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Making inroads towards adaptive water management through stakeholder involvement, the NeWater experience in the Upper Guadiana basin, Spain


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Conflicts between intensive groundwater use and wetland conservation are widespread throughout arid and semiarid regions worldwide. These have become more significant wherever there has been a synchronism between groundwater-based human development and the awakening of an environmental awareness in society. The Upper Guadiana basin provides an example of such an occurrence, which has given rise to noteworthy social conflicts over the years. Uncertainty features high in the basin's water management practices, not only as to what the future may entail but also in relation to basic water management data. Adaptive water management is often advocated as means to deal with the uncertainties inherent to the management process. From a conceptual standpoint, adaptive management may constitute a potentially adequate approach to the Guadiana setting, providing a series of basic principles that are largely
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Making inroads towards adaptive water
management through stakeholder involvement,
the NeWater experience in the Upper Guadiana
basin, Spain.
Pedro Martínez-Santos
, Consuelo Varela-Ortega
, Nuria Hernández-
Facultad de Ciencias Geológicas
Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain
Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros Agrónomos
Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Spain
Fundación Nueva Cultura del Agua, Spain
Conflicts between intensive groundwater use and wetland conservation are
widespread throughout arid and semiarid regions worldwide. These have
become more significant wherever there has been a synchronism between
groundwater-based human development and the awakening of an
environmental awareness in society. The Upper Guadiana basin provides
an example of such an occurrence, which has given rise to noteworthy
social conflicts over the years. Uncertainty features high in the basin’s
water management practices, not only as to what the future may entail but
also in relation to basic water management data. Adaptive water
management is often advocated as means to deal with the uncertainties
inherent to the management process. From a conceptual standpoint,
adaptive management may constitute a potentially adequate approach to
the Guadiana setting, providing a series of basic principles that are largely
2 P. Martinez-Santos et al.
implicit within the demands of the EU Water Framework Directive. This
paper dwells on explaining the experience in the basin of the NeWater
project, an EU-funded initiative that aims at developing new approaches to
adaptive water management under uncertainty. NeWater work essentially
comprises the implementation of an informal public participation forum
that among other initiatives includes participatory modelling approaches.
These have served the purpose of identifying the key drivers for change in
the basin and developing coherent scenarios to be tested by the models.
1 Introduction
Over the last thirty years, rapid change and adaptation have been key to
water resources management in the Upper Guadiana basin. Much like in
other semiarid regions of the world, the generalization of intensive
groundwater use has virtually offset the effects of the region’s endemic
drought problems, thus supporting irrigation-based social and economic
welfare and acting as the main driver for prosperity (Garrido et al 2006,
Llamas and Martinez-Santos 2005). On the other hand, pumping has been
the catalyst for unwanted environmental effects such as wetland
degradation (Llamas 1988, Fornes et al 2001). The clash between human
development and environmental protection is currently at the heart of
widely voiced water conflicts, both at the inter and intra-basin scale, and
calls for further adaptation in the dawn of the Water Framework Directive
Since adaptive water management relies heavily on public participation,
one of the main objectives of NeWater work in the Upper Guadiana basin
is to support the transition to inclusive public participation processes. This
is largely an achievement in itself, given the climate of conflict that exists
among the main water actors, the lack of a participatory tradition in water
management and the demands established by the WFD.
The main objective of this paper is to analyse the stakeholder involvement
framework developed within the project, exploring its potential
contribution to adaptive management at the basin scale. The paper
provides an overview of the participation process, examining each of the
different stages involved. The focus then shifts to discussing the contents
of each of the five stakeholder meetings, all of which were held between
spring 2005 and the beginning of 2007.
P. Martinez-Santos et al. 3
Meetings contributed to identify the main stakeholder and policy-driven
aspects of water management. Key drivers were in turn used to devise a
series of vulnerability scenarios to be tested by means of hydrological and
agro-economic models. In addition, stakeholder meetings served the
purpose of facilitating a non-binding social learning forum for the key
stakeholders. This is perceived as a timely addition to the basin’s water
management framework, particularly since the NeWater stakeholder
process has run parallel to the development of the recently approved Upper
Guadiana Water Plan (UGWP).
2 Adaptive water management and its potential
application to the Guadiana setting
The adaptive management concept is not specific to the water policy
framework. It was first introduced to scientific literature by Holling
(1978), and originally focused on the use of system models to underpin
management decision-making for harvesting fisheries and forests. Since
the 1970s, adaptive management has become widespread, and is currently
applied to natural resources so diverse as grasslands, waterfowl or national
parks. Nevertheless, adaptive management is still referred to as a relatively
new concept, often more influential as an idea or as a fashionable word for
managers than as a practical tool per se (Lee 1999, Allan and Curtis 2003).
The adaptive management concept is manifold and difficult to capture in a
few words (Downs and Kondolf 2002). In general terms, it could be said
that adaptive management is a learning approach to handle ecosystems and
natural resources under uncertainty. In other words, it is a flexible form of
management, akin to a scientific experiment, which operates on a typically
iterative fashion while relying heavily on stakeholder input.
