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Authors: Shafiqul Islam, William Moomaw

Water and Diplomacy 2011
Shafiqul “Shafik” Islam, ScD. Professor, School of Engineering and Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
William Moomaw, PhD. Professor, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
Tufts University

Global Water

Water is essential. Water quantity is finite.
Water uses are increasing.
Water issues are contextual and multi-faceted.
Water, however, is not a fixed resource.

Why Do We Need Water Diplomacy?

Water Diplomacy @ Tufts is a program at Tufts University that is producing interdisciplinary water professionals who think across boundaries, emphasize integration of explicit and tacit knowledge, link knowledge and action from multiple perspectives to help resolve water issues through mutual gains negotiations.

Water problems are complex because they cross physical, disciplinary and jurisdictional boundaries. Water, viewed as a fixed resource, lends itself to conflicts over its division.

Origins of most water problems may be understood as intricate coupling among natural, societal, and political domains where people and problems interact to shape the framing of the problem. The search for scientific bases, without understanding the societal issues and driving values, to address water issues make these problems complex because the underlying policy issues cannot be definitively described or separated from political context. A synthesis of explicit (scientific water information from natural domain) and tacit (contextual water information from societal domain) knowledge of water is needed to transform fixed water quantity into a flexible resource.

The ability of purely scientific and engineering approaches to address major challenges in managing water resources has reached its limit.

  • While scientific formulation and engineering solutions are necessary to address water problems, effective synthesis of societal and political solutions have not been an integral part of long-term and adaptive resolutions of many unresolved water problems.

  • Water issues are complex because of their intricate coupling among natural, societal, and political domains where people and problems interact to shape the framing of the issue.

  • Water, as a limited resource, lends itself to destructive conflicts over its division;

How do we plan to “create” Water Diplomats?

Prepare next generation of water professionals who will create an adaptive and actionable knowledge to resolve water problems through negotiated solutions.

  • Develop the intellectual foundation to integrate knowledge from natural and societal domains through collaborative and continuous learning.

    • Formulation and framing of water problems must recognize that NSD variables are intricately linked. The NSD framework attempts to synthesize and integrate explicit and tacit water information within a dynamical and evolving context to create reliable, relevant and readily actionable knowledge.

    • Jointly define the problem by integrating knowledge from scientific and engineering disciplines (School of Arts and Science and the School of Engineering) and legal and policy disciplines (The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy).

    • Work with national and international partners to synthesize water information and contextual knowledge by examining real world case studies through the NSD framework.

    • Contribute to AquaPedia , an interactive, searchable, web-based open-access collaborative platform of global water case studies organized around NSD framework.

    • Promote interactive dialogue among producers and users of knowledge to combine disciplinary, contextual, and pragmatic perspectives in exploring negotiated solutions.

  • Generate actionable knowledge and negotiated solutions

    • Conduct field work with guidance from a growing list of national and international partners including Stockholm Environment Institute, South Florida Water Management District, World Bank, Institute of Water and Flood Management, Bangladesh and South Asia Consortium of Interdisciplinary Water Studies.

    • Facilitate sharing and dissemination of knowledge through network of users and producers using Aquapedia as a platform.

AquaPedia

Water problems are complex because they cross physical, disciplinary and jurisdictional boundaries. Water, viewed as a fixed resource, lends itself to conflicts over its division.

Origins of most water problems may be understood as intricate coupling among natural, societal, and political domains where people and problems interact to shape the framing of the problem. The search for scientific bases, without understanding the societal issues and driving values, to address water issues make these problems complex because the underlying policy issues cannot be definitively described or separated from political context. A synthesis of explicit (scientific water information from natural domain) and tacit (contextual water information from societal domain) knowledge of water is needed to transform fixed water quantity into a flexible resource.

Participants contribute and create actionable water knowledge.

