RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2012

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16 Collaborative responses to problems of water security: theories, practices, and implications for geographical research (1): The collaborative ‘turn’ in water governance and management
Convenor(s) Nigel Watson (Lancaster University, UK)
Kevin Collins (The Open University, UK)
Chair(s) Nigel Watson (Lancaster University, UK)
Timetable Tuesday 03 July 2012, Session 1 (09:00 - 10:40)
Room David Hume Tower - Room 11.01
Session abstract This session will explore the rise of ‘collaboration’ as a policy and practice response to a diverse range of actual and potential water insecurities, including meeting basic human needs, securing the food supply, protecting ecosystems, sharing and valuing water resources, and improving governance capacity for long-term sustainability. Despite being advocated for more than two decades as part of the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) paradigm, collaborative responses, and institutional arrangements to support them, remain problematic from both a practice and a research perspective. The first part of the session will involve five 20 minute research papers (including 5 minutes per paper for questions). In the second part of the session, short films documenting experiences of working collaboratively to address water security and related environment and development issues will be shown. This will be followed by world café style discussion on the emerging research and practice agenda related to collaborative water governance and management.
Linked Sessions Collaborative responses to problems of water security: theories, practices, and implications for geographical research (2): Collaborative water governance and management: setting a new research agenda
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2012@rgs.org
From agency control to collaboration? A comparative analysis of ‘paradigm’ shift in environmental management
David Benson (University of East Anglia, UK)
Andrew Jordan (University of East Anglia, UK)
Laurence Smith (SOAS, University of London, UK)
It is a truism that environmental management has experienced a significant change in the locus of governing, through which centralised, agency-controlled forms of steering have been gradually replaced by more collaborative approaches organised at the ecosystem scale. While much research capital has been expended on informing their design, surprisingly little systematic comparative research exists on the precise nature and extent of what some authors call a paradigm shift in governing. This article addresses this gap in the geography literature by examining how one issue often assumed to require deeper collaboration between actors at multiple scales, namely catchment management, has played out in three comparable federal political systems: the European Union; the USA; and Australia. It reveals that collaboration, defined in terms of several ‘dimensions’, has grown in recent decades, but that its depth and extent remains highly variable both across and within the three cases raising questions over the veracity of the paradigm shift claims of its proponents.
Perspectives of natural resource sector industries on collaborative approaches to water governance
Rob de Loë (University of Waterloo, Canada)
Dan Murray (University of Waterloo, Canada)
In times of growing scarcity, access to water is becoming a significant concern for major water using industries. At the same time, the impacts of large industrial water users on water quality and quantity are growing in basins around the world. Both trends are important in Canada, where collaborative approaches to water governance are becoming common. Firms in the natural resource sector are emerging as key stakeholders and participants in these approaches. This reflects awareness that water governance matters for industry, but also that industry matters for water governance. In light of the power that industry has, this is an important challenge for collaborative processes. However, there is limited research available on the implications for collaborative processes of the involvement of these actors. Using a policy Delphi survey of representatives of large firms operating across Canada in the natural resource sector (defined as oil and gas, mining, electricity generation, and forestry sectors) this research explores (1) the implications of collaborative approaches to water governance for natural resource sector firms, and (2) the implications of their involvement for collaborative processes. The results suggest a complex and nuanced relationship. Despite challenges associated with industry participation (e.g., time and financial requirements) participants overwhelmingly endorsed collaborative approaches to water governance. This outcome may be related to the type of benefits identified as being conveyed from participation, namely involvement in the decision-making process from the beginning and the ability to influence outcomes. These results provide the impetus for a discussion on the costs and benefits of collaborative approaches to water governance for industry, government, and communities that are stakeholders in such approaches.
