EGU21-12613, updated on 15 Sep 2023
EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Methodological approaches to studying coupled human-water systems

Saket Pande1, Ann Scolobig2, Tobias Kueger3, Joseph Guillaume4, Melissa Haeffner5, Jan Adamowski6, Newsha Ajami7, Dionisio Perez8, Andrea Castelletti9, Erhu Du10, Tirthankar Roy11, and Gemma Carr12
Saket Pande et al.
  • 1Delft University of Technology, Department of water management, Delft, Netherlands (
  • 2University of Geneva, Environmental Governance and Territorial Development Institute, Switzerland
  • 3Humboldt-University, Department of Geography, Germany
  • 4Australian National University, Fenner School of Environment & Society, Australia
  • 5Portland State University, Department of Environmental Science and Management, USA
  • 6McGill University, Department of Bioresource Engineering, Canada
  • 7Stanford University, Woods Institute, USA
  • 8Universidad de Salamanca, Departament of Economics and Economic History, Spain
  • 9Politecnico di Milano, Department of Electronics, Information, and Bioengineering, Italy
  • 10Southern University of Science and Technology, China
  • 11University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Civil and Environmental Engineering, USA
  • 12Vienna University of Technology, Water Resources, Austria

This paper reports on the progress being made on the “Methodologies” chapter of the Panta Rhei synthesis book due in May 2023 and to be officially launched at 2023 IUGG General Assembly in Berlin.

Panta Rhei cornerstone emphasis is to support policies and decision making through better understanding of social and hydrological processes and anticipate their future evolution. However definitions of and motivations for anticipating future evolution, e.g. prediction of trajectories, have different sets of challenges for different disciplines. Human-water relations have been studied from a variety of perspectives. And Panta Rhei is not the first time human water relations are being studied. There is decades of experience, so why is it different this time than the last decades. The dominant paradigm of Panta Rhei has been prediction, with a few exceptions. And prediction itself has been approached differently within Panta Rhei and the research traditions it draws on. What can we learn from these differences in perspectives and methods for studies of humans and water?

In spite of all such differences, all such diverse perspectives are similar in understanding human-water relations through their own lenses and unified in their goal of improving societal well being through better understanding of social-hydrological relations. Different disciplines have different societal objectives or similar objectives with different lens within the domain of Panta Rhei. As a result different are methods used, with their respective challenges.

Taking stock of extensive research conducted in the past decade in context Panta Rhei, this chapter explores the motivations of diverse disciplines and challenges faced. It identifies a spectrum of methods that have been used to understand and interpret human water relations, with predictive methods at one end and descriptive methods at the other end of the spectrum. The chapter then synthesizes all such methods by taking three diverse examples of human water relations and interrogates how diverse methods approach the same examples – one of which is presented from which diverse themes around terminologies, ontology vs. epistemology, diverse methodologies used, generalizability vs transferability of methods and new data sets emerge.

It is concluded that for the first time diverse disciplines are converging in their pursuit of understanding and predicting human water systems for social good and Panta Rhei has accelerated this convergence. This chapter ends with a call to action on what further methodological developments appear promising and what methods should be more widely adopted, i.e. a celebration of what has been accomplished so far.

How to cite: Pande, S., Scolobig, A., Kueger, T., Guillaume, J., Haeffner, M., Adamowski, J., Ajami, N., Perez, D., Castelletti, A., Du, E., Roy, T., and Carr, G.: Methodological approaches to studying coupled human-water systems, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-12613,, 2021.