Southeastern Section - 64th Annual Meeting (19–20 March 2015)

Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 11:00 AM


COCKERILL, Kristan, Appalachian State University, Interdisciplinary Studies Program, ASU Box 32080, Boone, NC 28608,

Despite recognition among scholars and practitioners that ‘solving’ water management problems is a misplaced concept, popular and academic literature rely on the word ‘solution’ in discussing water management concerns. Because water is a natural resource, science is routinely invoked as a source for solutions. A focus on ‘solving’ creates a simplistic expectation that some person or institution is responsible for implementing a science-based solution. The reality, however, is that water management is a wicked problem and hence defies solution. Managing water is a social responsibility and it will require consistent attention in the future, as it has throughout human history. The language used to frame a problem that consistently calls for a science-based solution can, by this framing alone, affect how people think, feel, behave toward the problem. A simplistic insistence on ‘solving’ sets scientists and water managers up to fail and may subsequently decrease public support for more complex policy discussions that could provide long-term management strategies. As a preface to rethinking water management strategies, academics, journalists, resource managers, and the public need to reconsider the language used to frame water management concerns. Changing our language can help us recognize our own culpability in creating water problems and our responsibility in managing this most essential resource. This work highlights flood control and river restoration cases as examples of ‘solutionism’ hindering improved water resource management.
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