Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2023-164
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2023-164
30 Aug 2023
 | 30 Aug 2023
Status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Making a case for power-sensitive water modelling: a literature review

Rozemarijn ter Horst, Rossella Alba, Jeroen Vos, Maria Rusca, Jonatan Godinez-Madrigal, Lucie V. Babel, Gert Jan Veldwisch, Jean-Philippe Venot, Bruno Bonté, David W. Walker, and Tobias Krueger

Abstract. Hydrological models are widely used to research hydrological change and risk. Yet, the power embedded in the modelling process and outcomes are often concealed by claiming its neutrality. Our systematic review shows that in scientific literature relatively little attention is given to the power of models to influence development processes and outcomes in water governance. The review also shows that there is much to learn from those who are willing to be openly reflexive on the influence of models. In agreement with this emerging body of work, we call for power-sensitive modelling, which means that people are critical about how models are made and with what implications, taking into account that: i) The choice for and use of models for water management happens in a political context and has political consequences; ii) Models are the result of choices made by modellers and – since they have political consequences – these need to be made as explicit as possible as opposed to being “blackboxed”; iii) To consider the ethical implications of the choices of modellers, commissioners, and users, and to improve accountability, models and their power need to be understood by connecting the inner workings of a model with a contextual understanding of its development and use, iv) Action is taken upon these implications by democratising modelling processes. Our call should not be understood as a suggestion to do away with modelling altogether, but rather as an invitation to interrogate how quantitative models may help to foster transformative pathways towards more just and equitable water distributions.

Publisher's note: Copernicus Publications remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims made in the text, published maps, institutional affiliations, or any other geographical representation in this preprint. The responsibility to include appropriate place names lies with the authors.
Rozemarijn ter Horst, Rossella Alba, Jeroen Vos, Maria Rusca, Jonatan Godinez-Madrigal, Lucie V. Babel, Gert Jan Veldwisch, Jean-Philippe Venot, Bruno Bonté, David W. Walker, and Tobias Krueger

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on hess-2023-164', Keith Beven, 31 Aug 2023
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Rozemarijn ter Horst, 02 Oct 2023
  • CC1: 'Comment on hess-2023-164', Bich Ngoc Tran, 26 Sep 2023
    • AC2: 'Reply on CC1', Rozemarijn ter Horst, 05 Oct 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on hess-2023-164', Stuart Lane, 07 Oct 2023
    • AC3: 'Reply on RC2', Rozemarijn ter Horst, 24 Oct 2023
  • RC3: 'Comment on hess-2023-164', Maurits Ertsen, 24 Oct 2023
    • AC4: 'Reply on RC3', Rozemarijn ter Horst, 10 Nov 2023
Rozemarijn ter Horst, Rossella Alba, Jeroen Vos, Maria Rusca, Jonatan Godinez-Madrigal, Lucie V. Babel, Gert Jan Veldwisch, Jean-Philippe Venot, Bruno Bonté, David W. Walker, and Tobias Krueger
Rozemarijn ter Horst, Rossella Alba, Jeroen Vos, Maria Rusca, Jonatan Godinez-Madrigal, Lucie V. Babel, Gert Jan Veldwisch, Jean-Philippe Venot, Bruno Bonté, David W. Walker, and Tobias Krueger

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Short summary
The exact power of models often remains hidden, especially when neutrality is claimed. Our review of 49 scientific articles shows that in scientific literature little attention is given to the power of hydrological models to influence development processes and outcomes. However, that there is a lot to learn from those who are openly reflexive. Based on lessons from the review, we call for power-sensitive modelling which means that people are critical about how models made and with what effects.