System Dynamics is an academic discipline introduced in the 1960s by the researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  System Dynamics was originally rooted in the management and engineering sciences but has gradually developed into a tool useful in the analysis of social, economic, physical, chemical, biological and ecological systems.

A System Dynamics simulation approach relies on understanding complex inter-relationships existing between different elements within a system. This is achieved by developing a model that can simulate and quantify the behaviour of the system. Simulation of the model over time is considered essential to understand the dynamics of the system. Understanding of the system and its boundaries, identifying the key variables, representation of the physical processes or variables through mathematical relationships, mapping the structure of the model and simulating the model for understanding its behaviour are some of the major steps that are carried out in the development of a system dynamics simulation model.  It is interesting to note that the central building blocks of the principles of system dynamics approach are well suited for modelling any physical system. The power of simulation is the ease of constructing “what if” scenarios and tackling big, messy, real-world problems. In addition, general principles upon which the system dynamics simulation tools are developed apply equally to social, natural, and physical systems. Using these tools in water resources management allows enhancement of models by adding social, economic, and ecological sectors into the model structure.

In the field of system dynamics, a system is defined as a collection of elements which continually interact over time to form a unified whole.  The underlying pattern of interactions between the elements of a system is called the structure of the system. One familiar water resources engineering example of a system is a reservoir. The structure of a reservoir is defined by the interactions between inflow, storage, outflow, and other variables specific to a particular reservoir location (storage curve, evaporation, infiltration, etc.). The structure of the reservoir includes the variables important in influencing the system. The term dynamics refers to change over time. If something is dynamic, it is constantly changing in response to the stimuli influencing it. A dynamic system is thus a system in which the variables interact to stimulate changes over time. System Dynamics is a methodology used to understand how systems change over time. The way in which the elements or variables composing a system vary over time is referred to as the behaviour of the system. In the reservoir example, the behaviour is described by the dynamics of reservoir storage growth and decline. This behaviour is due to the influences of inflow, outflow, losses and environment, which are elements of the system.  One feature, which is common to all systems, is that a system’s structure determines the system’s behaviour. System Dynamics links the behaviour of a system to its underlying structure. System Dynamics can be used to analyse how the structure of a physical, biological, or any other system can lead to the behaviour which the system exhibits. By defining the structure of a reservoir, it is possible to use system dynamics analysis to trace out the behaviour over time of the reservoir based upon its structure.

The structure-behaviour link need not be limited to systems which are well defined historically or analytically. System Dynamics can also be used to analyse how structural changes in one part of a system might affect the behaviour of the system as a whole. Perturbing a system allows one to test how the system will respond under varying sets of conditions. Once again referring to a reservoir, someone can test the impact of a drought on the reservoir or analyse the impact of the elimination of a particular user on the behaviour of the entire system.

Who Should Attend?

This short course is primarily designed for practicing professionals (in consulting, government and other professional organizations) and researchers (in academia and research institutes) with interest in the solution of complex water problems. Presented material and the modelling tool to be introduced have a considerable value in addressing requirements of contemporary water management projects: consideration of social and environmental impacts; integration of quantitative and qualitative engineering analyses; investigation of various future scenarios; and answering many of ‘what if?’ questions.

Course Objectives

This course introduces systems analysis and design using system dynamics simulation. The general objectives are for the participant to become able to:

  • Use systems thinking in addressing water resources problems by understanding: system structure; links and interrelationships between different elements of the structure; feedback; and behaviour of systems over time.
  • Understand and use the system dynamics mathematical model as a device for formalization, standardization and treatment of water management problems.
  • Develop an awareness of the potential utility of system dynamics modelling approach to water managers.
  • Recognize the need for life-long learning, interdisciplinarity and use of the system dynamics approach in water resources management as one way for addressing complexity.

Specific learning objectives

Introduction to systems thinking. At the end of this section, the participant should be able to:

  • Distinguish between linear and systems thinking.
  • Understand definitions of system, systems approach, systems engineering.
  • Use the concept of mathematical modelling and system dynamics simulation.

System dynamics simulation. At the end of this section, the participant should be able to:

  • Formulate and analyse a water management problem using simulation.
  • Use VENSIM system dynamics simulation tool.

Course assignment

Participants will be provided with an opportunity for hands-on experience in formulating a problem using system dynamics simulation, and solving it using VENSIM.