The adaptive approach does make some interesting points in regard to
natural resources and ecosystems management. Since rapid change has
become an inherent feature of the modern era, vulnerability and resilience
assessments are increasingly acquiring significance as indicators of risk
and of a system’s capacity to cope with uncertainty (Holling 2001). Thus,
adaptive capacity is often perceived as a key issue within current and
future water policy frameworks, not only in regard to potential climate
hazards, but also to political and legal constraints. From a conceptual
standpoint, adaptive management looks as though it may provide a
4 P. Martinez-Santos et al.
potentially adequate approach to the Guadiana setting, providing a series
of basic principles that are largely implicit within the demands of the EU
Water Framework Directive.
Adaptive management is participatory per se, as it advocates stakeholder-
manager interactions as a way to attain better understanding of the system
and a broader sectoral integration. In addition, the iterative nature of
adaptive management places a significant emphasis on empirical evidence,
which may constitute an important step towards transparency in water
management regimes. Adaptive management requires a periodic
evaluation of decision outcomes, and thus also encourages accountability.
Furthermore, by embracing uncertainty as an inherent part of the
management process, the adaptive approach may yield decision-making
more flexible, enabling systems to be better prepared to cope with external
On the other hand, the adaptive approach is not free of the burden of
experience. Despite its potential appeal, the adaptive management concept
does not often translate well into practice (WWPRAC 1998, Lee 1999,
Stankey et al 2003), largely due to its requirement for a long-term
commitment as well as to commonplace stiff legal and institutional
frameworks. In particular, adaptive management attempts have seemingly
struggled in instances similar to the Guadiana, where socio-environmental
conflict often polarizes the water policy debate (Gunderson 1999).
This leads to a first issue of concern. Is adaptive water management
feasible in a world where political terms span only four to six years?
Contrary to other natural resources, water affects one hundred percent of
the population, and provides a key element in the livelihoods of strong
social lobbies, notably farmers. Thus, water often presents an emotional
dimension that other resources simply do not have, particularly in arid and
semiarid settings such as the Guadiana. In these regions, water easily
becomes a pivotal element in election campaigns, which may in turn make
it difficult to sustain an adaptive management programme over time. This
can pose a significant drawback to the concept, since adaptive
management typically requires long periods of time to yield results (Lee
On the other hand, the Guadiana setting presents a series of peculiarities
that currently pose a challenge to any type of management. As stated in the
introduction, illegal drilling and pumping is widespread, metering devices
are generally lacking, and uncertainties in regard to irrigation data are
P. Martinez-Santos et al. 5
significant. In such a situation, where conflict among stakeholders and
water authorities is also significant, attaining greater transparency in water
data is a paramount step before the adaptive approach can be implemented.
Furthermore, there is a considerable lack of experience on the participation
front. The Guadiana Water Authority has recently made significant inroads
in order to involve stakeholder collectives and has started to work on a
public participation plan to comply with the participation requirements of
the Water Framework Directive (WFD). However, aforementioned
conflicts may pose an additional difficulty in the first steps of the basin’s
public participation fora.
Last but not least, the Guadiana case shows how water policy may at times
become a direct function of agricultural policy. Given Spain’s current
institutional framework, water is dealt with through basin agencies (Water
Authorities), who in turn depend directly on Madrid’s central government.
On the other hand, agricultural and environmental policies are drafted by
autonomous regional governments. This mismatch essentially entails that
cooperation between basin agencies and autonomous governments does
not always flow adequately, since it is at times hampered by competing
political interests. Potential adaptive management approaches should
therefore allow for a cross-institutional dimension which is yet to be
Despite its limitations, adaptive management may prove an interesting
approach to handling the multifunctionality of water resources within the
Guadiana basin in the future. However, it does not seem realistic to
pretend that it can be implemented in the short term. On the other hand, the
rationale behind NeWater research is that inroads can be made towards a
more adaptive conception of water management (Pahl-Wostl et al 2005).
Thus, the NeWater project has focused on a two-fold objective, namely
fostering cross-sectoral integration and developing site-specific adaptive
management tools. These are further explained in the following sections.
2 Stakeholder involvement in the Upper Guadiana basin
As explained in the previous section, adaptive management embraces
uncertainty as part of the management process. Involving stakeholders is a
6 P. Martinez-Santos et al.
way to narrow down management uncertainties, and it also helps to
identify the key drivers for change and the most vulnerable units.
Therefore it is a feature of adaptive management regimes.
The participatory process in the Upper Guadiana basin was designed to
make sure that all relevant stakeholders took part in the discussions. This
was important given the climate of conflict that traditionally exists among
the main water actors in the area and the fact that participation in water
management has traditionally been limited to permitted water users, with
other stakeholders and the public at large excluded from formal
participation settings. Therefore there had been little opportunity for
conflicting views to be shared in a neutral and constructive setting.
Since most of the area’s current conflicts seem to arise from the overall
lack of agreement on water data and the related uncertainties (e.g. how
much water is available, how much is abstracted, how much can be
abstracted in a sustainable way), the seminars were designed to enable
managers and stakeholders to sit down together and discuss these issues in
an informal, non-binding forum. In order to facilitate participation, it was
made clear from the beginning that the role of the research team was to
provide an unbiased framework for discussion and social learning, rather
than to influence sensitive aspects of decision-making. In fact, according
to the external evaluation of the participatory process (Correa 2007a and
2007b) it is precisely the non-binding character of these meetings that
allowed for a climate of cooperation and minimal conflict. On the other
hand, the active participation of the Guadiana Basin Authority in the
project enabled the results of the process to serve as a basis from which to
build the official public participation plan.
