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Water Resources Management

Water Resources Management

Imagine if you became trapped on a desert island. Your first priority would be to find drinking water. But you'd need to manage it carefully. How much water is there? Where can you get more? How often does it rain?

Water resource managers consider those questions on a large scale. They consider the water demand over an entire region or country, trying their best to meet the demand without running out of water in the future.

Has this piqued your interest? Take a dip into this article!


Sustainable Water Resources Management

Let's begin with a definition.

Water resources management is the process of planning, developing, and managing water resources.

It's important for water resources management to be sustainable. If not, future generations may struggle to access clean water.

Water Resources Management tap StudySmarterFig. 1 – We often take access to running water for granted. Have a think about how different your life would be if we didn't have clean water literally on tap! Source: unsplash.com

Abstraction is the removal of water from surface water bodies or groundwater. If water is abstracted unsustainably, it affects natural flows and groundwater levels, impacting the natural environment.

Northern China has been abstracting water unsustainably for decades. Consequences include water shortages, salinisation, desertification, and vegetation decline.

Effective water resources management can promote development. How?

  • Reliable irrigation promotes crop growth, limiting food insecurity or famine

  • Access to clean drinking water prevents diseases

  • Local water sources limit time spent collecting water

  • Flood and drought management mitigates the impact of water-related natural disasters

  • Hydroelectricity provides electricity in remote areas, enabling industry and development

Water availability is closely linked to gender equality. Women and girls usually have the responsibility of fetching water. This time-consuming, physically demanding task leaves women vulnerable to attack, and prevents them from getting an education or earning income. Plus, women are disproportionately impacted by poor sanitation.

Integrated Water Resources Management

Integrated water resources management (IWRM) is an empirical concept, defined in 1992 by the Global Water Partnership:

IWRM is a process which promotes the co-ordinated development and management of water, land and related resources, in order to maximise the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems.

In simple terms, IWRM refers to effective management of water to maximise sustainable development. It encompasses social, economic, and environmental development.

Water Resources Management: Impact Factor

What is an impact factor?

An impact factor (also called an impact score) is a measure of frequency with which the average article of a journal has been cited in the current year or period.

Basically, the impact factor evaluates the importance of a journal within in its field. In 2021, the Springer journal Water Resources Management had an impact factor of 4.426.

However, impact factors have provoked criticism, as journals can deliberately skew data to achieve a higher impact factor. Plus, a journal's impact factor is not a demonstration of its quality.

Hydrology and Water Resources Management

What is hydrology?

Hydrology is the study of the movement and distribution of liquid water on Earth.

Incorporating hydrological knowledge into water management techniques can support sustainable development, and reduce the risk of water-related natural disasters. How does it work?

  1. Networks of stations measure hydrological factors.

  2. Data is collected, stored, and published.

  3. The data is provided to planners, managers, and forecasting systems.

  4. The information and forecasts is incorporated into management – including flood and drought management.

Water Resources Management Plans

The UK government requires water companies to prepare and maintain a water resources management plan (WRMP) every five years. The plans set out how the water company aims to achieve a secure water supply, while protecting and enhancing the natural environment.

Each plan must forecast public water supply and demand for at least 25 years, and include a range of options to deal with water deficit.

Water deficit occurs when water demand exceeds supply.

Managing Water Resources in the UK

Now, let's cover some water management strategies that are used in the UK.

Metering

Water meters are useful devices; they keep track of your water usage, and allow your company to fix leaks faster. Keeping track of water usage allows households to cut down on unnecessary use, thus saving water and money!

A water meter is a device that measures household water usage.

Customers of North West Water save an average of over £100 per year after having a meter installed.

Reducing Water Use

The principle behind metering is being aware of your water use, and learning how to cut down. What can you do to reduce water use in your household?

  • Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth

  • Take shorter showers

  • Fill dishwashers and washing machines to capacity

  • Limit hose use

  • Don't flush non-bathroom waste down the toilet – use a bin instead

Low Water-use Appliances

New technologies reduce the amount of water required to run certain appliances. Some examples are detailed in this table.

