Water information: what is it good for? The use of information in transboundary water management

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Consistent and relevant information on the status of water systems is indispensable for rational and cost-effective water management. This statement has general validity for all types of river basins, but is particularly relevant for transboundary water regions. Information is used to support decision-making and to evaluate the effects of water resources management decisions. Information production however lags behind developments in water management, which becomes clear from the fact that information still focuses on ecological components of water bodies and largely ignores the importance of socio-economic data stemming from human activities taking place in the river basin. Production of improved information is hindered by strong boundaries between different disciplines that are not easily overcome. Moreover, consideration of information needs and the goals of information dissemination prior to producing information is insufficient and the relevant actors are often reluctant to participate in these processes as they are time consuming. Differences in institutional behaviour also hinder cooperation between institutions, while organisational structures are insufficiently tuned to the needs of the external environment. All these issues hinder the use of information as the basis for decision-making. This paper provides an overview of relevant aspects of information from a broad range of perspectives and establishes the need for changes in the production and use of environmental information in support of water management. The paper is largely based on the outcomes of a closed multi-disciplinary specialist meeting on the role and use of environmental data and information in transboundary water contexts held in Arendal, Norway, September 2002.

Keywords: Water information - Transboundary water management - Communication - Institutional behaviour

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