International Waters learning Exchange & Resource Network

What is a leverage point?

"A leverage point is a place within a complex system (in this case, a transboundary water system) where a small shift at one point can produce large changes elsewhere".

Donella Meadows, 1999[1]


Leverage Points come in a number of different "shapes and sizes."  Some are most appropriately addressed with a policy change - for example, when an existing policy is causing a "perverse incentive" driving industries to use water in excess of their actual need.

Others are best approached with a change in technology or management practice - for example, when excessive water is being lost to evaporation due to out-of-date irrigation methods. Still others may require a change in attitude or simple habit, perhaps in conjunction with a technology change, so that actors in a system begin thinking differently and making different decisions at the user level on a daily basis[2].

[1] Donella Meadows, 1999, Leverage points: Places to intervene in a system, The Sustainability Institute, USA.

[2] Alan AtKisson, 2010, The Sustainability Transformation: How to Accelerate Positive Change in Challenging Times, Earthscan, UK.