Figure 1 illustrates the key stages of the participatory process. A first
introductory meeting was designed to establish contact with the main
actors, present the project to them and obtain their willingness to
collaborate. In this initial stage, actors were identified by the research team
as representatives of the main stakeholder groups based on over 30 years
of research experience in the area. Participants in that first meeting were
also invited to identify other stakeholders that should be present, and that
were invited to subsequent meetings. Once this was achieved, a second
meeting was organized in order to determine needs for research, tools and
capacity building, as well as to help determine how to break down and
discuss water issues during the participatory process. From these
discussions three key issues were identified that were the focus of the next
P. Martinez-Santos et al. 7
thematic seminars: agro-economic, legal-institutional, and hydrological
aspects of the area’s water policy.
Fig 1. Schematic representation of the case study approach for the first two years
of the project (Martínez-Santos 2007).
Figure 2 illustrates the basic structure of each meeting. Meetings were
organized around a questionnaire developed by the research team on the
basis of their experience in the area and the main issues that emerged in
meetings #0 and #1. The questionnaires were divided into thematic blocks
that served to break down the day-long meetings into discussion sessions.
Between 20 and 30 stakeholders participated in each meeting, representing
a wide range of interest groups and management agencies: farmers,
national and local environmental groups, Guadiana Basin Authority,
regional agricultural regulatory agency, farmer unions, etc. Meeting
participants were divided into smaller discussion groups, where an effort
was made to guarantee that a diverse set of viewpoints was represented.
The break out into smaller groups was key to ensure that everyone had
ample opportunity to participate in the discussion. Additionally, the small
group format was more conducive to build trust among different
stakeholder groups, one of the goals identified by stakeholders in meeting
#0. A group moderator/reporter was responsible for guiding the discussion
8 P. Martinez-Santos et al.
in each break out group and reporting back to the main group in plenary
Fig 2. Schematic representation of the stakeholder meeting process (Martínez-
Santos 2007)
The results of the plenary sessions and the written answers to
questionnaires were gathered in meeting reports prepared by the
coordinators of each meeting. The reports have been used for several
purposes, including driver analysis and scenario design, as well as inputs
to build and validate socio-economic and hydrological models, as will be
discussed in the following section. They are also being used by the
Guadiana Basin Authority as a basis from which to develop the public
participation process required by the WFD for the elaboration of the new
basin management plans.
Participation throughout the entire process was fairly consistent, with
representatives from the main stakeholder groups attending every thematic
meeting and participating actively in them. Perhaps it was those groups
that do not have a seat at formal participatory structures within the
Guadiana Basin Authority that considered they benefited most from this
process, since they had access to decision-makers and other interest groups
and were able to discuss issues and build alliances that may not have been
possible in more formal settings. This observation allows for optimism as
water planning and decision-making in the basin becomes more open and
participatory in the context of the new WFD regulatory framework.
P. Martinez-Santos et al. 9
A few general conclusions can be drawn from the meetings. First, there is
a widespread feeling that there need to be more effective and broader
information and participation initiatives. These initiatives need to include
all relevant stakeholders, not only permitted users, and be based on open
and easy access to relevant information.
A second conclusion is that there is more agreement among different
groups than is apparent, particularly in what pertains to the main
challenges and possible alternatives to tackle them. In fact, many of the
conflicts that exist result from a lack of commonly shared information on
basic management parameters (recharge rates, total abstractions, economic
impacts of different policy scenarios, total number of permitted and illegal
water users, etc).
Thirdly, disinformation and lack of participation allows for manipulation
of the public opinion in an issue, such as access to water, that is highly
emotional in a semi-arid region as is the Upper Guadiana basin. Again,
transparency in decision-making could help bring down the level of
conflict and facilitate cooperation among different stakeholders and
decision-makers. In this sense, the experience of the participatory process
in the Upper Guadiana shows that participation in the building of tools and
decision-making scenarios can help build consensus as the different
management alternatives, and the consequences of those alternatives, are
shared and discussed by all.
