Debates - Perspectives on socio-hydrology: Modeling flood risk as a public policy problem

Patricia Gober, Howard S. Wheater

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

43 Scopus citations

Abstract

Socio-hydrology views human activities as endogenous to water system dynamics; it is the interaction between human and biophysical processes that threatens the viability of current water systems through positive feedbacks and unintended consequences. Di Baldassarre et al. implement socio-hydrology as a flood risk problem using the concept of social memory as a vehicle to link human perceptions to flood damage. Their mathematical model has heuristic value in comparing potential flood damages in green versus technological societies. It can also support communities in exploring the potential consequences of policy decisions and evaluating critical policy tradeoffs, for example, between flood protection and economic development. The concept of social memory does not, however, adequately capture the social processes whereby public perceptions are translated into policy action, including the pivotal role played by the media in intensifying or attenuating perceived flood risk, the success of policy entrepreneurs in keeping flood hazard on the public agenda during short windows of opportunity for policy action, and different societal approaches to managing flood risk that derive from cultural values and economic interests. We endorse the value of seeking to capture these dynamics in a simplified conceptual framework, but favor a broader conceptualization of socio-hydrology that includes a knowledge exchange component, including the way modeling insights and scientific results are communicated to floodplain managers. The social processes used to disseminate the products of socio-hydrological research are as important as the research results themselves in determining whether modeling is used for real-world decision making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4782-4788
Number of pages7
JournalWater Resources Research
Volume51
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

Keywords

  • decision making under uncertainty
  • floodplain management
  • knowledge translation
  • natural hazards
  • simulation modeling
  • socio-hydrology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology

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