Humanity’s impact on the global environment has increased to the extent that a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, has been suggested to describe the last 200 years. On-going agricultural development of land and water resources at catchments has led to unprecedented growth in agricultural production along with increased human use of water, significant modification of catchment vegetation conditions, and a strong human imprint on the water cycle. The practical utility of the long-held assumption of stationarity in hydrology and water catchment management is now seriously questioned. Because of increasing uncertainty, water catchment management will require quantitative predictions of human-water relations to support sustainable water catchment management.
Since the twentieth century, water catchment management, dominated by engineers and hydrologists, has often focused on gains of economic efficiency in the short term through managing fast economic and hydrological variables. Hence it has been insensitive to societal values (which are slow variables). As a consequence, current water catchment management cannot detect the change of catchment states whose thresholds are determined by slow variables and thus has caused the worsening catchment degradation. This seriously compromises our capacity to foster social–ecological sustainability of water catchments in the long term.
Advisors: Assoc Prof Yongping Wei