Governance of watersheds in rural areas

Authored by: Karen Refsgaard

The Routledge handbook of comparative rural policy

Print publication date:  November  2019
Online publication date:  October  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138594111
eBook ISBN: 9780429489075
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter introduces and discusses the issues of governance for watersheds in rural areas, giving examples of how critical challenges are managed in different rural institutional settings. It focuses on rural water resource problems, including access to clean and sufficient water for varying purposes and different stakeholders, how these problems are managed and solved in different rural settings, and what the impacts are for different groups in rural communities. The chapter begins with an outline of contemporary global challenges relating to the demand for and supply of sufficient clean water, arguing that resolving the needs and demands of different users amounts to a governance crisis. The chapter conducts a comparative analysis of the different governance regimes for watershed management in continental Europe, Nordic countries, the UK, Mexico, the US, and Canada – as well as with non-Western countries. This examination can be very useful in understanding how different regimes have varying impacts and outcomes for rural communities and a wide range of stakeholders, illustrated with examples from different rural areas around the world. The chapter has theoretical underpinnings in institutional economics, which lends an analytical framework for analyzing water and watershed issues, which can compare the economic, environmental, and social impacts on rural communities under varying regimes. Finally, the integration of watershed management and rural development policies are discussed, flowing from the articulation of specific problems, the challenges facing policy-makers, and residents in managing those issues in rural watersheds.

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