The Evolution of Water Resource Planning and Decision Making

The Evolution of Water Resource Planning and Decision Making

Edited by Clifford S. Russell and Duane D. Baumann

This broad review of the development of US water resource policy analysis and practice offers perspectives from several disciplines: law, economics, engineering, ecology and political science. The historical context provided goes back to the early 19th century, but the book concentrates on the past 60 years. A key feature is a discussion of the difficulty that has generally been encountered in bringing the disciplines of economics and ecology into collaboration in the water resource context.

Preface

Edited by Clifford S. Russell and Duane D. Baumann

Subjects: environment, water

Extract

Over a half-century ago, Gilbert F. White introduced the concept of flood plain management through his landmark 1942 PhD dissertation, ‘Human Adjustment to Floods’.1 Prior to that time, water resources management strategies were nearly all engineering-based, for example, design and construction of dams and levees. In spite of, or perhaps more accurately because of, our engineering marvels, the actual and potential damages associated with floods continued to rise in the USA, as industrial, commercial and residential development moved in behind the ‘safety’ of the flood control structures. Professor White argued that the federal government, particularly the US Army Corps of Engineers, needed to broaden its range of flood hazard management alternatives to include social and behavioral adjustments that would address the problem of increasing density and value of flood plain occupancy. This broader emphasis on the flood plain itself slowly began to capture the attention of planners, economists, political scientists, sociologists and eventually ecologists and biologists. The need for interdisciplinary collaboration came increasingly to be recognized, particularly during the period from the late 1950s through the 1960s. Nevertheless, it was and still is a daunting challenge for engineers, sociologists and biologists to agree on approaches to water resource planning, decision making and management. Through his continuing natural hazard work, and the work of his students, Professor White nurtured the process. His thoughts and actions have taken root in countless ways, perhaps most notably through the work of the University of Colorado’s Natural Hazards Center, which he established with support from...