Finally, it is significant that the concept of management under uncertainty,
which is at the core of the adaptive management rationale, is not easily
understood by stakeholders. In fact, issues such as the potential impacts of
climate change are seen as distant preoccupations in the face of more
pressing issues and interests. Once again, information and participatory
frameworks can help involve stakeholders and the public at large in this
4 Development of site-specific adaptive management
The other main feature of the project is the development of site-specific
tools to make inroads towards a more adaptive water regime. These
essentially comprise economic and hydrological models to underpin
10 P. Martinez-Santos et al.
participation in decision-making (Figure 3). Both types of models were
requested by the stakeholders and developed from scratch in order to
facilitate their understanding and foster stakeholder participation (Varela-
Ortega et al 2007a and 2007b; Martinez-Santos et al 2007). The
stakeholder meetings explained in the previous section contributed to
identify the main drivers that are likely to affect present and future water
management. These were in turn used to devise a series of plausible
scenarios to be tested by the models. Models ultimately aim at identifying
the likely impacts of each of the different scenarios on the main
stakeholder collectives. In the case of the Guadiana Basin Authority or the
environmental conservation groups, these refer to the possibility of
recovering the aquifer and its associated wetland ecosystems within the
deadlines of the WFD; on the other hand, farmers are more interested on
income-related effects or on an eventual exhaustion of the groundwater
Fig 3. Methodological framework for stakeholder participation in the development
of scenarios and tools for agro-economic modelling (Varela-Ortega et al 2006a)
Given the share of irrigation in the area’s water consumption, there is a
need to integrate the agricultural and water sectors within the policy
context. This implies a recognition of newer developments on the policy
front, which include the WFD and the different reforms of the Common
Agricultural Policy (CAP). The need for a joint interpretation of water and
P. Martinez-Santos et al. 11
agricultural policies stems from the Guadiana’s long-lasting lack of policy
integration, which has resulted in disruptive, non-coherent outcomes.
These include remarkable ecological impacts on internationally-reputed
wetlands, aquifer depletion and social unrest in the rural communities.
Within the present social context, adaptive management strategies can be
an advantage for selecting efficient and socially-accepted instruments that
will seek to assure the environmental requirements of the WFD, while also
maintaining the socio-economic viability of the rural livelihoods at
tolerable social costs.
Water policies have traditionally been based on the imposition of a strict
water quota regime with no compensation to the farmers for their derived
income loss. These policies have created long standing social conflicts,
while also giving rise to free-riding behaviour among irrigators and
uncontrolled well-drilling. The Guadiana Basin Authority has not been
capable of enforcing these policies to its full application, due to the large
social costs implied. In turn, the new CAP programs have evolved to
progressively include environmental regulations into the direct payment
scheme. These are cross compliance mechanisms that seek to assure a
competitive and environmentally-concerned multifunctional agriculture.
Seeking synergies between these two main policies remains crucial and is
still not fully explored.
Integration between policy drivers is therefore important (Mejias et al
2004). There are, however, other drivers to take into account in order to
devise plausible scenarios. Aside from providing an informal participation
framework, stakeholder meetings have prepared the grounds for selecting
such policy-relevant drivers. These are based upon the discussions and
participation of the key water actors. The scenario-building capacity of the
stakeholders’ participatory process is one of the clear advantages offered
by the adaptive management approach. This is in turn reflected in the
modelling tools and outcomes. Active stakeholder involvement has
substantially enriched the prediction and simulation potential of the agro-
economic and hydrological models.
Policy drivers have been used in the context of the NeWater project to
elaborate a set of simulations based on the public policies currently in
place in the Upper Guadiana basin. As stated above, these include the
WFD or the CAP programs alongside with the national water policies
under different types of policy instruments. Take for instance water quotas,
agri-environmental programs, CAP subsidies, single-farm payments or
cross-compliance schemes (Varela-Ortega 2007).
12 P. Martinez-Santos et al.
On the other hand, those drivers identified by the stakeholders have also
played a part in the simulations. In the case of agroeconomic models these
include the establishment of a water rights’ markets, legalizing illegal
wells (Blanco et al, 2007), selling water rights to a public water
distribution agency (Carmona and Varela-Ortega, 2007), the capacity of
the water authority to enforce the legally established water quotas and the
vulnerability of the different types of farmers (Varela-Ortega et al, 2007b).
Hydrological modelling work caters for the most relevant of these for
groundwater conservation purposes, while it also includes other potentially
important drivers such as climate change or the reallocation of an existing
water transfer into the region (Martinez-Santos 2007).
Figure 4. Implementation process of the stakeholder meetings for agro-economic
modelling (Varela-Ortega et al 2006a).
P. Martinez-Santos et al. 13
Figure 4 summarizes the steps involved in the scenario building process.
As shown, successive stakeholder meetings allow for an iterative
approach. Modelling tools and baseline information were discussed during
the initial meetings, while subsequent encounters served the purpose of
validating the results of modelling work. Note that stakeholder
involvement was not limited to the meetings, but also took place through
individual interviews. Thus the scenario-design process comprised several
steps. This comprises an initial study of the general framework, including a
hydrological, agronomic, socio-economic and political framework
analysis. Fieldwork and stakeholder analysis in the study area ensued,
providing a knowledge base about characteristics of farms and crops in the
Upper Guadiana Basin, and about stakeholder interests and potentials. This
knowledge base allowed to develop a series of questionnaires for each of
the different thematic meetings, aimed at guiding the discussion on
socioeconomic, institutional and hydrological aspects of water
management. Discussion outcomes were used to elaborate a matrix of
results. Outcomes were put to the stakeholders for validation, and led to
the elaboration of a final report for each of the meetings.
While the hydrological and agroeconomic models are yet to be coupled,
separate simulations already allow to draw a series of meaningful results.
These can be summarized as follows:
(1) Recovering the area’s ecosystems within the deadlines established
by the Water Framework Directive will be difficult, if possible at
(2) Illegal pumping may offset the effects of water-saving policies
even if limitations on water consumption are imposed on legal
(3) If strictly enforced, water-saving policies may also inflict
significant farm-income losses. Small farmers, whose ability to
diversify the crop is lower, will be the most vulnerable to the
Common Agricultural Policy single-farm payment. This is in turn
likely to result in farm extensification throughout the study area.