How participatory catchment organizations succeed: Lessons from Canada, New Zealand, Scotland and the UK
Brian Cook (University of Dundee, UK)
Maggie Atkinson (Landcare Research, New Zealand)
Hugh Chalmers (The Tweed Forum, UK)
Luke Comins (The Tweed Forum, UK)
Susan Cooksley (The James Hutton Institute, UK)
Neil Deans (Fish and Game, New Zealand)
Ioan Fazey (University of St Andrews)
Andrew Fenemor (Landcare Research, New Zealand)
Mike Kesby (University of St Andrews, UK)
Steve Litke (Fraser Basin Council, Canada)
David Marshall (Fraser Basin Council, Canada)
Linda Mathieson (Aberdeenshire Council, UK)
Chris J. Spray (University of Dundee, UK)
Moves to devolve environmental decision making to the local scale and to empower local stakeholders in management represent two overlapping trends now driving catchment management. In this context non-governmental organisations (NGOs) figure prominently. The issue at the core of this reconfiguration can be thought of as disenchantment with the ‘path’ of governance (i.e. Top-Down) and a growing desire to reverse what was once a predetermined hierarchy between local and national scales. Whereas generalised policy was once applied in specific locales, the emergent question facing catchment management has become how specific locales can fit within a national agenda? Added to this context are the ramifications of an economic turn-down and the subsequent lowering of capital available for catchment management. Embedded in the desire for a new model of catchment management, then, is the insistence for efficiencies and cost-savings, which has reinforced engagement with NGOs. At present, governments are looking to pioneering NGOs for lessons on how to optimise catchment management, with the aim of replicating and transferring lessons from successful problem mitigation to the regional or national scale. This analysis is based on a knowledge exchange in which five NGOs met to discuss the emergence, nature and future of catchment management and the role of participation within this context. We took the desire for transferable lessons as the starting point, asking what lessons these organisations might share before considering the implications and challenges associated with such an aim. The relevance of this discussion is immediate. At present, governments are disengaging from sole responsibility and looking for the public to take a more active role in delivering the services that people have grown to expect. In terms of catchment management, a proliferating number of NGOs are filling the ‘governance gap’, but with unclear implications. Discussion and reflection on the successes of these organisations offers an opportunity to consider the NGOs that have come to occupy prominent and powerful positions; this is particularly key given ongoing efforts to direct NGO involvement on national scales. With governments struggling or unwilling to deliver services, it is likely that NGOs and stakeholders will have to assume a more active role in management, but if such a trend is to continue there is need to better understand the organisations that now mediate public-government relations.
Household water security and low-income communities in the United States: Implications for research and policy in the global north
Wendy Jepson (Texas A&M University, USA)
Universal water provision for residents of the United States is a myth: migrant farm workers, Native Americans, the rural poor, the urban poor, and homeless face substantial deficiencies in water infrastructure and water access. Although institutional and location factors are thought to explain limited water service, assessments have overlooked two key aspects of the water-poverty nexus: (1) access to water infrastructure does not guarantee water security, which is defined as adequate, reliable, and affordable water and sanitation for a healthy life and (2) considerable water security variability and differentiation exist within low-income communities. This paper presents on-going research that describes and quantifies household water security in low-income Mexican-American communities in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, one of the poorest regions with the largest population lacking suitable water supply and basic sanitation in the United States. Attention to the household as the unit of analysis allows for fine-grained assessments of a broad array of water access and water quality issues, incorporating physical, relational and behavioural dimensions of water deficiency, which are not captured by regional-scale measurements of household connections. Methodological and conceptual implications for developing a new framework for assessing water security are addressed.
The changing roles of communities, NGOs and local government in moving towards sustainable rural water services: the case of WaterAid and its partners in Mali
Stephen Jones (Royal Holloway, University of London, UK)
This paper will explore the changes in forms of collaboration for rural water governance between communities, NGOs and local government in Mali by examining the case of the international NGO WaterAid and its partners. An understanding of the failure of previous NGO and community-based approaches to deliver secure and sustainable rural water supplies has led to WaterAid rethinking its approach through the lens of a Sustainability Framework which emphasises the role of decentralised local governments as the long-term support to water users. In Mali, this includes a shift by WaterAid to using direct budget support to local government partners, to develop their capacity and demonstrate to other actors their potential to perform this role. These changes raise questions about the appropriate scale for international NGOs to seek collaborations, the use of ‘model’ collaborations as an example for other actors to follow, and the potential for political economy analysis to help international NGOs target their activities within a particular sector and country context. The author has undertaken research with WaterAid in Mali since 2008 through a collaborative PhD studentship, including extensive support to the process of adopting the Sustainability Framework as a guiding approach within the organisation. The paper will also discuss the benefits and tensions that arise from such a research partnership, and suggest lessons for other researchers.
Collaborative approaches to problems of water security: reflections on theory and practice
Kevin Collins (The Open University, UK)
Nigel Watson (Lancaster University, UK)
This paper highlights some experiences to date of collaborative approaches to problems of water security and reflects on the implications for theory and practice. We draw on our own work in social learning and knowledge exchange processes for catchment managing as well as the existing literature and papers presented in the session to identify areas which continue to challenge the research and practitioner communities. These include: our understanding of collaboration; the need for context-adaptive policy; enabling learning in complex situations; and the diverse meanings and experiences of water security. In so doing, we pose three questions for discussion: are these challenges insurmountable? What evidence do we have that collaborative approaches offer a way forward for water security? What are limitations of collaborative approaches? In exploring some answers to these questions, we note the difficulties of enabling collaboration between researchers and practitioners involved in water security issues.