Collaborative governance has been promoted for decades as a means to tackle complex water management problems worldwide. Yet, watershed based efforts often lack interdependent consequences that can motivate participation, given upstream–downstream asymmetries. Additionally, watershed collaborations often have limited legal authority to take action, which can be due to political conflicts. While local governments often participate in collaborations, few studies have examined their motivations or how local governments could use existing legal authority to enact projects or change policies. This paper focuses on four cases in Iowa, USA, where local governments self‐organized to form watershed management authorities and undertake collaborative planning and management. We conduct a qualitative study to examine why local governments participate in collaborative governance and how they use their existing legal authorities. We found that local governments participated primarily to leverage external funding opportunities, while the advantage of multijurisdictional collaboration to reduce flooding and water quality was important but secondary. Using legal authorities to form agreements occurred in two cases to address flooding, but in all four cases collaboratives largely avoided water quality because of political tensions. We discuss the implications for how local governments might address the challenges of generating commitments and issues of legitimacy to act.
The speed and uncertainty of environmental change in the Anthropocene challenge the capacity of coevolving social–ecological–technological systems (SETs) to adapt or transform to these changes. Formal government and legal structures further constrain the adaptive capacity of our SETs. However, new, self-organized forms of adaptive governance are emerging at multiple scales in natural resource-based SETs. Adaptive governance involves the private and public sectors as well as formal and informal institutions, self-organized to fill governance gaps in the traditional roles of states. While new governance forms are emerging, they are not yet doing so rapidly enough to match the pace of environmental change. Furthermore, they do not yet possess the legitimacy or capacity needed to address disparities between the winners and losers from change. These emergent forms of adaptive governance appear to be particularly effective in managing complexity. We explore governance and SETs as coevolving complex systems, focusing on legal systems to understand the potential pathways and obstacles to equitable adaptation. We explore how governments may facilitate the emergence of adaptive governance and promote legitimacy in both the process of governance despite the involvement of nonstate actors, and its adherence to democratic values of equity and justice. To manage the contextual nature of the results of change in complex systems, we propose the establishment of long-term study initiatives for the coproduction of knowledge, to accelerate learning and synergize interactions between science and governance and to foster public science and epistemic communities dedicated to navigating transitions to more just, sustainable, and resilient futures.more » « less
- NSF-PAR ID:
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- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
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- Article No. e2102798118
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- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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Human Water > Methods