Appliance
Description
Water-efficient Showerheads
These showerheads produce water flows that feel far higher than they are; saving water and energy. They usually operate at a 6-8L/min (litres per minute) flow rate, rarely exceeding 10L/min.
Low-flush Toilets
New toilet cisterns must not exceed a flush volume of 6 litres. Dual-flush toilets are also becoming increasingly common, with flush volumes as small as 3 litres.
Tap Aerators
These caps on the end of taps helps water flow out evenly.
Verified Water-efficient Appliances
New appliances with the Water Efficient Product label use less water than traditional appliances.

Greywater Use

Sources include tanks, baths, showers, washing machines, dishwashers – basically, any household water except from the toilet.

Greywater refers to domestic wastewater without faecal contamination.

Greywater passes through a coarse filter to remove large dirt particles. Then, it is aerated in a treatment buffer tank. Finally, the water passes through a BMT (Berghof Membrane Technology) filter into a storage tank, where it can be used again in the home.

BMT filters use robust membranes to remove solids from wastewater streams. They have a high flux rate, and require minimal cleaning.

Recycling greywater doesn't require chemical additives; only needing a supply of electricity to treat water.

Exploiting New Water Resources

Extracting water from new resources can reduce the pressure on existing resources, and may provide a more sustainable pathway for future water supplies.

Rainwater Catchment

Traditionally, rainwater is harvested from a roof. It collects in gutters, channelling into downspouts, then into a storage vessel (most commonly a rain barrel).

Rainwater catchment is the collection of water runoff from a structure or impervious surface.

Water Resources Management rainwater barrel StudySmarterFig. 2 – A plastic rainwater barrel, used to collect rainwater for domestic use. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Uses include irrigation, and non-potable water for the household.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Rainwater Catchment

Advantages
Disadvantages
  • Free clean water
  • Control over supply and usage
  • Reduces stormwater runoff
  • Highly flexible
  • Unsuitable in dry areas
  • Requires regular maintenance
  • Unsuitable for drinking without purification
  • Storage limits

Reservoirs and Estuary Barrages

Reservoirs and estuary barrages trap water until it is needed. People have been building reservoirs for thousands of years – the oldest-known dam was built in 3000 BCE in what is now modern-day Jordan.

Reservoirs are artificial lakes used for storing water.

Estuary barrages are dams constructed across an estuary or tidal bay.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Reservoirs and Estuary Barrages

AdvantagesDisadvantages
  • Can be used for recreation
  • Dams or barrages often used to generate hydroelectricity
  • Provide flooding control
  • Water loss through evaporation
  • Sedimentation
  • Construction causes flooding and ecological damage

Unexploited Aquifers

There are unexploited aquifers found around the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa, South America, Canada, and Russia. Unexploited aquifers are a good source of water, but like other forms of groundwater, they may eventually become depleted.

Aquifers are rocks that hold groundwater.

Inter-basin Transfers

These transfers can be used to alleviate water shortages in the donor basin, generate electricity, or both.

Inter-basin transfers describe artificial schemes that move water from one river basin to another.

A large inter-basin transfer takes place between Chattahoochee and Ocmulgee in DeKalb County, Georgia. In 2008, the water transfer rate was 37.2 million gallons per day.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Inter-basin Transfers

Advantages
Disadvantages
  • Supports groundwater recharge
  • Increases water supply
  • Can improve economic efficiency
  • Large amounts of water lost
  • Expensive and time-consuming
  • Affects river dynamics
  • May impact those downstream

Future Water Resources

As technology improves, what new resources could we exploit?

  • Brackish groundwater: water harvested from coastal areas could be used for irrigating salt-tolerant crops, aquaculture, and cooling systems

  • Offshore groundwater springs: even in marine areas, sources of freshwater can be found below underground

  • Harvesting fog: installing meshes in foggy areas with a high altitude can produce up to 3500 litres of water every year.

  • Desalination technologies: removing salt from seawater isn't a new process, but it's highly expensive. New technologies such as nanoparticle-enhanced membranes and osmosis reduce energy demands. Plus, converting metals and ions from brine to yield commercial products could offset the cost.

Water Resources Management port stanvac desalination plant StudySmarterFig. 3 – Port Stanvac desalination plant, built on the Australian coast. Operation costs tens of million of dollars. Source: Wikimedia Commons

  • Iceberg extraction: icebergs are towed to supply water to Greenland residents.


