DSS High Water
Water is the driving force of all nature. Here in Western Europe, we have severely disrupted the water cycle. Impenetrable surfaces and deforestation increase run-off, rectifying and damming of rivers also reduce retention, floodplain area is decimated. Still, the majority of all cities is (historically) situated at or near the rivers. Not a good combination.... The driving force of water now often becomes a hazard in terms of flooding.
How can this be solved? Since water affects our everyday lives, every change in the water system implies effects to a multitude of stakeholders. Especially in industrialised countries where the (multi)functional use of every square metre of land and every cubic metre of water is vehemenously claimed by all interest groups. To even increase this complexity, hydrology is not an easy to understand discipline and it's even more difficult to communicate. Slight variations in modeled hydrograph might have a tremendous effect on possible damages, technical solutions might have a positive effect on flood waves of a certain return period, and a decrimental effect on others...
At the university, I excercise river basin management with future civil engineers and environmental specialist. Teach them the advantages, but also the limits and disadvantages of technical solutions. Good water resource management is not a question of sole technical solutions but of well founded decision making. This constitutes the first of my 'research interests': decision support in flood-prone areas.
DSS Low Water
For a lot of us, water is so common, we forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one. Although 70% of the surface of the earth is covered with water, only 2.53% of it is fresh water and only 0.13% of this fresh water can be used by mankind. Half of the world's hospitalisations are due to water related diseases.
If making decisions is difficult in areas where there is too much water, deciding about water management issues becomes near impossible in water scares areas. Which constitutes the second of my 'research interests'.
Of course, the water cycle is only one of the multitude of ecosystem services. This is why my original research interests, before focussing on water, were (and still are) much broader and included climate change, biodiversity and especially the ecosystem management and sustainable development aspects. Please notice that also in this 'ecologically oriented' research, my research focus remains on sustainable management and decision support.