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Anticipatory governance of water

Updated: Nov 28, 2022

Dr. Jaishree Srinvasan and PhD candidate, Heidi D. Mendoza talked about the applications of anticipatory governance of water.

In the webinar on Anticipatory Governance of Water, the speakers dove into the different applications of anticipatory governance tools, approaches, and techniques with a focus on water.

The first speaker of the evening was Dr Jaishree Srinvasan. Srinvasan has a PhD in sustainability from Arizona State University with a specialization in complex and active system science. Her research focuses on river governance, balancing the conflicting needs of water for food energy and biodiversity conservation.

The second speaker was Heidi D. Mendoza, a PhD candidate from the water and climate risk group at the Institute for Environmental Studies. Her research focuses on the past and future qualitative storylines of drought to flood events as part of the perfect storm project storylines for future extremes.

Dr Jaishree Srinvasan’s presentation was based on a paper entitled ‘Resilient Organisations for River Restoration.’ She presented a complex social-ecological systems approach and used case studies of two river recovery programs in the Colorado River Basin. The Upper Basin Program was created in the late 80s while the Lower Basin Program in the early 2000s. Both the upper and lower basin programs were designed because of the enforcement of the endangered species act taking water without accounting for the preservation of endangered species.

Srinvasan’s talk was governed by the impacts of environmental disturbances on the river restoration governance systems and the role/effects of inter-organizational diversity in fostering organizational resilience. Environmental disturbances are characterized as either press or pulse events. While the former disturbances are more chronic, the latter are temporary in nature and may cause impacts that are substantial yet short-lived. She talked about how organizations are naturally change-resistant, with a strong tendency to inertia and change only when forced to. The way the environmental disturbances warrant an organization's response has four manifestations: rebuttal, where the environmental disturbance is deflected in an attempt to protect and maintain the prevailing equilibrium; reorientation, where the disturbance is accepted and the infrastructure assimilates it into the workings of the organization; colonization, where change is forced upon the organization ; and evolution, where change is chosen and does not involve coercion.

The second speaker of the evening, Heidi Mendoza, began with an interactive game, with the purpose of taking away insights and learnings. The role of the game was to imagine living in the landscape where they use the Tinipak River for multiple purposes and come up with stories to anticipate the future of the river. The key points of her talk were about water, time, and how anticipation plays a role in water governance. She used the theory of anticipation to analyze one case study in the Philippines: Tinipak River and the Kaliwa Dam. The latter is a proposed dam in the northern part of the country which is supposed to augment the water shortage in the major cities. She talked about how, if constructed, the Kaliwa Dam will traverse the whole of the Tinipak River to the point that the ancestral domains will be lost and the river system will be disrupted. She highlighted that anticipations for water governance and land governance have always been contested and political. This begs the question of how mechanisms actually open conversations for continuous negotiations because anticipatory negotiation is a negotiation about our futures.

So how does an individual’s power and landscape affect the anticipations they have for a system? And how do temporal landscapes govern anticipations? The government’s temporal landscape dominated the ecosystem because they wanted to take over the ecosystem of the Kaliwa Dam. While the people who lived off the Kaliwa Dam did not anticipate that future generations would not enjoy the ecosystems of the Dam and wanted suitable reforms. This is why there is a need for a more transparent and participatory decision making where the local stakeholders are consulted, along with the government and private organizations. The former have a greater grasp on community and local issues while the latter on policy-making.

The talk served as an example of the subjectivity in the anticipations we have as different individuals, through the participation of the speakers and the audience. It also highlighted the need for and importance of the participation of the ones who are directly affected by the institutional changes.

Watch the full talk here:

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