important questions: What does international cooperation in this context actually mean? Is it formal (Track 1) cooperation related to sharing of water, data, and information only, or does it have a broader meaning? What, precisely, can be the entry point for such cooperation? Are informal transboundary dialogues and water diplomacy itself an entry point for cooperation on international rivers? This paper aimed to answer these critical questions drawing from the “Brahmaputra Dialogue” project initiated in 2013 under the South Asia Water Initiative (SAWI), which involved the four riparian countries of the Brahmaputra Basin. Several important focal points of cooperation emerged through this sustained dialogue, which went beyond sharing hydrological data or signing a basin-level treaty, broadening the definition of “cooperation”. The paper, bringing evidence from the dialogue, argues that the Brahmaputra Dialogue process has led to a broader understanding of cooperation among basin stakeholders, which could influence water resource management of the basin in the future. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Managing Water Resources in Large River Basins)
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Communication
Planning in Democratizing River Basins: The Case for a Co-Productive Model of Decision Making
Water 2019, 11(12), 2480; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11122480 - 25 Nov 2019
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1518
Abstract
We reflect on methodologies to support integrated river basin planning for the Ayeyarwady Basin in Myanmar, and the Kamala Basin in Nepal, to which we contributed from 2017 to 2019. The principles of Integrated Water Resources Management have been promoted across states and [...] Read more.
We reflect on methodologies to support integrated river basin planning for the Ayeyarwady Basin in Myanmar, and the Kamala Basin in Nepal, to which we contributed from 2017 to 2019. The principles of Integrated Water Resources Management have been promoted across states and regions with markedly different biophysical and political economic conditions. IWRM-based river basin planning is complex, resource intensive, and aspirational. It deserves scrutiny to improve process and outcome legitimacy. We focus on the value of co-production and deliberation in IWRM. Among our findings: (i) multi-stakeholder participation can be complicated by competition between actors for resources and legitimacy; (ii) despite such challenges, multi-stakeholder deliberative approaches can empower actors and can be an effective means for co-producing knowledge; (iii) tensions between (rational choice and co-productive) models of decision complicate participatory deliberative planning. Our experience suggests that a commitment to co-productive decision-making fosters socially legitimate IWRM outcomes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Managing Water Resources in Large River Basins)
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Article
Participatory Modelling of Surface and Groundwater to Support Strategic Planning in the Ganga Basin in India
Water 2019, 11(12), 2443; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11122443 - 21 Nov 2019
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 2103
Abstract
The Ganga Basin in India experiences problems related to water availability, water quality and ecological degradation because of over-abstraction of surface and groundwater, the presence of various hydraulic infrastructure, discharge of untreated sewage water, and other point and non-point source pollution. The basin [...] Read more.
The Ganga Basin in India experiences problems related to water availability, water quality and ecological degradation because of over-abstraction of surface and groundwater, the presence of various hydraulic infrastructure, discharge of untreated sewage water, and other point and non-point source pollution. The basin is experiencing rapid socio-economic development that will increase both the demand for water and pollution load. Climate change adds to the uncertainty and future variability of water availability. To support strategic planning for the Ganga Basin by the Indian Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and the governments of the concerned Indian states, a river basin model was developed that integrates hydrology, geohydrology, water resources management, water quality and ecology. The model was developed with the involvement of key basin stakeholders across central and state governments. No previous models of the Ganga Basin integrate all these aspects, and this is the first time that a participatory approach was applied for the development of a Ganga Basin model. The model was applied to assess the impact of future socio-economic and climate change scenarios and management strategies. The results suggest that the impact of socio-economic development will far exceed the impacts of climate change. To balance the use of surface and groundwater to support sustained economic growth and an ecologically healthy river, it is necessary to combine investments in wastewater treatment and reservoir capacity with interventions that reduce water demand, especially for irrigation, and that increase dry season river flow. An important option for further investigation is the greater use of alluvial aquifers for temporary water storage. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Managing Water Resources in Large River Basins)
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Article
Freshwater Ecosystems versus Hydropower Development: Environmental Assessments and Conservation Measures in the Transboundary Amur River Basin
Water 2019, 11(8), 1570; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11081570 - 29 Jul 2019
Cited by 7 | Viewed by 2390
Abstract
Hydropower development causes a multitude of negative effects on freshwater ecosystems, and to prevent and minimize possible damage, environmental impact assessments must be conducted and optimal management scenarios designed. This paper examines the impacts of both existing and proposed hydropower development on the [...] Read more.
