Sociohydrology: Scientific Challenges in Addressing the Sustainable Development Goals

Giuliano Di Baldassarre*, Murugesu Sivapalan, Maria Rusca, Christophe Cudennec, Margaret Garcia, Heidi Kreibich, Megan Konar, Saket Pande, Matthew R. Sanderson, More Authors

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

118 Citations (Scopus)
73 Downloads (Pure)


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations Agenda 2030 represent an ambitious blueprint to reduce inequalities globally and achieve a sustainable future for all mankind. Meeting the SDGs for water requires an integrated approach to managing and allocating water resources, by involving all actors and stakeholders, and considering how water resources link different sectors of society. To date, water management practice is dominated by technocratic, scenario-based approaches that may work well in the short term but can result in unintended consequences in the long term due to limited accounting of dynamic feedbacks between the natural, technical, and social dimensions of human-water systems. The discipline of sociohydrology has an important role to play in informing policy by developing a generalizable understanding of phenomena that arise from interactions between water and human systems. To explain these phenomena, sociohydrology must address several scientific challenges to strengthen the field and broaden its scope. These include engagement with social scientists to accommodate social heterogeneity, power relations, trust, cultural beliefs, and cognitive biases, which strongly influence the way in which people alter, and adapt to, changing hydrological regimes. It also requires development of new methods to formulate and test alternative hypotheses for the explanation of emergent phenomena generated by feedbacks between water and society. Advancing sociohydrology in these ways therefore represents a major contribution toward meeting the targets set by the SDGs, the societal grand challenge of our time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6327-6355
Number of pages29
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • legacy effects
  • precautionary principle
  • sociohydrology
  • Sustainable Development Goals
  • water crises


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