Water security and the science agenda

Howard S. Wheater, Patricia Gober

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

120 Scopus citations


The freshwater environment is facing unprecedented global pressures. Unsustainable use of surface and groundwater is ubiquitous. Gross pollution is seen in developing economies, nutrient pollution is a global threat to aquatic ecosystems, and flood damage is increasing. Droughts have severe local consequences, but effects on food can be global. These current pressures are set in the context of rapid environmental change and socio-economic development, population growth, and weak and fragmented governance. We ask what should be the role of the water science community in addressing water security challenges. Deeper understanding of aquatic and terrestrial environments and their interactions with the climate system is needed, along with trans-disciplinary analysis of vulnerabilities to environmental and societal change. The human dimension must be fully integrated into water science research and viewed as an endogenous component of water system dynamics. Land and water management are inextricably linked, and thus more cross-sector coordination of research and policy is imperative. To solve real-world problems, the products of science must emerge from an iterative, collaborative, two-way exchange with management and policy communities. Science must produce knowledge that is deemed to be credible, legitimate, and salient by relevant stakeholders, and the social process of linking science to policy is thus vital to efforts to solve water problems. The paper shows how a large-scale catchment-based observatory can be used to practice trans-disciplinary science integration and address the Anthropocene's water problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5406-5424
Number of pages19
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015


  • large-scale observatory
  • modeling and decision support systems
  • science-policy interface
  • socio-hydrology
  • trans-disciplinary water science
  • water security

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


Dive into the research topics of 'Water security and the science agenda'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this