3.2. The Participatory Process
Among the different degrees of public participation mentioned previously (e.g., [9
]), we will focus our analysis on the apparent degree of participation using the classifications proposed by Organization for the Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the WFD in its guidance document on public participation [64
], from which we identify the following degrees of participation: (1) Information: One-way relationship, where government produces and delivers information for use by the public; (2) Consultation: Two-way relationship, where government defines the issues for involvement, sets the questions, and manages the process; the public contributes with their views and opinions; (3) Active involvement, a partnership among government and the public, where the public is actively engaged in defining the process and content of policy-making, setting the agenda, and proposing policy options; the responsibility for the final decision rests with government. Taking into account this framework we review: the clarity of participation objectives; number and diversity of participants; number and duration of meetings; type of involvement and participatory methods used; and the visibility of the process.
3.2.1. Ebro Basin
The general aim of the Ebro’s participatory process in the first water planning cycle after the approval of the WFD was to inform the general public about the planning process and its contents, and to collect possible metrics to be included in a potential program of measures. There was no commitment to include suggested measures in the final Ebro River management plan.
The quantity, quality, and access to information were significantly improved from previous planning efforts and provided: hydrographic information in digital and printed format, and a specific section of participatory process and related documents was created in the website of the RBO, including technical reports, meeting minutes and legal information. However, the reports prepared for the regional meetings were excessively technical, long, and were sent with insufficient time for review prior to the meetings. Interestingly, the index of transparency in water management in the Ebro Basin was considered to be up to 80% in 2011, but has decreased to 60% in 2015, when significant gaps on financial and economical information and information regarding relationships among the RBO and the citizens were identified [72
]. These percentages coincide with moments of high participation (year 2011) and low participation (year 2015) in the planning cycle.
With regards to the consultation process, there were three different typologies of involvement: (1) formal periods for written comments (6 months for each consultation, 3 in total: timetable and work program for the production of the plan, overview of the significant water management issues in the river basin, draft of the river basin management plan, as is established in WFD); (2) institutional participation through Ebro’s RBO Water Council (1 annual meeting, with 40 representatives of stakeholders in the basin) for making decisions about water planning; and (3) non-institutional or informal participation, through the implementation of an on-site participatory process. This process was organized between 2006 and 2008 (during 19 months) at the basin (17 meetings) and 27 sub-basins (107 meetings) levels. These meetings were organized with different sectors separately: social sector (environmental orgs, neighborhood orgs, educational orgs, recreational users); economic sector (irrigators, industry, etc.); administration sector (local councils, regional governments). The total number of participants was 1483, but only 172 participated in more than one meeting. Each meeting lasted for two hours, including a presentation by the basin authority and time afterwards for participant comments and proposals. Taking into account the little time for discussion and the absence of intersectorial debates, no opportunity for deliberation or opinion exchange was promoted, nor any actions for general public involvement. However, a diversity of stakeholders and water interests were represented in the meetings. Moreover, at basin scale, two bottom-up participatory processes were implemented, one with environmental sector, another with recreational users [64
]. Both were proposed to the basin authority by the environmental community in one hand, and the recreational users on the other. These processes were supported and funded by the RBO and managed by independent consultants. They had a deliberative approach and can be identified as active involvement. These two participatory processes were considered best practices by interviewees.
The visibility of the planning and participatory processes have improved significantly as compared to previous planning processes, which were elaborated from within the confines of the governing board of the RBO. To date, however, the current process has only reached expert stakeholders, as the general public was not involved in the process and no active dissemination was promoted for them.
3.2.2. Tucson AMA
In the Tucson AMA, management plans provide a regulatory context and framework, or the rules of engagement, but they are not operational plans for the regulated water users in the region. Within this framework water companies and other regulated water users determine how they will meet these rules. The objective of public participation in the Third Management Plan was therefore to gain approval by the regulated community of the proposed framework and this objective was clearly outlined within the plan. It is notable, however, that Arizona statute (§ 45–421(1)) requires that the GUAC comment, but not approve the plan before it is promulgated. Therefore, there are no requirements for approval by the citizen body (the GUAC) or the public prior to adoption of the plan.
The creation of the Third Management Plan was between informational and consultational on the spectrum of participation. The plan was developed in three stages beginning in 1994 and culminated with adoption of the plan in 1999. Participatory methods used were meetings, public hearings, and written comments. The first stage of development was to collect and internally analyze data. These data were released for public review and comment through a “State of the AMA” report [77
]. Issues identified in the report and raised by the community were addressed by the Department through a series of white papers that identified recommended alternatives. These alternatives were then formulated into program concepts and then the chapters within the plan. Public input through particularly the second and third stage of this process was via the GUAC and eight formal technical advisory committees in different subject areas relevant to the plan. The technical committees met on a regular basis for almost two years during the development of the plan. In total, there were 88 people involved representing a broad array of water management interests. In the opinion of some interviewees, however, the involvement of the advisory committees was mostly after management decisions have been made based on the agency research associated with the background technical report.
