What is it about?

Multi-attribute decision-making (MADM) methods are a powerful tool for evaluating feasible solutions in water resources planning and management by considering multiple, often conflicting, evaluation criteria. In this review, we analyze more than 320 scholarly articles published over the past two decades from 57 different countries to shed light on the increasing applications of MADM methods in water resources decision-making. Our analysis shows that the analytical hierarchy process (AHP) is the most popular MADM method, with the Middle East being a region that frequently resorts to these methods to address water crisis problems. We recommend addressing uncertainty through sensitivity analysis and/or probabilistic/fuzzy frameworks, employing checking frameworks such as the Delphi methods to assess the consistency of subjective evaluations, and considering economic, environmental, legislative, and political criteria in addition to technical criteria to account for the multidimensional nature of water resources problems.

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Why is it important?

The importance of this review lies in its comprehensive analysis of the use of multi-attribute decision-making methods in water resources planning and management over the past two decades. By examining over 320 scholarly published articles from 57 different countries, this review provides valuable insights into the geographic factors, decision-maker involvement, MADM methods used, number of alternatives and criteria, weight assignment methods, viewpoints on uncertainty, and subject matter of these studies. The results of this review reveal the growing trend of using MADM methods for water resources management, particularly in regions facing water scarcity issues. The review also highlights the need to address uncertainty and subjectivity in MADM applications and emphasizes the importance of considering economic, environmental, legislative, and political factors in addition to technical criteria when making water resources decisions. The findings of this review can inform future research and policy development in the field of water resources management.


As this was arguably one of the most daunting projects I have been involved in thus far in my life, I did not expect to have this much fun doing it for the life of me. I was quite literally absorbing decades of experience!

Babak Zolghadr-Asli
University of Exeter

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This page is a summary of: A review of 20-year applications of multi-attribute decision-making in environmental and water resources planning and management, Environment Development and Sustainability, February 2021, Springer Science + Business Media, DOI: 10.1007/s10668-021-01278-3.
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