It's important for water resource management to be sustainable. If not, future generations may struggle to access clean water. Strategies for managing water resources include metering, low-water appliances, and greywater use. New water resources include rainwater catchment, reservoirs and estuary barrages, unexploited aquifers, and inter-basin transfers.

Water Resources Management - Key takeaways

  • Water resources management is the process of planning, developing, and managing water resources. Effective, sustainable management can promote development.
  • Integrated water resources management encompasses social, economic, and environmental development.
  • The impact factor of the Water Resources Management journal is 4.426.
  • Hydrology is the study of the movement and distribution of liquid water on Earth. It is incorporated into water resources management.
  • UK water companies must make water resource management plans every five years. Methods of managing water resources in the UK include metering, installing low water-use appliances, and using greywater.
  • New water resources include rainwater catchment, reservoirs and estuary barrages, unexploited aquifers, and inter-basin transfers.

1. ACCG, Interbasin Transfers, 20102. Anglian Water, Water resources management plan, 2019

3. Australian Water Association, Auditor-General's Report puts spotlight on Adelaide desalination plant, 2017

4. Kim Rutledge, Reservoir, National Geographic, 2022

5. Owais Ali, The UN World Water Development Report 2022: Challenges and Opportunities for Groundwater, AZO Clean Tech, 2022

6. Springer, Water Resources Management, 2022

7. UK Government, Water resources planning guideline, 2022

8. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Integrated Water Resources Management, 2014

9. United Utilities, Water meters, 2022

10. The Water Efficiency Network, Other Water Savings, 2022

11. Water World, Experts explore unconventional water sources, 2022

Frequently Asked Questions about Water Resources Management

Effective management of water resources enables reliable irrigation, access to clean drinking water, local water sources, management of natural disasters, and hydroelectricity.

Water management in the UK covers metering, low water-use appliances, and greywater usage.

Water management is the process of planning, developing, and managing water resources. An example is the inter-basin transfer between Chattahoochee and Ocmulgee in Georgia. In 2008, the transfer rate was 37.2 million gallons per day. 

Water resource management involves economic and social welfare, hydrological data, and sustainable development.

In the UK, water companies must produce a water resources management plan every five years. The plans set out how the water company aims to achieve a secure water supply, while protecting and enhancing the natural environment.

Final Water Resources Management Quiz

Question

What is water pollution?

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Answer

The addition of contaminating agents to a water body?

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What are examples of pollutants?

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Answer

Fertilisers, pesticides, metal compounds, acids, alkalis, pathogens, heats.

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Question

What elements are found in fertilisers?

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Answer

Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

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 Why may invasive species be considered polluting?

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Answer

Because they change the composition of the ecosystem and impact the wildlife. 

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Question

How does improper wastewater treatment pollute waters?

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Answer

Sewage often contains huge amounts of bacteria and nutrients that will harm waters.

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Question

What is detritus?

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Answer

Detritus will often refer to animal waste, including faecal and dead, organic matter.

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What are the aims of regenerative agriculture?

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Answer

To improve soil quality via sustainable methods?

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Question

How do algal blooms form?

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Answer

When huge amounts of nutrients runoff into waterways and cause algal populations to rise.

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Question

What are some examples of radioactive chemicals?

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Answer

Plutonium, uranium, and radium.

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Question

What is cooling water and why is it dangerous?

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Answer

Cooling water is the water power plants use to cool down their machinery. It is dangerous because it is a lot warmer than the water of lakes and rivers and will cause drastic temperature increases.

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Question

Why may underdeveloped countries with limited populations still cause a lot of pollution?

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Answer

Because of poor management and infrastructure to deal with waste.

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Question

What are examples of urban waste?

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Answer

Plastics, food, electronics.

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Question

How do aluminium ions affect plants?

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Answer

They stunt root growth.

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How does ocean acidification affect calcareous organisms?

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Answer

Carbonic acid will react with carbonates and reduce the availability of carbonates which these organisms require for manufacturing their shells and exoskeletons.

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How is acid rain formed from power plants?