VENSIM is a visual modelling tool that allows user to conceptualize, document, simulate, analyse, and optimize models of dynamic systems. VENSIM provides a simple and flexible way of building simulation models from causal loop or stock and flow diagrams. By connecting words with arrows, relationships among system variables are entered and recorded as causal connections. This information is used by the Equation Editor to help the user form a complete simulation model. The model can be analysed throughout the building process, looking at the causes and uses of a variable, and also at the loops involving the variable. Models built in VENSIM can be simulated and their behaviour thoroughly explored.

Course deliverables

Each participant will be provided with a USB containing: (a) a set of lectures by Professor Slobodan P. Simonovic that will be delivered during the course; (b) one copy of the course notes (Chapter 8 of the book “Managing Water Resources: Methods and Tools for a Systems Approach” by Prof. Simonovic); (c) a set of selected publications to supplement the course notes; (d) student version of the VENSIM system dynamics development tool; and (e) a set of VENSIM examples used during the course.

Course Programme

Monday, 27 November 2017:

  • Introduction
  • Definitions
  • Systems dynamics
  • Causal diagramming

Tuesday, 28 November 2017:

  • Feedback
  • Basic building blocks
  • Numerical integration
  • Modelling process
  • Hand integration

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

  • Dynamic behaviours and delays
  • How to make SD model
  • Real SD application examples

Course Structure

Each day is subdivided into four sessions and will commence at 9.00 am and finish at 5.00 pm.  Lunch break is from 12.30 pm to 2.00 pm.  Coffee will be served during the breaks.  Please note that on the first day registration will be take place between 11.00 am and 12.00 noon.

Course Materials

The course fee includes all working materials, lunch, coffee, tea and all computer facilities used, where applicable.  During the course there will be practical sessions for which software will be provided and therefore participants may wish to bring their own laptops. The Institute reserves the right to make changes to the programme that may prove necessary.

Course Presenter

SimonovicDr. Simonovic has over thirty years of research, teaching and consulting experience in water resources engineering. He is teaching courses in civil engineering and water resources systems. He actively works for national and international professional organizations. He has received a number of awards for excellence in teaching, research and outreach. Dr. Simonovic has been invited to present special courses for practicing water resources engineers in many countries. He is assisting in the publication of water resources Journals, and participates actively in the organization of national and international meetings. He has published over 450 professional publications and three major textbooks. He has been inducted in the Canadian Academy of Engineering in 2013.

Dr. Simonovic’s primary research interest focuses on the application of systems approach to, and development of the decision support tools for, management of complex water and environmental systems. Most of his work is related to the application of computerized simulation, optimization and multi-objective analysis tools in deterministic, probabilistic and fuzzy form. The second focus area of Dr. Simonovic’s research includes risk management. He is developing, and implementing, probabilistic and fuzzy set methods for water resources risk management. He has undertaken applied research projects that integrate the mathematical modelling, spatial and temporal data-base management and intelligent interface development into decision support tools for water resources decision makers. Most of his research is being conducted through the Facility for Intelligent Decision Support (FIDS) at the University of Western Ontario.


Subject Matter - Systems modelling; Risk management; Water resources and environmental systems analysis; Computer-based decision support systems development; Water resources education and training.

Topical Area - Reservoirs; Flood control; Hydropower energy; Operational hydrology; Climatic Change; Integrated water resources management.


To register online for this course please complete the registration form by clicking on the 'Register' button at the top of this page.


The New Forest is one of the UK's most popular tourist destinations and offers many attractions all year round, including picturesque forest villages as well as beautiful scenery. It is located in Southern England, spreading over 150 square miles of Hampshire. The New Forest was established as a royal hunting ground by King William I, and by the 14th century the land was being used to produce timber for the ship building industry on the south coast. Today, after nearly 1000 years, the forest is still Crown property and is administered by the Forestry Commission. Since the reign of King William I commoners have been given the right to graze their livestock, normally ponies, cattle and pigs, on Forest land where they wander freely. In the New Forest the well-being of the animals and the special needs of the countryside are a priority. The Forest is unarguably recognised as one of the most unique and important wilderness areas in Western Europe and, because of this, it is now a National Park.

Venue and Accommodation

The course will take place at the Wessex Institute of Technology at Ashurst Lodge located in the New Forest, an outstanding National Park that borders the South Coast. Ashurst Lodge is an ideal venue for conferences, courses and seminars.  The participants can benefit from an excellent standard of accommodation, either on Campus or in various hotels or bed and breakfasts in the area.  The surroundings are equally appealing to those who enjoy walking, horse riding, cycling, sailing and fine landscapes.

For more information on how to find Ashurst Lodge and to arrange accommodation during the courses please use the information provided on the Contact Us page.