COLLABORATIVE DECISION-MAKING FOR DROUGHT MANAGEMENT: IMPROVING MULTI-ACTOR APPROACHES
De Loe, Rob
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Drought management can be highly challenging; droughts can be experienced over a large geographic area, and the extent and severity of impacts can be exacerbated by local water uses.1 In Ontario, these uses might include agriculture, aggregate washing, and watering at golf courses. Oftentimes, droughts are part of normal ecological cycles, but the risk and hardship faced by water-based industries and the public make drought a particularly important policy challenge. Technical approaches to managing drought promote the use of monitoring standards, early warning systems, and planned management actions. Building social capital and strengthening relationships can also contribute to reducing vulnerability through building adaptive capacity and reducing exposure and sensitivity.2 Collaborative approaches, created by government to generate policy and program recommendations for drought management, can provide a local view on drought challenges and a balanced viewpoint that includes all voices affected by decisions. An example of this type of collaborative relationship is Ontario Low Water Response and Water Response Teams. Ontario Low Water Response convenes collaborative groups – known as Water Response Teams – to determine the severity of drought in local watersheds and provide recommendations to the provincial government, including recommendations to declare a drought ‘emergency’, which triggers water restrictions in affected areas. One key challenge of this process is that Water Response Teams have recommended declaring water restrictions during severe low water conditions. However, the province has never enforced restrictions. Governments not following the recommendations of collaborative groups they have created to comment on policy problems is a common finding in collaborative governance research. The key focus of this research is to understand the role of Water Response Teams in decision-making, and to explore how international experiences can inform the Ontario drought management process.
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