Systems Water Management Framework for Catchment Scale Processes (CASYWat)

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Civil & Environmental Engineering


The recently released 25 Year Environment Plan recognises the need to put the environment at the heart of planning and development to create better places for people to live and work. Its supporting evidence highlights the need for taking a more systems based approach to water environment management, and the need for better understanding of complexity across water systems, including their interaction with land management and use. Within the 25YEP, the Cumbria Catchment Pioneer led by the Environment Agency (EA) is aimed at testing new governance models for the environmental management of river catchments as a whole, which is assumed to be a key enabler for the successful implementation of the natural capital accounting. The key challenges within the Cumbria Catchment Pioneer include complex interactions between water availability, quality and flood risk management, land management, visitor and rural economy and habitat decline. Therefore, significant progress will only be made by recognising wider water environment uses and priorities, and working more coherently across stakeholders and their interests.

In collaboration with the EA and their wide range of stakeholders, this project will apply systems thinking and systemic approaches to understanding, structuring and measuring the catchment water system complexity of the Cumbria Pioneer. It will develop a novel Systems Water Management framework for Catchment Scale Processes (CASYWat) that will guide and support practical interpretation and demonstration of the key concepts underpinning the 25YEP. The framework will define the components of the system, relationships between these components, and a shared meta-model that integrates these elements. This will enable the complexity to be communicated to, and understood by the stakeholders, so that they can develop a shared purpose and collective strategy for integrated catchment management in the Cumbrian context, and engage in effective decision-making.

The work is proposed as a 12-months placement with Dr Mijic working 80% of time as part of the EA. The work programme consists of three stages (S), namely: (S1) How to approach complexity in a catchment water management system? This stage will put catchment water management into systems thinking context, map individual concerns of key stakeholders involved in the Cumbria Pioneer water management decisions and develop individual perceptual models of the catchment water management system; (S2) How to integrate the components to describe a catchment water management system? This stage will develop a shared meta-model of the system and a prototype version of the CASYWat framework; (S3) How to use the developed framework to analyse the system and assess its performance? This stage will test the applicability of the CASYWat framework using the Cumbia Pioneer case studies defined in S1, and map systems and other assessment tools (including environmental modelling, system dynamics and natural capital assessment) that can be used to quantify Measures of Success defined in S2.

The project will build strongly upon earlier work of the applicant. Dr Mijic has a strong track record of process understanding, advanced modelling and analysis of complex water systems. The outcomes from her NERC funded catchment water management projects (NE/I022485/1 and NE/N01670X/1) will feed directly into the placement. She will also draw upon her expertise in systems approach to urban water management (Climate KIC Blue Green Dream) and the Environmental Risks to Infrastructure projects that were delivered in collaboration with multiple partners, including the EA and the London Borough of Barnet (NE/M008169/1) and Thames Water (NE/M008312/1), respectively. Finally, the work will be strongly linked with the recently awarded NERC RISE programme grant (CAMELLIA), where Dr Mijic is leading the development of the Systems Water Management Framework for Urban Scale Processes (USYWat).


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Description The application of the developed CASYWat conceptual framework to Windermere water management system led to the following key findings:
• The role of consumer behaviour in both driving the demand for food and hence adding the food production and retail sectors as important elements in the system and influencing a range of activities, such as products and vessels usage, that could have direct or indirect impact on lake water quality.
• The link between the local food supply and use should be further explored, to understand the dependences of the interlinked sectors. The high reliance on the local resources on one side supports local economy and enables better system control. However, local decoupling of tourism and agriculture activities could give a false view of the security for a sector that is less exposed to negative impacts of environmental degradation trough decrease in ecosystem services provision.
• The role of lake ecosystem services in direct provision of benefits relevant for local tourism, and hence the need to minimise impacts from the business operation and activities, including transport, accommodation and recreation to maintain the future sustainability of the business. At the same time, a potential negative impact from the economic growth, which is already observed in Windermere though high house prices, needs to addressed.
• The role of integrated system management to adjust the highly seasonal demand and pressures on the system with the natural availability of water supply. This aspect is closely linked with another important feedback - the role of water abstractions in influencing water levels in the lake, and hence the ability of the lake to self-purify. This is particularly important of water abstraction are use for the supply outside the system, hence decoupling impacts on and benefits from the local catchment.
• Very important link between local economy and land decisions, which fundamentally define hydrologic ecosystem services. Any expansion of the tourism sector, with potential benefits for local economy would need to be linked with simultaneous improvements in urban infrastructure and water management, as well as ensuring transition of supporting sectors like agriculture and transport towards the sustainable operation.
Exploitation Route The findings are for now been only disseminated with the Environment Agency. Further engagment is planned with the range of their stakeholders.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Transport

Description The findings are planned to be used for further Environment Agency engagement with their stakeholders and by Royal Academy of Engineering as a system engineering water management application case study.
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

Description Community Water Management for a Liveable London (CAMELLIA)
Amount £4,079,082 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/S003495/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2019 
End 12/2023
Description Systems workshop for policy and decision making 
Organisation Royal Academy of Engineering
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The Royal Academy of Engineering is currently preparing a range of policy workshop that will focus on system engineering application. The CASYWat project will be used as one of the case studies, and Dr Mijic will participate in the workshops.
Collaborator Contribution The Royal Academy of Engineering has created links with the Chief Scientific Advisors from all relevant Government Departments and is leading the preparation of workshop material and event organisation.
Impact N/A
Start Year 2020
Description Cumbria stakeholder engagement meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Preliminary results from the CASYWat project were presented and input from the local stakeholders in Cumbria was obtained.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Stakeholder engagement event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A systems approach to finding common ground: The environment, partnerships and governance - identifying shared priorities for action informing local and national approaches was organised with the following aim:

Following a National Water Leaders Group meeting in October 2018 where action was agreed to understand and improve the role of partnerships in helping "to leave our environment in a better state within our generation". This is how we are moving into a new era, engaging and improving programmes for flood, stewardship and our environment while preparing for EU Exit. There is a wider desire to improve understanding of the environment system, identifying gaps and shared priorities for action that partnerships can take. This workshop aims to involve people in positive action, share inspiring examples and describing the physical environment and social system.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019