The Adaptive Water Governance project examined how law, policy, and ecological dynamics inﬂuence the governance of regional-scale water-based social-ecological systems.
With the onset of the Anthropocene, global and regional changes in biophysical inputs to these systems will challenge their capacity to respond while maintaining functions of water supply, ﬂood control, hydropower production, water quality, and biodiversity in a time of aging infrastructure. At the heart of the capacity of these systems to respond to these challenges is their governance. Governance of these complex and dynamic social-environmental systems has moved beyond state-centric, legally bounded control to a complex mix of public/private self-organization.
This talk will focus on three challenges to adaptive water governance. The ﬁrst is to consider the role of law in removing barriers to adaptive governance by facilitating actions that take advantage of windows of opportunity and institutionalize the results of innovative solutions. The second challenge is to assure that in embracing these new approaches to governance, the engagement of private and economic actors and the increase in governmental ﬂexibility do not destabilize nor come at the expense of legitimacy, accountability, equity, and justice. Law in its role of establishing the structure and process of government and in placing bounds on the interaction of governmental entities with private actors is a key component in striking the balance between stability in government and adaptability of governance. The third challenge is to identify whether and when government must be authorized to facilitate and participate in adaptive governance.
Meeting these challenges will increase the capacity of these social-ecological systems to innovate, adapt, and learn their way into an uncertain future, by increasing participation in adaptive governance in ways that are legitimate, transparent, and just.
Prof. Barbara Cosens is a University Distinguished Professor with the University of Idaho College of Law, where she has taught for the past ﬁfteen years. Her LL.M. is from Lewis and Clark law school, J.D. from the University of California, Hastings, M.S. in Geology from the University of Washington, and B.S. in Geology from the University of California, Davis. Her teaching and research expertise is in water law, the law-science interface and water dispute resolution. She is co-PI on the UI Water Resources IGERT focused on adaptation to climate change. She co-chaired the Adaptive Water Governance project made possible through support from the NSF funded National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, SESYNC, and spent spring 5 as the Goyder Institute in Australia comparing water law reform in the western U.S. and Australia during drought. In her outreach and engagement, she serves as an expert on the Columbia River Treaty and on the process of Native American and federal water settlement.