Water Management


Course Objective

The key objectives are:

1) to understand how water-related processes, such as floods and
droughts, affect our society
2) elaborate on how the water manager can address these issues

For this, the course provides students with a multi-disciplinary view of
water management, including the physical assessment, the practice and
strategies, and the economic dimension of the matter. We will emphasise
on the implications of long term trends, e.g., in climate and in land
use, and we will reason on the uncertainty about these trends and on how
risk analysis can assist the water manager in harnessing these
uncertainties. More in detail, the goals for students are:
• To understand the complex interactions between various water-related
issues (e.g., scarcity, floods, pollution), the environment, and the
• To be able to approach a complex water-related issue in a systematic
and integrated manner, and to analytically interpret data and
information about this issue.
• To critically select the most appropriate measures to alleviate
water-related issues, evaluating their positive and negative effects on
different stakeholders.

Course Content

Several phenomena contribute to increase risks in the earth’s
hydrological system; among them are population growth, economic
development and climate change. Water managers are confronted with a
continuous stream of new scientific information on these phenomena.
Floods and droughts are expected to increasingly affect societies and
economies, and new approaches in water management are needed to deal
with these challenges. Furthermore, the development of adequate water
management strategies that can be used in practice is a difficult issue
and is the result of a complex and long-lasting policy process from the
national down to the local level. In this process, the science of water-
and of socio-economic systems can play an important role by supplying
policy-makers with answers that are key for decisions; for example,
about the effects of floods and droughts upon food production or upon
the socio-economy of urban areas. Moreover, uncertainty in future trends
add new challenges to water management, which can only be addressed by
risk-based techniques. Finally, water managers nowadays need to
cooperate with spatial planners, especially in large cities, to
incorporate in planning adequate consideration of increasing risks, such
as from storm surges and sea level rise.

The figure above shows the framework of the course, which reflects the
principles of the Integrated Water Resources Management cycle, an
iterative cycle. Lectures (in green) and computer practicums (CP, in
blue) cover each step of the IWRM (in black). In brief, IWRM starts with
the assessment of the quality and quantity of the water resources,
mainly with hydrological models; water resources are affected by changes
in climate, population and the socio-economy (considered in scenarios of
the future), so the next point of focus of IWRM is the impact of these
changes on human and environmental systems, using models of impact and
of risk. The successive step is the management and adaptation of the
water systems in the light of these impacts. These actions are then
evaluated in their effect, with a variety of tools like multi-criteria
and cost/benefit analysis. Successful IWRM deals with all of the steps
of this cycle iteratively.
Although the central topic of lectures can be associated with one of the
concepts in the IWRM cycle, most of them are cross-disciplinary and will
deal with more than one of these concepts. For example the lecture on
‘Global water use’ relates to Water Resources, but also to Impacts and
to Management. The course starts with the explanation of the modern
conception of the water cycle, then introduces the notions of IWRM
itself, and therefore moves on to deal with more detailed properties of
water systems, how human systems interact with them, and how the water
manager can chose the optimal actions to take and evaluate the outcomes.
This framework also serves as the basis to structure and inspire the
paper assignment on water in cities (see section 5).

Teaching Methods

The course sessions consists of topical lectures by relevant experts,
including two computer practicums.
It is important that you attend all sessions. Although attendance is not
formally checked, please make sure you participate, because this is an
intensive course, and each lecture represents a separate topic within
the course structure. Please communicate to the course coordinator if
you are incapacitated to attend any session.
At the beginning of the course, you will team up in groups of two/three
students to write a paper on water-related issues and adaptation in a
city of your choice, which will be presented in the final two sessions
(see section 5).
This course grants 6 credits, implying a study load of 168 hours.
A considerable effort will be dedicated on developing your own case
study for the paper assignment. This includes a literature study,
writing, and peer-reviewing the paper of other group of students.
Before attending the lectures (32 hours), you are expected to examine
the readings associated with them (28 hours). Some lectures also require
that you do a short (reading) assignment before them.
The structure of the lectures in class will help you identify the key
questions on which you will be assessed. Further information on the
assessment is given in section 5.

Method of Assessment

The course is assessed through: 1) a written exam; 2) a paper
assignment; 3) a peer review of another group’s paper.
The written exam will last about 2 hours. It will be ‘closed-book’,
contain both open and multiple-choice questions and will be based on the
readings (excluding the ‘background’ ones) and on the lectures. Also,
questions related to insights learned during the computer practicums can
be asked. Quantitative question may be asked, for which you’ll need to
bring a calculator. The written exam counts for 60% of the final grade.
Regardless of the final grade, the minimum exam score to pass the course
is 5 out of 10.
For the paper assignment, groups of students investigate a water-related
issue and its management in a city of their choice, and compose and
present a paper. Paper and presentation will be evaluated as 35% of the
final grade. Regardless of the final grade, the minimum paper score to
pass the course is 5 out of 10.
You will also individually perform a peer-review of the paper of another
group, and you will be graded for the quality and the insights of your
review, representing the 5% of the final grade.
The final grade will be calculate given the proportions above, and
rounded to the half grade.
Other small exercises, although not evaluated, are compulsory, these
• The exercise of the computer practicums. These need to be handed in
via Canvas. You will receive a short, collective feedback on them.
• The literature research exercise included in the lecture on flood
• Presence and active contribution to all student presentations.


The readings consist of book chapters and papers, and aim to give you a
broad understanding of the water management issues as befits a master’s
programme. It is very advisable to familiarize with the readers before
the lecture, and to do any preparatory exercises suggested in Canvas.
This helps you to actively engage in discussions during our meetings, to
think of the questions you want to ask to the lecturer, and also makes
it easier to prepare for the final exam.
The main notions of the readings can be tested at the exam. Some items
are specified as “background reading”, and they are meant as suggestions
to explore specific subjects in higher detail. All readings are either
freely available online from university computers and from home by using
the VU proxy server, or are uploaded to Canvas.

Target Audience

MSc students Environment and Resource Management (ERM); MSc Hydrology;
Earth Sciences and Economics(ESE).

General Information

Course Code AM_468023
Credits 6 EC
Period P1
Course Level 400
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator dr. P. Scussolini
Examiner dr. P. Scussolini
Teaching Staff dr. P. Scussolini
prof. dr. J.C.J.H. Aerts
dr. H. de Moel
T.I.E. Veldkamp MSc
prof. dr. M.H. Lamoree
dr. J.E. Blasch
T. Haer MSc

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Lecture, Computer lab
Target audiences

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