Safe access to water is essential for sustainable development. Building resilience towards disaster risks and ensuring water availability by balancing the many competing uses and users of water, while maintaining healthy and diverse ecosystems, are critical elements to ultimately deliver water security. Following the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030, in this Ph.D. thesis Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) is conceived as the process that leads towards water security, and as a result, sustainable development. Lessons learnt from the past show, however, that the implementation of IWRM encounters major difficulties if most stakeholders still follow traditional planning mechanisms. Lack of knowledge about the water resources system, disagreements between water users and insufficient focus on operationalisation are frequent causes of limited acceptance and practical implementation of IWRM plans. Informed decision-making and engaging stakeholders in the planning and decision-making processes are therefore important elements that help to create the enabling conditions for sustainable water resources planning and management.
In this Ph.D. thesis, participatory and collaborative modelling is presented as a means towards sustainable development, as it supports informed decision-making and inclusive development. How to develop and use computer-based simulation models is analysed following a participatory or collaborative modelling approach for managing water resources, so their use can be enhanced, and the ownership of the development strengthened. The research approach comprises four main elements: (i) identifying the key components of participatory and collaborative modelling; (ii) making an inventory of existing approaches, methods and tools; and developing a conceptual framework for their design and evaluation; (iii) designing and applying four participatory and collaborative modelling approaches that make use of computer-based simulation models in specific cases; and (iv) testing and evaluating the technical and social contributions of the designed approaches.