Marine and Fluvial Systems (MFS) Group

The research of the MFS group focuses on a better understanding of the physical processes. This is required to improve the management of large-scale surface water systems such as rivers and shallow seas. The group aims to improve understanding of the physical processes and to model their behaviour appropriately, which means as simple as possible but accurate enough for the water management problems that are considered. Dealing with uncertainty plays an important role in appropriate modelling and thus in the research. The research can roughly be separated into two research lines: river systems and shallow seas.

River systems

Protection against floods is one of the most important aspects in river basin management. The roughness of the riverbed and the floodplain presents a large uncertainty in models that predict water levels. During floods bed forms develop on the riverbed, leading to a dynamic bed roughness that strongly influences the water levels. In addition, vegetation in floodplains also causes the water level to rise during floods. Reducing the uncertainty in these two parameters is necessary to improve the prediction of the water levels. In mountainous areas reservoirs can be used to control flood waves. Appropriate models are required to predict the discharge in order to optimize reservoir operation. Current research projects related to river systems are:

Dunes on the bed of the river Waal

Shallow seas

The sea bed of shallow seas has many user functions: carrier of pipelines and cables , shipping through navigation channels in the sea bed, extraction of sand, placement of oil platforms or windmill parks, etc. Natural bed forms at the sea bed that may interact with these user-functions. Within the area of shallow seas the research of the MFS group focuses on the effects of human interventions on the natural system and the interaction between the natural system and the user-functions. Current research projects in this area are:

Seabed patterns in the North Sea


Prof.dr. Suzanne J.M.H. Hulscher
Horst building, room W-113
Drienerlolaan 5
7522 NB Enschede, Netherlands
Phone: +31 53 489 4256

Water Management (WM) Group

The research of the WM Group focuses on understanding the natural and socio-economic processes behind water scarcity, pollution and flooding. Most water problems cannot be understood independently from soil and land use, spatial planning, climate change, economic production, population growth and environmental policy. Wise use of water systems and human development are intricately interwoven. Management of water therefore requires a comprehensive approach that balances criteria such as efficiency, equity, sustainability and security. In our research programme we take an interdisciplinary approach, linking the natural, social and policy sciences.

Systems analysis and modelling

We use systems analysis as a tool to address the interactions between natural processes, the relations within actor networks and, most challenging, the complexity of interrelations between natural and social processes. Where necessary, we develop and apply modelling techniques such as system dynamic simulation, agent based modelling, simulation games and geographical information systems.

Policy analysis and integrated assessment

We conceive water governance as the result of an interaction between a multitude of governmental and non-governmental actors. The analysis underlying decision-making processes in actor networks should account for a range of perspectives on what are the actual problems, goals, and key processes. We develop and apply innovative concepts and new types of decision support systems that can support policy analysis under conditions of a variety of interests, perceptions, uncertainties and risks.

Scales and uncertainties

Our approach is to analyse and model water systems at different spatial and temporal scales, as well as at different levels of organization. This approach inevitably brings along different types of uncertainties. Dealing with these uncertainties is one of our scientific challenges.

Water Footprint Assessment

The WM group takes the global lead in the field of water footprint assessment studies. It becomes increasingly relevant to consider the linkages between consumer goods and impacts on freshwater systems. This can improve our understanding of the processes that drive changes imposed on freshwater systems and help to develop policies of wise water governance. The water footprint concept makes the link between consumers and the underlying exploitation of water resources. Local water depletion and pollution are often closely tied to the structure of the global economy. With increasing trade between nations and continents, water is more frequently used to produce exported goods. International trade in commodities implies long-distance transfers of water in virtual form, where virtual water is understood as the volume of water that has been used to produce a commodity and that is thus virtually embedded in it. Knowledge about the virtual-water flows entering and leaving a country can cast a completely new light on the actual water scarcity of a country.

Contact Arjen Y. Hoekstra
Horst building, room W-117
Drienerlolaan 5
7522 NB Enschede, Netherlands
Phone: +31 53 489 3880