WEBINAR: Dealing with Complex Water Systems: Deceiving Modeling Assumptions and Misleading Policies

Originally aired November 20, 2019 | 1:00 - 2:00 PM ET

PDH credit available to all attendees; contact membership@awra.org to request your certificate.

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Hydrologic and water resources analysis methods have traditionally benefited from various modeling approaches to examine the physical, hydrological, design, operational, and economic aspects of water systems. While these methods have contributed to improved socio-economic conditions in human communities, they have proven to be inadequate for sustainable management of water. There is now a growing recognition that water is just a component of a larger complex human-environmental system of systems, characterized by deep uncertainty, limited predictability, bounded rationality, indeterminate causality, evolutionary change, and non-stationarity. Thus, developing effective technologic and policy solutions to water problems requires insights into the dynamic interactions of the water system with other social, economic, political, and physical systems within the larger human-environmental system-of systems. Such insights are, however, difficult to obtain due to the major limitations of the conventional water resources systems modeling and analysis frameworks. In this webinar, Kaveh highlights some of these limitations to argue why we need to adopt alternative analysis approaches if we want to develop comprehensive solutions to our water problems without causing unintended consequences.

Learning Objectives

Participants of this webinar can expect to hear:
  1. Some of the major characteristics of complex water systems.
  2. Common misleading assumptions in water resources systems modeling.
  3. Major difficulties of water resources policy-making in real world.


Kaveh Madani
Henry Hart Rice Senior Fellow
Yale University

Kaveh Madani is an environmental engineer, educator, and activist, working at the interface of science, policy, and society. He is currently a Henry Hart Rice Senior Fellow at the Department of Political Science and the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies of Yale University, and also a Visiting Professor at the Centre for Environmental Policy (CEP) of Imperial College London. By developing and applying mathematical, economic, and systems analysis models, his work provides policy and governance insights into complex human-environmental systems problems involving water, energy, food, climate, and environment. In the public policy arena, he has previously served as the Vice President of the UN Environment Assembly Bureau and the Deputy Vice President of Iran in his position as the Deputy Head of Iran’s Department of Environment. He held various strategic roles during his public service in Iran and led the country’s delegation in a number of major intergovernmental meetings and negotiations over climate change, water, and the environment. He has received a number of awards for his research, teaching, as well as outreach and humanitarian activities, including the New Faces of Civil Engineering recognition by the ASCE in 2012, the EGU’s Arne Richter Award for Outstanding Young Scientists in 2016, the ASCE’s Walter Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize in 2017, and the AGU’s Hydrologic Sciences Early Career Award in 2019.


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