Indicators for transboundary river management

C.M. Lorenz, A.J. Gilbert, W.P. Cofino

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The aim of this paper is to analyze the potential of indicators for integrated river basin management and to develop a set of indicators for the management of transboundary river basins. An indicator, comprising a variable or some aggregation of variables, describes a system or process such that it has significance beyond the face value of its components. Integrated river basin management takes into account policies and measures for the multifunctional use of rivers on a catchment scale and associated institutional changes. Indicators are useful instruments for this process for two reasons. Firstly, they meet the information need of policy-and decision-makers. Secondly, indicators can be used to structure the definition and description of information needs and collection of information between the different international, institutional, and sectoral management levels. The development of indicators involves a number of steps: definition of aim, construction of conceptual model, selection of variables, comparison with selection criteria, database assessment, and indicator selection. In this paper these steps are discussed and specified for integrated river basin management. This results in a set of indicators describing the pressure to the river, the state of the river ecosystem, the impact to goods and services provided by the river, and the societal response. The proposed set of indicators measured at a river basin scale provides integrated information on the use and supply of goods and services, underlying cause-effect relationships and possible trade-offs and their spatial distribution (e.g., upstream versus downstream). Furthermore, we propose a division of tasks and responsibilities for river basin management with regard to the development of indicators, data collection, and their application in decision-making.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-129
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Management
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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