Resilience Assessment of Water Resources System
Publication Year: 2012
Journal: Water Resources Management
The resilience perspective, which emphasizes the integrated, systemic concept of human and nature interactions, is increasingly used as an approach for understanding the dynamic of social-ecological system. As the water resources system (WRS) is a social-ecological system, resilience thinking such as Holling’s adaptive cycle has been adopted as a fundamental unit for understanding the water resources system dynamics in this paper. In the adaptive cycle of WRS, the likelihood shift among different phases largely depends on resilience value; and a quantitative method for estimating the resilience of WRS is proposed. The method is related to the degree of change and characteristics of the WRS, and has been applied to identify the phase of WRS in every city in Zhejiang province, China. The results of resilience assessment have also been discussed in terms of adaptive cycle.
Water resources as a system is intricately linked with a number of components in the human system (water social cycle) and the natural system (hydrological cycle) that make it a subsystem of the socio-ecological system (SES) Holling and Gunderson (2002) characterize the adaptive cycle as four phases: rapid exploitation (“r” phase), conservation (“K” phase), release (collapse, “Ω” phase) and reorganization (“α” phase) The adaptive cycle provides a fundamental base for examining the resilience of WRS. As the water resources system (WRS) is a socialecological system, resilience thinking such as Holling’s adaptive cycle has been adopted as a fundamental unit for understanding the water resources system dynamics in this paper. Resilience thinking, which originated in ecology during the 1970s has evolved into a perspective for analyzing interdependent ecological and human system. Resilience theory can provide a valuable perspective for understanding the dynamics of WRS which involves the consideration of every component and their mutual interactions, and also for analyzing the tradeoffs of alternative human actions. In fact, the importance of a clear and measurable definition of resilience based on the resilience theory has become paramount for providing insights into current system dynamics and foreseeing how the system might respond to future external shocks in many studies. Holling and Gunderson (2002) characterize the adaptive cycle as four phases: rapid exploitation (“r” phase), conservation (“K” phase), release (collapse, “Ω” phase) and reorganization (“α” phase). In the “r” phase of the adaptive cycle, WRS is characterized by widely available resources, and fast-growing, small entities capable of using those resources and growing rapidly. The “K” phase is sometimes called the conservation phase, because material, energy and information acquired go into maintaining or conserving existing water usages and administrational structures, rather than building new ones. The longer the system stays in the “K” phase, the more vulnerable it is to disturbance, as the system becomes less and less flexible and more entrenched in established ways of using resources. The “Ω” phase is also referred to as the release (or creative destruction) phase where social disturbances, including financial panics, economic crises, revolution or technology invention are taken place. The “α” phase is a period of reorganization in the adaptive cycle. During this period, the internal connections of components in WRS or the “connectedness” are relatively low, so WRS can easily reorganize when some change event occurs. It may replicate the previous system organization or it may be something entirely new. In the context of the adaptive cycle of WRS, resilience represents the capacity of a WRS to experience unexpected stresses or disturbances and maintain its essential functions. The adaptive cycle of WRS based on Holling’s adaptive cycle can help to explain the cycle of water management problems and it allows for a better understanding of the trajectory of water management concerns.