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Management of freshwater systems: The interactive roles of science, politics and management, and the public

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Although the global water crisis has been well recognized by both international and national agencies, little progress is being made in the management of this most precious of global resources. All fresh waters are connected with interflow from one water compartment to another. The rates of retention, or overturn, of water in each compartment, namely the atmosphere, rivers, lakes and groundwater, are the major determinants of both freshwater system classification and management strategies. Management implies manipulation to achieve some defined beneficial condition relevant to societal requirements. Three social groups interact directly in the management function, including the scientific, public and political communities. It is only when these three entities function in harmony that comprehensive management of natural systems can truly occur. Political concern over water management and, indeed, all environmental management, is driven by policies largely derived from the influence exerted by many groups and organizations with vested interests in advancing their own purposes or agendas. Once policies are established and implemented by legislation and the bureaucracy, management possibilities and public funding then become focused, and the flexibility to deal with other issues might be largely lost. The pursuit of knowledge through scientific research is a major victim of policy changes and short-term changes in the priorities of funding allocation. It is now clear that the scientific community and the public need a greater awareness of the manner in which the system functions as a whole, and how they can ensure that their collective opinions are used to greater effect in the determination of public policy and consequent management of freshwater systems.
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Keywords: freshwater; management; politics; public; science

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: F.-A. Forel Institute, University of Geneva, Versoix, Switzerland

Publication date: 2004-03-01

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