Governance of Aquatic Systems

What Attributes and Practices Promote Resilience?


Ryan Plummer Environmental Sustainability Research Centre | Brock UniversityJulia Baird Environmental Sustainability Research Centre | Brock UniversityMichele-Lee Moore University of VictoriaOliver Brandes POLIS Project on Ecological Governance | University of VictoriaJack Imhof Trout Unlimited CanadaKatrina Krievins Environmental Sustainability Research Centre | Brock University


resilience, governance, aquatic systems, Delphi method


Aquatic environments embody the characteristics of complex social-ecological systems and as
pressures on them intensify so does concern about their resilience. Resilience research has
advanced the conceptual understanding of how aquatic systems function and underscored the need
for an adaptive approach to management. More recently, a growing emphasis has been placed on
resilience concepts in relation to water governance and thereby the broader social, political, and
economic contexts in which aquatic systems are embedded. Using a two round online Delphi
survey of global experts and water governance, this study identifies governance attributes that support
specified and general resilience in aquatic systems, and describes practices or activities that enhance
governance ability to respond to shocks and disturbances. The results of the Delphi study offer
a prioritized list of attributes of governance for aquatic system governance resilience, including
being adaptive, polycentric, inclusive and maintaining strong leadership. Similar to the attributes
described in the existing literature on resilience and water governance, those identified through the
Delphi remain somewhat abstract. This research highlights the need for future studies exploring
how these concepts can be applied in practice and the extent to which they can be traded off.


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How to Cite

Plummer, R. ., Baird, J. ., Moore, M.-L. ., Brandes, O. ., Imhof, J. ., & Krievins, K. . (2014). Governance of Aquatic Systems: What Attributes and Practices Promote Resilience?. International Journal of Water Governance, 2(4), 1–18. Retrieved from



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