skip to main content

Title: Understanding institutions for water allocation and exchange: Insights from dynamic agent‐based modeling

Water allocation occurs within systems that include market‐driven and nonmarket approaches; these are often nested within complex collections of laws, contracts, and customs, and embody cultural definitions of the nature of water as a commodity or a right and the nature of fair exchanges. Understanding the dynamics of such an allocation system, including the ways that it may change through time and the ways that it can be modified to better achieve societal goals, can be challenging. One promising approach is agent‐based modeling (ABM), and specifically models in which the agents dynamically adapt to the system that they create. The potential for such modeling in the domain of water systems is only beginning to be explored. We present a highly abstract but illustrative example of an adaptive system and its analysis to show the potential for the ABM approach.

This article is categorized under:

Engineering Water > Planning Water

Human Water > Rights to Water

Engineering Water > Methods

Human Water > Water Governance

more » « less
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
WIREs Water
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Centralized water infrastructure has, over the last century, brought safe and reliable drinking water to much of the world. But climate change, combined with aging and underfunded infrastructure, is increasingly testing the limits of—and reversing gains made by—this approach. To address these growing strains and gaps, we must assess and advance alternatives to centralized water provision and sanitation. The water literature is rife with examples of systems that are neither centralized nor networked, yet meet water needs of local communities in important ways, including: informal and hybrid water systems, decentralized water provision, community‐based water management, small drinking water systems, point‐of‐use treatment, small‐scale water vendors, and packaged water. Our work builds on these literatures by proposing a convergence approach that can integrate and explore the benefits and challenges of modular, adaptive, and decentralized (“MAD”) water provision and sanitation, often foregrounding important advances in engineering technology. We further provide frameworks to evaluate justice, economic feasibility, governance, human health, and environmental sustainability as key parameters of MAD water system performance.

    This article is categorized under:

    Engineering Water > Water, Health, and Sanitation

    Human Water > Water Governance

    Engineering Water > Sustainable Engineering of Water

    more » « less
  2. null (Ed.)
    The nexus of food, energy, and water systems (FEWS) has become a salient research topic, as well as a pressing societal and policy challenge. Computational modeling is a key tool in addressing these challenges, and FEWS modeling as a subfield is now established. However, social dimensions of FEWS nexus issues, such as individual or social learning, technology adoption decisions, and adaptive behaviors, remain relatively underdeveloped in FEWS modeling and research. Agent-based models (ABMs) have received increasing usage recently in efforts to better represent and integrate human behavior into FEWS research. A systematic review identified 29 articles in which at least two food, energy, or water sectors were explicitly considered with an ABM and/or ABM-coupled modeling approach. Agent decision-making and behavior ranged from reactive to active, motivated by primarily economic objectives to multi-criteria in nature, and implemented with individual-based to highly aggregated entities. However, a significant proportion of models did not contain agent interactions, or did not base agent decision-making on existing behavioral theories. Model design choices imposed by data limitations, structural requirements for coupling with other simulation models, or spatial and/or temporal scales of application resulted in agent representations lacking explicit decision-making processes or social interactions. In contrast, several methodological innovations were also noted, which were catalyzed by the challenges associated with developing multi-scale, cross-sector models. Several avenues for future research with ABMs in FEWS research are suggested based on these findings. The reviewed ABM applications represent progress, yet many opportunities for more behaviorally rich agent-based modeling in the FEWS context remain. 
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Informed by decades of literature, water interventions increasingly deploy “gender‐sensitive” or even “gender transformative” approaches that seek to redress the disproportionate harms women face from water insecurity. These efforts recognize the role of gendered social norms and unequal power relations but often focus narrowly on the differences and dynamics between cisgender (cis) men and women. This approach renders less visible the ways that living with water insecurity can differentially affect all individuals through the dynamics of gender, sexuality, and linked intersecting identities. Here, we first share a conceptual toolkit that explains gender as fluid, negotiated, and diverse beyond the cis‐binary. Using this as a starting point, we then review what is known and can be theorized from current literature, identifying limited observations from water‐insecure communities to identify examples of contexts where gendered mechanisms (such as social norms) differentiate experiences of water insecurity, such as elevating risks of social stigma, physical harm, or psychological distress. We then apply this approach to consider expanded ways to include transgender, non‐binary, and gender and sexual diversity to deepen, nuance and expand key thematics and approaches for water insecurity research. Reconceptualizing gender in these ways widens theoretical possibilities, changes how we collect data, and imagines new possibilities for effective and just water interventions.

    This article is categorized under:

    Human Water > Value of Water

    Engineering Water > Water, Health, and Sanitation

    Human Water > Water as Imagined and Represented

    Human Water > Methods

    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Agent‐based models (ABMs) are increasing in popularity as tools to simulate and explore many biological systems. Successes in simulation lead to deeper investigations, from designing systems to optimizing performance. The typically stochastic, rule‐based structure of ABMs, however, does not lend itself to analytic and numerical techniques of optimization the way traditional dynamical systems models do. The goal of this work is to illustrate a technique for approximating ABMs with a partial differential equation (PDE) system to design some management strategies on the ABM. We propose a surrogate modeling approach, using differential equations that admit direct means of determining optimal controls, with a particular focus on environmental heterogeneity in the ABM. We implement this program with both PDE and ordinary differential equation (ODE) approximations on the well‐known rabbits and grass ABM, in which a pest population consumes a resource. The control problem addressed is the reduction of this pest population through an optimal control formulation. After fitting the ODE and PDE models to ABM simulation data in the absence of control, we compute optimal controls using the ODE and PDE models, which we them apply to the ABM. The results show promise for approximating ABMs with differential equations in this context.

    more » « less

    Introduction:As challenges to biodiversity mount, land-use policies have been implemented to balance human needs and the integrity of ecological systems. One such program, Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES), incentivizes resource users to protect ecosystem services and has been implemented around the world to reduce soil erosion, create or improve wildlife habitats, and improve water quality and other environmental goals. The PES policy, at its core, is a concept that aims to capture the reciprocal relationships between human systems and ecological function and process. As such, PES epistemologically embodies a coupled human and natural systems approach.

    Outcomes:Yet, despite this conceptual alignment, the on-the-ground implementation or evaluation of PES typically does not adopt this coupled approach and PES programs have little integration between socioeconomic, sociocultural, human demographic, and ecological elements. To advance the evolution of PES, we consider what and how socioeconomic and ecological factors have been incorporated into PES program implementation and evaluation. We also present a conceptual model to articulate how PES research can capture the reciprocal relationships among socioeconomics, demography, and ecology and discuss the quantitative modeling approaches that can support this conceptual development, i.e., structural equation and agent-based modeling, and latent trajectory models.

    Conclusions:By strengthening the conceptual framework for PES within a coupled human and natural systems approach and identifyinganalytical approaches that can be used to quantify and characterize these complex cross-disciplinary relationships, we aim to support the evolution and advancement of PES, in service of more meaningful and positive outcomes for human well-being and ecological sustainability.

    more » « less