Big river basins are complex systems of people and nature. This article explores the resilience of nine case studies of big river basins. A system description and generic conceptual model suggests that resilience to changes in water quantity is critical. When water becomes limiting, the social-ecological system must adapt rapidly if key elements (for example, communities, biodiversity) are to be maintained. Water limitation imposes a water economy and alters political and institutional links between actors. Pro-active management for resilience demands politically acceptable participatory processes that use the best possible science and incorporate social, ecological and economic elements in problem definition and solution.
Water International (2011) 36 (1) 63-95 [DOI: 10.1080/02508060.2011.541016]