Hydrocomplexity: Addressing water security and emergent environmental risks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Water security and emergent environmental risks are among the most significant societal concerns. They are highly interlinked to other global risks such as those related to climate, human health, food, human migration, biodiversity loss, urban sustainability, etc. Emergent risks result from the confluence of unanticipated interactions from evolving interdependencies between complex systems, such as those embedded in the water cycle. They are associated with the novelty of dynamical possibilities that have significant potential consequences to human and ecological systems, and not with probabilities based on historical precedence. To ensure water security we need to be able to anticipate the likelihood of risk possibilities as they present the prospect of the most impact through cascade of vulnerabilities. They arise due to a confluence of nonstationary drivers that include growing population, climate change, demographic shifts, urban growth, and economic expansion, among others, which create novel interdependencies leading to a potential of cascading network effects. Hydrocomplexity aims to address water security and emergent risks through the development of science, methods, and practices with the potential to foster a "Blue Revolution" akin to the Green revolution for food security. It blends both hard infrastructure based solution with soft knowledge driven solutions to increase the range of planning and design, management, mitigation and adaptation strategies. It provides a conceptual and synthetic framework to enable us to integrate discovery science and engineering, observational and information science, computational and communication systems, and social and institutional approaches to address consequential water and environmental challenges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5827-5838
Number of pages12
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015


  • cyberinfrastructure
  • emergent risk
  • hydrocomplexity
  • institutional network
  • water security

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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