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Community perceptions of water quality and current institutional arrangements in the Great Barrier Reef region of Australia

Congress: 2008
Author(s): Silva Larson, Samantha Stone-Jovicich
CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems University Drive Townsville 4814 QLD Australia Phone: +617 4753 8589 Fax: +617 4753 8650 E-mail:

Keyword(s): integrated catchment management; Great Barrier Reef; perceptions of water; institutional analysis
AbstractA mail survey on wellbeing in two catchments of the Great Barrier Reef region found that water quality was perceived by local residents as one of the top five contributors to their wellbeing. A more detailed analysis of local residents’ perceptions reveals “water quality” as a complex, multifaceted concept that is not adequately captured in current institutional arrangements for water management in Australia. This paper traces the perceived linkages between sources of water quality deterioration, impacts on human wellbeing, and the institutions seen as responsible for dealing with the sources and impacts. This web of linkages, as perceived by residents, is than compared with current institutional arrangements across different relevant sectors. Matches and mismatches are mapped. The importance of understanding community concerns regarding water quality, to inform cross-sectoral integration of institutional arrangements for improved water management, is discussed. The implications of the differences between perceived and “actual” linkages between water quality deterioration, impacts, and institutional responsibilities and responses, and the role of improved communication of these in enhancing institutional arrangements and sectoral integration for water management, are also discussed.
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