A framework for assessing freshwater sustainability at the river basin scale
This thesis focuses upon understanding the process of developing water sustainability indicators and their application for the assessment of catchment management systems. The study deals with the assessment of environmental, economic and social processes related to sustainable water management. In order to develop the framework of indicators, a group of catchments was selected in Scotland (Rivers Clyde and Dee) and in Brazil (Rivers Sinos and Pardo). Drawing on international experience and in consultation with local water stakeholders, a list of critical criteria of water sustainability was initially selected. These criteria were: water quality; water quantity; system resilience; water use efficiency; user sector productivity; institutional preparedness; equitable water services; water-related well-being; and public participation. From these criteria a framework of sustainability indicators was developed through an inductive and participatory approach, which included prospective contacts with water stakeholders, a sequence of trial exercises and a pilot-study. The proposed framework of indicators is the product of the amalgamation of existing literature, interaction with stakeholders and informed choices by the researcher. The calculation of indicators required the gathering and manipulation of secondary data using both quantitative and qualitative research techniques. The main difficulties encountered during the calculation of indicator results were data inaccessibility and incompatibility of spatial scales. The interpretation of the sustainability condition of the catchments was based on the analysis of historic trends and future tendencies of the proposed indicators. The research outcomes were mixed in all four studied catchments, with specific achievements and deficiencies identified in the local water management approaches. The final research stage included interviews with stakeholders to discuss both indicator results and the appropriateness of the proposed methodology.