(4) Farmers located in the western and boundary areas of the aquifer
appear the most vulnerable to potential water shortages derived
from aquifer exhaustion.
14 P. Martinez-Santos et al.
In practice, these essentially mean that win-win solutions for the region are
highly unlikely. As a result the group did not reach unanimous policy
recommendations. This is by no means perceived as a failure of the group,
since solutions looked unlikely from the very outset. Rather, the purpose of
the work was to take steps down the right road by letting the stakeholders
address their own vulnerability under different scenarios. Moreover, the
very implementation of an informal forum for public participation is
perceived in itself as an achievement given the basin’s conflictive nature
and the participatory requirements of the WFD.
5 Conclusions
The Upper Guadiana basin provides an example of the conflict between
socioeconomic development based on intensive groundwater irrigation and
the conservation of valuable wetland ecosystems. This paper exemplifies
how adaptive management may, despite its limitations, constitute a
potentially adequate approach to deal with these issues.
From the practical viewpoint, the work carried out aims at making inroads
towards adaptive water management. A pivotal element in this endeavor is
stakeholder involvement, carried out through a series of meetings in which
all key players were represented. Stakeholder meetings served a three-fold
purpose. First, to provide an informal framework for public participation,
which was perceived as an achievement in itself given the area’s long-
standing conflicts and the lack of a participatory tradition in water
management; secondly, stakeholder involvement established the need to
develop a series of site-specific tools (namely hydrological and
agroeconomic models); and thirdly, stakeholder meetings identified the
area’s key drivers for change, which were in turn put into scenarios to be
tested by the models. Modelling work ultimately identified the most
vulnerable units of the system in the face of plausible future waer
management scenarios.
P. Martinez-Santos et al. 15
This paper has been elaborated under the EU-funded NeWater project
(GOCE contract 511179). The authors would like to thank the research
teams from the Department of Geodynamics of the Universidad
Complutense de Madrid, the Department of Agricultural Economics of the
Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and the Geological Survey of Spain, for
their ongoing involvement in the project and their unfailing willingness to
help in all aspects of everyday work. Our gratefulness is extensive to the
Guadiana Water Authority, the Agriculture Department of the Castilla-La
Mancha Autonomous Government, the Water User Association of the
Mancha Occidental aquifer, the World Wildlife Fund-ADENA Spain and
every other collective and individual who may have contributed to the
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... The Upper Guadiana Basin (UGB) is located in a semi-arid region in the southeastern part of Spain's Central Plateau and encompasses an area of circa 16,000 km 2 (for further details refer to the NeWater project's baseline report for the Guadiana: Martínez-Santos et al. 2007). The most important water resource in the basin is groundwater, which is dedicated to agricultural and urban purposes. ...
... Some farmers rejected it, arguing that access to water was a private right that could not be removed. As a result, some farmers complied with the law whereas others broke it through illegal abstraction, giving rise to free-riding behavior among irrigators and uncontrolled well drilling (Martínez-Santos et al. 2007). ...
... By contrast, environmental groups (e.g., the World Wildlife Fund) dealt with ambiguities by trying to persuade other actors (citizens, farmers, government, etc.) to adopt their perspective, launching campaigns to inform and convince the public of the water problems in the basin. The differences in perspectives among diverse actors have been attenuated over the years by processes of negotiation and dialogue (see, for example, Martínez-Santos et al. 2007) that led to the development of the Upper Guadiana Special Plan that is currently in place. ...
Aligning what we know with what we do is one of the major challenges of contemporary water governance. Solving current water problems transcends the decision-making power and resources of any single actor and requires coordinated actions among a diversity of actors from different organizational levels and sectors. In these decision contexts of water issues and the networks of actors concerned with them, there are many ways of knowing (WoKs). In her scholarly work, Helen Ingram has often stated that effective problem solving in a democracy requires the integration of different ways of knowing. This implies enlarging and connecting existing WoKs in such a way that they reflect common collective goals and mutually acceptable solutions. But, she also recognizes that doing so is challenging, since problem definitions and solutions are often ambiguous and enmeshed in different networks of actors and institutional arrangements, where power differentials, conflicting interests, and different access to resources exist. She notes that all too often, this diversity in ways of knowing is arbitrated by appealing to a single perspective (where a technical one is preferred), resulting in solutions to water problems that do not fit the contexts in which they are implemented. Here, I have examined what it means to embrace ambiguity from the perspective of WoKs theory, paying particular attention to the relational aspects underlying the generation of knowledge for action, and proposed knowledge co-production processes that support collaboration and connection among multiple WoKs. I illustrate these ideas with examples of groundwater management from two case studies in Spain and Italy, in which I have been involved.
