Call edition 2012

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Tailor-made information systems for integrated water management/The case of the Claro river basin (Chile)

Florence VAN HOUTTE student laureate

°1978 Belgium
Agricultural engineer, Université Catholique de Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, 2002

Tailor-made information systems for integrated water management/The case of the Claro river basin (Chile)

The use and management of water is a severe problem in many developing nations. Responsibility is fragmented across countless public authorities and administrative bodies. The private sector plays a negligible role in the overall process. Scarcity of water, inadequate regulation and lack of knowledge and financial resources generally lead to small- or large-scale conflicts between different sectors of society. Agriculture is usually the biggest water-user, due to the need to irrigate crops. Decisions about conflict situations, the daily management of water distribution and regulations controlling distribution, quality and other matters are normally based on scarce and totally insufficient information. The institution/person who has the strongest position in negotiations usually gains the upper hand at the expense of other users. A tailor-made information system is an essential basis for good decision-making. This information system needs to be complete, of course, i.e. the data which is of use to the various stakeholders needs to be covered by it. As this information varies greatly in nature and form, the information system needs to store the data in a structured manner, and enable it to be updated, presented and processed, in a flexible way, into information of use to policymakers. This system needs to be tailor-made (a) because water management can differ from one basin to the next, and (b) so that it can be transferred to other regions.
In the information system devised in Florence Van Houtte’s dissertation and tested on the Claro river basin in Chile, an indication is given of which information is essential for decision-making and how the information can be translated into indicators, indices and information useful for policy-making. Worthy of note here is the ecosystem functions approach, which has been used as the basis for formulating integrated solutions to the water issue at river basin level. The method provided is not just highly relevant for developing nations – easy to apply – but can also serve as a model for the integrated water management of river basins in industrial countries.

report by Prof. J. Feyen, Institute for Land and Water Management, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium