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Indicator-based water sustainability assessment — A review

Juwana, I., Muttil, N., Perera, B.J.C.
The Science of the total environment 2012 v.438 pp. 357-371
sustainable development, water currents, water resources, water use
In the past few decades, there have been extensive efforts on measuring sustainability. One example is the development of assessment tools based on sustainability indicators. Several individuals and organisations have suggested various indices for assessing sustainability. This paper focuses on the review of water sustainability assessment using the indicator-based approach. It discusses major definitions of sustainable development that have been proposed and more specific concepts of sustainability based on sustainability principles and criteria. It then proceeds with the review of existing definitions, principles and guidelines on sustainable water resource management. The paper then explores elements of indicator-based water sustainability assessment. These elements include the selection of components and indicators, obtaining sub-index values, weighting schemes for components and indicators, aggregation of components and indicators, robustness analysis of the index, and interpretation of the final index value. These six elements are explored considering four existing water sustainability indices and two other sustainability indices that are thought to be useful for the development and use of water sustainability indices. The review presented in this paper on indicator-based water sustainability assessment can provide significant inputs to water stakeholders worldwide for using existing indices, for customising existing indices for their applications, and for developing new water sustainability indices. These indices can provide information on current conditions of water resources, including identifying all factors contributing to the improvement of water resources. This information can be used to communicate the current status of existing water resources to the wider community. Also, the water sustainability indices can be used to assist decision makers to prioritise issues, challenges and programmes related to water resource management.