Exploring Collaborative Adaptive Management of Water Resources

Steve Light, Wietske Medema, Jan Adamowski


A host of new and “wicked” problems are plaguing today’s water resources and managers. The challenges and obstacles stemming from these problems are multidimensional, cumulative, and unprecedented and speak to the need for continuing to explore new approaches in water resources management and restoration efforts. This new class of interdependent problems is explored in this paper and some recently proposed ideas in collaborative adaptive management (CAM) are further developed to help address these types of “wicked” problems. It is argued that collaborative adaptive management, which combines the concepts of adaptive management and collaborative management, can help address the seemingly intractable technical, environmental and social problems inherent in complex social-ecological systems. Because it is important to highlight the importance of induction and emergent understanding under conditions of complexity, the concept of Ecological Policy Design is revisited as it relates to complex problem solving. Other concepts that are further explored and developed in this article include: project optimization that is based on devising composite solutions rather than attempting to “divide and conquer” individual subsystems; avoidance of “instability zones”; ecological and restoration efforts that are more “future responsive”; and the development of alternative hypotheses worthy of rapid prototyping through collaboration. Sustainable solutions are defined as those capable of governing and preserving the vitality of our waterways and the ecosystems that support them. To this end, we conclude that a more collaborative and adaptive approach to water management must be adopted if these types of solutions are to emerge.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5539/jsd.v6n3p31

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Journal of Sustainable Development   ISSN 1913-9063 (Print)   ISSN 1913-9071 (Online) Email: jsd@ccsenet.org

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