Ruin, I., C. Lutoff, L. Creton-Cazanave, S. Anquetin, M. Borga, S. Chardonnel, J.-D. Creutin, J. Gourley, E. Gruntfest, S. Nobert, and J. Thielen, 2012: “Toward a space–time framework for integrated water and society studies.” Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, v. 93, pp. ES89–ES91, doi: 10.1175/BAMS-D-11-00226.1.
The notion of spatial and temporal scales is inherent to water governance, often at the junction of physical and social science. One of the central objectives of water governance is the development of management processes and infrastructure systems that control the space–time variability of water availability in both quantity and quality to meet the different space–time scales of demand patterns. The question of how physical and social processes interact through scales and how we can transport results from one scale to another is both fundamental to our understanding and operationally important for decision making in an appropriate and timely fashion. Hydrologists have long since developed models of the water cycle dynamics where human-induced water resources management activities are prescribed as external forcing, often under the assumption of stationarity (Milly et al. 2008). However, the cascading effects of climate change, the escalating complexity of water systems, and the persistent uncertainty in forecasting extreme events all establish relations between social and natural processes across scales. It is now well accepted that cultural and natural life-support systems operate on many space–time scales and need to be studied as complex systems (Holling 2001; Liu et al. 2007; Creutin et al. 2009). The study of complex systems also brings together diverse fields and connects different ways of thinking about theoretical and practical problems. Water systems consist of multiple interacting components: social, biophysical, and technological. Configurations of the integrated water and social system generally reflect hegemonic political, social, and cultural preferences, as made clear since the seminal work of Wittfogel (1957). Understanding how to manage such evolving systems and how to anticipate new opportunities and potential risks requires taking an approach that differs from the reductive focus on isolated components. This means that the appropriate scales for science, management, and decision making cannot be unambiguously derived from physical characteristics of water resources. Scales of interest are a joint product of social and biophysical processes.