Authors: Patrick Bitterman*, University of Nebraska - Lincoln, Christopher Koliba, University of Vermont
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Sustainability Science, Water Resources and Hydrology
Keywords: social-ecological network, water governance, water quality
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded
Issues of water governance are embedded in complex, adaptive, social-ecological systems that connect social and biophysical structures, processes, and legacies. It is well-recognized that the multi-and-cross-scale nature of environmental problems requires governance approaches that themselves span similar scales. In Vermont, recent legislation is shifting the state of the water governance system from a top-down design to a distributed model of regional governance. In this new configuration, local water districts would coordinate resources, relationships, and total maximum daily load requirements to address water quality in the rivers and streams reaching Lake Champlain. This study presents a social-ecological network analysis of the water governance system in the Vermont portion of the Lake Champlain Basin. Through a comprehensive survey of water governance actors in the Basin, we map the structure of the water governance network, identifying the key information brokers, flows of resources, and ongoing collaborative partnerships. We further link the social network to surface water hydrology and phosphorus load estimates from the US Environmental Protection Agency, identifying areas of mismatch between local collaborative governance and the sources of water quality issues. Finally, we compare the surveyed state of the governance system to possible alternative configurations. We find that although there are many relevant actors in the governance system, the network structure is sparse and poorly aligned with the hydrological system. Effective regionalization of water governance in the Basin will require the creation of new partnerships to align the social and environmental systems if the new system state is to be resilient.
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