The GUAC rejected the initial plan presented by the Department because it did not bring the Tucson AMA to safe-yield of the aquifer. Once the plan was released, public hearings where ADWR described and answered public questions on the plan were conducted to give an opportunity for public oral and written comments. The Department evaluated these comments and then issued a summary of the hearings and findings prior to the first-order for adoption for the plan. The final management plan was adopted in 1999. The majority of participation in the plan was in person.
Despite the assertion within the plan that “The Department [ADWR] philosophy is to maximize public input on the content of the management plans to ensure that the public’s concerns and ideas are adequately incorporated”, our interviews confirmed those of a previous review of AMA management plans by Megdal et al. [62
] who found that overall the public process in this planning effort was insufficient. Trust between ADWR and the regulated community was of particular concern in our findings and that of Megdal et al. [62
]. In their report Megdal et al. [62
] suggest that the public participation process could be improved by “empowering (ADWR) planning staff so it is clear to stakeholders that they are influencing the decision-making process”. It was also noted that ADWR’s ability to engage with stakeholders is hampered by a lack of expertise and experience with the management plan process by current staff as a result of staff turnover. Like the Ebro River Basin process, the Third Management Plan was not visible to the general public, but did incorporate expert stakeholders that are impacted by the Plan, namely the regulated water community.
3.2.3. Comparative Analysis
With regards to the participation process, the cases appear very similar (Table 7
), which is especially notable given the varied scales of the two case-study basins. A more in-depth review would undoubtedly show more differences, i.e., information to the public was further developed and systematically organized in the Ebro Basin (probably as a result of the WFD obligations), and the structure and participative procedures of the regional meetings and active involvement.
The outcomes of the participatory processes are examined against the impacts on public policy and elements of adaptive capacity building discussed previously in the methods. The impact on public policies is measured on the ability for the public to influence the final plan and adaptive-capacity building is measured based on seven indicators: learning, knowledge, collective vision, willingness, networks, trust, and continuity.
3.3.1. Ebro Basin
Regarding the impact on public policies, only a few measures proposed during the participation process were included in the plan, and no changes were made to the strategic vision of the plan. There is a general perception that stakeholder impact on policy does not depend on the quality of the process but rather on the limitations of management and political will. According to interviewees, the boundaries of negotiation and a mechanism for prioritizing management measures suggested during the participatory process need to be defined at the beginning of the process. Without these the process is considered to be inefficient. Nevertheless, the more optimistic interviewees noted that despite minimal impact on the final plan, the consultation process alone forced the agency to respond and justify with more details the contents of the plan, and in doing so improved the final contents of the plan.
In contrast to the influence of stakeholders on the final plan, interviewees identified considerable impact on adaptive capacity by the process. Engagement was seen as a learning process in both technical (i.e., planning cycle, the main issues in the Ebro Basin) and social aspects (i.e., stakeholder opinions, management of disagreements, how to participate), which also generated knowledge about the issues and new proposals for management. However, there was no transformation of private interests into a public position that incorporated a collective perspective, as evidenced by the fact that there was neither the time nor the space for a common discussion or deliberation among stakeholders, with the exception of the aforementioned participatory processes at basin scale promoted by the RBO with the environmental and recreational sectors.
The process has also increased stakeholder willingness to be involved in water issues and their collaboration with other groups. However, the fact that no participatory process has been promoted in the subsequent water planning cycles has caused frustration and a decrease in public involvement in water issues in the basin. Even so, two lasting groups emerged from the participatory process at the basin scale: Cuenca Azul (network of the environmental sector), and AURA (association of recreation users). The first is still active, while the second exists but is not currently active. Furthermore, the process improved coordination within the existing groups. At sub-basin scale, the participatory process was not conducive to the emergence of lasting groups or the promotion of coordination among stakeholders, as no deliberation and no multi-sectoral meetings were held, and most of the time, participants only attended one meeting, as there were no other opportunities to meet. Along the same lines, trust was built among members of the same sector but not across different stakeholder groups. According to the interviewees responses, the absence of deliberation and the insufficient time and opportunities to meet have been identified as one of the weakness of the process, while the creation of close relationships among stakeholders and water agency is considered one of its positive results.
As previously noted, most of the impacts on adaptive capacity building are attributed to informal and on-site participation processes. In the following planning cycle participation was relegated to the formal periods for written comments and participation in the Water Council. As one of the key elements of adaptive capacity building is the continuity in time, presumably, the gaps in opportunities for participation in the forthcoming plans will involve that adaptive capacity will not be maintained in the future at current levels.
