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Managing water resources sustainably


Status: Current

Country: South Africa & China

Both South Africa and China are facing enormous challenges in water scarcity and management. Institutionalising ecosystem services, which also have potential to alleviate poverty within unfolding climate change, is a significant theme in water resource management. 

An ESPA2 project, led by Professor Ray Ison and including Dr Kevin Collins and Dr John Colvin in the Communications and Systems department of the OU, undertook research in 2009/10 to strengthen the research capacity of South Africa and China in sustainable water resources management, drawing on European and Australian experience.

The aims of the project were achieved through the joint preparation of a five-year research programme for sustainable water resources management in and the Mvoti catchment in South Africa and Baiyangdian Lake catchment in China. The research programme, which has been submitted as a major consortium bid to ESPA3, will focus on the systemic relationships between poverty alleviation and integrated water management through use of ecosystem services.

The research programme will focus on the systemic relationships between poverty alleviation and integrated water management.

This research is part of the wider portfolio of the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) programme funded by the UK’s Department for International Development, the Natural Environment Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council. The aim of ESPA is to achieve sustainably managed ecosystems and contribute towards poverty alleviation in developing countries.


The paper Wei, Y.P., Ison, R.L., Colvin, J.D. & Collins, K. (2011) Reframing water governance in China: a multi-perspective study of an over-engineered catchment has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Environmental Planning & Management.