Integrated Assessment and Sustainable Water and Wetland Management. A Review of Concepts and Methods


  • R. Brouwer National Institute for Integrated Inland Water Management and Waste Water Treatm
  • S. Georgiou Centre for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment (CSERGE), Univ
  • R.K. Turner Centre for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment (CSERGE), Univ


integrated assessment, decision support, water, wetlands, sustainable management.


This paper reviews and examines the potential of systematic and formalised interdisciplinary research concepts and methods for sustainable water and wetland policy and management, as advocated by the recently adopted EuropeanWater Framework Directive. Such potential lies in the integration of insights, methods and data drawn from natural and social sciences. The concept of integrated assessment is first defined in a preliminary way and is then reviewed from a range of methodological and policy analysis viewpoints. This overview addresses issues such as (1) the need for vertical and horizontal integration when linking information demand and supply; (2) procedural steps in integrated assessment; (3) useful frameworks to structure and handle complexity and uncertainty; (4) the distinction and correlation between ecological and social values of aquatic ecosystems; (5) available evaluation methods and techniques. Socially and politically sensitised forms of integrated assessment are an important step towards: (a) increasing awareness about the complex nature of the interdependency between our physical and socially constructed environment; (b) greater recognition that uncertainties and risk of irreversible change require careful consideration (precautionary principles) in decision-making, which may be facilitated by prior agreement on a sensible, preferably social learning based, evaluation process; (c) recognition that costs and benefits in complex decision-making circumstances are dynamic, as knowledge and experiences progress; (d) increasing public support for and trust in decisions because of greater transparency in the ex ante evaluation phase.