Water JPI Joint Call (Step2) - 2018 Joint Call: Closing the Water Cycle Gap - Sustainable Management of Water Resources (Step2)

Mind the Water Cycle Gap: Innovating Water Management Optimisation Practice – IN-WOP

Submission summary

Optimization is what you do if you run out of on innovative ideas. Current practice in integrated water management predominantly use multi-objective optimization approaches with aggregated objectives. This biases results towards the status quo and against innovative solutions, can foster stakeholder resistance, while also raising ethical concerns related to the inclusion of undesirable and/or hidden trade-offs1. In contrast, many-objectives optimization approaches can consider many non-aggregated objectives, which has the potential to enrich the solution space with alternative courses of action that better reflect the diverging perspectives of stakeholders, and align better with ethical concerns. From the viewpoint of ethics, disaggregated assessment criteria are preferred as these may avoid undesirable and hidden trade-offs. Apart from some pioneering studies in economics and reliability engineering, no methods currently exist that are specifically aim to avoid such undesirable trade-offs. Here many-objective approaches to optimization and decision making offer a promising way-forward.

Water resources management increasingly relies on integrated models to analyses the socio-economic benefits of the scarce resource. These models typically connect sectoral water uses to water resources, and to performance indicators. These integrated models offer great potential in enabling more sustainable management of water resources. Currently these advances in modelling are however in many cases not exploited because their outputs are evaluated using multi-objective optimization on pre-maturely aggregated objective functions that cancel out the potential advantages of these integrated models in unpredictable ways. In the context of Integrated Water Resources Management, many-objective approaches offer greater opportunities to handle the many non-aggregated objectives that arise from sectoral integration. In the face of climate change and growing water scarcity the expansion of the solution space and the identification of innovative strategies for water management issues that many-objective approaches have on offer is of great relevance. For dissemination and implementation it is important that these innovations do not only offer methodological improvements for water managers, but specifically address the innovative characteristics of solutions, the improved alignment with the interests of stakeholders, as well as producing solutions that are ethically more just. The promise of the many-objectives methods regarding alternative courses of action is especially relevant under conditions of climate change and socio-economic developments and a growing emphasis on sustainability and inclusiveness in addition to efficiency and effectiveness.

The virtues of many-objective approaches have barely reached current practice in water management in Europe and beyond. To realize the promise this research operationalizes many-objective approaches for water management and contrasts them to existing practices. The project develops, operationalizes, and incorporates many-objective optimization in existing regional water management models. In close collaboration with local stakeholders and water managers. We apply both existing multi-objective methods and collaboratively developed many-objective approaches and compare and contrast the strategies that emerge from both as a concrete contribution to practice. Our contribution to science focusses on the validity of the many-objective hypotheses for water management. Finally for our project partners in our case study areas, we deliver operational models and software for implementation in daily management and decision making practice. Our case studies cover water management practices under divers climatic, hydrological, soil and socio-economic condition encountered in current and climate change affected Europe and beyond, and serve to disseminate innovated practices.

Project coordination

Jan Kwakkel (Delft University of Technology)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


G-EAU Gestion de l'eau, acteurs et usages
INAT National Agronomic Institute of Tunisia
DUT Delft University of Technology
Polimi Politecnico di Milano

Help of the ANR 313,923 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: April 2019 - 36 Months

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