Water Co-Governance for Sustainable Ecosystems: Reflections and Recommendations from Pilot Processes in the UK

Foster, Natalie (2021). Water Co-Governance for Sustainable Ecosystems: Reflections and Recommendations from Pilot Processes in the UK. Water, 13(13), article no. e1737.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/w13131737


As part of the Water Co-Governance for Sustainable Ecosystems (WaterCoG) project, this research evaluated two river catchment pilots in the United Kingdom (UK) via a series of semi-structured interviews in order to better understand how collaborative governance (co-governance) approaches contribute to water governance. The findings demonstrate that the participatory process used by catchment partnerships (comprising stakeholders working together within a catchment area) to co-produce knowledge has enabled them to jointly identify improvements that are more meaningful than previous actions to those involved or affected by the situation in their catchment. However, there are concerns about the balance of social, economic and environmental interests in decision making, as well as perceived misunderstandings about the situation in the catchment as a whole. All interviewees (comprising stakeholders from across different scales and levels of water governance) recognized benefits from working together. They also observed that progress to deliver measures is impeded by polices and institutions that are not conducive to partnership working. The interviewees recognized and valued the significant capacity and capability of catchment partnership host organization(s) to facilitate and enable the development of the catchment partnership. However, they also raised important questions about the host’s ability to represent the needs and interests of all catchment partnership members. The recommendations emerging from this research suggest ways to improve water co-governance, including considering the feasibility and desirability of the catchment partnership host; reconceptualizing catchment management plans as a process rather than an outcome; conducting and regularly reviewing a stakeholder analysis of catchment partnership members; working more closely together with other types of partnerships and committees; engaging in and providing opportunities for developing skills in systems thinking, social learning and collaborative actions; working with the UK Government to develop place-based policies and plans; and engaging in dialogue with the UK Government and other bodies to review access to funding and other types of resources.

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