Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Positioning of current Environmental tools & an outlook to the future

Review of new technical decisionsupport systems in the environmental field, and application in water management decission processes.

1997 - 1998
Rene Kleijn
Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment


  • Faculty of Systems Engineering, Policy Analysis & Management (SEPA) of Delft University of Technology

The past few years has seen an enormous change in the kind of issues facing water management agencies, and this process of change seems likely to continue. Three main trends can be identified as driving these changes: 

  • the growing number of parties involved in the decision-making process;
  • the shift in decision-making away from the national level to both the EU and local authorities;
  • the increasing complexity of the technical problems involved. 

Over the last few years, moreover, a wide variety of new technical decisionsupport systems have been developed in the environmental field, some specifically designed for the context of water management. A parallel trend that has to some extent been driven by the emergence of new issues is the growing importance of the processes of decision-making and the like. This new 'process' component is reflected in the expanding cast of actors in the water management network, including private citizens, and in the development of management support systems to structure this process. In summary, then, water managers are today faced with new and emerging issues in both the technical and the process field, as well as with a growing variety of technical decision-support systems. 

The study therefore began with a series of interviews with water managers at various scale level. The aim of these interviews was twofold: to gain an idea of the issues facing water managers today, and to inventory current use of technical support systems. SEPA established which process aspects are of relevance when using technical support systems, i.e. the process context. The relevance of the process component depends not so much on which decision-support system is employed but rather on the administrative and technical complexity of the issue at hand. Parallel to the analysis of the process aspects, a literature survey was carried out to inventory the range of technical support systems available: the supply side. The following categories were considered: risk analysis, LCA and other forms of chain analysis, diffusion models, economic instruments, eco-efficiency methods, planning instruments, weighting methods and an 'other' category. Supply, demand and the process context have been overlaid to yield a proposal for combining these three layers.

More information

Download report (Dutch with English summary) (401KB).

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