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Capacity-Building Needs In Alberta's Water Governance Structure

World Water Congress 2015 Edinburgh Scotland
7. Valuing water : monetary and non-monetary dimensions
Author(s): Wei Xu
Henning Bjornlund
Amber Zary
Tom Johnston
Ivan Townshend

University of Lethbridge1, 2

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 7: Global challenges for water governance,


Water is fundamental to human life and the environment, especially aquatic ecosystems. Up until recent decades, water was managed solely for human needs (Holling, 2001; Heathcote, 2009; Russell & Baumann, 2009). Current practice has shifted management to an integrative, holistic or ecosystem approach; this approach is complex as it incorporates an understanding of the interaction between water, its surrounding environmental or ecological system, and the socio-economic system (Holling, 2001; Mitchell, 2005; Medema, McIntosh, & Jeffrey, 2008; Heathcote, 2009). This has increased the complexity of water management to level where it is no longer possible for a single entity, such as a Government Department, to manage it in an effective or efficient manner (de Loë, Armitage, Plummer, Davidson, & Moraru, 2009). Instead, the elements of management need to be performed through a wide variety of individuals and institutions representing the main stakeholder groups affected by the relevant water source. This has been identified as a transition from government to governance (de Loë et al., 2009).

The Province of Alberta is one of those jurisdictions which are undergoing this shift from government to governance. Alberta's water governance is shaped by a complex web of provincial and federal acts and policies, inter-provincial, inter-territorial, and international management and allocation agreements, and local government bylaws. Adding to the intricacy, water governance is a collaborative process with government departments, government mandated agencies and non-governmental organizations involved. A diverse landscape and varying water needs also contribute to the complexity of water management. Recently, Alberta's water governance has evolved to become more of a collaborative bottom-up rather than top-down approach to management (Alberta Environment, 2005). The direction for water resources management has been driven primarily by the Water for Life strategy (Alberta Environment, 2005). Further complication comes from a new level added to the governance structure with the formation and implementation of the provincial government's Land-use Framework. The Government of Alberta (2012) has stated that this will be a centrally-organized system that will incorporate land, environment, economic and social needs into legislated regional plans. It is not yet known how the Land-use Framework will impact the way water is currently governed in the province. Nor has there been any indication given on how a centrally-organized level of land-use governance will interact with a collaborative bottom-up approach to water management.

With the shift from a top-down to a bottom-up approach to water management and the added layer of management in the form of a more traditionally governed Land-use Framework, many questions around governance capacity and capacity-building needs arise. Capacity is a term most often used to describe a basic concept: the capability --actual or potential-- of individuals, organizations and institutions, and society as a whole to perform, manage, solve, accomplish, or withstand determined objectives or situations (Franks, 1999; Teohareva, 2011). Capability has elements that exist and/or can be developed in order to have capacity (Franks, 1999; Teohareva, 2011). Capacity-building is, therefore, the development of capability in order to increase capacity to a pre-determined level (Franks, 1999; Moore, Severn, & Millar, 2006; Robins, 2008). Once areas for capacity-building have been identified, tools and approaches can be developed and implemented.

This paper provides an overview of capacity-building needs in Alberta's water governance structure. It is based on a project that assessed the current capacity and capacity-building needs for water governance in Alberta as perceived by direct participants within the water governance structure. The project was organized around two objectives. The first objective was to develop a conceptual framework of water governance capacity, based on capacity literature. This framework used economic, social, human, institutional, and natural capital as the lens to create the structure. The second objective was to conduct an empirical assessment of stakeholders' perception of the current capacity and capacity-building needs for water governance. This was accomplished by using the conceptual framework to design questions for data collection, interviewing key informants, collecting public documents such as policies, reports, and meeting minutes, and analyzing the collected data using thematic and content analysis. The findings suggest that stakeholders who face a combination of being further away from a large centre, hold less affluence, and are located in an area where focus on water governance is relatively new tend to have more negative capacity. The findings also show that while all capitals have some level of capacity, there are some - such as human, institutional and economic capital, which require more capacity building. 1. Alberta Environment. (2005). Enabling partnerships : A framework in support of Water for Life, Alberta's strategy for sustainability Retrieved from http://www.waterforlife.alberta.ca/documents/wfl-enabling_partnerships.pdf 2. de Loë, R. C., Armitage, D., Plummer, R., Davidson, S., & Moraru, L. (2009). From government to governance: A state-of-the-art review of environmental governance (pp. 66). Guelph, ON: Rob de Loë Consulting Services. 3. Franks, T. (1999). Capacity building and institutional development: Reflections on water. Public Administration and Development, 19, 51-61. 4. Government of Alberta. (2012). Land-use framework: Mandate Retrieved May 7, 2012, from https://www.landuse.alberta.ca/Pages/Mandate.aspx 5. Heathcote, I. W. (2009). Integrated Watershed Management : Principles and Practice (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 6. Holling, C. S. (2001). Understanding the complexity of economic, ecological, and social systems. Ecosystems, 4(5), 390-405. doi: 10.1007/s10021-001-0101-5 7. Medema, W., McIntosh, B. S., & Jeffrey, P. J. (2008). From premise to practice: A critical assessment of integrated water resources management and adaptive management approaches in the water sector. Ecology and Society, 13(2), 19 p. 8. Mitchell, B. (2005). Integrated water resource management, institutional arrangements, and land-use planning. Environment and Planning A, 37, 1335-1352. doi: 10.1068/a37224 9. Moore, S. A., Severn, R. C., & Millar, R. (2006). A conceptual model of community capacity for biodiversity conservation outcomes. Geographical Research, 44(4), 361-371. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-5871.2006.00407.x 10. Robins, L. (2008). Making capacity building meaningful: A framework for strategic action. Environmental Management, 42(5), 833-846. doi: 10.1007/s00267-008-9158-7 11. Russell, C. S., & Baumann, D. D. (Eds.). (2009). The Evolution of Water Resource Planning and Decision Making. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing Inc. 12. Teohareva, M. (2011). What is capacity building? Journal of Environmental Protection and Ecology, 12(4), 1804-1807.

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