3.3.2. Tucson AMA
As described by one interviewee, the Third Management Plan was the result of a “decide, present, defend” approach to public participation. In contrast, more recent water planning efforts in the region, led by the City of Tucson and Tucson Water, have been more of a bottom-up process and incorporated public, or at least key stakeholder information from the outset. While ADWR made an effort to respond to comments and suggestions collected during the process, this participation does not appear to have had a significant impact on the final plan per se. Subsequent litigation over plan requirements for municipal water use reductions (gallons per capita per day (GPCD) program) has, however, made changes the Tucson AMA Third Management Plan. The dispute over the GPCD program did not resolve until 2004 and it was not until 2008 when the plan was changed as a result of the litigation.
It is unclear through the interviews if the process of creating the Third Management Plan was a learning process overall. From the standpoint of collection and dissemination of data to the working groups it was a learning process, however, whether or not ADWR learned from the stakeholders and/or the stakeholders learned from the Department is unclear. Similar to the Ebro River Basin experience the process had an impact on communication among water groups as it resulted in the formation of a new community-led group, the Safe-Yield Task Force. Different from the Ebro Basin experience, however, the community-led group is broad based, not just among environmental or recreational interests. The Safe-Yield Task Force was a direct result of stakeholders concern that the working group and GUAC models of participation were not sufficient to address the local concerns about maintaining (and improving) aquifer water levels. The overall process appears to be adequate at incorporating the thoughts of the regulated community, it did not, however, include the general public in any meaningful way, as it is not necessarily intended to, and certainly not required to be, a public process. Interviewees noted that during the Third Management Plan time trust between ADWR and the public was relatively low. This trust has increased overtime, as perhaps indicated by the disbanding of the Safe-Yield task force in the mid-2000s. This group did, however, come together again after a period of almost 10 years as ADWR began the Fourth Management Plan process. It is unclear if the process impacted stakeholder’s willingness to be involved in water issues or changed participant perspectives on key issues, but given the robust engagement seen in Tucson today it does not appear, at the very least, to have hindered involvement. Finally, there is no evidence that the final plan incorporated collective perspectives gathered from interactions among the different stakeholders and the Department.
Current planning efforts under the Fourth Management Plan, which should have been released almost five years ago, has taken more of a bottom-up approach, however, the plan still lacks a mechanism for input beyond the GUAC. As noted above, the safe-yield taskforce, created out of frustration with the Third Management Plan public input process, had stopped meeting for a period of almost 10 years, and then re-started in late 2008 in response again to frustrations with the timeliness of the Fourth management plan and concerns over ADWR capacity. One interviewee noted frustration with the participation process in the Fourth management plan because it has been under development for so long and has not been widely discussed. This person noted, however, that while opportunities for participation and input have been slight, ADWR has been straightforward about their intentions to not make significant changes from the Third Management Plan and to not have public participation outside of GUAC meetings. It should also be recognized that during the Third Management Plan ADWR had a staff of over 10 people, physically located in Tucson, dedicated to creating the plan (although not necessarily dedicated to public engagement). For the Fourth management plan there is no one person dedicated to the Tucson management plan alone and all staff are in Phoenix. In other words, operational (person) capital has been severely weakened, as has leadership capital.
3.3.3. Comparative Analysis
The impacts of public participation on public policies and indicators of adaptive capacity are similar across the case studies (Table 8
). In both of them only minor revisions to the plans occurred as a result of public input during the process. In the case of the Tucson AMA, major revisions to the plan were made after the promulgation of the plan as a result of a lawsuit, which suggests a failure of the participation process to address stakeholder concerns. In the case of the Ebro, more than 3000 proposals were incorporated in a “potential measures” document, but just a few of them were finally contemplated in the resultant Basin Management Plan.
With regards to adaptive capacity, both processes increased knowledge of the physical system and stakeholder concerns, encouraged willingness to be involved, and contributed to the creation of lasting groups which have served to increase the mechanisms for engagement in water management.
In interviews for the Tucson AMA some participants felt that learning occurred, while others felt strongly that it did not: It is, therefore, unclear if learning actually occurred. This result is intriguing given the length of engagement (over two years) that would seem to be sufficient for learning to occur. Interviewees for the Ebro, on the other hand, did indicate that learning had occurred and that trust had increased. The feeling that trust was not increased in the Tucson process could be due to the low levels of antecedent trust indicated by interviews or because the process did not appear to successfully incorporate stakeholder perspectives. Finally, neither of the case study processes achieved a collective vision through the process. This indicator is frequently linked to deliberation [78
]. Thus, it is probable that by improving deliberation, a common public perspective will be an outcome of the participatory processes.