Time scale interactions and the coevolution of humans and water


We present a coevolutionary view of hydrologic systems, revolving around feedbacks between environmental and social processes operating across different time scales. This brings to the fore an emphasis on emergent phenomena in changing water systems, such as the levee effect, adaptation to change, system lock-in, and system collapse due to resource depletion. Changing human values play a key role in the emergence of these phenomena and should therefore be considered as internal to the system. Guidance is provided for the framing and modeling of these phenomena to test alternative hypotheses about how they arose. A plurality of coevolutionary models, from stylized to comprehensive system-of-system models, may assist strategic water management for long time scales through facilitating stakeholder participation, exploring the possibility space of alternative futures, and helping to synthesize the observed dynamics in a wide range of case studies. Future research opportunities lie in exploring emergent phenomena arising from time scale interactions through historical, comparative, and process studies of human-water feedbacks.

Publication Type
Journal Article
Murugesu Sivapalan, University of Illinois
Günter Blöschl
Water Resources Research

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