Implementing an integrated approach to water management by matching problem complexity with management responses: A case study of a mine site water committee
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An integrated approach is considered important for improving water management across a range of contexts - from water catchments to urban systems to mining sites. Challenges are faced in implementation due to the complexities in both human and physical (or engineered) dimensions. From a physical perspective, water systems are complex because issues are interconnected across spatial and temporal scales making it difficult to determine where to intervene to attain desired outcomes. The supporting human systems are also complex. Whether bounded at the company, regional or catchment scale, water systems are rarely controlled by a single actor or institution. For example, catchments extend across political boundaries, while different organisational departments share responsibilities for water reticulation through industrial sites. Effective water management requires coordinating decisions between diverse actors. This paper makes three contributions. First, from a consolidation of literature, three principles emerge that, if followed, should improve the management of a complex water system: (I) define whether the water issues to be addressed are simpler or more complex in nature; (II) discern whether the required response is more tactical or strategic; and (III) acknowledge the existence of boundaries and use them effectively. Second, a framework is proposed to support implementation of these principles using the mining industry as a test bed. The third contribution is an application at a case study site to examine the utility of the principles and the value of the framework. It is concluded that problems arising in a water system will be managed most effectively when problem complexity is "matched" with an equivalent management response. This practical approach may assist other industrial sites in comprehending the nature of the water issues affecting operations (simple to complex) and to assign the appropriate level of management authority relevant to the decision at hand (tactical to strategic). The framework may also have utility for managing water in a broader context, such as water catchments that lie across political boundaries. This may ultimately improve implementation of overarching concepts such as integrated water resources management (IWRM), assisting the recognised need to progress from theory to practice. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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