EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Managing conflicting objectives in hydro-economic models: A viability approach

jean christophe pereau
jean christophe pereau
  • Bordeaux university, GREThA, Economics, France (

In aquifers managed with quotas, water agencies are facing conflicting objectives between ensuring minimum environmental flows for the preservation of groundwater-dependent ecosystems and satisfying the water claims of the farmers to irrigate their crops. Handling the potential conflict between economic and environmental objectives is a major concern to achieve sustainability. This paper analyses the existing trade-off between these objectives as a problem of constraints fulfillment and uses the viability method to adress this conflict.

Hydroeconomic models are generally developed as constraint optimization problems with environmental constraints represented by minimum flow requirements. At each period, the dynamics of an aquifer depend on the balance between the natural recharge, the natural discharge and the amount of extracted water. The natural discharge consists in water flows which sustain groundwater dependent-ecosystems. This natural discharge is assumed to be an affine function of the water table. It allows to defined a critical boundary value of the water table for which the natural discharge is nil. A first requirement of a sustainable management is then to keep the water table above this critical value.

The allocation of water quotas to farmers is also a problem of constraint. The use of market-based instruments such as tradable permits has been proposed as a promising way to replenish an aquifer or to efficiently manage groundwater aquifers for irrigated agriculture. Tradable permits ensure that water will be used by farmers with maximum efficiency. However like all "cap and trade" systems, the way the "cap" which consists in the available amount of water for users is set, remains a difficult issue. A second requirement of a sustainable management is then to implement relevant strategies in the allocation of water quotas for every farmer by a regulating agency.

To deal with these two requirements which take the form of constraints, the use of the viability approach has shown to be well-adapted. This paper developped a dynamic hydro-economic model in discrete-time using the viability approach. The viability kernel that defines the states of the resource yielding intertemporal feasible paths able to satisfy the set of constraints over time is analytically identified. The associated set of viable quota policies and the trade-off between food production and ecosystem conservation objectives are characterized.

The theoretical results of the paper are illustrated with numerical simulations based on the Western La Mancha aquifer in Spain.

How to cite: pereau, J. C.: Managing conflicting objectives in hydro-economic models: A viability approach, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-1666,, 2019


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displays version 1 – uploaded on 09 Apr 2020
  • CC1: Comment on EGU2020-1666, Anahi Ocampo-Melgar, 04 May 2020

    How such an optimization model approach for water management could impact the dissimilar adaptation capacities of agricultural producers? Any thoughts on drawbacks if applied as a policy?

    • AC1: Reply to CC1, jean christophe pereau, 04 May 2020

      Thanks for your comment. I don't knwon if your comment is specific to one modelling point of my paper or is more general to the implementation of water policies.

      In my paper the most important point is to determine the amount of water for farmers and what is needed for the ecosystem. My optimisation model under constraints give the nature of the trade-off between the two uses. After when the water agency allocates waterquotas  to farmers, we also introduce a constraint on the amount get by each farmer according his efficiency (to avoid concentration of quotas since we assume that they are transferable). However, maybe it is more in line with your remark, I do not analyse the behavour of farmers in terms of compliance with their quotas, the incentive to change crops, to adopt new irrigation system, ... My focus was more on the first step of water allocation in physical units.

      Hope that now it is more clear for you. Thanks 

      • CC2: Reply to AC1, Anahi Ocampo-Melgar, 04 May 2020

        Thanks for your answer. Indeed, I was going beyond the model and thinking on the implementation of such an approach as we are also exploring modles for integrated watershed management and dealing with the lack of information (monitoring), illegal extractions, dissimilar capacities, etc. Will take a closer look to your model. Regards.

        • AC2: Reply to CC2, jean christophe pereau, 04 May 2020

          My work in terms of contraints to satisfy is a simple way to see what is feasible. It does not exist one path, it depends on the target choosen by the stakeholders.