Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand


Faculty of Business and Law


School of Law and Justice




This article was originally published as: Merritt, W.S., Reddy, V.R., Rao, K.V., Pavelic, P., Ahmed, S., Ranjan, R., Croke, B.F.W., & Syme, G. J. (2011). Integrated modelling for understanding watershed development impacts on social and biophysical systems. Paper presented at the MODSIM 2011: 19th International Congress on Modelling and Simulation. Perth, Western Australia. Original article available here


The intention of watershed development (WD) programs in India is to improve the livelihoods of people and preserve the natural resource base, particularly in areas where water scarcity limits the development potential of rural communities. In practice, there are many complications to implementing WD programs in an effective and equitable way for all people within and between villages in a catchment. Our understanding of the potential implications of a program is often limited by the way in which we investigate the biophysical-social-economic system. Two common failings are (a) not properly considering the importance of the place, scope and scale of a problem and (b) using a disciplinary approach to make conclusions about the system as a whole. This paper discusses how we are addressing these issues as part of an integrated assessment project looking at WD in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. The multi-disciplinary project team includes agronomists, economists, environmental modellers, groundwater and surface water hydrologists, and social scientists who together are aiming to develop a holistic understanding of the impacts of WD on biophysical, social and economic systems. Key to the project philosophy is the inclusion of government representatives, communities, and non-government organisations (NGOs) in developing the researchers' understanding of the issues and complexities associated with WD and the critical questions that need addressing by the project. An integrated model is being developed that will incorporate crop production water use and hydrological (surface water and groundwater) models in addition to knowledge gained from extensive household surveys in villages in two case study catchments. The household surveys were developed based on discussions with NGOs working with the rural communities in Andhra Pradesh and are being used to examine economic and social outcomes (positive and negative) of WD for households. Measures of equity and resilience are being developed to measure differences in outcomes between villages (e.g. upstream, downstream) and within villages (e.g. income groups, gender, land ownership, etc).