This paper provides an introduction to systems approaches to water management research. Common concepts in systems thinking are defined and the concepts of level, system boundaries and emergent properties are described. Differences between hard- and soft-systems approaches are presented with examples. Finally, the spectrum of approaches to water management research are discussed in terms of their level and degree of holism and in the context of the U.K. Department for International Development Renewable Natural Resources Research Strategy. A greater emphasis on more subjective and holistic approaches is recommended in order to define more clearly the researchable constraints in water management.
Stephens, W. and Hess, T (1999) Systems approaches to water management research. Agricultural Water Management, 40 (1): 3-13. [doi:10.1016/S0378-3774(98)00097-3]