Special Feature on Implementing Participatory Water Management:
Recent Advances in Theory, Practice and Evaluation
This synthesis product was published as a special feature in Ecology & Society.
Key words: stakeholder participation; public participation; interactive planning; water resources management; policy analysis; design; evaluation; institutions; participatory modeling; participatory research; social learning; development theory; adaptive management
Research Focus and objective of the Special Feature
Many current water planning and management problems are riddled with high levels of complexity, uncertainty and conflict; so-called “messes” or “wicked problems”. These problem situations, which used to remain the domain of technical water managers, are increasingly entering the public policy sphere as resources and individual implementation power become scarce, and conflicts between water users and interest groups proliferate, adding a previously over-looked social dimension to the complex systems being managed. The realisation that there is a need to consider the values, knowledge and perspectives of these “stakeholders” in collaborative decision-making processes has led to a multitude of new methods and processes being proposed, which include “participatory” forms of modelling, planning and decision-aiding processes. Despite an increasing uptake of such methods around the world in water management, as well as in other sectors of natural resources management and public policy fields such as urban transport, health and technology risk assessment; and despite the proliferation of scientific literature on the evaluation of participation processes in many of these fields - including water management -, two pivotal questions have not yet been clearly answered in the scientific literature:
- What are the benefits of using participatory approaches?
- How exactly should these approaches be implemented in complex social-ecological settings to exploit these potential benefits?
These questions are not only of interest to the scientific community but equally to water managers and policy makers. This is in particular as the lack of clear insight means that in many cases the potential for effective water management remains unattained. In the study of sustainable ecological and social systems the first two questions concretise into a third one that reaches beyond the one-time application of participatory approaches to water management:
- How can participatory approaches be most appropriately used to encourage transition to more sustainable ecological, social and political regimes in different cultural and spatial contexts?
The answer to this question is equally open. Given the increasingly perceived scarce and fragile state of water resources in many countries, this question is of urgent practical relevance.
This special feature on participatory water management starts to address these three questions by outlining recent advances in theory, practice and evaluation related to the implementation of participatory water management. The feature is largely based on an extensive range of case studies that have been implemented and analysed by cross-disciplinary research teams in collaboration with practitioners and in a number of cases policy makers.
The following articles have been published:
- Von Korff, Y., K. A. Daniell, S. Moellenkamp, P. Bots, and R. M. Bijlsma. 2012. Implementing participatory water management: recent advances in theory, practice, and evaluation. Ecology and Society 17(1): 30. doi 10.5751/ES-04733-170130
- Kuper, M., M. Dionnet, A. Hammani, Y. Bekkar, P. Garin, and B. Bluemling. 2009. Supporting the shift from state water to community water: lessons from a social learning approach to designing joint irrigation projects in Morocco. Ecology and Society 14(1): 19. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol14/iss1/art19/
- Lamers, M., B. Ottow, G. Francois, and Y. von Korff. 2010. Beyond dry feet? Experiences from a participatory water-management planning case in The Netherlands. Ecology and Society 15(1): 14. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol15/iss1/art14/
- Huitema, D., C. Cornelisse, and B. Ottow. 2010. Is the jury still out? Toward greater insight in policy learning in participatory decision processes—the case of Dutch citizens' juries on water management in the Rhine Basin. Ecology and Society 15(1): 16. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol15/iss1/art16/
- Zorrilla, P., G. Carmona, Á. De la Hera, C. Varela-Ortega, P. Martínez-Santos, J. Bromley and H. Jorgen Henriksen 2009. Evaluation of bayesian networks as a tool for participatory water resources management: application to the Upper Guadiana basin in Spain. Ecology and Society 15(3): 12. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol15/iss3/art12/
- Selman, P., C. Carter, A. Lawrence and C. Morgan 2010. Re-connecting with a neglected river through imaginative engagement. Ecology and Society 15(3): 18. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol15/iss3/art18/
- Hirsch, D., G. Abrami, R. Giordano, S. Liersch, N. Matin, and M. Schlüter. 2010. Participatory research for adaptive water management in a transition country – a case study from Uzbekistan. Ecology and Society 15(3): 23. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol15/iss3/art23/
- Bijlsma, R. M., P. W. G. Bots, H. A. Wolters, and A. Y. Hoekstra. 2011. An empirical analysis of stakeholders’ influence on policy development: the role of uncertainty handling. Ecology and Society 16(1): 51. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol16/iss1/art51/
- Bots, P. W. G., R. Bijlsma, Y. Von Korff, N. Van der Fluit, and H. Wolters. 2011. Supporting the constructive use of existing hydrological models in participatory settings: a set of "rules of the game". Ecology and Society 16(2): 16. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol16/iss2/art16/
- Hoverman, S., H. Ross, T. Chan, and B. Powell. 2011. Social learning through participatory integrated catchment risk assessment in the Solomon Islands. Ecology and Society 16(2): 17. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol16/iss2/art17/;
- Méndez, P. F., N. Isendahl, J. M. Amezaga, and L. Santamaría. 2012. Facilitating transitional processes in rigid institutional regimes for water management and wetland conservation: experience from the Guadalquivir Estuary. Ecology and Society 17(1): 26. doi: 10.5751/ES-04494-170126
- Barreteau, O., P. W. G. Bots, and K. A. Daniell. 2010. A framework for clarifying “participation” in participatory research to prevent its rejection for the wrong reasons. Ecology and Society 15(2): 1. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol15/iss2/art1/
- Von Korff, Y., P. d'Aquino, K. A. Daniell, and R. Bijlsma. 2010. Designing participation processes for water management and beyond. Ecology and Society 15(3): 1. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol15/iss3/art1/
- Daniell, K. A., I. White, N. Ferrand, I. S. Ribarova, P. Coad, J.-E. Rougier, M. Hare, N. A. Jones, A. Popova, D. Rollin, P. Perez, and S. Burn. 2010. Co-engineering participatory water management processes: theory and insights from Australian and Bulgarian interventions. Ecology and Society 15(4): 11. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol15/iss4/art11/
- Moellenkamp, S., M. Lamers, C. Huesmann, S. Rotter, C. Pahl-Wostl, K. Speil, and W. Pohl. 2010. Informal participatory platforms for adaptive management. insights into niche-finding, collaborative design and outcomes from a participatory process in the rhine basin. Ecology and Society 15(4): 41. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol15/iss4/art41/
- Raadgever, G.T. 2008. Does collaboration enhance learning? The case of future flood management in the Rhine basin. [online] URL: http://www.newater.uos.de/intern/sendfile.php?id=1197 (= Deliverable 1.2.7/1.3.7b of the NeWater project)