Participatory methods for water resources planning

Giorgos Kallis*, Nuno Videira, Paula Antunes, Ângela Guimarães Pereira, Clive L. Spash, Harry Coccossis, Serafin Corral Quintana, Leandro del Moral, Dionisia Hatzilacou, Gonçalo Lobo, Alexandra Mexa, Pilar Paneque, Belen Pedregal Mateos, Rui Santos

*Corresponding author for this work

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


The Water Framework Directive institutionalises participatory processes in river basin planning across the European Union. This paper reports on three case studies from southern Europe where conflicts over water exist. In each a different method for participation was experimentally employed: scenario workshops, mediated modelling, and social multicriteria evaluation. Scenario workshops and mediated modelling proved well suited to the early stages of a planning process (problem solving and identification of goals and alternatives) and to be good at educating participants and supporting capacity building. Their performance was less satisfactory with respect to resolving long-standing conflicts and achieving consensus. In comparison, social multicriteria evaluation was better able to address the evaluation of alternatives, reveal trade-offs, and aid convergence between divergent stakeholders' views, but it relied more heavily on experts and allowed less participation and deliberation in goal-setting than the other two methods. These results show complementarities amongst methods which imply that hybrid or combined approaches would be best for aiding the water planning process. They also reveal problems confronting the use of participatory approaches and constraints which prevent theoretical promise from being converted into practical results.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-234
Number of pages20
JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Government and Policy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2006
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support received from National Natural Science Foundation of China, (Project No. 51171067, 51173055, 21005023), Natural Science Foundation of Shen Zhen City (Project No. JC201005310696A).

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