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Developing a Community Approach for Integrated Catchment Management: Insights from Loweswater in NW England

Congress: 2008
Author(s): Claire Waterton, Lisa Norton, Stephen Maberly
Address for main author: Dr. Nigel Watson Department of Geography Lancaster Environment Centre Lancaster University Lancaster LA1 4YQ UNITED KINGDOM Tel: 44 (0)1524 510248 Fax: 44 (0)1524 510269 E-mail:

Keyword(s): Integrated catchment management, collaboration, community-based, Loweswater
AbstractIntegrated catchment management (ICM) continues to generate a great deal of debate and controversy among water professionals. While the aims of ICM appear to be widely supported, considerable uncertainty exists regarding the institutional arrangements required to implement ICM policies and strategies. Indeed, much of the conventional literature on the subject tends to assume that arrangements should be designed to improve co- ordination among government agencies and other organizations with responsibilities for the management of natural resources. However, some researchers and practitioners have now started to question the logic of the ‘co-ordination myth’ and to argue that an altogether different institutional approach founded on multi-stakeholder collaboration is required for effective ICM. Many problems related to the use of land and water are characterised by high levels of complexity, uncertainty, change and conflict (i.e. they are ‘messy’ or ‘wicked’) and therefore no amount of inter- organizational co-ordination is likely to result in effective and sustained ICM. On the other hand, a collaborative institutional approach involving the pooling of knowledge, information, resources and appreciations from government organizations, resource users and other interests may provide an effective institutional mechanism for ICM. In 2007, a 3-year action-research project was initiated to develop a collaborative and community-based approach to ICM for Loweswater, a relatively isolated rural catchment located in the UK’s Lake District National Park, which is host to a number of inter-related ecological, economic and social problems. A key symptom of these problems in the catchment is the appearance of unsightly, and potentially toxic, blue-green algal blooms in the lake associated with point and diffuse sources of phosphorous. Previous attempts to tackle the problems through command-control regulation were not effective because local farmers and property owners did not have the necessary financial and technical resources. The Loweswater catchment provided a valuable opportunity to experiment with a new collaborative approach for community-led ICM. This paper examines this new approach, concentrating on the development of the Loweswater Knowledge Collective (LKC) during the first year of the project. Attention is focussed on a number of different dimensions of the collaborative process, including the role of the LKC is sharing knowledge and expertise among stakeholders, the conduct of deliberative and negotiated planning processes, and the capacity of the LKC for self-organization, and the promotion of social learning and adaptation in the community. Conclusions are drawn regarding the potential of this type of reflexive community-based organisation for implementing ICM, the specific lessons learnt from the Loweswater experiment and the potential for transferring the research outcomes to other rural catchments in the UK and in other parts of the world.
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