Water and Democracy: New Roles for Civil Society in Water Governance

TitleWater and Democracy: New Roles for Civil Society in Water Governance
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsSusskind, L
JournalInternational Journal of Water Resources Development
Date Published05/2013
Keywordscivil society, collaborative adaptive management, direct democracy, representative democracy, stakeholder engagement, water policy

In most democratic countries, government officials make water-allocation decisions. Citizens depend on these officials and their technical advisors to take account of both technical and political considerations in determining which water uses get priority, what infrastructure investments to make and what water quality standards to apply. In many parts of the world, water users and stakeholders have additional opportunities to comment on such decisions before they are implemented. Under some circumstances, citizens can challenge water management decisions in court. This is not enough. More direct democracy, involving stakeholders before such decisions are made, can produce fairer and increasingly sustainable results. The steps in collaborative adaptive management – a form of stakeholder engagement particularly appropriate to managing complex water networks – are described in this article along with the reasons that traditional forms of representative democracy are inadequate when it comes to water policy.

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