AquaPedia is:

  • Free

  • Interactive

  • Web based

  • Easily searchable

AquaPedia is synthesized by:

  • Water scholars

  • Policy makers

  • Professionals

  • Practitioners

  • Educators

  • Users

Who will use AquaPedia?

  • Water professionals like you!

  • Water managers, government officials, NGOs, and community activists.

  • Water users and policy makers.

  • Disenfranchised groups with limited or no access to water information and wisdom.

Why will you use AquaPedia?

  • Derive actionable knowledge for contextual applications.

  • Learn from others’ experiences to resolve your local water issues.

  • Help disadvantaged groups access water knowledge.

How to get involved with AquaPedia?

  • Become an active member of our fast growing editor network.

  • Become an author of a case study.

  • Participate in conversations on various water topics in the AquaPedia Forum.

Global water case studies at AquaPedia

AquaPedia will approach a water issue or a case study from the fairest and the most neutral position possible. AquaPedia provides a strongly collaborative environment to synthesize water knowledge through interactive feedback and continuous refinement. Each author will be the primary contributor and should take pride in his/her own work. Editors will work collaboratively with the authors to ensure the objectivity of the content, the future development of the topic, and manage the comments, feedback and contributions from the AquaPedia community of users after a case study is posted. This will provide a way to create an organically growing repository of reliable and relevant case studies with content spanning a wide spectrum of information, wisdom, viewpoints, and skills.

Click here for case studies in AquaPedia.

Water is becoming an expandable resource because of an ongoing fundamental change in the conceptualization and sharing of a basic resource of human society - knowledge. When viewed as a fixed pie, water lends itself to destructive conflict over its division; knowledge of water, however, is an expandable pie. Knowledge transforms this fixed resource into a flexible one. For example, a distinction between blue and green water fundamentally changes the amount of available water for competing uses.

We can enhance the uses of water by sharing the knowledge of water across the globe. This gives rise to an objective need for linking mechanism between the emergent global and local networks. The AquaPedia network will allow the sharing of the available knowledge and local understanding of water problems and solutions.

We posit that the origin of many water issues and conflicts can be understood as a dynamic consequence of competition, feedback and interconnections among variables in the Natural and Societal Systems (NSSs). Within the natural system, we recognize that triple constraints on water — quantity (Q), quality (P), and ecosystem (E) — and their interdependencies and feedback may lead to constraints and conflicts. Inherent and multifaceted constraints of the natural water system are often exacerbated at the societal boundaries. Within the societal system, interdependencies and feedback among societal values and norms (V), economic factors (C), and governance factors (G) interact in a variety of ways to create intractable contextual differences.

Currently, a commonly accepted vocabulary and framework that can translate information between natural and societal domains to derive synthesized water knowledge do not exist. Our goal is to create a framework and a self-generative network to facilitate the production of actionable knowledge from across scales and places around the globe.

AquaPedia will provide this framework to synthesize explicit and tacit knowledge and will serve as a forum to bring together a network of stakeholders to produce actionable knowledge that are reliable, relevant and readily available. AquaPedia will make the knowledge and experience gained by people in managing water resources available and useful to others who have similar issues in their own contextual setting. AquaPedia will serve as a forum for water users and professionals including managers, government officials, conflict resolution experts, environmental NGOs and other decision makers to discuss and share ideas on water issues. This shared network will foster intelligent decision making through reliable, relevant, and standardized public information.

AquaPedia will approach a water issue or a case study from the fairest and the most neutral position possible. AquaPedia provides a strongly collaborative environment to synthesize water knowledge through interactive feedback and continuous refinement. Each author will be the primary contributor and should take pride in his/her own work. Editors will work collaboratively with the authors to ensure the objectivity of the content, the future development of the topic, and manage the comments, feedback and contributions from the AquaPedia community of users after a case study is posted. This will provide a way to create an organically growing repository of reliable and relevant case studies with content spanning a wide spectrum of information, wisdom, viewpoints, and skills.