Characterizing adaptive governance capacity : A case study of the Willamette River Basin Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/0g354k846

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  • The Willamette River Basin supports 70% of Oregon’s population and contains the richest native fish fauna in the state, (Hulse, Gregory, & Baker, 2002). The Basin is facing changes that stress its water management regimes. Is the Basin’s water management regime able to adapt in the face of these changes? Climate models project increasing air temperature, greater variability and intensity in winter rainstorm events, and decreased low elevation snowpack in the Basin (Sproles et al. 2012). Environmental streamflow requirements for federally listed fish species and municipal and agricultural water demand have closed several watersheds to new surface water allocations and reduced reliability of supplies. Sustainable water resources management requires networks of water managers who practice adaptive management by continually monitoring, assessing, and improving management procedures and outcomes. This requires adaptive governance capacity, which is “the ability of a resource governance system to first alter processes and if required transform structural elements to better cope with experienced or expected changes in the societal and natural environment,” (Pahl-Wostl et al., 2010, 572). To characterize adaptive governance capacity, a questionnaire was sent to 119 water managers at the basin scale and within three selected watersheds examining four key elements of adaptive governance capacity: social capital; human, financial, and physical capital; management tools and strategies; and governance strength (Pakenham- Stevenson, 2017). The availability of water for appropriation of new surface water rights was used to identify three watersheds that spanned low (McKenzie River), medium (North Santiam River), and high (Middle Fork Willamette River) levels of water availability. Questionnaire results suggest high levels of reciprocity, awareness of impacts, and trust in watershed councils across selected watershed and at the Basin level. The strength of networks among water managers was high at the watershed level. Trust in water managers was low at the Basin level and the availability of adequate financial capital was at the Basin level and across selectedwatersheds. Water managers also did not believe their stakeholder group can adapt to changes in supply and demand. Trust in specific stakeholder groups varied widely across watersheds, highlighting unique characteristics and networks at the watershed level. To further understand the barriers and opportunities for adaptive governance in the Basin, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 17 key water managers. Interviews highlighted uncertainty created by minimum perennial stream flows, challenges sharing information between federal, state, and local levels, and reduced financial capacity. Interviewees highlighted several organizations that are leading the way in adaptive water resources management and enhancing adaptive governance capacity at the local and state levels. To adapt to likely changes in supply and demand the water management regime will require trust building among specific stakeholder groups, increased network strength at the basin-level, and increased financial capacity.
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