AAAS Day 4: Sunday 18 Feb 2007

I was attracted to this symposium by its title, as it links two key areas of our STEPS work – the governance theme with the water domain. It didn’t quite live up to my expectations, however, as the focus was mainly on Northern (i.e. US, European and Australian) experiences. Where are all the Third World presenters, I wondered? Something will have to be done to ensure more participation from developing country scientists in next year’s AAAS meeting in Boston, especially given the theme of “Science and Technology from a Global Perspective.”

This session, which was organised by Sara Hughes of the University of California, Santa Barbara, focused on sustainable management, use and conservation of water resources as one of the critical issues of the 21st Century. Presentations were made with Hughes on “Why Collaboration? Exploring Dynamic Water Governance and the Need for Connections”; David Huitema of the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, on “Adaptive Water Governance: Assessing Adaptive Management from a Governance Perspective”, – Joan B. Rose of Michigan State University on “Collaborating for Quality in Science-Based Risk Assessment” and Jennifer McKay of the University of South Australia, on “A Proposed Virtual Water-Trading Council: Building Institutional Frameworks at the International Level To Reduce Poverty.”

The presentations emphasised the need for “collaborative governance”, as collaboration has become widely recognised as an important tool in the effort to achieve lasting and effective governance of commons resources, including water. The discussants noted that important new experiments in collaborative governance of water resources are being conducted in the United States and throughout the world for solving problems and anticipating conflicts. There is considerable enthusiasm about such efforts, but the costs and benefits of such collaboration are often unclear. A variety of opportunities for joint decision making were considered, from vertical to horizontal, institutional to individual. For example, advances in international collaboration surrounding “virtual water” resources may benefit from the successful emergence of water markets and watershed management in Australia; water management institutions in the Netherlands have incorporated community involvement in the water sector to make decisions and plan for the future; and researchers in the United States are working toward inter-organisational, interdisciplinary collaboration based on shared values and expertise to set and meet risk standards in water quality.

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