Working across scales in integrated catchment management: lessons learned for adaptive water governance from regional experiences

Josselin J. Rouillard (Lead / Corresponding author), Christopher J. Spray

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    Integrated Catchment Management (ICM) has in recent years been promoted by a wealth of “top-down”, government policies, while a number of “bottom-up”, community-based initiatives have also been set up. At the same time, adaptive water governance, built around multi-level, integrative and participatory institutional arrangements, is called for in order to enhance adaptive capacity of social-ecological systems to global changes. Working across scales, aligning planning processes, and multi-actor collaboration are key issues in the linking of top-down and bottom-up ICM, hence providing insights into how adaptive water governance can work in practice. The paper presents a study of how ICM actors work across scales and reconcile national and local priorities in 15 regional experiences chosen to reflect a diversity of scales, histories and governance arrangements. It is complemented with an in-depth, illustrative example, taken from the Tweed River Basin in Scotland, where a local charity has gradually developed and helped bridge gaps between local communities and government. Research results present the ways in which “trusted intermediaries” can successfully close the gap across levels of governance, i.e. between communities, business, and governmental interests at multiple scales. Local “trusted intermediaries” perform well, with their local knowledge, at building rapport with key actors and effectuate change on the ground. The research also indicates the need for a legal framework, or at least an established policy structure, that acts to harness the good will and interests of local actors while improving implementation of broader, national objectives. There appears to be no specific mechanism for multi-level collaboration, although results indicate that more formal and coercive forms of partnership are necessary at later stages to ensure implementation, for example via the establishment of formal duties on public bodies or legally binding agreements between ICM stakeholders.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1869-1880
    Number of pages12
    JournalRegional Environmental Change
    Issue number7
    Early online date16 Jun 2016
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


    • Civil society
    • Climate change
    • Multi-level governance
    • Public policy
    • Water user associations

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Global and Planetary Change


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