Watershed Governance for Rural Communities: Aligning Network Structure with Stakeholder Vision

Darwin Glen Horning, Bernard O Bauer, Stewart J Cohen


Water governance often adopts one of two end-member frameworks: (a) centralized, command-control structures, or (b) distributed–collaborative networks. The former typifies the traditional style of water governance that has reigned for the past century, whereas the latter is increasingly touted as a panacea to the evolving challenges of water resource management in a time of rapidly changing drivers (e.g., climate change, urbanization). This study applies Social Network Analysis (SNA) to two
case-study watersheds in south-central British Columbia in order to assess the (mis)alignment between water governance network structure and stakeholder objectives regarding adaptation to the pressures imposed by climate change. The results indicate that rural, water-scarce regions continue to be burdened by centralized, command-control style structures that reinforce the status quo in watershed governance (Neef, 2009). This reality marginalizes stakeholders at the peripheries of the
network, who may represent a silent but significant voice in regard to future visions for watershed governance. The management of common-pool resources in rural areas will likely remain a difficult challenge without social networks that are designed strategically so as to become better aligned with stakeholder visions.

Keywords: adaptive; bridging; knowledge transfer; learning; social network

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The Journal of Rural and Community Development is supported by SSHRC.