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J. Ganoulis (2001). Water Resources Management at the Turn of the Millennium: Towards a New Scientific Paradigm [Free opinion]. Rev. Sci. Eau14 (2) : 222-230. [article in French]

Original title: La Gestion de l'Eau à l'Aube du 3ème Millénaire: Vers un Paradigme Scientifique Nouveau [Tribune libre].

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The aim of this article is to analyze the new approach to water resources management adopted by the scientific community at the turn of the millennium. After reviewing the basic concept of this approach, a scientific methodology is proposed, in order to express the general and mostly descriptive new concept in analytical and quantitative terms, so that it may be applied in practical cases.

For several decades now the general concept of this new approach has been developing along the lines of sustainable development. This means that social and environmental considerations have been added to the traditional objectives of technical performance and economic effectiveness. The question now being raised is how the complex concept of sustainability, which until now has been expressed in general and descriptive terms only, may be formulated in the analytical and quantitative terms of a scientific methodology.

On the methodological level, the fact that several criteria and objectives within a coherent framework of hypotheses and reasoning are taken into account may suggest a move towards a new scientific paradigm. The general framework of the paradigm proposed in this paper is that of multidimensional quantitative risk analysis.

Traditionally, the general objective of water management has been the satisfaction of demand for various uses, such as agriculture, drinking water or industry, using available water resources in technically reliable and economically efficient ways. This approach has led to structural and mostly technocratic solutions being suggested and implemented in several countries. However in many cases, building dams, modifying riverbeds and diverting rivers has had serious negative repercussions on the environment and on social conditions. Moreover, waste in the use of this precious resource and rampant pollution in all areas of water use have raised doubts about this form of management. The concept of a sustainable management of water resources was first mentioned in Stockholm in 1972, during the United Nations World Conference and then at the Rio summit in 1992 with Agenda 21.

The new philosophy is based on the integrated management of water at the watershed basin level. Emphasis is placed on environmental protection, the active participation of local communities, the management of demand, institutional aspects and the role of continuous and lifelong education of all water users.

On the methodological level, integrated water management remains an open question and several different approaches are seeking to define a coherent paradigm. One possible paradigm is proposed in this article and may be called the " 4E paradigm " : Epistemic, Economic, Environmental, Equitable. It is based on risk analysis, with a multidimensional character: Scientific, Economic, Environmental and Social. This paradigm uses either the theory of probability, or fuzzy logic, or both, in order to assess and integrate technico-economic and socio-environmental risks in a perspective of sustainable management of water resources.


Water resources, sustainable management, risk analysis.

Corresponding author

Jacques Ganoulis, Laboratoire d'hydraulique, Civol Engineering Department, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, 54006 Thessaloniki, GRÈCE

Email : iganouli@civil.auth.gr
Telephone : +30 31 99 56 82 / Fax : +30 31 99 56 81

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Update: 2007-05-03
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