Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management

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Co-governance and co-creative working methods for improved waters: Results and learnings from the Water Co-Governance project in Sweden
Responsible organisation
2020 (English)Report (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Water Co-Governance (WaterCoG) is an Interreg EU project in which the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden participated from 2016 to 2020. Each participating country has implemented pilot projects to investigate how to best increase local participation and collaboration to improve aquatic environments. This report is about the project work carried out within Sweden. The pilot projects in Sweden have been carried out by three water councils, who have independently defined problems while developing visions and work areas. The councils have approached this work differently and looked at different questions/issues. As a result, the projects cover a wide range of areas and work practices. The project has included a number of different people, organisations, meetings, networks and sub-projects. This has revealed a number of recurring patterns, which are highlighted in the report:

There is a tremendous degree of involvement in the pilot groups and a clear desire to work cooperatively to increase knowledge and identify solutions. The level of involvement around a particular place, where people live or own land, is particularly evident. There is often a desire to include more people in the groups and create a climate where everyone can have their say. Groups that contain this kind of diversity offer a broader knowledge base and a variety of perspectives. The level of confidence within the groups gradually increases when participants learn from each other and see the results of what they can create together.

Issues relating to water are often expanded to include the environment and biodiversity, both in aquatic environments and terrestrial environments. Issues raised also relate to sustainable use through agriculture, forestry and electricity production. Ecosystem services, such as the province’s water level management, water purification and access to recreation and learning, are also relevant. The groups often emphasise the connection to the cultural heritage around water. Another important issue highlighted in the groups is local influence. Collaboration and participation on issues relating to water will therefore be a starting point for sustainable development and democratic development.

There is a need for forums that transcend borders between different groups and stakeholders, between authorities and the local community – including landowners, businesses and residents. These forums are needed to facilitate collaboration, to develop a holistic view and to identify new, creative solutions. The water councils are clearly already functioning as forums, but they also have tremendous potential to be developed further.

Water councils need access to an increased number of stable platforms with greater continuity. This needs to be carried out, for example, through long-term funding, by creating time for meetings and by increasing the visibility of the water councils so they can secure a more clearly defined role. It is also important adopt work practices or tools that help create a climate characterised by listening, dialogue and openness where individuals can participate on equal terms and where no individual stakeholders or persons take precedence.

A lack of time among participants and need for coordinators are issues that are repeatedly highlighted. Someone needs to handle invitations, summarise notes, prepare meetings, submit applications for funding and provide continuity. Compensation may also need to be arranged for individuals who set aside working hours to attend water council meetings.

The importance of networking and communication is clear. The forums that the water councils create are a part of, and have an important role in, the cooperative networks of, for example, landowners, businesses, schools, local householder's associations, consultants, associations and authorities. For networks to function effectively, communication is key. When problems arise, it is often due to a lack of communication. Effective communication is clear, easy to understand and based on dialogue instead of one-way communication.

The project has yielded many results. Around 650 people have participated in a variety of ways. Significantly more people have been informed about the work in the project. Over 20 sub-projects have been developed within the three water councils. Grant applications and grants awarded for various projects amount to SEK 6.6 million. There is a significant increase in invested funds. For the funding the water authority has allocated to support the water councils, including the grant received through Water Co-Governance, twelve times as much money has flowed in through, for example, approved applications for other grants. To this we can add all the hours allocated on a voluntary basis or within the framework of an individual’s employment for municipal officials or private employees who work with water issues as part of their position.

This work has yielded a number of results, including inventories, water sampling, information materials and education/training. A variety of measures have been implemented, such as the opening up of fish migration routes, restoration of biotopes in watercourses, construction of wetlands, structural liming of fields, decontamination of environmentally hazardous waste, controlling stormwater discharge and saving dead wood and trees by watercourses. This strengthens ecosystem services, such as food production, water purification, water retention landscapes, drinking water, biodiversity, pollination and recreation.

Measures have often been implemented on the initiative of individual landowners, but increased local collaboration in applying for funding and the implementation of measures has been highlighted as an important aspect. Through the forums created by local water groups and water councils during the project period, networks have formed consisting of landowners, consultants, authorities and water council members, which have contributed to the initiation of measures.

The exchange of knowledge that has occurred thanks to the forums and dialogue between people with different interests and backgrounds has added new perspectives while increasing interest and knowledge about water issues and the activities of other participants. The river walks have been an especially positive development, where participants are able to explore the natural environment together. The walks have helped build relationships, both with the natural environments and each other, which provides a source of inspiration and increased knowledge.

Municipalities, authorities and the state need to support, facilitate and understand the value of these forums for participation and collaboration. This may include recognising the water councils and the local community as a major resource that is able to engage with issues, such as community planning, at an early stage. It could also mean that the state significantly increases long-term funding and strives to avoid rapid changes in grants and rules. Sudden cuts to funding or short-term increases creates a risk of reduced quality, inefficiency and stress. Administrative hurdles should also be reduced, for example, by establishing long-term grant rules, simplifying grant and procurement rules and reducing micromanagement. There is also a need for increased collaboration within and between authorities by allocating more time for internal collaboration and dialogue, with broader competence. By ensuring better collaboration at all levels, the work is likely to become more efficient, creative and sustainable.

The effort is a long-term learning process, which makes it essential that structures are created to allow knowledge to be carried over, rather than starting from scratch in new projects. This will also contribute to the creation of context and meaningfulness, which is a key to the willingness to participate.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Göteborg: Havs- och vattenmyndigheten, 2020. , p. 131
Series
Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management report ; 2020:6
Keywords [en]
water, environment, water framework directive, water councils, catchment area, network, communikation, group dynamic, Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management, Water Co-Governance project
Keywords [sv]
vatten, vattenmiljö, EU, vattendirektivet, vattenmyndigheter, lokal samverkan, pilotprojekt, vattenråd, Water Co-Governance, avrinningsområde, nätverk, kommunikation, åtgärdsprogram, gruppdynamik
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Environmental Sciences Oceanography, Hydrology and Water Resources
Research subject
Finance, National; Coast and Sea, Investigations, analyses and infrastructure; Coast and Sea, Phytobentic communities; Freshwater, Large lakes; Environmental Objectives, Flourishing Lakes and Streams; Environmental Objectives, A Balanced Marine Environment, Flourishing Coastal Areas and Archipelagos
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:havochvatten:diva-526ISBN: 978-91-89329-19-5 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:havochvatten-526DiVA, id: diva2:1654200
Available from: 2022-04-26 Created: 2022-04-26 Last updated: 2022-04-26

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Social Sciences InterdisciplinaryEnvironmental SciencesOceanography, Hydrology and Water Resources

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