Living on the edge: A complexity-informed exploration of the human-water relationship

World Futures 63 (3 & 4):275 – 285 (2007)
Humanity and water represent an intersection of two natural cycles: the human economy and the earth's hydrological system. Although water is vital for human survival and growth, the point where human endeavor intersects is the most variable and uncertain in the hydrological system. Significant spatial and temporal variation of evaporation and rainfall has led to a number of responses aimed at increasing certainty of access to water. However, many of the world's civilizations can attest that the very act of reducing water uncertainty by technical means (capture, storage, and irrigation) has ultimately led to greater uncertainty and civilization failure. This article explores the concept of living with water as a complex entity, inseparably connected with all three levels of existential complexity - individual, social, and ecological - rather than as a commodity, which has led to our current uncertain status.
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