Adoption of a systems perspective by water planners responsible for infrastructure and supply can provide considerable benefits, even though analysis of water systems can be a very daunting task. Furthermore, actors in the system are often subject to individual biases, cognitive limitations, and often have limited timelines and resources. In addition, a paucity of pertinent information and spatial and temporal data limitations are problematic to water resource decision makers who are subject to bounded rationality. To overcome some limitations inherent in water resource management decisions, the authors have used exploratory techniques combining actor engagement with data collection and analysis using the Water Needs Index (WNI). The WNI methodology is a structured approach to assess multiple dimensions of water needs of particular spatial environments. The WNI has been previously applied at different scales (national, regional, catchment and urban) and has been found to be of most use at catchment and urban scales. The WNI methodology applies a mix of qualitative and quantitative approaches in case study settings. The process involves a review of several data sources (quantitative records and grey literature) for selection and compilation to calculate a WNI for a range of spatial locations. Qualitative research methods, such as workshops, have been used to investigate subjective opinions and incorporate local contextual knowledge. Workshops with key actors from urban water management case study areas have been found to be useful in facilitating dialogue and establishing dimensions, identifying useful and reliable data sources and adding insights and confirmation of appropriateness of data selection. This research reports on several case studies using the WNI methodology, in the Philippines, Viet Nam and Indonesia. The WNI methodology has been used to inform development of preliminary information embedded in Integrated Urban Water Management (IUWM) approaches and Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) which take a more holistic systems' perspective when planning for urban water management. The WNI index is a relatively straightforward multi-criteria assessment (using weights) forming a two-level hierarchy of dimensions and data sources, with systems analysis. The key task is the definition of dimensions, and the choice of data sources, as either observations or proxies of the dimensions. Selection of dimensions and subsequent ranking of water needs become an integral part of the development of the IUWM and IWRM. These approaches provide a means to manage water resources more sustainably by accounting for natural flows, water quality, water extraction, and balancing environmental and community needs. By taking a systems perspective and using index methodology, the views of stakeholders can be considered in the decision-making process and inform planning for more efficient use of resources. The research shows that the WNI is useful in informing urban water management planning and for provision of information essential to more holistic water resource outcomes. Activities have been designed to achieve a number of objectives for each case study city. Activities were designed to collectively frame the enquiry by taking a systems' perspective and using an observational framework by identifying data sources and integrating diverse knowledge sources. Engaging with a mix of stakeholders with often conflicting goals required a process for dialogue between actors and between institutions and enable conflict resolution to take place if required. The primary research outcome was development of a preliminary systems analysis. This research explores whether workshop interactions and data gathering activities achieved each project's stated objectives. This paper reports on the success or otherwise in meeting project objectives by introducing an evaluation process, based on the Protocol of Canberra.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/kim_alexander/17/