Hydropower development causes a multitude of negative effects on freshwater ecosystems, and to prevent and minimize possible damage, environmental impact assessments must be conducted and optimal management scenarios designed. This paper examines the impacts of both existing and proposed hydropower development on the transboundary Amur River basin shared by Russia, China, and Mongolia, including the effectiveness of different tools and measures to minimize damage. It demonstrates that the application of various assessment and conservation tools at the proper time and in the proper sequence is the key factor in mitigating and minimizing the environmental impacts of dams. The tools considered include basin-wide assessments of hydropower impacts, the creation of protected areas on rivers threatened by dam construction, and environmental flows. The results of this work show how the initial avoidance and mitigation of hydropower impacts at early planning stages are more productive than the application of any measures during and after dam construction, that the assessment of hydropower impacts must be performed at a basin level rather than be limited to a project implementation site, and that the full spectrum of possible development scenarios should be considered. In addition, this project demonstrates that stakeholder analysis and robust public engagement are as crucial for the success of environmental assessments as scientific research is for the protection of river basins. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Managing Water Resources in Large River Basins)
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Article
Copula-Based Research on the Multi-Objective Competition Mechanism in Cascade Reservoirs Optimal Operation
Water 2019, 11(5), 995; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11050995 - 12 May 2019
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1459
Abstract
Water resources systems are often characterized by multiple objectives. Typically, there is no single optimal solution which can simultaneously satisfy all the objectives but rather a set of technologically efficient non-inferior or Pareto optimal solutions exists. Another point regarding multi-objective optimization is that [...] Read more.
Water resources systems are often characterized by multiple objectives. Typically, there is no single optimal solution which can simultaneously satisfy all the objectives but rather a set of technologically efficient non-inferior or Pareto optimal solutions exists. Another point regarding multi-objective optimization is that interdependence and contradictions are common among one or more objectives. Therefore, understanding the competition mechanism of the multiple objectives plays a significant role in achieving an optimal solution. This study examines cascade reservoirs in the Heihe River Basin of China, with a focus on exploring the multi-objective competition mechanism among irrigation water shortage, ecological water shortage and the power generation of cascade hydropower stations. Our results can be summarized as follows: (1) the three-dimensional and two-dimensional spatial distributions of a Pareto set reveal that these three objectives, that is, irrigation water shortage, ecological water shortage and power generation of cascade hydropower stations cannot reach the theoretical optimal solution at the same time, implying the existence of mutual restrictions; (2) to avoid subjectivity in choosing limited representative solutions from the Pareto set, the long series of non-inferior solutions are adopted to study the competition mechanism. The premise of sufficient optimization suggests a macro-rule of ‘one falls and another rises,’ that is, when one objective value is inferior, the other two objectives show stronger and superior correlation; (3) the joint copula function of two variables is firstly employed to explore the multi-objective competition mechanism in this study. It is found that the competition between power generation and the other objectives is minimal. Furthermore, the recommended annual average water shortage are 1492 × 104 m3 for irrigation and 4951 × 104 m3 for ecological, respectively. This study is expected to provide a foundation for selective preference of a Pareto set and insights for other multi-objective research. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Managing Water Resources in Large River Basins)
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Other

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Case Report
Downscaling of SMAP Soil Moisture in the Lower Mekong River Basin
Water 2020, 12(1), 56; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12010056 - 21 Dec 2019
Cited by 9 | Viewed by 1720
Abstract
In large river basins where in situ data were limited or absent, satellite-based soil moisture estimates can be used to supplement ground measurements for land and water resource management solutions. Consistent soil moisture estimation can aid in monitoring droughts, forecasting floods, monitoring crop [...] Read more.
In large river basins where in situ data were limited or absent, satellite-based soil moisture estimates can be used to supplement ground measurements for land and water resource management solutions. Consistent soil moisture estimation can aid in monitoring droughts, forecasting floods, monitoring crop productivity, and assisting weather forecasting. Satellite-based soil moisture estimates are readily available at the global scale but are provided at spatial scales that are relatively coarse for many hydrological modeling and decision-making purposes. Soil moisture data are obtained from NASA’s soil moisture active passive (SMAP) mission radiometer as an interpolated product at 9 km gridded resolution. This study implements a soil moisture downscaling algorithm that was developed based on the relationship between daily temperature change and average soil moisture under varying vegetation conditions. It applies a look-up table using global land data assimilation system (GLDAS) soil moisture and surface temperature data, and advanced very high resolution radiometer (AVHRR) and moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS) normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and land surface temperature (LST). MODIS LST and NDVI are used to obtain downscaled soil moisture estimates. These estimates are then used to enhance the spatial resolution of soil moisture estimates from SMAP 9 km to 1 km. Soil moisture estimates at 1 km resolution are able to provide detailed information on the spatial distribution and pattern over the regions being analyzed. Higher resolution soil moisture data are needed for practical applications and modelling in large watersheds with limited in situ data, like in the Lower Mekong River Basin (LMB) in Southeast Asia. The 1 km soil moisture estimates can be applied directly to improve flood prediction and assessment as well as drought monitoring and agricultural productivity predictions for large river basins. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Managing Water Resources in Large River Basins)
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