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Answer

Nitrous oxide and sulphur dioxide emissions react with water in clouds to form nitric and sulfuric acid.

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What is point source pollution?

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Pollution that can be pinpointed to a certain point and easily quantified.

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What is non-point source pollution?

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Pollution that cannot be easily pinpointed and quantified.

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What is a water pollutant?

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A substance that changes the chemical composition of a water source?

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How can agricultural workers cause water pollution?

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Answer

By overusing agrochemicals like fertilisers and pesticides that subsequently leach into nearby waters.

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What are examples of human waste?

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Electronics, plastics, foods, metals.

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Question

Why is cooling water from power plants dangerous?

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Answer

Because it is much warmer than water found in rivers, lakes, and oceans so can result in sudden increases in water temperature.

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Question

How does global warming affect acid rain?

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Answer

More evaporation will occur, meaning more acid rains will form.

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Why are algal blooms dangerous?

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Answer

When they are broken down, the bacteria suck up all the available oxygen.

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How do sedimentation fluxes affect aquatic ecosystems?

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Answer

They smother bottom-dwelling producer populations.

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How does ocean acidification affect calcifying organisms?

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Answer

It reduces carbonate availability (these organisms require calcium carbonates).

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What are some bacterial infections that result from drinking polluted water?

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Answer

typhoid, cholera, hepatitis A.

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What are the effects of aluminium ions on plants?

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Answer

They stunt root growth.

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How does global warming affect pollution?

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Answer

It increases ocean acidification, acid rain frequency, and land erosion.

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Why are pesticides dangerous for aquatic ecosystems?

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Answer

Because they are manufactured to deter and kill wild species.

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Question

Ideally, every human being on Earth should have access to at least _________ of clean freshwater per day. 

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Answer

20-50 litres

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What are some of the dangers faced by residents without access to clean, safe freshwater?

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Answer

Dehydration

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Question

By _____, which is fast approaching, it is estimated that _________ people will face a lack of water security.

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Answer

2025; 2.7 billion

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Question

A _________ is a device that measures the water usage (in volume) of a building, such as a residence or a business. 

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Answer

water meter

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___________ rely on the flow of water to move the measurement portions of the device (a disk or piston) and are typically used in structures with lower water flow rates, such as residences.

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Answer

Positive displacement (PD) meters

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__________ measure the water flow speed, which is then translated into units of volume.

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Velocity meters

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Which kinds of water meters may utilize the Doppler effect?

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Answer

Ultrasonic meters

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Question

_______ is wastewater produced by residences or businesses from baths, showers, sinks, and washing machines.

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Answer

Greywater

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_________ is wastewater produced by toilets and is full of pathogens due to contamination with feces.

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Answer

Blackwater

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__________ refers to the water that is produced after water use for agricultural, commercial, domestic, and industrial purposes. 

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Answer

Wastewater

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Question

It is estimated that ________ amounts to ____ of all wastewater produced by residences

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Answer

greywater; 65%

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Question

Older traditional toilet models use around ____ litres per flush!

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Answer

13-14

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Question

Most traditional showerheads use around ___ litres of water per minute and, over the course of the average 8 minute shower, use over ___ litres!

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Answer

9.5; 75

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Question

It is estimated that the average household could save over _______ litres of water annually by converting to low-flow showerheads.

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Answer

10,000

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Question

Dual-flush toilets feature two buttons that dictate how much water will be used based on the ________________.

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Answer

waste composition (solid or liquid)

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Question

True or False: Solid waste requires less water to flush than liquid waste.

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Answer

False

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Question

True or False: The state of California contains more people than the entirety of Australia.

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Answer

True

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Question

Define water resources management.

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Answer

Water resources management is the process of planning, developing, and managing water resources.

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Question

Give examples of how effective management of water resources aids sustainable development.

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Answer

Examples of how include irrigation, clean drinking water, local water sources, flood and drought management, and hydroelectricity.

Show question

Question

What does integrated water resources management refer to?

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Answer

Integrated water resources management refers to effective management of water to maximise sustainable development. 

Show question

Question

What is an impact factor?

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Answer

An impact factor is a measure of frequency with which the average article of a journal has been cited in the current year or period.

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