Making framing of uncertainty in water management practice explicit by using a participant-structured approach

N. Isendahl, A. Dewulf, C. Pahl-Wostl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


By now, the need for addressing uncertainty in the management of water resources is widely recognized, yet there is little expertise and experience how to effectively deal with uncertainty in practice. Uncertainties in water management practice so far are mostly dealt with intuitively or based on experience. That way decisions can be quickly taken but analytic processes of deliberate reasoning are bypassed. To meet the desire of practitioners for better guidance and tools how to deal with uncertainty more practice-oriented systematic approaches are needed. For that purpose we consider it important to understand how practitioners frame uncertainties. In this paper we present an approach where water managers developed criteria of relevance to understand and address uncertainties. The empirical research took place in the Don˜ana region of the Guadalquivir estuary in southern Spain making use of the method of card sorting. Through the card sorting exercise a broad range of criteria to make sense of and describe uncertainties was produced by different subgroups, which were then merged into a shared list of criteria. That way framing differences were made explicit and communication on uncertainty and on framing differences was enhanced. In that, the present approach constitutes a first step to enabling reframing and overcoming framing differences, which are important features on the way to robust decision-making. Moreover, the elaborated criteria build a basis for the development of more structured approaches to deal with uncertainties in water management practice
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)844-851
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • decision-support-system
  • resources management
  • adaptive management
  • natural-resources
  • science
  • conflict
  • policy
  • river
  • collaboration
  • perspective

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