Salvation for the saturated?

IWMI-led team launches a guide for the perplexed

IWMI-led team launches a guide for the perplexed

Is water stress different from water security? Should we care that it takes 2,500 liters of water to produce a single coconut? Is it better to study water efficiency or water productivity?

In the world of water management, new concepts abound, reflecting ever-growing recognition of the importance of water in the global development agenda. From responding to the challenges of climate change, population growth, food insecurity and energy development, water is often the common denominator. But as the discipline of water management has risen to prominence, it has also grown in complexity.

Photo: Neil Palmer
Photo: Neil Palmer


“The water world has become saturated with new concepts,” writes Jonathan Lautze, a researcher at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and editor of the recently released book, Key concepts in water resource management: A review and critical evaluation. With new theories, models and hypotheses emerging from existing ones that are themselves unclear, “practical use is often encumbered by ambiguity, confusion and even fatigue.”

In the book, Lautze and a team of water experts, many of whom are his IWMI peers, subject six key areas to close scrutiny. They unravel the origins, evolution, interpretations and ways to measure:

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  • Water scarcity
  • Water governance
  • Water security
  • Water productivity
  • Water footprints and virtual water
  • Green and blue water


We felt that a book like this was long overdue, said Lautze. “Concepts in water management are in constant flux. On the one hand, this reflects a healthy state of affairs because important issues that affect us all are being debated, reinterpreted and refined all the time. But, on the other hand, it may be beneficial to cut through some of the ambiguity and take stock. Hopefully, this book goes some way to achieving that.”

Essential reading for water professionals, policymakers and researchers across a range of disciplines, Key concepts in water resource management could help move the debate from issues of syntax to getting on with tackling the world’s water challenges as effectively as possible.

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About the book:

Lautze, J. (Ed.) 2014. Key concepts in water resource management: A review and critical evaluation.New York, NY, USA: Routledge – Earthscan. 152p. (Earthscan Water Text).

Jonathan Lautze is a Researcher at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Pretoria, South Africa.

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