... In the region of Andalusia, for instance, total irrigated area increased by 54,000 ha between 1998 and 2002 (Vives 2003), and in Murcia, illegal irrigation increases by 5,000 ha per year, according to some estimates (Esteve 2002). In some aquifers, such as those located in the Upper Guadiana Basin, the problem of illegal irrigation and the associated overexploitation is so significant, that socioeconomic and water vulnerability (Varela-Ortega and Blanco 2008, Varela-Ortega 2009), or identify major management and planning issues in a basin (Martínez Santos et al., 2007). the central government launched the Special Plan for the Upper Guadiana in 2008 with a total estimated budget of 3 million euros for the period 2008-2027, in order to reduce water consumption and restore the Ramsar-catalogued associated wetland ecosystems. ...
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In modern institutional economics, institutions have a much broader context that mere organizations or administration agencies. Institutions in this ample vision are defined as a set of rules and property rights that govern the behavior of individuals and determine their actions in such a way that these actions affect not only those individuals but also other members of society (Ostrom, 1992; Eggertsson, 1990; Bromley, 1989). In this context, water institutions are conceived as an integrated system that includes the legal framework (water law), the policy regime (water policy) and the administrative or organizational arrangements (water administration). All these elements operate interactively and cannot exist independently from one another. Water organizations have the precise task of executing, implementing and enforcing the legal and policy provisions (Saleth & Dinar, 2004).
... Positive economic and social outcomes came along s(Baldock et al., 2000, Varela et l. 2002Martinez-Santos, 2007;Varela, 2007). Over time, CAP evolved to adapt to the WTO agreements and to include environmental protection standards into the programs. ...
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Spain is at the crossroads of the European Union and the Mediterranean basin. Spain is the most arid country in Europe, and its natural conditions, irrigation development and region-specific water pressures, share common features with countries of the southern and eastern rim of the Mediterranean. Yet, water polices and agricultural polices determine largely irrigation dynamics and water management in Spain. These are EU policies not always tailored to address properly the quantity-driven water problems of southern countries. The EU Water Framework Directive, rooted into the EU sustainable development strategy, has a clear quality-driven ecosystem vision. The Spanish water administration is now confronted to complying with two objectives, somehow contradictory and difficult to resolve. One is to comply with the Spanish legislation of assuring water services to all users in the different basins. The other, more recent, is to comply with the WFD requirements of achieving good ecological status of all water bodies. Alongside, the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is including progressively environmental requirements for ecosystem protection into its crop support programs. This affects irrigation cropping choice and water use, especially in the inland regions of Spain that are more dependent on CAP subsidies. Focusing on the agricultural sector, this paper analyzes water policies in Spain and the trade-off between water for food and water for nature. The paper explores the role that water policies and agricultural policies are playing to respond to the increasing societal demand for a more sustainable use of water without severely damaging food production and rural livelihoods. To what extend is the Spanish water sector prepared to adapt to the new requirements of the EU water policies and to the water-related agricultural policies, both at national and regional scale, is at the core oft his paper. It explores also how water institutions are evolving in Spain to address the new environmental and societal challenges of nature conservation and socio-economic sustainability in the different Spanish regions. The paper argues that a well coordinated and integrated design and implementation of water polices and agricultural polices, at national and regional levels, is a key element for balancing this trade-off. This will be best attained in an integrated transparent stakeholder-participatory manner. Increased public participation will legitimate the process of adaptation and policy cohesion, avoiding contradictions and finding synergies. This is the challenge facing the Spanish national and regional
... How stakeholders were involved in the modeling process Figure 5 represents the participatory modeling framework Both types of models, hydrological and economic, were requested by the stakeholders and developed from scratch in order to facilitate their understanding and foster stakeholder participation (Varela-Ortega et al 2006 andVarela-Ortega et al 2007;Martinez-Santos et al 2007) . The stakeholder meetings had the objective of detecting the main drivers that determine present and future water management actions in the area. ...
... This participatory process was divided into two parts: in the first two years (2005–2006), five stakeholder meetings were held to discuss water management issues, while meetings in the third and forth years (May 2007–April 2008) were devoted to the construction of BNs. This paper is focused on this second part of the participatory process; however, a brief explanation of previous meetings is also provided (Martínez-Santos et al. 2007). ...
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Stakeholder participation is becoming increasingly important in water resources management. In participatory processes, stakeholders contribute by putting forward their own perspective, and they benefit by enhancing their understanding of the factors involved in decision making. A diversity of modeling tools can be used to facilitate participatory processes. Bayesian networks are well suited to this task for a variety of reasons, including their ability to structure discussions and visual appeal. This research focuses on developing and testing a set of evaluation criteria for public participation. The advantages and limitations of these criteria are discussed in the light of a specific participatory modeling initiative. Modeling work was conducted in the Upper Guadiana Basin in central Spain, where uncontrolled groundwater extraction is responsible for wetland degradation and conflicts between farmers, water authorities, and environmentalists. Finding adequate solutions to the problem is urgent because the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive requires all aquatic ecosystems to be in a “good ecological state” within a relatively short time frame. Stakeholder evaluation highlights the potential of Bayesian networks to support public participation processes.
