Water and land management for sustainable development

This module provides an opportunity to study and understand fundamental theories, concepts and tools relevant to the management of water and land resources. The themes of climate change, poverty, gender, equity, development and sustainability are treated as cross-cutting in this module.​​

Focusing on water resources (quantity, including flood and drought risk, and quality) to drive improvements in integrated land-water management has strengths as all human activities need water and water resources are directly impacted by what happens on land (rural and urban). Coverage includes the key water and land management challenges communities are facing today and the solutions that people have developed.

This module considers the technical measures for sustainable management in a variety of contexts, and considers the policy options open to governments to encourage the sustainable use of water and land resources.

Topics covered

  • Part 1: understanding water resources for sustainable development
  • Understanding water resources and aquatic ecosystems
  • Social and economic characteristics of water
  • Global issues
  • Part 2: Understanding land resources for sustainable development
  • Sustainable land management
  • Process of land degradation
  • Deforestation and land use change
  • Land management in extensive and intensive farming systems
  • Part 3: Water, economcy, livelihoods and poverty reduction
  • Water use in agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture
  • Water supply and sanitation
  • Water and energy
  • Part 4: Management and policy
  • Tools and frameworks for assessing and managing water
  • Water governance, policy and politics
  • Policy and interventions for sustainable land management
  • Challenges for future professionals.

Learning outcomes

By completing this module, you will be able to:

  • show critical appreciation of the global drivers and pressures on water availability and aquatic ecosystems health.
  • demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of the complexity of the water resource in its physical, ecological, social, economic and governance dimensions.
  • show critical appreciation of the role and management of water throughout the continuum of rainfed to irrigated agriculture, from community to basin scales, across potentially competing sectors, and of past, present and future prospective outcomes.
  • demonstrate ability to understand and critically assess water–energy nexus issues and their implications for management and governance.
  • demonstrate ability to critically apply a range of assessment approaches and analytical methods for use in the planning and implementation of improved water resources management.
  • demonstrate ability to explain critically the rationale for an integrated approach to water governance, policy and politics.
  • describe important land degradation processes (erosion, nutrient depletion, and salinisation) and critically discuss relevance and importance to sustainable development.
  • explain and critically assess how multiple factors may lead to unsustainable land management practices and to identify possible points of intervention for tackling land degradation problems.
  • give selective examples of successful strategies for sustainable land management in different ecological zones and farming systems and identify the biophysical and socioeconomic factors related to their success with critical interpretation of importance and priority.
  • discuss and critically assess the complex relationship between poverty and land degradation.
  • critically examine the role of government intervention and policy in creating conditions for sustainable land management.
  • show critical awareness and understanding of challenges for future professionals.


  • a two-hour written examination worth 60%
  • a 3000-word assignment worth 40%.

Essential reading

A sample of essential reading:

  • Falkenmark , M. & Rockström, J. (2006) The new blue and green water paradigm: Breaking new ground for water resources planning and management. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, 132 (3), 129–132.
  • Rockström , J., Falkenmark, M., Folke, C., Lannerstad, M., Barron, J., Enfors, E., Gordon, L., Heinke, J., Hoff, H. & Pahl-Wostl, C. (2014) The role played by water in the biosphere. In: Water Resilience for Human Prosperity. New York, Cambridge University Press, pp. 3–44.
  • GWP. (1998) Water as a Social and Economic Good: How to put Principle into Practice. Authors: Rogers, P., Bhatia, R. & Huber, A. Stockholm, Sweden, Global Water Partnership (GWP). Global Advisory Committee (TAC). TAC Background Papers No 2.
  • Bogardi , J., Dudgeon, D., Lawford, R., Flinkerbusch, E., Meyn, A., Pahl-Wostl, C., Vielhauer, K. & Vörösmarty, C. (2012) Water security for a planet under pressure: interconnected challenges of a changing world call for sustainable solutions. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 4 (1), 35–43.