Possibilities and problems with the use of models as a communication tool in water resource management

Johanna Alkan Olsson, Lotta Andersson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Citations (SciVal)


Politicians and policy-makers, as well as modellers, often nurses an expectation that model derived results is an objective source of information that can be used to support decisions. However, several prerequisites have to be dealt with in order to ensure that models can be used as legitimate and efficient tools in water resource management. Based on empirical material from recent studies on the use of models in stakeholder dialogues, mainly focusing on catchment nutrient transport, two central problems are identified: (a) Models are laden with choices and thus depend on assumptions and priorities of modellers. (b) There are several factors that influence ability and willingness of stakeholders (as information recovers) to criticize or accept results of the modelling exercise. Recognized factors likely to influence stakeholders' acceptance of model derived results include issues at stake, stakeholders' ability to criticize model derived information, and their trust in the institutions that have developed or applied the used models. Identified prerequisites for successful use of models in integrated water resource management include: consideration of user relevance, awareness of and preparedness to handle constraints linked to communication of model-based results, transparency of used models and data and of involved uncertainties, mutual respect between experts and stakeholders and between involved stakeholder groups, a robust institutional network, and sufficient time for dialogues. Development and use of strategies for participatory modelling, based on a continuous dialogue between experts and stakeholders is recommended as a way to facilitate that the prerequisites for a successful use of models in water resource management are fulfilled.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-110
JournalWater Resources Management
Issue number97
Publication statusPublished - 2007
EventConference on Integrated Assessment of Water Resources and Global Change - Bonn, Germany
Duration: 0001 Jan 2 → …

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary


  • understanding of science
  • communication
  • water management
  • scenarios
  • participatory modelling
  • catchment models


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