D1.1 Technology survey: Prospective and challenges - Revised version (2018)

5 Participatory / citizen science for water management

5.2 Participatory research

Participatory research through partnerships between scientists and citizens provides an approach to natural resources management, which recognizes the complexity of issues with collecting enough data. Participatory research has been used, for that, internationally to involve local communities in data collection and monitoring [Roba, 2009][Inmuong, 2005], or natural resources management research [Johnson, 2004]. In [García, 2009], authors explore the involvement of youth in environmental research. The research took place in a small rural watershed in Colombia, the Los Sainos micro-watershed in the western cordillera of the Colombian Andes. The research was conducted in 2004 and 2005, and involved a total of 30 youth, with subgroups involved in specific themes. Youth from 9 to 17 years old were invited to participate in the project through the local schools, and were involved in all aspects of the research including survey design, data collection, analysis and the presentation of results. Working with youth led, particularly interesting, to a raised awareness of environmental issues amongst the youth themselves, and allowed them to raise awareness amongst their peers and adults in the local community. A significant aspect was the development of an approach to watershed assessment, which involved youth in all aspects of the research. This process was found to advance environmental education, and knowledge of research methods and local environmental impacts.

In Romania, in particular, authors in [Teodosiu, 2013] present a case study of how public participation, within the context of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM), promoted by promoted by the Global Water Partnership (GWP). IWRM is defined as “The process that promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related sources in order to maximize the resultant economic and social welfare in an equitable manner, without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems” [GWP, 2000]. The implementation of IWRM requires a participatory approach [Odendaal, 2002]. It means that water management authorities should involve relevant stakeholders, such as representatives of water companies, industry, municipalities, agriculture, services, environmental protection agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), universities and research institutions in planning, decision-making and implementation, instead of adopting a top-down approach [Casteletti, 2007]. The importance of public participation (PP) in water management is also recognized by the European Commission through its Water Framework Directive (WFD, 2000/60/EC), which was the first directive that explicitly asks member states to inform and consult the public. Other directives, for example, on environmental assessments (2001/42/EC) and floods (FD, 2007/60/EC), have introduced similar requirements.

The implementation of these requirements is particularly challenging for new member states of the European Union (EU), many of them being post-communist countries. These countries are characterized by major environmental problems, and although the European requirements have been transposed into national legislation, practical application of PP is still lagging behind [Kremlis, 2005]. The governments of these new EU members rather give priority to the establishment of competitive markets and liberalization, while neglecting the development and empowerment of strong civil society representatives that would play active roles in the implementation of IWRM.

In Romania, besides the huge challenge of complying with the water quality standards of the

WFD, there are serious issues to be addressed within the development of effective public participation. The case studies in [Teodosiu, 2013] show that the role of PP in dealing with these challenges is still limited. The first case shows that the traditional stakeholders, especially the water management authorities, still see PP as a simple formal requirement for the implementation of the WFD. Other stakeholders, especially NGOs and water users, feel the need for better representation and involvement, not only in public information and consultation activities, but also in the decision making processes. In practice, as the case of formal participation in the development of river basin management plans shows, stakeholders are often very passive in reacting on plans. And, when stakeholders are engaged in an early stage of the planning process, as is shown in the case of active stakeholder involvement, authorities are reluctant to use the results.