Multi-criteria decision-making for water resource management in the Berg Water management area

De Lange, Willem J. (2006-12)

Thesis (PhD(Agric) (Agriculture))--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The concept of social welfare maximisation directs strategic decision-making within a milieu of integrated planning problems. This study applies the aforementioned statement to decision-making regarding the long-term allocation of bulk-water resources in the Berg Water Management Area of South Africa. Public goods, such as bulk water supply infrastructure, is vulnerable to failures in market and government allocation strategies because both fields are subjected to unaccounted costs and benefits. This implies a measurement problem for the quantification of the total cost/benefit of management options and result in decision-making with incomplete information. Legitimate decision-making depends on reliable and accurate information, and the measurement problem, therefore, poses an obstacle to better social welfare maximisation. A need has been identified to broaden the decision-making context in the Berg Water Management Area to promote the accommodation of unaccounted for costs and benefits in water resource allocation decision-making. This study engaged this need by expanding the temporal and spatial dimensions of the decision-making context. Accordingly, improved indecision-making information and decision-support processes is needed. Spatial expansions manifested in physical expansions of the decision-making boundaries that led to expansions in representation in the decision-making process. Temporal expansions manifested in the consideration of different sequences of bulk supply schemes over time instead of a selection of schemes at the same time. The study incorporated components of economic valuation theory, multi-criteria decision analysis, a public survey and a modified Delphi expert panel technique to account for the increased decisionmaking information load. The approach was applied in the Western Cape province of South Africa and specifically focused on a choice problem regarding different long-term bulk-water resource management options for the area. Two surveys were completed to accommodate these expansions. The first focused on public preference in water allocation management and the second survey utilized a modified Delphi technique. Questions regarding the extend of public participation in long-term water resource allocation decision-making came to the fore and the applicability of economic theory to accommodate public preference as a regulatory instrument, was questioned. A willingness to pay for “greener” water was observed and may be used to motivate a paradigm shift from management’s perspective to consider, without fear of harming their own political position, “greener” water supply options more seriously even if these options imply higher direct costs.

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