Conference Paper
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The Upper Guadiana basin, in Spain, presents important conflicts between the agricultural sector and the environment due to their competence for water resources. The high development of irrigation has led to the over-exploitation of the aquifers, which are the main source of water in the area, and to the loss of wetlands of high ecological value. The River Basin Authority (RBA) has recently designed a new water management plan which included a group of measures aimed at reducing water consumption. Our objective is the development, with the active participation of the stakeholders, of a decision support system composed of an economic model and an object-oriented Bayesian network, used to evaluate the trade-off between agricultural economy and the environment that the different water management measures would have at different scales. Results obtained show that attaining a reasonable probability to recover the aquifer level requires, at the same time, a high enforcement capacity of the RBA to make farmers comply with water restrictions and a high price paid by the RBA for the irrigation rights. Compliance with water restrictions leads, however, to certain losses in farm income, especially in small vineyard farms, unless additional measures are taken to compensate those potential losses.
Object-oriented Bayesian networks (OOBNs) have recently been introduced to model water systems that can be represented as repetitive patterns. This paper shows the way in which OOBNs can be used as a groundwater management decision support system in two Spanish case studies. The two areas, in the southern and eastern parts of inland Spain, are characterized by a semiarid climate, water scarcity, and frequent droughts; consequently, the agrarian economy in both cases depends on the provision of irrigation from groundwater sources. Both case studies are illustrative examples of conflict among various water actors, complexity, and uncertainty about the consequences of water management actions. Each study is approached from a different viewpoint: one from an agroeconomic and the other from a hydrogeological perspective. The sites display different degrees of aquifer overexploitation and agrarian profitability. This indicates that, in each case, the effects generated by water management interventions and the time needed for recovery to natural conditions are different. The processes governing both systems can be represented as a series of repeating patterns, which makes them good candidates for an OOBN analysis. The OOBNs developed have been constructed with the participation of stakeholders to help minimize conflicts and make management decisions more understandable and acceptable for all users. The innovative nature of this research lies with the implementation of OOBNs for groundwater management. Results of the study demonstrate that the OOBN tool is a powerful decision support system that can help managers make decisions in cases for which the consequences of alternative interventions are unknown. It provides the probabilities of obtaining certain outcomes from alternative management actions for the economy and for the state of the environment. OOBNs meet the requirements of the European Water Framework Directive as a simple, participative, and integrative tool. Finally, this research represents a starting point for additional applications to support the integrated groundwater management of other complex water resources systems. DOI: 10.1061/(ASCE)WR.1943-5452.0000116. (C) 2011 American Society of Civil Engineers.
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This paper examines the relevance to groundwater management of Ostrom’s design principles for managing common property resources. Experience in four case studies of groundwater management in the Murray Darling Basin in Australia and the Upper Guadiana Basin in Spain suggests that while Ostrom’s design principles are relevant, sustainable groundwater management depends on the effective collaboration between government authorities and water users. A flexible and adaptive management approach is required, with collaboration between scientists, policy makers, water suppliers, and water users. Key management challenges include agreeing on a sustainable level of extraction, and establishing effective coordination and collaboration, and monitoring and control systems. Further case studies of groundwater management and their synthesis could make a useful contribution to the transition towards sustainable groundwater management regimes. KeywordsSustainable groundwater management-Common pool resources-Irrigation-Aquifer-Design principles-Collaboration
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This paper describes the development of a participatory decision support system for water management in the Upper Guadiana basin in central Spain where there has long been competition for groundwater resources between the agricultural sector and the environment. In the last few decades the rapid development of irrigation has led to the over-exploitation of the Mancha Occidental aquifer, the main water source in the area; this in turn has led to the loss of ecologically important wetlands. Against this background the River Basin Authority (RBA) has designed a new water management plan aimed at reducing water consumption. The objective of this paper is to evaluate the impact of these measures on both the environment and the agricultural sector. To this end stakeholders have been invited to actively participate in the development of a decision support system (DSS) based on the combination of an agro-economic model and an object-oriented Bayesian network. This DSS has been used to evaluate the trade-off between agriculture and the environment for different management options at different scales. Results indicate that achieving even a partial recovery of the aquifer water levels will require strict enforcement by the RBA of water restrictions on farmers combined with a high offer price for the purchase of water rights. However, compliance with water restrictions inevitably leads to losses in farm income, especially in small vineyard farms, unless additional measures are taken to compensate for those potential losses. The purchase of water rights alone is insufficient to ensure the recovery of water levels; accompanying measures included in the new regional management plan will also need to be undertaken. KeywordsBayesian networks–Groundwater management–Stakeholder participation–Decision support system
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The interactions of water policies and agricultural policies are increasingly determinant for achieving an efficient management of water resources in many countries. In the EU, agricultural and environmental policies are seeking to converge progressively towards mutually compatible objectives and, in this context, the recently reformed Common agricultural Policy (Agenda 2000) and the EU Water Framework Directive constitute the policy framework in which irrigated agriculture and hence water use will evolve. In fact, one of the measures of the European Water Directive is to establish a water pricing policy for improving water use and attaining a more efficient water allocation. The aim of this research is to investigate the irrigators' responses to these changing policy developments in a self-managed irrigation district in Southern Spain. For this purpose, we have developed a stochastic programming model that estimates the farmers' responses to the application of water pricing policies in different agricultural policies scenarios when water availability is subject to varying climate conditions and water storage capacity in the district's reservoir. Results show that irrigators are price-responsive but a similar water-pricing policy could have distinct effects on water use, farmers' income and collected revenue by the water authority in different agricultural policy options. Water availability is a determinant factor and pricing policies are less effective for reducing water consumption in drought years. Thus, there is a need to integrate the objectives of Water Policies within the objectives of the CAP programs to avoid distortion effects and to seek a synergy between these two policies.
