There is a controversy in groundwater management: some people argue that public participation has decreased efficiency in decision-making, while others believe this process is not executed effectively. Questions about whether public participation results from the context involving influential people, the rules, or the way participation mechanisms were designed need examination. In this study, opportunities, barriers, and challenges of public participation were analyzed in the management of a coastal aquifer affected by marine intrusion in the Maneadero Valley, México. Mixed methods were implemented, involving 28 interviews with key actors and 50 surveys conducted during 2014 and 2017 with groundwater users. Results show that public participation is mainly determined by power differences, lack of continuity in the participatory processes, and the design of the participation mechanisms. State actors have greater decision-making power in integrated groundwater management. In contrast, groundwater users have limited participation in the process of making proposals, and their participation is generally passive. There are limitations to broad, informed, and responsible public participation: examples of these limitations include different levels of information, inappropriate institutional arrangements, failure to disseminate scientific information, lack of spaces to exercise public participation, and absence of political will. Hence, to improve Maneadero aquifer management, it is necessary to decentralize decision-making, integrate technical and non-technical knowledge, generate scientific evidence about water availability, and give a prominent role to stakeholders and users from the initial stages. In addition, internalization and water culture are required. These results can help to guide integrated groundwater management in other arid regions.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited