Unravelling narratives of water management: Reflections on epistemic uncertainty in the first cycle of implementation of the Water Framework Directive in southern Spain

Violeta Cabello, Zora Kovacic, Nora Van Cauwenbergh

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6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

© 2018 Elsevier Ltd The participatory planning model promoted by the Water Framework Directive (WFD) leads to the emergence of new questions on how to define problems, how to know if something is a problem and for whom. We propose the concept of epistemic uncertainty to assess adaptive governance in the context of broadening of narratives about how water should be managed. For this purpose, we analyse how framings of the problem-solution duality with regards to water management evolve throughout the first cycle of implementation of the WFD in a semi-arid river basin in Southern Spain. We identify five narratives on water management: supply-side management, demand-side management, deep ecology, rural livelihoods and knowledge and governance. The paper contributes to the adaptive governance literature by arguing that epistemic uncertainty cannot be treated as a technical problem, and dealing with pluralism and accommodating evolving narratives are essential to adaptability in governance. We submit that the implementation of the WFD should take into account stakeholders’ uneven capacities to influence water management and the hindrances to implementation that ensue. With regard to the study area, we find that (i) narrative pluralism is handled through ambiguity and coalition strategies based on large infrastructural investments, traditional in the Spanish context, (ii) unexpected events such as the economic crisis had greater influence on water management than participatory processes, and (iii) little evolution was observed in the perception of problems after implementation of the plan and mistrust of the water administration rose during the period analysed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-27
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Volume85
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018

Keywords

  • Adaptive governance
  • Epistemic uncertainty
  • Narratives
  • Participatory planning
  • Pluralism
  • Water Framework Directive

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