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Over the last decades, groundwater irrigation has become commonplace in many arid and semiarid regions worldwide, including Spain. This is largely a consequence of the advances in drilling and pumping technologies, and of the development of Hydrogeology. Compared with traditional surface water irrigation systems, groundwater irrigation offers more reliable supplies, lesser vulnerability to droughts, and ready accessibility for individual users. Economic forces influence the groundwater irrigation sector and its development. In Spain's Mediterranean regions, abstraction costs often amount to a very small fraction of the value of crops. In the inner areas, groundwater irrigation supports a more stable flow of farm income than rainfed agriculture. The social (jobs/m3) and economic (€/m3) value of groundwater irrigation generally exceeds that of surface water irrigation systems. However, poor groundwater management and legal controversies are currently at the base of Spain's social disputes over water. A thorough and transparent assessment of the relative socio-economic value of groundwater in relation to surface water irrigation might contribute to mitigate or avoid potential future conflicts. Enforcement of the European Union's Water Framework Directive may deliver better groundwater governance and a more sustainable use.
A series of fairly new factors such as virtual water, the rise of desalination technologies and intensive groundwater use currently look as though they will exert a strong influence on future water policy. This chapteris concerned with the latter of the three: the Silent Revolution of intensive groundwater use in arid and semi-arid countries. Over the last half century, millions of farmers have independently drilled their own wells in the pursuit of the socio-economic advantages of groundwater irrigation. This has been due to fairly recent advances in well drilling and pumping, which together with the development of hydrogeology as a solid body of science, have made groundwater more widely available. The intrinsic benefits of groundwater irrigation in relation to traditional surface water systems, such as the ready availability of the resource or the resilience of aquifers against drought, constitute the main reason behind the spectacular groundwater development of many arid and semi-arid countries worldwide. Despite these undeniable benefits, certain problems (mainly related to groundwater quality degradation and water table depletion) have also arisen in some places. While no two cases are the same, a pattern of events can be observed in many of these regions, thus leading to the conceptualisation of this intensive groundwater-based development. Thus, five stages can be distinguished: Hydroschizophrenia, changes in water policy due to the Silent Revolution, Farmer Lobbies, Conservation Lobbies and Social Conflict. In any case, despite the significant role groundwater development is already playing in the eradication of poverty as well as towards fulfilling the United Nation's Millennium Goals, it cannot be seen as a panacea to solve all the world's water problems. These need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, in order to achieve an adequate conjunctive management of surface and groundwater resources. Finally, there is a real need to assess and correct the traditional imbalance in favour of conventional surface water systems that exists in most water agencies, and which is the main cause behind important social conflicts.
Adaptive management represents a process to use management policies as a source of learning, which in turn can inform subsequent actions. However, despite its appealing and apparently straightforward objectives, examples of successful implementation remain elusive, and a review of efforts to implement an adaptive approach in the Northwest Forest Plan proves the point. Barriers include an institutional and regulatory environment that stymies innovation, increasing workloads coupled with declining resources that constrain learning-based approaches, and a lack of leadership. The time is right to learn from experiences and consider alternatives.
The problems in two Spanish national parks located on wetlands are analyzed. The hydrogeological and ecological characteristics of the two parks are somewhat different as are their respective degrees of deterioration. The Tablas de Daimiel National Park is located on the Central Plateau of Spain. It used to consist of a marshy area of about 20 km2 around the confluence of two relatively small rivers. The area was marshy mainly because it was the natural discharge zone for a Tertiary aquifer system about 100 m thick extending over an area of some 5,000 km2, composed of calcareous and detrital material of continental origin. The average annual recharge has been estimated at approximately 350 hm3/yr. Current groundwater withdrawal is around 450 hm3/yr, mainly used to irrigate a surface area of some 1,000 km2. This overdevelopment has led to a continuous depletion of the regional water table and eventually to the drying out of the marshy area. Spontaneous combustion or fires caused by man have occurred in about 10 km2 of the desiccated areas since the spring of 1986. The Doñana National Park is located on the estuary of the River Guadalquivir. The aquifer system of the Lower Guadalquivir estuary consists essentially of a permeable formation of unconsolidated Plioquaternary materials with an area of some 3,000 km2. Under the marshy area (about 1,800 km2) the aquifer system is confined below low-permeability estuary deposits which can be over 100 m thick. Around most of the marshland the aquifer crops out and is recharged by rain. The Doñana National Park is over 700 km2 in size, part of which is in the marshland and part in the recharge area where the aquifer is phreatic. In the 1970s Spain's largest irrigation project using groundwater, covering a surface area of 240 km2, was planned in an area bordering on the national park. The initial project has been scaled down considerably as a result of protests by conservation groups. However, it seems likely that the water table depletion as a result of pumpage for irrigation could cause a large part of the ecotone situated at the contact-line between the marshland and the phreatic aquifer to disappear. This ecotone exists because it is a natural groundwater dischange area.