SOAS University of London

Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP)

Water and Land Management for Sustainable Development (30 credits)

30 credits

This module provides an opportunity to study and understand fundamental theories, concepts and tools relevant to the management of water and land resources. Management of water, land and the linkages between are key for sustainable development, and affect both the developed and developing world. 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). Water’s centrality can facilitate assessment and management of prioritisation, synergies and trade-offs. A river’s basin and sub-catchments naturally provide nested scales for holistic management, and this is enhanced by land and water users’ shared resource dependence and understanding of natural processes. Coverage includes the key water and land management challenges communities are facing today and the solutions that people have developed.

It has long been recognised that water and land management are not simply technical problems requiring technical solutions, in fact, on the contrary, experience has shown that water and land-use decisions are based on social and economic criteria and it is here that governments potentially have most influence. Therefore, in addition to considering technical measures for sustainable management in a variety of contexts, this module considers the policy options open to governments to encourage the sustainable use of water and land resources.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • 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.


Students are advised to dedicate 15–20 hours study time per week for this module.

Scope and syllabus

The module consists of fifteen units.

  1. Understanding Water Resources and Aquatic Ecosystems
  2. Social and Economic Characteristics of Water
  3. Global Issues
  4. Sustainable Land Management
  5. Processes of Land Degradation
  6. Deforestation and Land Use Change
  7. Land Management in Extensive and Intensive Farming Systems
  8. Water Use in Agriculture
  9. Water Use in Fisheries and Aquaculture
  10. Water Supply and Sanitation
  11. Water and Energy
  12. Tools and Frameworks for Assessing and Managing Water
  13. Water Governance, Policy and Politics
  14. Policy and Interventions for Sustainable Land Management
  15. Challenges for Future Professionals

Method of assessment

This module is assessed by:

  • initial exercise, commentary and critical discussion (10%)
  • 3000-word examined assignment (EA), with an element of online interaction and discussion (40%)
  • two-hour written examination (50%)

Since the EA is an element of the formal examination process, please note the following:

  • The EA questions and submission date will be available on the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).
  • The EA is submitted by uploading it to the VLE.
  • The EA is marked by the module tutor and students will receive a percentage mark and feedback.
  • Answers submitted must be entirely the student’s own work and not a product of collaboration.
  • Plagiarism is a breach of regulations. To ensure compliance with the specific University of London regulations, all students are advised to read the guidelines on referencing the work of other people. For more detailed information, see the FAQ on the VLE.

Suggested 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.      
  • Mekonnen, M.M. & Hoekstra, A.Y. (2016) Four billion people facing severe water scarcity, Science Advances, 2 (2), 1–6.   
  • HLPE . (2015) Water for Food Security and Nutrition. A report by the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition of the Committee on World Food Security. Rome. Report No 9. pp. 39–41, 47–65, 97 and 106.  
  • UNEP. (2010) Managing for sustainability of inland fisheries. In: Blue Harvest: Inland Fisheries as an Ecosystem Service. By Dugan, P., Delaporte, A., Andrew, N., O’Keefe, M., Welcomme, R. Penang, Malaysia, WorldFish Center. pp. 44–50.
  • Liniger HP, Mekdaschi Studer R, Hauert C and M Gurtner (2011) Sustainable Land Management in Practice – Guidelines and Best Practices for Sub-Saharan Africa. TerrAfrica, WOCAT and FAO, Rome.
  • Branca G, Lipper L, McCarthy N, Jolejole MC (2013) Food security, climate change, and sustainable land management. A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 33 635–650
  • Garnett, T. et al, 2013, Sustainable Intensification in Agriculture: Premises and Policies, SCIENCE     VOL 341    5 JULY 2013


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules